Fortnight For Freedom: Lincoln on Liberty of Conscience

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The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have proclaimed a second Fortnight for Freedom from June 21-July 4th, and, as last year, The American Catholic will participate with special blog posts each day.

In our current struggle for liberty we have the finest of American history on our side.  Americans, at their best, have been dedicated to liberty and opposed to attempts by government to take away the freedom that all Americans should enjoy.  One of the champions of freedom who would clearly be against the policies of the current administration in its squalid war against the Catholic Church is Abraham Lincoln.

 

 

In the 1840s America was beset by a wave of anti-Catholic riots.  An especially violent one occurred in Philadelphia on May 6-8 in 1844. These riots laid the seeds for a powerful anti-Catholic movement which became embodied in the years to come in the aptly named Know-Nothing movement.  To many American politicians Catholic-bashing seemed the path to electoral success.

 

Lincoln made clear where he stood on this issue when he organized a public meeting in Springfield, Illinois on June 12, 1844.  At the meeting he proposed and had the following resolution adopted by the meeting:

“Resolved, That the guarantee of the rights of conscience, as found in our Constitution, is most sacred and inviolable, and one that belongs no less to the Catholic, than to the Protestant; and that all attempts to abridge or interfere with these rights, either of Catholic or Protestant, directly or indirectly, have our decided disapprobation, and shall ever have our most effective opposition. Resolved, That we reprobate and condemn each and every thing in the Philadelphia riots, and the causes which led to them, from whatever quarter they may have come, which are in conflict with the principles above expressed.”

Lincoln remained true to this belief.  At the height of the political success of the Know-Nothing movement 11 years later, Mr. Lincoln in a letter to his friend Joshua Speed wrote:

“I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. How could I be? How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we begin by declaring that “all men are created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created equal, except negroes.” When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read “all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and catholics.” When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty-to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy [sic].”

In our battle for religious liberty, we have Abraham Lincoln on our side, a man who understood that the great principles enshrined in our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution apply to all Americans.

 

Hurrah for the choice of the nation!

Our chieftain so brave and so true;

We’ll go for the great Reformation —

For Lincoln and Liberty too!     

We’ll go for the son of Kentucky

The hero of Hoosierdom through;

The pride of the Suckers so lucky

For Lincoln and Liberty too! 

Our good David’s sling is unerring,

The Slaveocrat’s giant he slew;

Then shout for the Freedom-preferring

For Lincoln and Liberty too! 

We’ll go for the son of Kentucky

The hero of Hoosierdom through;

The pride of the Suckers so lucky

For Lincoln and Liberty too! 

Come all you true friends of the nation

Attend to humanity’s call

Oh aid of the slaves’ liberation

And roll on the liberty ball 

We’ll finish the temple of freedom

And make it capacious within

That all who seek shelter may find it

Whatever the hue of their skin. 

Success to the old-fashioned doctrine

That men are created all free

And down with the power of the despot

Wherever his stronghold may be 

They’ll find what by felling and mauling,

Our railmaker statesman can do;

For the people are everywhere calling

For Lincoln and Liberty too. 

Then up with our banner so glorious,

The star-spangled red-white-and-blue,

We’ll fight till our Cause is victorious,

For Lincoln and Liberty too!

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16 Responses to Fortnight For Freedom: Lincoln on Liberty of Conscience

  • The problem, Donald, is that the sodomites and lesbians and their supporters will use the following sentences said by Lincoln to claim that we, in supporting the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman, are declaring that sodomites and lesbians are NOT created equal to the rest. Never mind that that clearly isn’t the case, or that they (being evolutionists who think man is an animal descended from apes) don’t even believe in creation. They will and do cry foul, declaring we are being as discriminatory to the sodomite and lesbian (whose behavior they sanitized with the phrases homosexual or gay) as the Know-Nothings were to blacks and Catholics so long again.

    “As a nation, we begin by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’ We now practically read it ‘all men are created equal, except negroes.’ When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read ‘all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and catholics.’”

  • You will oblige me please Paul not to use terms like sodomites in future on this blog. It does nothing except play into a stereotype of those of us who should love the sinner while hating the sin. I find it as useless as the appropriation of the term gay by those who wish to turn a sin into a way of life. It also plays into the hands of those who have turned this into a matter of identity politics. All of us are much more than our sins, and the idea that those afflicted with this particular sin are defined by it to the exclusion of all else about them is not our position but rather the position of those who seek political capital by turning a sin into a civil right, which was actually also the position of the slaveholders of Lincoln’s time, in regard to the right to own other people as chattel.

  • I shall comply, Donald.

    There is a difference between a homosexual who is trying to remain celibate and deal with this cross, and the militant variety who is trying to force the rest of society to approve as laudable what he does. The former is like an alcoholic who goes to 12 step meetings, but may relapse on occasion because recovery isn’t always a smooth road. The latter is despiteful and intolerant, committed to the disease that has overtaken him and desirous of forcing it on the rest of society. It is of him that St. Paul uses the even less flattering terms μαλακός and ἀρσενοκοίτης in 1st Corinthians 6:9-10 (see the Douay-Rheims or KJV for an unsanitized translation).

