.- Cardinal Raymond Burke, head of the Vatican's highest court, said on Aug. 2 that without religion in society, political leaders run the risk violating the fundamental human rights of citizens.
âAll nations should guarantee the free exercise of religion, which aims to protect the teaching and practice of religious faith for the sake of the common good,â said Cardinal Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura.
âWhen reason is not purified by faith in the political realm,â he warned, âthe powerful and influential of the time exercise a tyranny which violates the fundamental rights of the very people whom political leaders are called to serve.â
Cardinal Burke made his remarks at the Knights of Columbus' festive, black tie âStates Dinnerâ at the Colorado Convention Center during the group's 129th Supreme Convention this week.
Over 2,000 delegates and their families from the order waved colorful state and country flags representing councils from all over the globe and cheered while dozens of cardinals and bishops processed in.
During his keynote address following dinner, the cardinal expressed his âdeepest esteemâ for the Knights of Columbus, of which he has been a member for over 36 years.
He then discussed the legacy of Blessed Pope John Paul II and the role of clergy religious and laity in bringing about what the late pontiff referred to as the New Evangelization.
âEven as the first disciples faced a pagan world which had not even heard of our Lord Jesus Christ, so, we, too face a culture which is forgetful of God and hostile to His Law written upon every human heart,â he said.
The cardinal said that an âerroneous notionâ in modern society of moral law and conscience has led âto an equally erroneous exclusion of the discussion of the moral law and of questions of conscience from public life.â
âIn many so-called advanced nations, we witness an increasing tendency to deny to citizens the most fundamental right, the right to observe the dictates of oneâs conscience, formed through right reason and the teaching of the Church,â he said.
Cardinal Burke touched on political leaders who profess to be Catholics âand yet vote for legislation which violates the moral law.â Although these politicians claim that they personally believe in moral law, they argue that their political office demands they âfollow a different law in making decisions for those whom they represent and govern.â
Moral law, however, is not âa confessional practice,â the cardinal said, but rather âa response to what is inscribed in the depths of every human heart.â
âReligious faith plainly articulates the natural moral law,â which enables men and women of faith âto recognize more readily what their own human nature and the nature of things demand of them, and to conform their lives to the truth which they recognize,â he added.
âFor that reason, religious faith and practice is important for the life of every nation, specifically for the right formation of the conscience of her citizens.â
Religious faith, he noted, also serves to evangelize and bring hope to men and women today who are âlost in the unreal and destructive world of moral relativism and, therefore, tempted to despair.â
Cardinal Burke said that Catholics today encounter an intense âstruggle with those who would falsely exclude the purifying and illuminating service of faith,â and âthose who would insist that, when it comes to civic life, we must bracket our religious faith, even to the point of violating our own conscience.â
âBut we know the truth about the critical service which our faith brings to political reasoning,â he underscored, and âwe must remain steadfast in giving witness to it, even in the face of indifference and hostility.â