Issues of religious freedom have become a regular feature of headlines in recent years. Lawsuits have tried to protect small businesses, individuals and even a religious order from being forced to act against their religious morals. During the World Meeting of Families, one of several breakout sessions dealt with religious freedom and the family.
During a Sept. 24 session, Florida attorney Lucia Baez Luzondo spoke on inalienable rights and freedoms that come from the fact that humans have ability to reason.
"From that basic premise, she talked about how we are created to do good," explained Theresa Walker, director of Faith Formation for Most Precious Blood Parish in Angola. "The more good we do, the freer we become, because if we are not doing good, we're doing evil, and we become imprisoned by it."
Luzondo demonstrated this idea by explaining how the choice to drink alcohol can lead to addiction, which becomes a chain that limits freedom.
In 1983, the Vatican presented the Charter for the Rights of the Family that outlines the inalienable rights that individuals have in regards to family. These include rights, such as the right to marry, and expectations, such as to be allowed to be married. The document also names parents as the first and foremost educators to their children. Parents have the right to ensure that their children are not compelled to attend schools or education classes which are not in agreement with their own moral and religious convictions.
"We can't permit others to teach our children things that are against our own beliefs. The parents need to take an active role in educating their children. That's part of their rights and part of their responsibility under the charter for the Rights of the Family," Walker said.
Luzondo is touring the country with her husband and 14-year-old son, speaking and taking on legal cases with regards to constraints on religious freedom.
"She is fully committed to what she is saying and doing. This is really invigorating and enlivening, partly because it is theologically sound and also sound from a natural law perspective," Walker said. "In addition to that, it really comes out of the law of love. It's not that we're going to oppress someone else because we believe what we believe, but we want to be able to continue to practice in our homes, in our families and in our businesses."
Brian Ruh, pastoral associate for St. Amelia Parish in Tonawanda, decided to attend the session to learn how to deal with issues that press against his Catholic faith, like same-sex unions and abortion.
"She's talking about inalienable rights, God-given rights, and I'm all for that. I understand that," he said. "But, I also understand that there are legal laws right now in our country that are removing the God-given rights to state-given rights. That's a concern for me."
The breakout was one of 70 sessions dealing with issues that face the family, such as marriage, care for elderly, and finances during the Philadelphia World Meeting of Families. The World Meeting of Families brings together people from across the globe to share the joys and sorrows, ups and downs of being a family in the 21st-century. Experts, clergy, bishops and even Pope Francis will participate during the Sept. 22-27 gathering.