The real promise of the Declaration of the Declaration of Independence now cries out for those who believe in its promise to stand up for its true meaning and work to restore the unique experiment in ordered liberty which it offers for future generations
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online): On this 4th of July weekend, people are gathering all over the United States of America to celebrate our national independence. Fireworks light up the sky, families share a meal, play games, and exchange wonderful stories of our life together in a wonderful Nation which was once conceived in liberty.
Americans pause to remember those who gave their lives so that the promises set forth in the Declaration of Independence, the Birth Certificate of this Nation, could inform a new experiment in the history of Nations, country founded upon first principles and not people, kings or the might of the State.
Their courageous Declaration, signed on this date proclaimed:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights - that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men"
The Declaration of Independence was the birth certificate of the United States of America, a Nation often called the American Experiment because of the very fact that it was founded upon principles. The words are still memorized by schoolchildren and can bring a tear to the oldest American eye with little effort. These principles informed our history as a free people and inspired our neighbors in other parts of the world to stand up against all forms of tyranny.
Now, we reject those principles and reject the very God who gave them to us. As a result, we stand on the brink of a new form of tyranny. We no longer hold any truths as objective. We are on a perilous course - desperately in need of correction.
We should reflect upon the words of this text this weekend. Our forebears were not declaring their independence from Divine Providence. Rather, they were trusting in the primacy of the Governance of God over their own lives and their noble undertaking. They sought independence from a monarchy which had become tyrannical - precisely because it had forgotten the implications of the primacy of Divine Providence.
The principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence became a rallying cry which called forth extraordinary sacrifice. They were rooted in something much greater than political expediency. That is why those principles became a measuring stick against which all governments of men would be measured in the future.
The American founders believed there actually were truths to be held - and that those truths are self evident, to all men and women.
Those truths include the existence of unalienable rights which are given to all men and women by a Creator. They believed that those truths and those rights can also be discerned by all men and women because they are revealed by the Natural Law which is written on all human hearts and is itself a participation in God's law.
Certainly, not all of the American founders were Christians. Thomas Jefferson was more of a Deist than a classical Christian. He had a fondness for the French Revolution - which was cut from a very different set of principles than the American Revolution.
According to some sources, he even had a scissored Bible, with references which he considered to be superstitious, removed. That included the miracles of Jesus. Other sources question this claim and indicate he grew in his embrace of the tenets of the Christian faith over time. Whatever is more accurate, one thing is clear, Jefferson was a man who understood the real and true sources of our real and true liberties.
Jefferson knew that Truths, Rights and liberty did not come from a civil government. He secured the first freedom, Religious Freedom, as a fundamental human right. It is Jefferson's words which still speak from the third panel of the Memorial built in his honor: "God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?"
Of the 56 men who signed the Declaration, Charles Carroll of Carrolton, cousin of the Archbishop John Carroll of Baltimore, was the only Catholic signer. At the time of his signing that Declaration it was illegal for Catholics to hold public office or to vote in Maryland. Yet, he still pledged with all of the signatories:
"And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor."
Carroll knew the importance of the vision of freedom, rights and liberty which that Declaration proclaimed in those three profoundly simple but supremely powerful words: "We Hold These Truths." The question which must be asked as we celebrate our Independence this weekend is a sobering one, What Truths do we Still Hold?
There are competing visions of the human person, human dignity, human rights, and human freedom at work in many of the institutions which were formed in response to this Declaration. The recognition of the preeminent Right to Life so clearly set forth in the words of this Declaration is currently being undermined by the positive law of the very Nation which they helped to birth.
How can a Nation which has enshrined the killing of innocent children in the womb in its positive law claim that that it still recognizes the unalienable right to life?
The child in the womb is our first neighbor. Certainly all of the American founders would agree it is wrong to kill an innocent neighbor. She is the first legal immigrant with her citizenship assured if she can make it out of the birth canal alive under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
How can we read Jefferson's words, "God who gave us life gave us liberty" and not see the evil of a jurisprudence which puts the police power behind the intentional taking of her life by pretending to find the "right" to commit such a heinous crime within a so called "liberty interest" of the same U.S. Constitution?
The second part of Jefferson's statement cries out for an answer on this 4th of July: "Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?"
The entire infrastructure of human rights and freedoms is at risk when we fail to recognize the preeminent Right to Life.
Human Rights are goods of the human person, not ethereal concepts floating around somewhere. Every procured abortion kills a human person and violates their very Right to Life. Liberty itself is at risk when there exists in our positive law a so called "right" to kill the very human person required to receive the other rights or to exercise them.
Now, the Supreme Court of these United States has acted once again without any regard for the objective truth about marriage and the Natural Moral Law. In the horrid opinion of Obergefell v Hodges, five lawyers determined that they could somehow change the structure of reality, reject the Natural Moral Law, disregard the will of the people and manufacture another counterfeit "right".
They declared to be a marriage what can never be a marriage and, with no judicial analysis, used the phrase "equal protection" to assert that what they say simply is what the law is - and anyone who disagrees with the majority opinion is now increasingly called a bigot.
The long term effect of that decision which undermined the truth about marriage will be a radical restructuring of our social order. It will have a devastating effect on the Nation we honor on this day.
Marriage and family have been inscribed by the Divine Architect into the order of creation. Marriage is ontologically between one man and one woman, ordered toward the union of the spouses, open to children and formative of family.
Family is the first vital cell of society; the first church, first school, first hospital, first economy, first government and first mediating institution of our social order. The future of a free and healthy society passes through marriage and the family.
Marriage as existing solely between one man and one woman was not an idea manufactured by the Christian Church. It precedes Christianity. Though affirmed, fulfilled, and elevated by Christian teaching, the truth that marriage can exist only between one man and one woman is not based on religion or revelation alone, but on the Natural Moral Law, written on the human heart and discernible through the exercise of reason.
This claim of the existence of such a Natural Moral Law is the ground upon which every great civilization has been built. It is the source of every authentic human and civil rights movement. This Natural Moral Law gives us the norms we need to build truly human and humane societies and govern ourselves. It should also inform our positive law or we will become lawless and devolve into anarchy.
The US Supreme Court has now rejected the very source of its own authority and unleashed a social upheaval which is destructive of the common good.
The real promise of the Declaration of the Declaration of Independence now cries out for those who believe in its promise to stand up for its true meaning and work to restore the unique experiment in ordered liberty which it offers for future generations.
Like millions throughout the United States of America, my family will pause to thank God for the privilege of living in this Nation. My wife and I just returned from Bothel, Washington, where we were visiting our son, daughter in law and two of our seven grandchildren. We will pray, celebrate and express our gratitude for a Nation which still offers so much promise.
Then, I will rededicate myself anew - to working for the more perfect application of the principles which inspired the founders. Those principles beckon every succeeding generation to sacrifice again to secure the blessings of liberty for all.
No matter how diverse the American founders were in their religious convictions they all affirmed the truths this Declaration proclaimed and recognized that the unalienable rights which flowed from them were given not by civil government but endowed by the Creator.
The reverse implication is also obvious.
These truths and rights cannot not be ignored or taken away by civil government either. On July 4th we should celebrate our Independence by reaffirming our Dependence on God and proclaim together again together that we STILL hold these truths!
Thomas Jefferson was correct; the God who gave us life gave us liberty. Our Independence requires our dependence on that same God if it is to flourish and endure. We need a Declaration of Dependence - reaffirming our reliance upon the God who alone is the true source of our Liberty.