Concluding the Catholic bishops' "Fortnight for Freedom," Archbishop Charles Chaput told the crowd assembled at the Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. that the "Caesar" in our nation's capital needs to be reminded that our rights are the gift of God and not the government.
"Render unto Caesar" is something we often hear quoted at tax time, but Rev. Charles Caput, the Catholic Archbishop of Philadelphia, found this Fourth of July a fitting time to remind "Caesar" that the "unalienable rights" proclaimed in our Declaration of Independence come from God and do not belong to any ruler — monarch, emperor, or Democrat. At the conclusion of the "Fortnight for Freedom" called by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Chaput preached to the overflow crowd of some 4,500 at a noon Mass at the Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. He used as his text the account in Saint Matthew's Gospel of Jesus confronted with the question of whether it is lawful in the eyes of God to pay tribute (in the form of taxes) to Caesar. After asking whose image (Caesar's) was on the coin of tribute, Jesus said: "Render, therefore, unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's." (Matthew 22:21)
While citing the obligations of charity and justice while in the world, the archbishop insisted that the lives and liberties of people do not belong to the world or any of its governments. "Because just as the coin bears the stamp of Caesar's image, we bear the stamp of God's image in baptism. We belong to God, and only to God."
The "Fortnight for Freedom," the two weeks ending on July 4, was called by the bishops to protest the regulation announced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that limits the religious conscience exemption from employers' obligations under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to houses of worship and not religious-affiliated institutions such as schools, hospitals, and charitable organizations, that employ people of different faiths.
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Photo: Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles Chaput speaks during a news conference, May 4, 2012, in Philadelphia: AP Images