Festival For Freedom

First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Category: Uncategorized

6-24-12 From the Barricades: Eric Scheidler

Topic:  Status Report on ‘Stand Up for Religious Freedom'”

by Eric Scheidler

Executive Director of the Pro-Life Action League

Eric Scheidler

 Audio file to be posted.  Please check back later.

6-23-12 From the Barricades: Earl Taylor

Title:  “The Making of America,” an all-day seminar on the Constitution

by Earl Taylor, National Center for Constitutional Studies, Malta, Idaho


Remember on this 4th of July …


Flag at Notre Dame Retreat House



Today will be the end of the Festival for Freedom, the Fortnight called for by the US Catholic Bishops.

At the Festival site we’ve just finished viewing the musical “1776,” so it is timely to offer a  bit of American History, hardly covered in today’s public schools. 

Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence ?
Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. 
Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned

Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army;

Another had two sons captured. 
Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or  

Hardships of the Revolutionary War. 
They signed and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.
What kind of men were they?
Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists.
Eleven were merchants,
Nine were farmers and large plantation owners;
Men of means, well educated,
But they signed the Declaration of Independence
Knowing full well that the penalty would be death if
They were captured.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and
Trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the
British Navy. He sold his home and properties to
Pay his debts, and died in rags.
Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British
That he was forced to move his family almost constantly.
He served in the Congress without pay, and his family
Was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him,
And poverty was his reward.
Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer,
Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton.
At the battle of Yorktown , Thomas Nelson, Jr., noted that
The British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson
Home for his headquarters. He quietly urged General
George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed,
And Nelson died bankrupt.
Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed.
The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months.
John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she was dying.
Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill
Were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests
And caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his
Children vanished.

So, take a few minutes while enjoying your 4th of July holiday and
Silently thank these patriots. It’s not much to ask for the price they paid.
Remember: freedom is never free!

6-23-12: From the Barricades: Fr. Peter Stravinskas Homily


Homily preached by the Reverend Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D., at the Carmel of Rochester for the patronal feast of the Diocese, 22 June 2012 and at Notre Dame Retreat House on 23 June 2012 at the Festival for Freedom Mass.

            The bishops of our nation called for a Fortnight for Freedom to begin on the vigil of the liturgical memorial of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher and to conclude on the civil observance of Independence Day.  By a happy coincidence or, better yet, by Divine Providence  St. John Fisher is the patron of the Diocese of Rochester.  Why did the bishops choose this feast?  Because these two men were martyred, precisely for their refusal to finesse the libertas Ecclesiae (the freedom of the Church).  The battle over this matter did not emerge full-blown from the brow of Zeus during the reign of Henry VIII; we find uncanny parallels four centuries earlier in England.

            Henry II was on a collision course with the bishops of twelfth-century England because he was attempting to usurp their rightful authority to govern the Church.  Henry needed as primatial bishop a man to harass the bishops into submission and thought he had found the right man in his hunting and partying buddy, the Lord Chancellor Thomas à Becket.  To Henry’s amazement, upon receiving episcopal consecration, the “party animal” saw things differently and would not serve as the rubber stamp for the King’s oppressive policies against the Church.  An offhanded remark (“Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?”) was taken as a royal wish by ambitious flunkies, who murdered the Archbishop of Canterbury during Vespers in his own cathedral on December 29, 1170.

            Fast-forward to the sixteenth century and we meet a king whose lust was so out of control that he wouldn’t take “no” for an answer to his demand that the Pope grant him a divorce.   This Henry, like his namesake of the twelfth century, thought he could count on his Lord Chancellor, Thomas More, to bring the bishops into compliance with his will and in defiance of the Pope.  He was distressed to discover that his dear friend was a man of such great conviction and faith that he could not move “the King’s good servant” to cease from being “God’s first.”  One of the saddest chapters in ecclesiastical history informs us that every English bishop, save John Fisher, capitulated to the King’s demands that they acquiesce to his usurpation of the role of the Pope.  When told that the Sovereign Pontiff intended to make Fisher a cardinal for his loyalty to the See of Rome, Henry quipped, “The Pope can give him the red hat, but he’ll have no head to put it on!” 

            Interestingly, Hollywood has done well with these stories.  Beckett, Man for All Seasons, and The Tudors all gave us great cinema.  Becket, More and Fisher, however, did not die for show; they died as martyrs, that is, witnesses to religious liberty.  That, my friends, is the historical backdrop to the cause of religious freedom in the Anglophone world.  We have seen it played out in different times and places throughout the history of the Church, but always with the same goal: to make the Church the puppet of the State.  With our history lesson fresh in our minds, now we are equipped to consider the current American crisis.

            Quite some time ago, astute observers of the political scene noted a disturbing trend in the jargon being employed by the Obama Administration as our constitutional right to “freedom of religion” was being spoken of as “freedom of worship.”  Is this just quibbling over words? Words, my dear friends, matter.  For instance, if you’re living in a house, does it really matter whether you are deemed the “landlord” or the “tenant”?  You bet it does.  Coming from an Eastern European background (with a martyr on the Ukrainian side of the family), I have a special sensitivity to religious freedom issues. For decades, the Soviets proudly and boldly proclaimed that they had “freedom of worship” (and even that wasn’t true), but there was certainly no “freedom of religion.”  The same situation prevails in Communist China today, as well as in many Islamic states.

