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Martyrs for Their Faith or Their Politics

According to your Saint of the Day online entry for September 2 (John Francis Burté and three other Franciscans), these priests were martyred for their faith because they refused to swear allegiance to the “Civil Constitution of the Clergy.” I think it’s a gross exaggeration to say that Constitution was an attack on the Catholic faith. I see it as more an attack on the papacy and having more to do with politics than with faith.

Genuine faith always expresses itself externally. I’m afraid that your approach implicitly rejects the difference between what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God (Mk 12:17). In fact, everything belongs to God. The Civil Constitution attempted to give civil authority ultimate authority over a person’s faith and life.

Would you say that Christians who refused to burn incense before the emperor’s image during the Roman persecutions were simply rejecting a political act? If so, I’m afraid you would be giving a green light to every totalitarian regime and denying a person’s right to make a conscience decision. Modern-day martyrs are sometimes written off as dying for their politics and not for their faith. I hope you join me in not wanting to go down that road.


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