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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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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog We need do no more than we are doing at present; that is, to love divine Providence and abandon ourselves in his arms and heart.<br />—St. Padre Pio

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