Living ideals in Declaration of Independence Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Jul. 02, 2020 -- 12:00 AM

Independence Day is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, also known as the Fourth of July.

Through the years, influenced partially by atheistic secularism and human weakness, many Americans came to believe that independence meant being absolutely free to choose whatever they want; however, as Catholics we believe that our independence and freedom are rooted in our dependence upon God.

Dependence upon God

On September 11, 2001, the illusion that we were absolutely independent went down in smoke and ashes with the Twin Towers. On that day, many Americans fell to their knees and asked God for help. In so doing, some realized how far they had wandered from God and from the convictions of our Founding Fathers.

Our dependence upon God is clearly stated in the Declaration of Independence. In the preamble it is stated, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness."

The Declaration of Independence ends with the statement, "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."

From a Catholic perspective, the way we truly become free and most become fully human with the help of grace is to choose good and follow the way of Jesus. When we fail to choose to follow Jesus' ways, we become slaves of evil or sin.

Freedom of, not from, religion

The Venerable Father Samuel Mazzuchelli, a naturalized American citizen, believed that the Constitution guarantees citizens not freedom from religion but freedom to practice the religion of their choice. The contradiction is that those who are pushing for freedom from religion are often pushing their own religion of secular humanism.

In Evangelization in the Modern World, Pope Paul VI wrote, "The split between the Gospel and culture is without a doubt the drama of our time, just as it was of other times. Therefore, every effort must be made to ensure a full evangelization of culture, or more correctly of cultures."

On page 16 of the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, it says, "In many ways attitudes and actions in the United States in recent years have fostered a 'culture of disbelief.' The first amendment which prohibits the establishment of a state religion, has been interpreted in such a way that it excessively marginalizes religion. Society has reached the stage where people of faith are pressured to act publicly as though religion does not matter. This has caused many believers to think that their faith is strictly a private matter and that it should have no influence on society and politics."

According to the U. S. Bishops' document, Faithful Citizenship, "Intrinsically evil acts must always be rejected and never supported. A preeminent example of this is the intentional taking of human life through abortion. It is always morally wrong to destroy innocent human beings. . . .

"Similarly, direct threats to the dignity of human life such as euthanasia, human cloning, and destructive research on human embryos are also intrinsically evil and must be opposed. Other assaults on human life and dignity, such as genocide, torture, racism, and the targeting of non-combatants in acts of terror or war, can never be justified." Disrespect for any human life diminishes respect for all human life.

Recommit ourselves

On Independence Day, let's recommit ourselves to living the self-evident truths expressed in the Declaration of Independence, which reveal our dependence upon God. Let's pray for ourselves, our government, and other Americans during these difficult times and for peace and an end to religious persecution and terrorism.

Let us especially respect the rights of the unborn and others who literally cry for the right to live. Let's thank God that we live in a land where we can enjoy the freedom to worship God as we choose.

Fr. Donald Lange is a pastor emeritus in the Diocese of Madison.