    And yes, St. Paul puts adulterers (μοιχός), fornicators (πόρνος), drunkards (μέθυσος) and many others in the same category. And he reminds us in verse 11: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

    I agree: love the sinner (because we are all sinners), but hate the sin (which so easily besets any of us).

  • Thank you Paul. I am afraid that I am afflicted with the deadliest of sins, the sin of pride, and therefore I have sympathy for those who struggle with lesser sins.

  • You and me, both, Donald. I look at the laundry list of sins that St. Paul provides in 1st Corinthians 6:9-10. I am not guilty of three in the list (μοιχός, μαλακός and ἀρσενοκοίτης). Sadly, I cannot say the same of the rest.

    :-(

  • Can someone explain to me what this new Fortnight for Freedom is supposed to accomplish? The bishops have shown themselves to be unwilling to put any real pressure on the government, especially supposedly Catholic politicians, so all this is doing is reminding Obama and company that they have nothing to fear from the bishops. The way things stand now, the bishops are just making themselves, and us by extension, look foolish.

  • Actually Cardinal Dolan recently helped spearhead the defeat in the New York Senate of Governor Cuomo’s radical pro-abort bill. That is not chopped liver.
    http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/cuomos-abortion-expansion-act-dies-in-ny-state-senate/

    My Bishop, Daniel Jenky of Peoria, is continually speaking out, and taking a lot of heat for doing so.

    Although I am quite willing to criticize Bishops and Cardinals in this country, and there is much to criticize and I do so frequently, the problem is not primarily them. The problem is that too many Catholics in this country, to be very blunt, do not give a damn about their religion, and are quite content to vote for pro-abort candidates and candidates who are in effect at war with the Church. I would like to see all pro-abort politicians excommunicated, but I think the political impact would be close to nil. Infidelity in the clergy is a problem, but the much greater problem is a laity that is, in far too many cases, ignorant of their Faith or actively opposed to it.

    The only solution to this problem is to tirelessly preach the truth whether people wish to accept it or not. The Fortnight For Freedom is part of that process. It isn’t a magic wand, but it is a start.

  • Hear! Hear!

    “The problem is that too many Catholics in this country, to be very blunt, do not give a damn about their religion, and are quite content to vote for pro-abort candidates and candidates who are in effect at war with the Church….the much greater problem is a laity that is, in far too many cases, ignorant of their Faith or actively opposed to it.”

    There is a woman – very nice and kind and hard-working and goes to Mass regularly – who some time ago asked for my opinion about the Bishops’ public stance against same-sex marriage and abortion. She wanted more than just an off-the-cuff response. So I gave her a six page write up, quoting appropriate parts of the Catechism and the Bible, using what limited knowledge I have of the Greek to point out certain specific things St. Paul wrote in his epistles. I gave it to her and waited two weeks. Not having received a response, I asked her if she had read what I had provided. She said she got to the third page and stopped reading, and that she has a different opinion. I asked her if she had talked with her priest about these things. She said no, and repeated that she had a different opinion. In other words, when the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Sacred Scripture were presented to her, she rejected what they said and held to a different opinion. I suspect that this feeling is widespread among Roman Catholics. As for Protestants, I give them the straight Scripture and often they too have a different opinion. So it isn’t just Romans who have this problem.

  • “The problem is that too many Catholics in this country, to be very blunt, do not give a damn about their religion, and are quite content to vote for pro-abort candidates and candidates who are in effect at war with the Church. I would like to see all pro-abort politicians excommunicated, but I think the political impact would be close to nil.”

    But the excommunications themselves would shake things up, and maybe make those sleepwalking Catholics wake up. Even if they found the excommunications offensive and decided to leave the Church, that would actually be a positive. At the very least, we would no longer have to suffer through Pelosi asserting what a devout Catholic she is.

    “The Fortnight For Freedom is part of that process. It isn’t a magic wand, but it is a start.”

    A start towards what? What did the first Fortnight accomplish?

  • It accomplished quite a bit judging from the decrease in Obama’s Catholic vote at the polls in November. His support among white Catholics dropped by seven percent to forty percent. He barely won the Catholic vote by capturing 76% of Hispanic Catholics. It increased awareness of the contempt that this administration has for American liberties. No one will follow the truth if they never hear of it. The Fortnight for Freedom conveyed effectively I think the message of the persecution that faithful Catholics are beginning to be subject to. Would you have the Church stand mute in the face of these outrages?

