STRATFORD — The President of Catholic University told more than 400 people at the Redemptoris Mater Seminary gala that in the fight over religious liberty, the goal of Catholics should not simply be to win court battles but to evangelize their opponents.
“We cannot practice or proclaim the faith in a crouched position,” John H. Garvey said. “In our battles about religious liberty, we should aim not simply to defeat our antagonists in the courts or to carve out government concessions that leave us alone. Our goal is to make them disciples.”
Garvey, an ardent defender of Catholic principles in higher education and in public life, said he was not suggesting that fights in the political sphere should be abandoned.
“But when the society we live in increasingly finds our religion abhorrent, we are less likely to win in court, and we are farther than ever from converting our antagonists, so our aim should not be our freedom, but their conversion,” he said.
Garvey and Archbishop Bernardito Auza, who served as Permanent Observer to the United Nations, were honored by the Stamford seminary.
Father Marco Pacciana, the rector, praised them as men of strong faith known for upholding Catholic values in a secular world.
“Archbishop Auza upholds the values of the Catholic faith, and his work at the United Nations is very important when you consider everything that is going on in the world,” Father Pacciana said. “And President Garvey is a man who gives witness to the Catholic truth in the world of higher education.”
During the event, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano announced that an anonymous donor had given $100,000 for the seminary. He praised the seminarians and Father Pacciana for his “great leadership.”
“These seminarians are growing in faith, and they are growing into young men of diligence and zeal because they are following your example and good guidance, so continue to do your great work,” he said.
Archbishop Auza, who on October 1 was appointed Apostolic Nuncio to the Kingdom of Spain and the Principality of Andorra, said that in this new role he will be 17 minutes away from where the Neocatechumenal Way began in 1964 on the outskirts of Madrid among the poor.
A native of the Philippines, he was ordained in 1985 and has been a member of the Holy See’s diplomatic corps since 1990, serving as nuncio to Haiti, in the nunciatures in Madagascar, Bulgaria, and Albania, and in the diplomatic section of the Secretariat of State in the Vatican.
“The [Neocatechumenal] Way is not a stranger to me,” Archbishop Auza said. “I have known it for many years and have been a guest at so many of your seminaries.”
Redemptoris Mater (Mother of the Redeemer) seminaries are under the auspices of the Neocatechumenal Way, a 55-year-old charism in the Church dedicated to Christian formation and the New Evangelization.
Archbishop Auza also pointed out that in the 441-mile corridor from Washington D.C. to Boston, there are six Redemptoris Mater seminaries and said that the United States and Spain have the most with nine each.
He stressed the importance of the missionary role of the seminaries and the Neocatechumenal Way and said, “This mission has become more urgent in our times, and that is why it is very important that we wake up to this call and respond as effectively as we can. It doesn’t mean a new message. It means a new method, expressing our faith with a renewed enthusiasm and joy for the Gospel.”
He added, “In you, we see the missionary zeal that characterized the Apostolic Church. In our time, many would say that the Church has lost its ardor and zeal for proclamation, that its life has been diminished….May your ardor and freshness spread like wildfire and burn us all in Spirit and embolden us just as it did the Apostles at Pentecost.”
Redemptoris Mater international seminaries were inspired by St. Pope John Paul II’s call for a “New Evangelization.” The first seminary opened in 1987 in the Diocese of Rome, and today there are 127 on five continents and in cities such as Denver, Manila, Philippines, Brasilia, Brazil, and Medellin, Colombia. The first one to open in the United States was in Newark in 1990.
Since they began, more than 2000 men have been ordained to the priesthood, and some 1,500 seminarians are in formation worldwide. Even though they have an international character, they function as diocesan seminaries with the same theological formation, except that the young men are also sent out to do mission work for two years.
Four years ago, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano opened the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Stamford to prepare prepare priests for missionary work anywhere in the world — from China to the streets of Bridgeport.
Father Marco said 11 seminarians from seven countries are being formed for the Bridgeport Diocese and that four new men will be coming for the Archdiocese of Hartford.
In his comments, President Garvey cited a speech by U.S. Attorney General William Barr at the University of Notre Dame earlier this month, which was widely criticized in the secular media. Barr said that “moral values must rest on an authority independent of men’s will. They must flow from a transcendent Supreme Being.” He criticized society’s turn toward what he called “macro-morality.”
“The new secular religion teaches a macro-morality gauged not so much by private conduct but rather whether you are committed to political causes and corrective actions,” Garvey said.
“The reaction to growing illegitimacy is not sexual responsibility but abortion,” he said. “The reaction to drug addiction is not temperance but safe injection sites. The solution to the breakdown of the family is that the state set itself up as an ersatz husband for the single mother and an ersatz father for children.”
Among the critics of Barr, one columnist called the speech a tacit endorsement of theocracy and another said it was the language of witch hunts and pogroms and “sounded remarkably like America’s most unhinged religious zealots.”
“That I think is an overreaction,” Garvey said. “The attorney general was merely suggesting that we practice chastity, temperance and fidelity, and I think that would be a good idea. It is not an endorsement of theocracy.”
Garvey, who became the 15th president of the Catholic University of America in 2010, is a nationally acclaimed expert in constitutional law, religious liberty, and the First Amendment. He has authored and co-authored numerous books, including What Are Freedoms For?; Religion and the Constitution; and Sexuality and the U.S. Catholic Church.
As president, he has emphasized that a Catholic approach to scholarship enriches every school and discipline. He is a prominent voice in the media on issues such as higher education, culture, law, Catholicism and religious liberty.
About the Redemptoris Mater Seminary of Bridgeport
The Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Stamford opened in December 2015 under the direction of Father Alfonso Picone, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish. It was the ninth in the United States. Today there are 11 men there from seven different nations. They are under the direction of Father Marco Pacciana, the rector, and Father Giandomenico Flora, the spiritual director and also rector of St. Margaret Shrine in Bridgeport.