Religious liberty is at heart of challenge to live one’s faith in the public square
HUNTINGTON, Indiana, February 8, 2012 – It’s not enough to be an active Catholic citizen — voting, staying reasonably informed, or even running for public office. The current culture — with its growing indifference to God — challenges Catholics to examine how they live their lives and defend their beliefs, argues the head of the Catholic Church in the nation’s capital, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, in a new book, Seek First the Kingdom: Challenging the Culture by Living Our Faith (Our Sunday Visitor, 2012).
A prime example of the choices facing lay Catholic Americans is the current assault on religious freedom contained in the new contraceptive mandate in the health care reform laws. The mandate is the first federal regulation in our nation’s history to require all faith-based institutions to pay for coverage of abortifacient drugs, sterilization and contraceptives.
“Being forced to provide these services violates both our faith conviction and our freedom,” says Cardinal Wuerl. “Our schools, hospitals and charitable organizations will be placed in the untenable position of choosing between violating civil law and abandoning our religious beliefs.”
Cardinal Wuerl sees this as the latest challenge to Catholics to engage their faith on a plane that goes beyond private spirituality. In his book, he asserts that Catholic Americans need to recognize they are citizens of two worlds: a democracy and a divine kingdom. These citizenship privileges carry certain duties that Catholics must not neglect.
Cardinal Wuerl calls each Catholic to seize daily opportunities to make a difference in transforming today’s culture, and offers practical tips to be optimally effective. “This is the time to speak up,” he says. “This is the time for all our voices to be heard.
“What many don’t realize is, God calls each one by name, from the very beginning of his or her existence, to represent Him in an unrepeatable way and extend His Kingdom into this harsh earthly arena,” says Wuerl. “So every act of love, peace, kindness, compassion, goodness, justice, even Catholic clarification — which we’re all capable of — brings God’s kingdom a little bit more into this world.”
Seek First the Kingdom helps readers navigate the rhetorical maze posed by peers, media, entertainment, politicians and even errant laws and policies that would, in effect, penalize Catholic belief. Readers will be encouraged and emboldened to take their place as Catholics dedicated to the renewal of America.
Among the book’s multiple endorsers, renowned journalist Russell Shaw says: “As crises of our day grow more acute, there is greater need than ever for informed, committed Catholics to carry the message and values of faith into society.”
Chicago Archbishop Francis Cardinal George states: “This book brings together with new insight the biblical theology of God’s kingdom and our experience today – in a society ever more blind to God’s purposes and our destiny.”
Mary Ann Glendon, author of the book’s foreword, and president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, writes: “Cardinal Wuerl does not pretend that Christian witness will be easy. Recognizing that there will be times when this requires great courage and sacrifice, Cardinal Wuerl follows John Paul II in urging Catholics to be who they are and to ‘Be not afraid.’ And he provides them much guidance and encouragement in the valuable chapters of this highly accessible book.”
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||Cardinal Donald Wuerl
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His Eminence Cardinal Donald Wuerl
Seek First the Kingdom: Challenging the Culture by Living Our Faith
- What is your primary purpose for writing this book?
- In a critical election year such as this one, what would you want the faithful to keep in mind as they work to make distinctions between presidential candidates?
- Your book seems particularly timely given the current challenges to religious liberty in our country, the most recent one being the HHS rule mandating that religious institutions provide insurance coverage for abortifacients, sterilization and contraceptives for their employees. How should Catholics respond to this kind of government action?
- The biblical quote from which you derive the title of the book, “But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness,* and all these things will be given you besides” (Matthew 6:33) has an under-realized meaning. What is it?
- Explain the concept that American Catholics are at once both citizens of a democracy, and of a kingdom.
- So if Catholics have a God-given obligation to witness for their faith and God’s law, what is the best way for them to witness effectively in today’s society?
- And in another of your discussions in the book, you encourage Catholics to mix politics and the kingdom. Can you explain that?
- As well, what about our education system here in America? What are Catholics to make of it in deciding where to send their children, and encouraging them to engage the culture for effective long-lasting change?
- So, how would you encourage Catholics today to “put out into the deep” – as Christ did when he encouraged His fishermen-apostles to trust in him when setting out anew for their catch?
About the Author
His Eminence, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington
Cardinal Donald Wuerl is the Archbishop of Washington and was elevated to the College of Cardinals in 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI.
He is known nationally for his catechetical and teaching ministry and for his efforts on behalf of Catholic education. He serves on numerous national and international bodies and is chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, chancellor of The Catholic University of America, chairman of the board of the Pope John Paul II Cultural Foundation and also of The Papal Foundation. He is chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine and a member of the USCCB Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis. Cardinal Wuerl was appointed the Relator General for the 2012 Vatican Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith. He is the author of numerous articles and books, including the best-selling catechisms, The Teaching of Christ and The Catholic Way. His book, The Mass, was published in January 2011, The Gift of Blessed John Paul II was published in April and his most recent work, Seek First the Kingdom, was published earlier this month.
Cardinal Wuerl hosted Pope Benedict XVI in Washington in April 2008 on the Holy Father’s historic journey to the United States. In October 2011, the Archdiocese of Washington opened Blessed John Paul II Seminary, its new college/pre-theology house of formation.
The Cardinal was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and received graduate degrees from The Catholic University of America, the Gregorian University while attending the North American College, and a doctorate in theology from the University of Saint Thomas in Rome. He was ordained to the priesthood on December 17, 1966, and ordained a bishop by Pope John Paul II on January 6, 1986 in Saint Peter’s Basilica, Rome. He served as Auxiliary Bishop in Seattle until 1987 and then as Bishop of Pittsburgh for 18 years until his appointment to Washington. His titular church in Rome is Saint Peter in Chains (San Pietro in Vincoli).