LDS, Catholics must defend religious freedom, cardinal says at BYU

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 24 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

"There 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."

"A 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.

"I 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.

Through 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.

"As 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," Kerry said.

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.

The opportunity 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.

"If 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."

Fighting 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 George.

Such staunch advocacy doesn't come without cost, and fighting for religious freedom often will make such warriors targets for retaliation and hatred, Cardinal George said.

"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/.

e-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com

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