Defending Religious Freedom in Full: A Generation’s Challenge


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ABSTRACTUn-Sebelius Commencement Address - By George Weigel - The Corner - National Review Online Get FREE NRO Newsletters   Log In   |   Register Follow Us Everywhere         May 28 Issue  Subscribe to NR  Renew  May 28 Issue   |   Subscribe   |   Renew Home The Corner The Agenda Campaign Spot The Home Front Right Field Bench Memos The Feed Media Blog Critical Condition The Tyranny Blog Larry Kudlow David Calling Exchequer Phi Beta Cons Planet Gore UK Between the Covers Tweet Tracker NR / Digital Subscribe: NR Subscribe: NR / Digital Give: NR / Digital NR Renewals & Changes Shop! Donate Media Kit Contact Close To: Your Email: Your Name: Subject: Fund: Censoring Naomi Riley Auslin: Where Did the Land Go? McCarthy: Western Sharia Cooke: Quebec’s Students Revolt Abrams: Obama, Carter, and the Missing Words on Iran Anton: William Francis Gibbs, American Hero Goldberg: 'Money Primary' Malkin: White House Lied, Jobs Died Lowry: Gay Marriage: Not Inevitable Murdock: Astronauts: Cool It on Warming Charen: To Bigotry No Sanction Krauthammer: Echoes of ’67: Israel Unites Botwinick: The ACLU’s Double Standard Costa: ‘Young Guns’ Under Fire Symposium: The President Comes Out Editors: The Devolution of Marriage Capretta: Obamacare Hurts Seniors Trinko: Obama’s College Promises Interview: The Presidency, Unplugged Barone: Reelection Is Not Inevitable New on NRO . . . The Corner The one and only. About This Blog Archive E-Mail RSS Send Print   |  Text   Un-Sebelius Commencement Address By  George Weigel May 12, 2012 4:00 P.M. Comments 4 Delivered today at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas : Defending Religious Freedom in Full: A Generation’s Challenge   Your Excellency, Archbishop Joseph Naumann; members of the Board of Trustees; President Minnis and members of the faculty and staff; Benedictine fathers and sisters; parents, grandparents, and family members of the graduates — and especially mothers of the graduates, who celebrate a double-header today; and my fellow-classmates of the Class of 2012 of Benedictine College:            Thank you for inviting me to join you on this great day. Thank you for honoring my work with the gift of a degree. It has been one of the great graces of my professional life to have been given the opportunity to work regularly with young men and women of intelligence, wit, and character — after their parents had done the heavy lifting! So a special word of thanks, today, to the parents of today’s graduates — and the grandparents, and the other family members — who have helped bring you, the Class of 2012, to this pivotal moment in your lives. Today is, by its nature — and I think at Benedictine College we can still speak of the “nature” of things! — a day of celebration, a day of remembrance, and a day of thanksgiving. Permit me to take a few minutes to suggest that you consider it a day of challenge as well: a challenge that might lead to a certain kind of vocational commitment. We share, today, a unique and critical moment in the history of the Catholic Church in the United States. At the time of the American Revolution, Catholics accounted for less than one per cent of the population of the thirteen colonies — a tiny population clustered primarily in my native Maryland and a few Pennsylvania counties. Yet within a few decades of the Founding, the great tides of European immigration that began to wash onto the shores of the new nation  – those “huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” as they are memorialized on the Statue of Liberty — brought millions of Catholics to the New World: at first, Irish and Germans; later, Italians, Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Ruthenians, and the many others who wove their lives, their traditions, and their aspirations into the rich tapestry of American democracy. Those 19 th century immigrants felt the sting of anti-Catholic prejudice, even anti-Catholic violence. But notwithstanding that bigotry, Catholics have, I believe, almost always felt at home in these United States. We have felt at home because we have thrived here; with the exception of immigrant Jews, no religious group has prospered more in America than the Catholic community. Yet Catholic “at-homeness” in the United States has had a deeper philosophical and moral texture. One of the great Catholic students of American democracy, Father John Courtney Murray, described that side of the Catholic experience of America in these terms, in We Hold These Truths: Catholic Reflections on the American Proposition , a book published fifty-two years ago: “Catholic participation in the American consensus has been full and free, unreserved and unembarrassed, because the contents of this consensus.......