Thomas More, Man for this Moment: Moral Coherence and Religious Freedom
Precisely because of the witness which he bore, even at the price of his life, to the primacy of truth over power, Saint Thomas More is venerated as an imperishable example of moral integrity
Thomas More is is the man for this season, the man for this moment. He calls us to live a unity of life. He calls us to moral coherence and integrity in our exercise of our civic duty. On this Feast of St. Thomas More, let us reflect on this patron assigned to a special role in political affairs, and ask for his intercession. Let us also choose candidates who reflect his integrity and moral coherence. Elections have consequences and we are the ones who determine those consequences.
Thomas More with his daughter
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - June 22, 2012 marks the second day of the Fortnight of Freedom called for by the Catholic Bishops of the United States. The focus of this concentrated time of prayer, catechesis and Catholic Action is the struggle currently being waged over religious freedom and the danger it presents to all people of good will. However, June 22, 2012 also marks the Feast day of a man who holds out to all of us the heroic witness of moral coherence at a time not unlike our own, St. Thomas More.
On Oct 31, 2000, Blessed John Paul II, responded to petitions from the faithful across the world and issued an apostolic letter, Motu Propio, (on his own authority). In it he proclaimed Thomas More the Patron of Statesmen and Politicians. The letter was addressed to "the Bishops of the Catholic Church and, in a particular way, to Catholic politicians and all lay members of the faithful called to participate in the political life of democratic societies."
On the Feast of Christ the King in 2002, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued an instruction entitled a "Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life". Have you read it? Please, please, please, do so by clicking on that link! The instruction contained in this vital Doctrinal Note is reflected in the teaching of the "Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church" sections pertaining to the political participation of Catholics. (See, e.g. #565-574) Here is an excerpt:
"The social doctrine of the Church is not an intrusion into the government of individual countries. It is a question of the lay Catholic's duty to be morally coherent, found within one's conscience, which is one and indivisible. 'There cannot be two parallel lives in their existence: on the one hand, the so-called 'spiritual life', with its values and demands; and on the other, the so-called 'secular' life, that is, life in a family, at work, in social responsibilities, in the responsibilities of public life and in culture. The branch, engrafted to the vine which is Christ, bears its fruit in every sphere of existence and activity."
Blessed John Paul II wrote in his Apostolic Letter on Thomas More, "Precisely because of the witness which he bore, even at the price of his life, to the primacy of truth over power, Saint Thomas More is venerated as an imperishable example of moral integrity. And even outside the Church, particularly among those with responsibility for the destinies of peoples, he is acknowledged as a source of inspiration for a political system which has as its supreme goal the service of the human person.
"Whenever men or women heed the call of truth, their conscience then guides their actions reliably towards good. Precisely because of the witness which he bore, even at the price of his life, to the primacy of truth over power, Saint Thomas More is venerated as an imperishable example of moral integrity. And even outside the Church, particularly among those with responsibility for the destinies of peoples, he is acknowledged as a source of inspiration for a political system which has as its supreme goal, the service of the human person."
The England of the sixteenth century was in the midst of a serious crisis of politics, culture and faith, much like the times in which we now live. In 1534 all citizens who were of age were required to take an oath called "The Act of Succession". It acknowledged that King Henry VIII was married to Anne Boleyn, even though he was not. His desire to divorce Catherine was not sufficient to make that marriage null and his attempt to use his political power to change the objective truth was unsuccessful.
So, the King used the power of his office to promulgate an unjust positive Law by which he proclaimed that he and Anne were lawfully married. He declared himself to be the Supreme Head of the Church in England, thus abrogating to himself the authority to determine that his lawful marital bond was dissolved and denying the authority of the successor of the Apostle Peter. The Pope refused to collaborate with Henry's demand that he grant him an annulment from his lawful marriage so that he could pursue a different woman as his wife. He would not affirm Henry's decision to place his disordered desires over the objective truth.
Thomas More knew the order of truth and applied a hierarchy of values in both his personal life and his public life. He lived as a faithful Catholic Christian, demonstrating a unity of life and moral coherence. He stayed faithful to the Truth. In 1532, knowing that he could not enforce the declaration of his temporal King to ...
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