- Written by Bishop Daniel E. Flores
July 10, 2013
On one occasion, the Lord Jesus said that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mk 2:27). The Lord was speaking in particular about the reason behind the third commandment of the Decalogue, and in general about the inten- tion of the Divine Law revealed to Moses. The Divine Law was not promulgated on Mount Sinai to crush human beings, or to prohibit us from doing or seeking what is good. On the contrary, God the Father gave us the law for our good; they are laws given to us to order our lives according to the divine wisdom, which always acts in our favor.
If this teaching applies to the Divine Law, for all the more reason it should apply to the intentions of human laws. From the beginning, governments of this world have formulated laws to order and organize the community. The best moments in the history of human culture provide us examples of laws well ordered for the good of the human person. Unfortunately, in the history of the world we also find examples of laws poorly conceived, that is to say, not formulated for the good of persons, but rather to crush and control them. In such cases, the Gospel itself, and the teaching of the Church, direct us toward a reform of the law so that its noble intentions can be preserved. This is to say, so that the law might conserve and promote the authentic good of the human being.
In our time, the law governing immigration in the United States does great harm to families and persons facing painful circumstances. The separation of parents and children, for example, does not promote the human good. On the contrary, it corrupts the stability of the family, the community and of the culture. Further, the unjust treatment of undocumented workers profoundly injures the human good. Neither does it serve the good of human beings to deny an education to young people because they lack official recognition from the government. Justice itself obliges us to support a reform of our immigration laws.
Other laws should be reformed for analogous reasons. Certainly, the voice of the Church has expressed itself forcefully and for many years against laws which permit the termination of the life of an unborn child. The right to life is the most basic right; without this right, all the laws protecting justice are built on loose sand (Mt 7:26). Our struggle in defense of the unborn child continues to be a lengthy one, but we battle in the best tradition of the Church, bearer of the message defending human dignity.
For similar reasons, we oppose laws which would have the effect of preventing the Church in this country from having a public presence or a public voice. This would be the effect, for example, of laws which oblige religious institutions to pay for abortifacient drugs and contraceptives. Our conscience does not permit us to cooperate with such provisions of the law because to conceive a child is not the same thing as suffering an illness which requires a cure. Laws governing accessibility to health-care services should obviously promote life, not death. If the government cannot see this, it is a tragedy; but if the government obliges the Church to forget this, it would be a nefarious coercion of the religious conscience and an enormous wound against human liberty. And thus, such laws are manifestations of harmful designs, with the effect of crushing and controlling human beings.
All of this has to do with our obligation as Christians to participate and struggle in the public arena for the reform of unjust laws. If someone asks us why the Church enters into the debate over immigration, over the protection of unborn life, or over religious freedom, we say that it is because the law is for man, and not man for the law. To be a Christian necessarily implies that we are defenders of human dignity. The voice of the Church does not exist solely to sing at Mass, but rather also to express publicly the primacy of human dignity, something which should be respected in the promulgation of every law affecting the community.
All that affects the lives of human beings is of concern to the Church. I ask you to do all you can to promote a culture of life, to support a just reform to the current immigration laws, and to defend religious freedom. We must vote; and it is necessary that we communicate with our representatives in the government in order to defend human dignity. The Lord, who is teacher and sovereign over the law, asks this of us for the good of our brothers and sisters in the human community.This column originally appeared in the July 2013 (Vol. 5 Iss. 1) edition of The Valley Catholic