Catholics and Latter-day Saints: Partners in the Defense of Religious Freedom
Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Chicago
President, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Brigham Young University: February 23, 2010
When government fails to protect the consciences of its citizens, it falls to religious
bodies—especially those formed by the gospel of Jesus Christ—to become the defenders of human freedom. If this continues to be our shared calling, one to which we invite others, then we will defend religious liberty first of all for the good of law itself, knowing that good law protects everyone’s rights, no matter how feeble they might be. That’s the purpose of law: to defend those who otherwise could not defend themselves. We will be together in this struggle for the good of society itself, believing with Alexis de Tocqueville that churches and religious bodies play a crucial role, a mediating role, in fostering a nation’s civic life. Finally, we will work together because it is for the good of the people whom we shepherd in our own communities, Mormons and Catholics who take pride in our citizenship as Americans and in our legacy of service to the nation, and who continue to claim full citizenship in this pluralistic country.
Our churches have different histories and systems of belief and practice, although we acknowledge a common reference point in the person and in the gospel of Jesus Christ. It strikes me that, however different our historic journeys and creeds might be, our communities share a common experience of being a religious minority that was persecuted in different ways in mid-nineteenth-century America. We know that religious conviction combined with America’s founding vision of religious liberty and justice for all was what sustained our people in a hostile environment and eventually enabled them to emerge from their enclaves to make a very great and significant contribution to the political and cultural life of our nation. It is therefore true especially of our two groups, the Latter-day Saints and the Catholic Church, that the defense of religious liberty affirms what is deepest in our self-identity.