When people are tired, unconcerned or have given up, there will always be a well-organized and well-financed special interest group waiting to assume power.
Pope Francis recent encyclical on the environment said it all about what's happening in our culture today. Some political sources praised and welcomed the historic report from a pope who they called a "visionary leader." On the other hand, other politicians publicly responded with scorn and ridicule, even calling him a "socialist." This political sideshow proved how broken and divisive our country has become. Instead of reporting the facts about the encyclical, the public received a biased account and political spin. I point this out not to offend any political persuasion -- Democrat vs. Republican, business or labor, conservatives or liberals -- but only to point out that in too many cases, the message of the pope and religious groups too often gets caught up in politics. Whether it's about the environment, economy, education, or social issues. It's all about what politicians feel is in their best interest.
We're witnessing the denial of freedom, civility and even democracy. The denial of religious freedom and persecution is happening in countries across the world, while our own American governmental officials, left and right, pretend that this erosion of religious freedoms and human rights is not under attack. We are losing our political influence in America. If you are not part of the political left or the right, you are hardly represented in government today.
Saturday, at St. Agatha's Church in Milton we heard Msgr. William Fay talk about the loss of religious freedom and democracy, not only in the a Middle East, North Africa but right here in the United States. After Mass, one of the parishioners came up to me and said, "Ambassador, it was great to see you, your wife and grandson today in St. Agatha's. I know what Father said today is exactly what you have been talking about for some time. But nobody in political authority seems to be interested. Everything seems to have changed so quickly. It's hard to understand."
"Not really, it's called power. They have it, we're losing it."
When people are tired, unconcerned or have given up, there will always be a well-organized and well-financed special interest group waiting to assume power. Today, this group of people holds most of the power, but it's important to point out that society has faced these kinds of situations in the past -- Nazism, Communism, Nativism, slavery, even the bigoted Know Nothing movement against Irish Catholics in Boston. Well today we are in a war of cultures and political self-interest. Some people will choose to deny this and that is their right. But this is America and we can fight back. The Greatest Generation fought and died for our country during World War II. Our country is facing another enormous challenge today, which we can and must win. But it will require the support of people who love freedom and democracy.
While living in Rome, The Eternal City, the ruins of a once leading ancient culture were evident everywhere you would go. The Emperor of Rome in those days provided the people "Bread and Circuses" to divert the public's attention away from the growing problems of the day. Today, we are focused on everything except what is really important to our country's traditions and its once cherished values. As we celebrate Independence Day we must remember that millions of brave Americans have defended those traditions, but today, a small but powerful group of secularists are trying to take them away. As was stated at St. Agatha's Church last week, we must never stop working to preserve our freedoms and democracy. We owe that to our faith, heritage and our country.
Raymond L. Flynn is the former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See and Mayor of Boston.
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