At the core of the human person is the most essential duty, the duty to worship God and live according to His commands. On the day that we die, it is not to any government that we will answer, nor to any person, not even to the leaders of the Catholic Church, but to God alone. We will stand before Him in the Particular Judgment, and He alone will determine our eternal destiny (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1022). As one of the great spiritual masters teaches, “At the evening of this life, we shall be judged on our love” (St. John of the Cross, Dichos 64). That is why the right to prepare for this great judgment, to live according to God’s commands or not, to witness to our faith or lack thereof is the greatest, most essential human right. This right we may call religious freedom or the right of conscience. However we term this right, we disregard it and neglect it at our peril, as a nation and as families called to the fulness of love (St. John 13:34).
This most essential, most basic right of religious freedom or the right of conscience is under assault. This most essential right is under assault when Americans are forced to subsidize the murder and destruction of unborn children through abortion, when Americans are forced to inject medical products into their body against their reason and faith, when Americans are forced to occupy bathrooms with people of the other sex, when Americans are told that they have to check their faith at the door to participate as an equal member of society. To be clear, this right is not about religious versus non-religious, nor is it about the right versus the left, nor is it about Republicans versus Democrats. Oh no, it is about good versus evil, freedom versus slavery, the Kingdom of God versus the Kingdom of Satan (St. Matthew 12:30). There is no middle ground here: you are either in favor of religious liberty and conscience, or slavery and tyranny.
Let us call these attacks on religious freedom and conscience by their real name: they are attacks on the Lord of freedom (cf. Galatians 5:13). You see, the Lord has reserved for Himself the interior of man. He has put His law in our hearts that we may know what He expects of us (Romans 2:14-15; Catechism of the Catholic Church #1776). There is a reason the Catholic Church teaches that an erring conscience binds on penalty of sin (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1778; #1790); it is because conscience is the judgment of God and no one can judge God. Of course, we have to form our conscience well (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1783) and cannot use conscience as a pretext to do evil, but conscience does not need to be justified before others. It does not need to be evaluated for sincerity or interrogated for flaws. It needs to be respected and cherished as that which manifests the communion between God and man.
The United States of America is the hope of the world. In no country on planet earth has religious freedom and prosperity prevailed as it has in this beautiful country. We need to recognize that when France lost her freedom when Germany lost her freedom during the terrible reign of the Third Reich, the Lord sent others to rescue them. But if we lose our freedom, there will be no one to rescue us but the Lord. And since we are constantly pushing Him out of our society, He will also not rescue us without our freedom and decision to follow Him as the Way, the Truth, and the Life (St. John 14:6). We desperately need to reclaim the first, most essential right: the right of religious freedom and conscience.