Catholics and Latter-day Saints are important partners in the defense of religious freedom in the public square. That was the message His Eminence Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I. delivered today at Brigham Young University to thousands of students, faculty and others tuning in by satellite and on the Internet. Two apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder M. Russell Ballard and Elder Quentin L. Cook, were present for the address, as was Bishop John C. Wester of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City.
In his address, Cardinal George explained that religious freedom cannot be reduced to just freedom of worship or even freedom of private conscience, but that individual and religious groups must have the right to exercise their influence in the public square.
“The lesson of American history is that churches and other religious bodies prosper in a nation and a social order that respects religious freedom and recognizes that civil government should never stand between the consciences and the religious practices of its citizens and Almighty God,” he said.
Speaking of the partnership Catholics and Mormons have in defending religious freedom, Cardinal George acknowledged that “sometimes our common advocacy will make one of us the target of retribution by intolerant elements” but emphasized that such actions should not deter religions from making their voices heard. “In the coming years, interreligious coalitions formed to defend the rights of conscience for individuals and religious institutions could become a vital bulwark against the tide of forces that work in our government and society to reduce religion to a purely private reality.”
Cardinal George pointed out that “society is based not on individuals but on families, on mothers and fathers with duties and obligations to their children, on children who learn how to be human, in the school of love, which is the family, which tells us we are not the center of the world individually.”
He also lauded the growing relationship between the Catholic Church and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and their joint efforts, such as providing aid to the poor and needy and combating pornography.
“I’m personally grateful that after 180 years of living mostly apart from one another, Catholics and Latter-day Saints have begun to see one another as trustworthy partners in the defense of shared moral principles and in the promotion of the common good of our beloved country,” he said.
“Our churches have different histories and systems of belief and practice, although we acknowledge a common reference point in the person and the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Cardinal George is president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the first Chicago native to become archbishop of Chicago. He presides over 2.3 million Catholics in the Chicago Archdiocese.
While in Utah to deliver an address at Brigham Young University, Cardinal George toured the Family History Library and Temple Square and met briefly with the First Presidency and later with other senior Church leaders at Church headquarters.
“It was a pleasure to host Cardinal George at Church headquarters and BYU,” said Elder M. Russell Ballard of The Quorum of Twelve Apostles. “He is a man of great faith and capacity and I enjoyed the opportunity to talk with him about our shared values and interests.”