Just the day our July Bulletin was printed I received a message from Archbishop
Humphreys, asking me to say a few words about patriotism during this weekend of
American Independence. He sent what he had published in his parish Bulletin, so
I would like to read you the applicable parts:
“If you are a good Catholic, you
cannot help but be a good American.” (Cmdr. John J. Shea) Sunday will
usher in something of a beginning of our Fourth of July observance. We
are concerned about a steadily growing LACK of patriotism in this
country. Our government seems to discourage it – if not, prohibit it,
in certain areas; certain media black it out; our schools tend to ignore
it; and the “man on the street” just forgets about it. But there is
building in our nation a strong movement to “TAKE BACK OUR COUNTRY.” We
might just as well get on the band wagon right here at (OLGH) Our Lady
of the Rosary. Miss Liberty must always welcome immigrants to our
shores, but such people are EXPECTED to come here seeking
naturalization. That very word denotes becoming one of those who are
here, one of US – (U.S.), if you will. It does not connote one’s
bringing his flag here, or his form of government and/or a religion
imposed by government; or a myriad of mores and social customs
inconsistent with those that have been a part of our land since its
inception. It means becoming AMERICAN, pledging allegiance to one’s
newly chosen nation, a country wishing to make good immigrants “one of
us.” No others should apply to come here; no others should be invited
here! [At Our Lady of Good Hope] our music Sunday will include “This is
My Country,” “The Cross and the Flag,” “God bless America.” Sing them
proudly! We mean no offense to anyone. Anyone who is offended is not
in America for the right reasons.
Now, if anyone is wondering why the church is concerned with a lack of
patriotism, let me explain that patriotism is a religious obligation. Saint
Thomas Aquinas, in analyzing the virtue of justice tells us that religion is
part of justice, and piety is part of religion, and patriotism is part of
piety. In describing piety, he says:
Man becomes a debtor to other men in various ways, according to their various
excellence, and the various benefits received from them. On both counts God
holds the first place, for He is supremely excellent, and for us He is the first
principle of being and government. In the second place the principles of our
being and government are our parents and our country, that have given us birth
and nourishment.... Wherefore, just as it belongs to religion to give worship
to God, so does it belong to piety, in the second place, to give worship to
one’s parents and one’s country.
Justice, religion, piety, patriotism.
Now the idea of “worshipping” one’s country and parents may sound a bit
medieval (Saint Thomas wrote in the thirteenth century), but it simply means
fulfilling our responsibilities to them, as he says, “according to their various
excellence, and the various benefits received from them.” Civilized people
recognize God’s “excellence,” and by analogy, recognize a similar but lesser
“excellence” in their parents and relatives, and in their nation. Modernism has
eroded some of this, and many people today are oblivious to the concepts of
speaking and dressing and acting with respect for our elders and for those in
authority, and even for God. Nonetheless, such respect remains as a duty of
The religious duty also arises, Saint Thomas says, from “the various benefits
received from them.” We owe our parents not only respect, but also aid in their
material necessities, for they have given us both life and nourishment and the
basics of our character. In somewhat the same way, we must acknowledge an
obligation to the civil society in which we live. For government has a
legitimate function in providing for the common defense, and at the lower levels
in making sure that the amenities of civilized society are available to its
citizens. That usually includes police and fire protection, the administration
of legal justice, provision of roads, clean water and sewage, and maybe some
recreational facilities. All of these things might be provided by free
enterprise or by citizen-volunteers banding together, but tend to get taken over
by government in the more urban areas. (Digging your own well and maintaining
your own outhouse become problematic on a quarter-acre lot, or in an apartment
building!) Properly run, government is supposed to make life a little more
bearable for its citizens, and for this we owe it respect and support.
Now, I know that many of you can recite a litany of things which seem to
diminish the respect and support due to our government as it actually exists:
taxes are high, jobs are scarce, production is fleeing the country, prices are
going up, medical care and retirement plans seem threatened, we are engaged in
at least three wars on three different fronts, and everyone is worried about it
getting worse—perhaps much worse.