            Pope Benedict obviously agrees with the interpretation I am offering, as he chose for the theme of 2011’s World Day of Peace: “Religious Freedom, the Path to Peace.”  The Vatican communiqué accompanying the announcement explained that “in many parts of the world there exist various forms of restrictions or denials of religious freedom, from discrimination and marginalization based on religion, to acts of violence against religious minorities.” The statement also highlighted situations “where communities of believers are not a minority, and where more sophisticated forms of discrimination and marginalization exist, on the cultural level and in the spheres of public, civil and political participation.” It went on to declare that religious freedom “is rooted in the equal and inherent dignity of man” and is “oriented toward the search for ‘unchangeable truth.’” It called religious freedom the “freedom of freedoms.” The Pope’s conclusion? “It is inconceivable that believers should have to suppress a part of themselves – their faith – in order to be active citizens. It should never be necessary to deny God in order to enjoy one’s rights.”  He returned to this topic in an ad limina address to American bishops in January and again last month, noting that many bishops had informed him of the unprecedented and unrelenting assaults on the Church’s freedom launched by the Obama Administration.

            Let us be clear.  The Church is not lobbying for preferential freedom; she simply expects, indeed demands, the rights which are hers by nature and by the Constitution.  Nor are we talking about establishing a theocracy.  Here it is important to distinguish between secularity and secularization. There is a good secularity, which the Church has come to recognize, especially as she has viewed the American situation from the vantage point of the twentieth century. Jesuit Father John Courtney Murray helped the Church Universal come to this awareness through his 1960 ground-breaking book, We Hold These Truths, and through his contributions to the decree on religious liberty at Vatican II, Dignitatis Humanae. Father Murray stressed that freedom for religion, not freedom from religion, was the goal of the U. S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. Secularization, on the other hand, is a conscious effort to marginalize religion, religious influence and religiously motivated citizens.

            Let me anticipate one of my ultimate conclusions by submitting at this moment that vigorous secularization demands vigorous evangelization: for the sake of the Church’s future and for the sake of society’s future.

            Furthermore, we need to consider what we might term the fundamental “religiosity” of Americans, noted by the Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville in 1835. He writes in Democracy in America: “The religious aspect was the first thing that struck my attention.” That same observation comes from the pen of the great English convert, G. K. Chesterton, who in 1922 dubbed the United States “the nation with the soul of a Church” (What I Saw in America).

            That basic religiosity is still operative in spite of many secularizing forces exercised by a vocal, even if tiny, minority. The liberal media elite consistently attempt to drive public opinion in a leftward direction, but numerous studies have demonstrated that those people are very far removed from the average citizen. Indeed, their positions on matters like the existence of God, the importance of church membership and attendance, abortion, pornography and issues of sexuality are polar opposites to those of the vast majority of the population.1 Another example: no U. S. President could ever be elected who did not give at least lip-service to religion. Or

again, visitors (especially from Europe) are always astonished at the friendliness of the populace toward clergy and religious on the street, even in such a rough-and-tough environment as New York City. Being greeted as a priest in public is a commonplace in the United States; it is a rarity in Rome! 

            What kind of secularity would be beneficial to the Church – and society? One which promotes pluralism, a concept espoused by most modern democracies – an approach which enables diversity to flourish within a unity of purpose, achieving unity without uniformity. From a religious perspective, that would mean not mere toleration of religious influences but encouragement of them. Indeed, the very nature of a free society demands that all voices be raised and that all be respectfully heard, including religious voices.

            Believers need to be convinced – and then need to convince everyone else – that the Fathers of Vatican II got it right when they declared in Gaudium et Spes: “Without the Creator, the creature vanishes” (n. 36).  History supports that assertion. Just look at the bloodshed of every godless movement of modernity from the French Revolution to the Mexican Revolution and the Spanish Civil War to the murderous campaigns of the Nazis and Communists. Clearly, “without the Creator, the creature vanishes.”

            Freedom of religion, as you should be able to see by now, is far more than being able to go to one’s house of worship once a week. Because faith makes a claim on the totality of our lives, it permeates every dimension of a believer’s existence and all the institutions with which he is involved. For the Catholic Church which, by her very nature, exhibits a public face and presence, that means freedom for all our corporate works emanating from our schools, health-care facilities, and charitable programs. 

            For the Church to be the Church, she cannot be muzzled in her proclamation of the truth of Jesus Christ, whether that truth is proclaimed from the pulpit, in the classroom, in counseling sessions, or in lobbying for programs that seek to make the City of Man look more and more like the City of God. Freedom of religion, as envisioned by our Founding Fathers and as understood by the Catholic Church for two millennia, necessarily means the freedom not only to believe, not only to worship within the four walls of a church, mosque or synagogue, but to practice what one believes openly, fearlessly and joyfully. Anything less is no more than the charade served up by every totalitarian regime in history that has sought to “chain the word of God.” However, Saint Paul reminds Timothy and everyone else since: “But there is no chaining the word of God!” (2 Tim 2:9)

            Intelligent and committed Catholics, then, must know what their God-given rights are, as well as their constitutional rights founded on those God-given rights, and to resist mightily in every forum possible any effort to reduce “freedom of religion” to “freedom of worship.”  As Barack Obama and his ilk doggedly move toward inhuman, ungodly and unconstitutional violations of conscience against Catholic (and other religiously based) institutions, we must be prepared to fight every such attempt while a fight is still possible.

