Former Senator Rick Santorum has an interesting piece at Real Clear Religion about the difficulties in being a faithful Catholic in politics. I don’t know about that. But he makes a statement that, based on history and current events, I think is patently false. From “It is Hard to be Catholic in Public Life:”
Our founders understood it was relatively easy to establish freedom in our Constitution, the harder task was to create a system that would maintain it against the corrosive force of time. The author Os Guinness describes how they accomplished this as the Golden Triangle of Freedom: “Freedom requires virtue, virtue requires faith and faith requires freedom and around again.”
Faith requires freedom. Why has America remained a deeply religious country averting the road to secularism traveled by many of our European brothers and sisters? Again Madison’s “true remedy,” the combination of “free exercise” and no religious state supported monopoly, has created a vibrant marketplace of religions. Our founders’ inspired brilliance created a paradigm that has given America the best chance of any civilization in the history of man to endure the test of time.
I certainly agree that about our founders’ “inspired brilliance and agree that the USA is a nurturing home for faith. But, faith certainly does not require freedom.
In fact, freedom can lead to a weak faith because it remains untested. Indeed, the strongest and most enduring faith is often forged in the hottest fires of oppression. Consider, for example, how the Church was persecuted by Rome. Those martyrs eaten alive in the arena were hardly free. But they sure had faith! And because of their sacrifices, the Church grew.
Faith has historically thrived in the face of tyranny and deadly persecution wielded against it. Look at how the Russian Orthodox Church survived what may have been the worst religious oppression in history during the Soviet era—only to emerge and rebound strongly from its grievous wounds. Look at the Buddhists in Tibet who today maintain their faith in the face of Chinese occupation and oppression. Good grief, look at the history of the Jews!
Consider the experience of the Romanian priest Fr. George Calciu, of blessed memory, whose biography I reviewed here at First Things . He was imprisoned and tortured for his faith almost to the point of death, worse, forced to torture other Christians—and yet his faith grew to the point that he exclaimed to one of his torturers on Pascha, “Christ is risen!” to have the cruel man stumble back with the almost involuntary reply, “Indeed, His is risen!” Fr, George’s great fear once he was released to freedom in the USA was that decedance also thrives in freedom, to the detriment and undermining of faith.
It is good to be free. It is right to be free. It is best to be free. But faith does not require it.