And, for the most part, even the few politicians who seem to understand the
nation’s problems are reluctant to act in any really substantive way. If our
national debt is measured in tens of trillions, it is useless to talk about
cutting millions or even billions from our budget. If we have regulated the
finance and health care industries into wastefulness and fraud, it makes no
sense to propose even more regulation. If there are no jobs it makes no sense
to tax and over-regulate those who would provide them. If prices are going up
it makes no sense to print more money, and drive them up even faster.
The current administration may have to accept a good deal of the blame for all
of this, but the problem goes back a century and a half or thereabouts, and the
blame sharing has to be bipartisan. The Constitution guarantees “a Republican
form of government.”
That doesn’t mean the “Republican Party” gets to run things—it means that we are
guaranteed a representative government. We are a Republic. But representative
government requires a great deal of vigilance on the part of all citizens.
Someone asked one of the Founding Fathers what sort of government the new
Constitution gave us. His answer was “A republic, if you can keep it.”
A republic requires citizens who know what their government is supposed to do,
who know what it is actually doing, and who will keep representatives who do the
wrong thing in real fear for their jobs.
Justice, religion, piety, patriotism—this is a religious duty!
Everyone who is registered to vote in Florida (and perhaps other States) has
signed an oath to “protect and defend the Constitution of the United
States....” An oath! Perhaps a year ago, one of our parishioners passed out
pocket sized copies of the Constitution—we can order more if anyone needs one.
One cannot know what the government is supposed to do without a working
knowledge of the Constitution—and it is of virtually no use to have read it back
in fifth grade and never since—think of this as a religious duty—justice,
religion, piety, patriotism.
Once one knows what the government is supposed to do, one must determine whether
or not it is doing what it is supposed to do. Where you get your news is
important here. By “news” I don’t mean the celebrity gossip or the ball
scores. And you cannot just watch NBC and read The New York Times to be
informed. Find alternative news sources in magazines and on the Internet—after
a few years you will know which ones have a good “track record” for reporting
the pertinent truth.
But even if you do sit down with The New York Times or The
Sun-Sentinel make a point of asking yourself: “Where in the Constitution
did the government get the power to do the things I just read about?” Now, I am
not asking you whether or not you like what you read about the government
doing, but whether or not the action was authorized by the Supreme Law of the
Land. We have an obligation in justice to object, even to things we
personally like, if they violate the law and the interests of other citizens.
We must resist the temptation to approve of those things which bring us some
personal benefit if they violate the Supreme Law. Thomas Jefferson once said:
I predict future happiness for Americans if
they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people
under the pretense of taking care of them.
Finally, this virtue of piety obliges us to be vocal when our representatives
fail (or announce their intent to fail) us. The individual politicians and the
national parties must know that those representatives who do a good job will
receive our votes and maybe even some financial assistance—but those who fail us
will be turned out of office and replaced. Write letters, sign petitions, and
join organizations which advocate lawful government.
Ultimately patriotism consists of loving one’s country and fellow
citizens—not about hating anyone else. It is not about waving the flag
when government acts unfairly to other peoples or nations, or to groups within
our own nation. It is about taking part in the Republic “to promote the general
welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity,”
in a Republic that holds it “self-evident, that all men are created equal ...
endowed by their Creator with ... unalienable Rights... Life, Liberty and the
pursuit of Happiness.” “Unalienable Rights” which cannot be taken away or
regulated away or taxed away from men by any authority less than God their
These United States constitute the greatest nation in the world. Justice,
religion, piety, patriotism. We might reflect briefly on the sentiments of the
men who declared these States “Free and Independent”:
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.
“And our sacred Honor!” Pray God that we can find men and women of this sort of
character today to represent us in our Republic. Justice, religion, piety,
patriotism. May God bless America!
urge you to join me tomorrow, July fourth,
Independence Day, for the 8:00 AM Mass, which we will offer for the Republic.