            As the movie, For Greater Glory, documenting the assaults on religious liberty during the Mexican Revolution, makes its debut these days, I would encourage you to view that film and to take lessons from it, especially the need to represent Christ and His Church, even under the most difficult circumstances.  Those brave men, women and children (yes, even children) – clergy, religious and laity alike – died with a triumphant cry on their lips and in their hearts: “Viva Cristo Re! (Long live Christ the King!). 

            Ten years ago, anyone talking like me today would have been dismissed as a madman, so far removed was religious persecution from the American radar screen; in less than four years, we have seen a complete turn-around on that score.  As Catholics and Americans, we have both the right and the duty to position ourselves in that long line of witnesses to the truth that Christ and His Church can never be silenced by any earthly power.  Failure to represent that cause would be a failure in both moral courage and civic responsibility, for which we would have to answer before the throne of the only Power Who matters in the final analysis, the One Who is the King of kings and Lord of lords.

            If we fight and lose, we should not be discouraged because we know that ultimately the cause of Christ’s Church always wins because of the divine promise that even the “gates of Hell shall not prevail against her.”  The resilience and permanency of the Church, against all odds, was a source of wonderment even to an Evangelical not at all friendly to Catholicism like Lord Thomas Babbington Macaulay, who could wax poetic about the indefectibility of the Church with these stirring words as he looked back into history and peered into the distant future:

There is not, and there never was on this earth, a work of human policy so well deserving of examination as the Roman Catholic Church. The history of that Church joins together the two great ages of human civilisation. No other institution is left standing which carries the mind back to the times when the smoke of sacrifice rose from the Pantheon, and when camelopards and tigers bounded in the Flavian amphitheatre. The proudest royal houses are but of yesterday, when compared with the line of the Supreme Pontiffs. That line we trace back in an unbroken series, from the Pope who crowned Napoleon in the nineteenth century to the Pope who crowned Pepin in the eighth; and far beyond the time of Pepin the august dynasty extends, till it is lost in the twilight of fable. The republic of Venice came next in antiquity. But the republic of Venice was modern when compared with the Papacy; and the republic of Venice is gone, and the Papacy remains. The Papacy remains, not in decay, not a mere antique, but full of life and youthful vigour. The Catholic Church is still sending forth to the farthest ends of the world missionaries as zealous as those who landed in Kent with Augustin, and still confronting hostile kings with the same spirit with which she confronted Attila. The number of her children is greater than in any former age. Her acquisitions in the New World have more than compensated for what she has lost in the Old. Her spiritual ascendency extends over the vast countries which lie between the plains of the Missouri and Cape Horn, countries which a century hence, may not improbably contain a population as large as that which now inhabits Europe. The members of her communion are certainly not fewer than a hundred and fifty millions; and it will be difficult to show that all other Christian sects united amount to a hundred and twenty millions. Nor do we see any sign which indicates that the term of her long dominion is approaching. She saw the commencement of all the governments and of all the ecclesiastical establishments that now exist in the world; and we feel no assurance that she is not destined to see the end of them all. She was great and respected before the Saxon had set foot on Britain, before the Frank had passed the Rhine, when Grecian eloquence still flourished at Antioch, when idols were still worshipped in the temple of Mecca. And she may still exist in undiminished vigour when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul’s.

Lord Macaulay penned those words in the nineteenth century, and they are just as true in the twenty-first century, Deo gratias.  And that realization makes us confident – not presumptuous – that the justice of our cause and the One for Whom we fight will be vindicated.

            During this Fortnight for Freedom, it behooves us to keep ringing in our ears the wise words spoken by the late, great Bishop of this Diocese many years ago.  Archbishop Fulton Sheen warned us: “A religion that doesn’t interfere with the secular order will soon discover that the secular order will not refrain from interfering with it.”  Each day, Radio Vatican begins and ends its transmissions with an ancient hymn of praise, which inspired the battle cry of the Cristeros and should inspire us as well.  The moving chant proclaims: “Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat!” (Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ rules!). 

            All you holy martyrs, witnesses to the truth of the Gospel and the freedom of the Church, pray for us as we strive to be as faithful in our time as you were in yours.

1This was documented in a most impressive way in Lichter and Rothman’s study in 1980; their work has become the standard point of departure for all subsequent discussions of this “disconnect” between “regular” people and those in control of the media. See: Bernard Goldberg, Arrogance: Rescuing America from the Media Elite. New York: Warner Books, 2003.



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Please note that today, June 25, Notre Dame announced that it would not require reservations 3 days in advance.  So, on the day you arrive on site, just stop at the registation desk to order a lunch or dinner for that day.  ($7.50 per meal.)

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