Thanksgiving, Freedom and Life

A Pythagorean writer once expressed the role of civil authority this way: “The monarch has an irrepressible authority (and is therefore not limited by consent); he is a living law; he is like a god among men.”

How different America is. Our Founders came here for freedom, a freedom that recognized that no human being or group of human beings can ever be “gods among men.” Our republic, instead, was to be governed by the rule of law rather than the rule of men.

Therefore no king or parliament would be able to oppress the rights of others, or delete their right to life. Our forefathers fought a revolution to see to that. It wasn’t simply about “taxation without representation.” It was about freedom, and the understanding that freedom is rooted in God.

The pagan view of government denied any importance to the individual, exalted the power of the state beyond all limits, and therefore was able to endorse things like infanticide. After all, the law came from the mouth of the king. Individuals didn’t matter. If the king decreed it, even infanticide would be all right.

Our Founding Fathers, however, were influenced in their philosophy of government by Scripture and the Judeo-Christian tradition, according to which everyone was a sinner and equally subject to the laws of God. Yes, there would be earthly rulers, but they, too, were subject to God.

Moreover, each person is a child of God. This awareness shaped our Founding Fathers’ concept of government, because it introduced something unheard of among the ancient pagans, namely, that now, each individual has a direct and personal link to the Creator, independent of any earthly power. This awareness of the dignity of the human person then formed the basis for letting each individual have a say in a representative form of government, and for insisting that our rights, starting with Life, come from the Creator, and that “to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men” (Declaration of Independence).

This is what we celebrate at Thanksgiving – not just that we have food, but that we have freedom, rooted in God and the recognition that government cannot tamper with our human rights.

The Church’s liturgy for Thanksgiving Day expresses this beautifully in the Preface, which says, “Father, …you made man to your own image…Once you chose a people and gave them a destiny and, when you brought them out of bondage to freedom, they carried with them the promise that all men would be blessed and all men could be free…It has come to pass in every generation for all men who have believed that Jesus by his death and resurrection gave them a new freedom in his Spirit. It happened to our fathers, who came to this land as if out of the desert into a place of promise and hope. It happens to us still, in our time, as you lead all men through your Church to the blessed vision of peace.”

And indeed, for this we give thanks!


(This update courtesy of the Priests for Life newsletter. You may contact Priests for Life at PO Box 141172, Staten Island, NY 10314; call 1-888-PFL-3448 or 718-980-4400; fax 718-980-6515; [email protected]; www.priestsforlife.org.)
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  • noelfitz

    Fr Pavone,
    you wrote:
    “Therefore no king or parliament would be able to oppress the rights of others, or delete their right to life.”

    Congratulations on your clear condemnation of the death sentence.

  • GuitarGramma

    Fr. Pavone is going through some tough times right now, God bless him. I hope that I’ve misinterpreted you, but I fear that your “congratulations” sounds a bit like a “gotcha.” Did you mean it that way? If not, please tell me so! It’s one time when I’d sincerely appreciate being told I’m wrong.

    Blessings — and a hand of friendship — to you.

    • noelfitz


      I am sorry to hear Fr Pavone is not well.

      I am not sure I know what you mean by “Gotcha”.

      I think we are here for mutual support and to build each other up in the faith.

      I know priests are going through very difficult times at present, so I hope I have not written anything that would be interpreted as negative.

      Please look at http://www.americancatholic.org/news/deathpenalty/.

  • GuitarGramma

    Hello Noel,

    Thank you for the link. It is probably germaine to this discussion that you know I have very mixed feelings about the death penalty. I was the neighbor of a police officer who was called to a crime scene where he found his own son murdered. I have had a difficult time being totally anti-death penalty since then.

    As for my question about “congratulations” vs. “gotcha”: My difficulty in interpreting what you meant may be because of our different nationalities. I lived in a Commonwealth country for two years and have heaps of funny stories due to the fact that American words don’t always mean the same thing as British words.

    Here in the US, if I said, “Congratulations for that clear teaching” I would actually be making a sarcastic comment meaning, “I know you didn’t mean to make my point in this debate, but you just did so. Hah, hah, hah!” Such may not be the case in Ireland.

    I should have been more sensitive to our cultural differences and just let your comment stand. I’m afraid that I’m feeling a little protective of Fr. Frank Pavone right now. Mama Tiger apologizes.

    • noelfitz

      many thanks for your reply.

      I do hope Fr Pavone will recover to full health soon.

      Was it Churchill who said the Brits and the Americans are two peoples separated by a common language?

  • GuitarGramma

    As far as I know, Fr. Frank is in good health. Here is a timeline of what’s going on with him:

  • noelfitz


    many thanks.

    Now I see more clearly about the differences cultures make.

    When you wrote:”Fr. Pavone is going through some tough times right now” I thought he was not well, i.e. not in good health.

    I am delighted that he is in good health and our contributions have been clarified.