Several years before he died, Cardinal Francis George remarked: “I expected to die in bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.”
To some, these words may seem prophetic. Others will not take them seriously. But given the direction our country has taken recently in the area of morality, we may need to reflect on his words over the next few years.
Jesus, when confronted in an attempt to trap and discredit him, was asked the question: “Is it lawful to pay tax to Caesar?” His response was quick and to the point: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but to God what is God’s!” As Catholics, this should be one of the many guiding principles by which we live in the world but not of the world. For us, there is a higher authority than the State. That authority is the source of all authority, even the State’s authority. That authority is God and his moral law.
Another way of saying what Jesus stated was put forth by St. Paul: “I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect” (Rom 12:1-2). God’s will must be the foundation of all our decisions, not the will of the State.
As our country moves more to a secular society and those in power seek to neutralize the presence, power or influence of Christians, we’re called to become more resolved in our baptismal and confirmational commitment to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The political momentum is on the side of secular values, not on justice based on the law of God. Our nation’s founding principles were set forth by the Founding Fathers, who were willing to die rather than be denied fundamental, God-given, inalienable rights. Religious tolerance and freedom to live one’s faith were hallmarks of their convictions. Today, little by little, religious freedom has been denied or relegated to one’s private life.
What should Catholic businessmen and women do in the face of this secular interpretation of the Constitution? First, know that in the end Christ will prevail, even if for a period of time his true followers will have to suffer as they have throughout the centuries. Recall the words of Peter to the Sanhedrin: “It is better for us to obey God than man.”
Continue the fight no matter what it takes. Refuse to bow down to the secular pressure of intolerance. This too will cost you dearly. The example of the three men in the Book of Daniel should embolden us. They refused to bow down to the golden statue. They were thrown in a hot furnace. They prayed to God and he saved them.
Next, do not refrain from expressing your legal rights through civil disobedience, done in peace and love. We have the example in scripture of the mother with the seven sons whom she saw executed rather than give in the pagan king’s demands (2 Macc 8).
If your convictions are such that you cannot do business with those who are seeking a same-sex “marriage,” stand firm but without any rancor or condemnation. Remember the words of Peter: “For it is the will of God that by doing good you may silence the ignorance of foolish people” (1 Pet 2:15).
You can stand firm knowing that your actions are not a matter of condemnation or judgment, nor of hate or intolerance, but rather a legitimate expression of your religious beliefs and an exercise of legitimate freedom of speech.
We are free to disagree with another’s beliefs and actions. These are guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
“Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but, on the contrary, a blessing, because to this you were called, that you might inherit a blessing” (1 Pet 3:9).
Finally, we must continue to pray for God’s sovereign intervention in this time of our great need. This is what our ancestors have done throughout the ages. We may not see it in our day, but we believe in the absolute power of God who can do the impossible.
BISHOP SAM JACOBS is Legatus’ international chaplain and the former bishop of the Houma-Thibodeaux Diocese.