    As for excommunication you make the unwarranted assumption that Catholics who routinely vote for pro-aborts would care. They would not. I would be all in favor of mass excommunications of pro-abort politicians, but without a sustained education effort by the Church, like the Fortnight for Freedom, it is merely a useless gesture as far as its practical utility. Too many conservative Catholics think of it as a panacea. Forty years ago excommunicating Catholic pro-abort politicians would have had a major impact on many Catholics, but not today. I might also note that if the Catholic Church in America started to excommunicate pro-abort Catholic politicians, it would stand alone, since I do not believe that is happening anywhere else. As I said, I would be all for it, but I think the real need is sustained education and political involvement. Too many Catholics aren’t very good at either, at least those who attempt to defend the sanctity of human life and the freedom of the Church.

  • “It accomplished quite a bit judging from the decrease in Obama’s Catholic vote at the polls in November. His support among white Catholics dropped by seven percent to forty percent.”

    That is certainly a good thing, but it did nothing to alter the government’s behavior. If these Fortnights for Freedom are meant to protect our freedoms, I see no evidence they have helped, or will help.

    “He barely won the Catholic vote by capturing 76% of Hispanic Catholics.”

    You mean the demographic the bishops are feverishly working to dramatically increase in numbers? More genius strategizing at work.

    “Would you have the Church stand mute in the face of these outrages?”

    Completely to the contrary, I think the Church needs to be far more militant. Cardinal Dolan and most of the rest of the bishops appear to operate under the delusion that if they are nice and conciliatory towards politicians, the politicians will be nice and conciliatory to the Church. In reality, the politicians see weakness and feel they can get away with trampling the Church’s rights.

  • “If these Fortnights for Freedom are meant to protect our freedoms, I see no evidence they have helped, or will help.”

    I just gave you the evidence. The problem last year was too many conservatives who stayed home and a Mitt Romney campaign so confident of victory that they went into defense mode after the first debate.

    “You mean the demographic the bishops are feverishly working to dramatically increase in numbers? More genius strategizing at work.”

    Now we get to the nub of the matter. Since you disagree with the Bishops on immigration, as do I, that means that the Fortnight to Freedom is worthless. That simply is not logical. Additionally it betrays a hopelessness in regard to the Hispanic vote that long term is not warranted:

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2013/06/28/the_gop_and_hispanics_what_the_future_holds_119011.html

    We have been down this road before. Italian Americans were supposed to be a bastion for the Democrats and for a while they were. With increasing prosperity more of them voted Republican. Since 1968 the two parties have divided the Italian-American vote. I suspect Hispanics are following a similar trajectory.

    “Cardinal Dolan”

    The same Cardinal Dolan who led the successful fight against Cuomo’s abortion bill in the New York State Senate? Confusing affability with ineffectiveness is a common error, but still an error. At any rate I would think you would be calling for more efforts like the Fortnight For Freedom rather than lamenting it.

  • “I just gave you the evidence.”

    No, you told me that the white Catholic vote for Obama dropped (which is a good thing), but the government’s confrontational position with regard to the Church was not changed at all.

    “Now we get to the nub of the matter. Since you disagree with the Bishops on immigration, as do I, that means that the Fortnight to Freedom is worthless.”

    No, the Fortnight for Freedom is worthless because it had no effect upon the politicians who are attempting to take away our freedoms. The bishops’ self-immolation act on immigration is really a separate issue, but since you supplied the statistic I couldn’t resist commenting on it.

    “We have been down this road before. Italian Americans were supposed to be a bastion for the Democrats and for a while they were. With increasing prosperity more of them voted Republican. Since 1968 the two parties have divided the Italian-American vote. I suspect Hispanics are following a similar trajectory.”

    A different America and a different Church.

    “The same Cardinal Dolan who led the successful fight against Cuomo’s abortion bill in the New York State Senate? Confusing affability with ineffectiveness is a common error, but still an error.”

    All right, I guess I have to concede that NY’s hideous abortion laws did not become even more hideous largely through the efforts of Cardinal Dolan. However, I think the Cardinal has to develop a more confrontational approach on some issues. I have visions of him yucking it up with Hillary at the Al Smith Dinner three years from now, and that kind of thing can’t happen anymore. It would send a powerful message if Bobby Jindal, or Paul Ryan or Scott Walker was invited to the Dinner, and Hillary was not, but I can’t imagine Dolan doing that.

    “At any rate I would think you would be calling for more efforts like the Fortnight For Freedom rather than lamenting it.”

    We need to do a lot more than the Fortnight, so I see this as more of a nice gesture than an actual effort to defend the Church.

  • The US Constitution prohibits a religious test for public office, including the public office of citizenship. The HHS Mandate and its violation of conscience is demanding that citizens prove their religioius piety, holiness and in the public domain their worship of God to be allowed exemption. Being an American citizen is insufficient and no longer reason to be free.

  • @Donald Mc Clarey: ” Forty years ago excommunicating Catholic pro-abort politicians would have had a major impact on many Catholics, but not today.”

    Let us try it. What have we got to lose? Our infant children might notice. Little old ladies might come out more often knowing that the Catholic Church will be there to sustain them in their will to live. Excommunicating sinners may even enlighten their journey back to God.

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