Keeping faith with both the Fathers and the Founders 

FATHER GEORGE W. RUTLER

Catholics can keep faith with the Fathers of the Church and the Founding Fathers of our Nation only by voting for those who defend the fundamental right to life and the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom.

It was a pleasure recently to perform the marriage rites of two of our fine parishioners at Old St. Mary's Church in Philadelphia, which at the time of the American Revolution was the third-largest city in the British Empire.  Members of the Continental Congress attended a celebration of the third anniversary of the Declaration of Independence there in the presence of George Washington himself.  The priest chaplain of the French ambassador, Conrad Alexandre Gérard, sang a solemn Te Deum.  Catholics were still a small minority in the new country, but the Founding Fathers were well aware that the Catholic Church had been the mother of western civilization before the discovery of the New World.

Washington showed his regard for the Catholic troops at Valley Forge and helped to support a Catholic church in Philadelphia.  He kept a devotional image of the Virgin Mary in his dining room at Valley Forge.  Generations later, based on inherited information and sentiment, St. Katherine Drexel was certain that he had become a Catholic on his deathbed.  While there is no substantial evidence for that, Washington knew that the natural-law theory enshrined in the Declaration of Independence had roots older than the Founding Fathers, and he would not have blanched to hear the names of Augustine and Aquinas among them.

On October 9, 1774, in Philadelphia, John Adams went church shopping with Washington and attended a service in a "Romish chapel," which was either St. Joseph's or St. Mary's.  He described in a letter to his wife Abigail what seemed to him exotic: "... the poor wretches fingering their beads, chanting Latin, not a word of which they understood; their pater nosters and ave Marias; their holy water; their crossing themselves perpetually; their bowing to the name of Jesus, whenever they hear it; their bowings, kneelings and genuflections before the altar." There was nothing like that in his Puritan world, but he found it all "awful and affecting" — and awful then meant awesome.  The sermon was "a good, short moral essay upon the duty of parents to their children, founded in justice and charity, to take care of their interests, temporal and spiritual," and "the assembly chanted more sweetly and exquisitely." He wondered how Luther ever "broke the spell." Adams himself was enough under the spell to donate a generous gift to the building of Holy Cross Church in Boston in 1800.  A Protestant friend of his said, "no circumstance has contributed more to the peace and good order of the town, than the establishment of a Catholic Church."

The peace and good order of our whole nation hang on how we vote.  Catholics can keep faith with the Fathers of the Church and the Founding Fathers of our Nation only by voting for those who defend the fundamental right to life and the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom.

 

 



ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Father George William Rutler.  "Keeping faith with the Fathers and the Founders."  From the Pastor (November 4, 2012). 

Reprinted with permission of Father George W.  Rutler. 

THE AUTHOR

Father Rutler received priestly ordination in 1981. Born in 1945 and reared in the Episcopal tradition, Father Rutler was an Episcopal priest for nine years. He was received into the Catholic Church in 1979 and was sent to the North American College in Rome for seminary studies. Father Rutler graduated from Dartmouth, where he was a Rufus Choate Scholar, and took advanced degrees at the Johns Hopkins University and the General Theological Seminary. He holds several degrees from the Gregorian and Angelicum Universities in Rome, including the Pontifical Doctorate in Sacred Theology, and studied at the Institut Catholique in Paris. In England, in 1988, the University of Oxford awarded him the degree Master of Studies. From 1987 to 1989 he was regular preacher to the students, faculty, and townspeople of Oxford. Cardinal Egan appointed him Pastor of the Church of Our Saviour, effective September 17, 2001. 

Since 1988 his weekly television program has been broadcast worldwide on EWTN. Father Rutler has published 17 books, including: Cloud of Witnesses — Dead People I Knew When They Were Alive, Coincidentally: Unserious Reflections on Trivial Connections, A Crisis of Saints: Essays on People and Principles, Brightest and Best, Saint John Vianney: The Cure D'Ars Today, Crisis in Culture, and Adam Danced: The Cross and the Seven Deadly Sins.

Copyright © 2012 Father George W. Rutler