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Our Lady of Mercy and Religious Liberty

There seems to be a rather strange notion going around these days even from priests and bishops of the Catholic Church, who ought to know better, that all religions ought to have the same freedom as the Catholic Church.  Certainly this seems to be a political move more than anything else by trying to argue our case by arguing it universally for all, but the problem is that people are not free to proclaim error, for only the truth has a right to be taught.  Now of course this shatters the American notion of so called “free speech” which is also an erroneous concept.  For no one is free to say whatever he wishes without any consequences, because for example if one were to blaspheme and not repent they would go to hell.  This also comes from an erroneous notion of freedom which is confused with license, because in reality freedom is what makes one able to worship God and to love and serve Him in this life so that we might be with Him in the next.  


Now let us turn to the successors of Saint Peter, and in particular two them from the 19th century.  First we will hear from Pope Gregory XVI in his encyclical of 15 August 1832: Mirari Vos.

This shameful font of indifferentism gives rise to that absurd and erroneous proposition which claims that liberty of conscience must be maintained for everyone. It spreads ruin in sacred and civil affairs, though some repeat over and over again with the greatest impudence that some advantage accrues to religion from it. “But the death of the soul is worse than freedom of error,” as Augustine was wont to say. [St. Augustine, epistle 166.] When all restraints are removed by which men are kept on the narrow path of truth, their nature, which is already inclined to evil, propels them to ruin. Then truly “the bottomless pit” [ Ap 9.3.] is open from which John saw smoke ascending which obscured the sun, and out of which locusts flew forth to devastate the earth. Thence comes transformation of minds, corruption of youths, contempt of sacred things and holy laws — in other words, a pestilence more deadly to the state than any other. Experience shows, even from earliest times, that cities renowned for wealth, dominion, and glory perished as a result of this single evil, namely immoderate freedom of opinion, license of free speech, and desire for novelty.


Now let us listen to the words of Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical of 20 June 1888: Libertas.


It is quite unlawful to demand, to defend, or to grant unconditional freedom of thought, of speech, or writing, or of worship, as if these were so many rights given by nature to man. For, if nature had really granted them, it would be lawful to refuse obedience to God, and there would be no restraint on human liberty. It likewise follows that freedom in these things may be tolerated wherever there is just cause, but only with such moderation as will prevent its degenerating into license and excess. And, where such liberties are in use, men should employ them in doing good, and should estimate them as the Church does; for liberty is to be regarded as legitimate in so far only as it affords greater facility for doing good, but no farther.

Whenever there exists, or there is reason to fear, an unjust oppression of the people on the one hand, or a deprivation of the liberty of the Church on the other, it is lawful to seek for such a change of government as will bring about due liberty of action. In such case, an excessive and vicious liberty is not sought, but only some relief, for the common welfare, in order that, while license for evil is allowed by the State, the power of doing good may not be hindered.


Finally, in considering all of this let us put these things in perspective and focus our attention on the most important thing here, and in the context of our difficult times let us listen then to the striking words of yet another successor of Saint Peter and this time it is Pope Pius XI in his encyclical of 15 May 1931: Quadragesimo Anno.


Minds of all, it is true, are affected almost solely by temporal upheavals, disasters, and calamities. But if we examine things critically with Christian eyes, as we should, what are all these compared with the loss of souls? Yet it is not rash by any means to say that the whole scheme of social and economic life is now such as to put in the way of vast numbers of mankind most serious obstacles which prevent them from caring for the one thing necessary; namely, their eternal salvation.


Considering then the Feast of our Lady of Ransom let us prayer to her indeed with great confidence to help us in these difficult days and deliver us and Holy Mother Church from those who would seek to oppress us and stifle the true worship of God and the preaching of the Gospel.


Collect for the Feast of Our Lady of Ransom


O God, Who didst use the glorious Mother of thy Son as a mean to ransom Christ’s faithful people out of the hands of the unbelievers, by enriching thy Church with yet another family, grant, we beseech thee, that we who reverently honour her as the Foundress of that great work, may for her sake and by her prayers, be redeemed from all sin and all bondage unto the evil one.  Through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, Our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen. (Roman Missal)


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