Twenty Eight Sunday In Ordinary Time

October 12, 2019 Column Father De Celles

Bishop Burbidge at St. Raymond’s. Next Sunday, October 20, our Bishop will be here to celebrate our 10:30 Mass. We’ll also probably have a few other guests, as this will be the Diocese’s annual Respect Life Mass. As you know, October is the Respect Life Month, so we are particularly honored to have His Excellency with us for this special Mass. We are also happy to be joined by members of the Northern Virginia guild of the Catholic Medical Association, headed by the eminent Dr. Marie Anderson, OB/GYN. But it is still our parish Mass, so don’t hesitate to attend as usual.

CANDIDATE FORUM AT ST. RAYMOND’S. As you know, November 5 is Election Day in Virginia, for state and local offices. Of particular and important attention to us are the races for seats on the Fairfax County School Board, and the race for State Delegate to represent Virginia House District 42, the district our parish is located in. Last week we sponsored a talk on some of the issues involved in the school board election. Thanks for all who took part.
Now, I am very pleased to announce that our Religious Freedom Committee will be sponsoring a Candidate Forum for Virginia House District 42, on Thursday, October 24, at 7pm in the Parish Hall. Both candidates have been invited to participate; so far Steve Adragna (Republican) has accepted and incumbent Delegate Kathy Tran (Democrat) has been invited and is trying to rearrange her schedule to attend. I very much hope Del. Tran can participate, so we can all hear her views and positions, but if she is unable to attend, the Forum will still be held with Dr. Adragna.
This is an important event, and I strongly encourage you all to attend—so you can vote intelligently on Nov. 5. As you know, the Church does not endorse individual candidates, and this forum will be conducted on a strictly non-partisan basis, granting equal respect and time to both candidates. The schedule is tentatively this: Each candidate will make a five-minute opening statement. Then questions will be presented to the candidates, with 2-minute answers from each candidate and a 1-minute rebuttal by each. At the end there will be a 3 minutes closing statement from each candidate.
Right now the plan is that some of the questions will be prepared beforehand by our Religious Freedom Committee (RFC), but others will be selected by members of the RFC from those submitted in writing by the audience during the event.
We are inviting our neighboring parishes and other churches in the area to attend. Please come and learn about the candidates.

October is “Respect Life Month.” Every October, the American Bishops call us to remember that almost 2,500 innocent Americans are killed every day by abortions, almost 900,000 a year, for a total of over 61 million dead since 1973.
But even as horrible as that death toll is, we can’t forget that abortion has other consequences as well—consequences that have been eating away at the moral and legal fiber of our nation and culture.
Of course, we cannot forget the consequence of abortion’s devastating effect on women. Especially the women who have been lied to and told, “it’s okay, it’s just a formless clump of cells.” But deep inside they know, or come to know, the truth of what they’ve done. These are the 2nd victims of abortion, but they are ignored and ridiculed for expressing their pain and feelings of guilt. We must not forget them, we must love them and do everything we can to help them heal, and to make sure that the evil of abortion will not continue to plague future generations of women. We must put an end to the real “war on women”—born and unborn.
But the consequences of abortion go beyond even that, as the establishment of a constitutional right to abortion is like a virus injected into the body politic slowly corrupting every other right, and the freedom that is the life’s blood of our great nation. Because there cannot be any human rights if human beings don’t have a right to life. If you’re not alive, you have no rights at all.
This is why, in 1776, when Virginian Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, the only rights he felt it necessary to list were the most fundamental: “the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”—with the right to life being first.
To this some say, “what about the separation of church and state?” When most of us think of the separation between church and state we think of the Bill of Rights. What does it actually say? “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Notice, it’s not about protecting the government from the church, but protecting the individual and religions from the government.
Just as the “right to life” is the first listed in the Declaration, the right to freely practice our religion is the very first right listed (in the very first words of the very First Amendment) in the Bill of Rights. And rightly so. Because the freedom of religion is essential to the freedom of thought, to decide for oneself what one believes to be true, right and good. How can we defend any rights if we don’t have that right? And how can we defend any rights as being given to us from God Himself, as the Declaration states, unless we have a right to believe in God as we see fit?
But since the right to life necessarily precedes all other rights and liberties, when someone embraces a theory of man and society that rejects the right to life, he thereby perceives all other rights and liberties as not fundamental, natural or God-given, but simply invented by political expediency and political power. So, that when those in power find that the exercise of a certain right or freedom is not politically expedient to their agenda, they will quickly dismiss that “freedom” or “right.”
All too often our Catholic religion has come under assault not only by politicians, activists and pundits, but even by members of our government. Even under the present religion-friendly presidency, members of congress still beat the drum of religious prejudice and oppression. They tell us our religion can’t affect our public and civic lives or our political choices. For example, remember the words of Senator Dianne Feinstein calling into question how Amy Coney Barrett’s Catholicism might adversely affect her decision making as a federal judge, tell Barrett in her confirmation hearing in 2017: “When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you.”
So what do we do? There are many ways we can effect change. First, we can still exercise our First Amendment right of free speech to tell our neighbors the truth about what’s going on. And in 3 weeks we can exercise our right to vote, not ashamed or hiding our faith-formed consciences, but exercising our God-given freedom of religion and voting like well-formed and well-informed Catholics.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles