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I'd Like to Say: Religious Freedom Is at Stake View Comments
By Helen Alvare

NEARLY EVERY WEEK there’s media hype about something the government has done. Supporters and critics insist that the latest law, judicial decision, or executive action will change the world as we know it. Yet we wake the next morning to discover the world looks much the same.

A problem with this “Chicken Little cycle” is that when something momentous does occur, it’s more easily dismissed, even when it shouldn’t be. This includes current threats to religious freedom by federal and state governments. In their 2012 statement on religious liberty, Our First, Most Cherished Liberty, the U.S. bishops write: “We address an urgent summons to our fellow Catholics and fellow Americans to be on guard, for religious liberty is under attack, both at home and abroad.”

This is an alarming, but undoubtedly necessary, call to action. To the degree that government marginalizes or silences religious voices and institutions, we’ll find ourselves living in a very different society. Religious teachings and institutions will be less visible and influential. There will be more government intrusion into the internal affairs of religious institutions. The opinion that religion has nothing to offer that hasn’t already been said
by science will prevail. In particular, Christian ideas about human sexuality, marriage, family, and sexual differences will increasingly be viewed as “discrimination” or “human rights violations.”

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Helen Alvaré is an associate professor at George Mason University School of Law. A consultant to the Pontifical Council for the Laity, she recently received the 2012 Notre Dame EvangeliumVitae Medal.

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Bernard of Clairvaux: Man of the century! Woman of the century! You see such terms applied to so many today—“golfer of the century,” “composer of the century,” “right tackle of the century”—that the line no longer has any punch. But Western Europe's “man of the twelfth century,” without doubt or controversy, has to be Bernard of Clairvaux. Adviser of popes, preacher of the Second Crusade, defender of the faith, healer of a schism, reformer of a monastic Order, Scripture scholar, theologian and eloquent preacher: any one of these titles would distinguish an ordinary man. Yet Bernard was all of these—and he still retained a burning desire to return to the hidden monastic life of his younger days. 
<p>In the year 1111, at the age of 20, Bernard left his home to join the monastic community of Citeaux. His five brothers, two uncles and some 30 young friends followed him into the monastery. Within four years a dying community had recovered enough vitality to establish a new house in the nearby valley of Wormwoods, with Bernard as abbot. The zealous young man was quite demanding, though more on himself than others. A slight breakdown of health taught him to be more patient and understanding. The valley was soon renamed Clairvaux, the valley of light. </p><p>His ability as arbitrator and counselor became widely known. More and more he was lured away from the monastery to settle long-standing disputes. On several of these occasions he apparently stepped on some sensitive toes in Rome. Bernard was completely dedicated to the primacy of the Roman See. But to a letter of warning from Rome, he replied that the good fathers in Rome had enough to do to keep the Church in one piece. If any matters arose that warranted their interest, he would be the first to let them know. </p><p>Shortly thereafter it was Bernard who intervened in a full-blown schism and settled it in favor of the Roman pontiff against the antipope. </p><p>The Holy See prevailed on Bernard to preach the Second Crusade throughout Europe. His eloquence was so overwhelming that a great army was assembled and the success of the crusade seemed assured. The ideals of the men and their leaders, however, were not those of Abbot Bernard, and the project ended as a complete military and moral disaster. </p><p>Bernard felt responsible in some way for the degenerative effects of the crusade. This heavy burden possibly hastened his death, which came August 20, 1153.</p> American Catholic Blog One of the things that we need to remember is that we’re preaching Jesus, not the institutional Church. It’s easy to get caught up in the rules and regulations of the institution and forget that we are saved not by the Church but by the person of Jesus or the Church as the body of Christ.

 
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