PROVO, Utah — The fight to defend moral principles is linking Mormons and Catholics like never before.
recent years, Catholics and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints have stood more frequently side by side in the public
square to defend human life and dignity," Francis Cardinal George told
nearly 12,000 students, faculty and community members gathered Tuesday
"I'm personally grateful
that after 180 years of living mostly apart from one another, Catholics
and Latter-day Saints have begun to see each other as trustworthy
partners in defense of shared moral principles."
to be the highest-ranking Catholic official to ever visit BYU, Cardinal
George spoke about the need for both religions to stand together to
protect religious freedom — not simply as a set of private beliefs, but
the ability of individuals and groups to practice their religion in the
"Any attempt to
reduce that fuller sense of religious freedom, which has been part of
our history in this country for more than two centuries, to a private
reality of worship and individual conscience so long as you don't make
anyone else unhappy, is not in our tradition," said Cardinal George,
president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and
Archbishop of Chicago. "It was the tradition of the Soviet Union."
His message was echoed by Elder Dallin H. Oaks, who spoke recently at BYU-Idaho.
values and political realities are so interlinked in the origin and
perpetuation of this nation that we cannot lose the influence of
Christianity in the public square without seriously jeopardizing our
freedoms," said Elder Oaks, a member of the LDS Church's Quorum of the
Protecting those freedoms,
despite theological differences, is so crucial that both Catholics and
Latter-day Saints are seeing themselves as "spiritually united," said
Robert George, a devout Catholic and professor at Princeton University
who spoke at BYU in October 2008.
goes beyond having a common set of moral or political convictions," he
said. "More than that, it's an appreciation of each other, an
appreciation for the profundity of the faith ... and feeling that they're
working together on something that God himself wills."
There's plenty to work on.
George praised the LDS Church for its efforts alongside the Catholic
Church to alleviate suffering of the poor, combat pornography, define
marriage as the union of one and one woman, and protect the rights of
was a pleasure to host Cardinal George at (LDS) Church headquarters and
BYU today," said Elder M. Russell Ballard, who attended Tuesday's forum
with Elder Quentin L. Cook, as well as Bishop John C. Wester of the
Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City.
George also visited with the LDS Church's First Presidency, toured the
Family History Library and met other senior church leaders.
is a man of great faith and capacity, and I enjoyed the opportunity to
talk with him about our shared values and interests," Elder Ballard
Regarding gay marriage,
Cardinal George stressed that Catholics believe, as do Latter-day
Saints, that every person is made in the image of God and, as such,
should be loved, regardless of sexual orientation.
"That doesn't mean we approve of everything anybody does," he said.
After Cardinal George's speech, others interviewed echoed his view of Catholic/Mormon unity.
is nothing like being in the trenches together to make common cause,"
said Maggie Gallagher, a Catholic and president of the National
Organization for Marriage. "I think we all need the courage to stand up
for our core beliefs — especially the belief that our marriage
tradition is good. I'm very grateful for the LDS faith community's
leadership, but even more for the ordinary member's ordinary courage.
We all admire it and seek to emulate it."
For Robert George, he said he keeps coming back to the Bible scripture: "By their fruits ye shall know them."
lot of Catholics are looking at the fruit born by the LDS," he said,
"not only in the way they conduct their daily affairs, (but in) the
witness they gave on the marriage question, especially when they were
so brutally attacked for it."
Those sacrifices haven't gone unnoticed, he said.
didn't want there to be any question about whether Catholics like me
would forget about them after we'd won the war," he said.
And he won't.
the Proposition 8 battle banning same-sex marriage in California,
Robert George said he not only developed a deeper appreciation of the
LDS faith, but was strengthened in his own faith as well.
Such appreciation must be mutual, said Paul Kerry, BYU professor and friend of Robert George.
someone who teaches history, I'm stunned at the lack of appreciation
for the role the Catholic Church has played as this worldwide
organization, and the great leadership it has displayed on family
issues in places where the LDS Church might not be very prominent,"
Thanks to its global
presence, the Catholic Church always has stood for family issues,
whether it was opposing Nazi policies of euthanasia or speaking against
abortion, he said.
to hear from someone like Cardinal George reminds Latter-day Saints of
the challenges facing religious freedom and of the many people working
to defend it, Kerry said.
we do not fight it together, ... the difference is between winning and
losing," Robert George said. "If we try to fight it separately, we will
lose. The enemy is too strong, and our adversaries are too powerful."
together does not mean abandoning core doctrines or changing theology,
only coming to the realization that both religions have "a lot in
common in terms of things that they're trying to defend — certain moral
values that they believe are not just central to their faith, but
central to the well-being of civilization, of society," said Utah
Valley University President Matthew Holland, another friend of Robert
Such staunch advocacy
doesn't come without cost, and fighting for religious freedom often
will make such warriors targets for retaliation and hatred, Cardinal
"But despite that, if
we stay together and go forward, ... if we simply continue to talk
together, (it) will in the end bear much fruit," he said. "When
government fails to protect the consciences of its citizens, it falls
to religious bodies, especially those formed by the gospel of Jesus
Christ, to become the defenders of human freedoms."
To view Cardinal George's entire speech, visit www.byu.tv, click on "conferences and addresses", and then on "Forum - His Eminence Cardinal Francis George"