Today, July 4, we celebrate Independence Day. BCI thought today we would take a brief historical look at what led to the Declaration of Independence. While we were at it, we thought we would explore if, coincidentally, there were any parallels with the Archdiocese of Boston. There is no intention to suggest any declaration of independence from the Archdiocese of Boston or the Roman Catholic Church–merely a coincidental comparison between how King George and Great Britain were treating the colonists and how the Archdiocese of Boston is treating faithful Catholics today. We draw liberally from Wikipedia today.
The United States Declaration of Independence is a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies then at war with Great Britain were now independent states, and thus no longer a part of the British Empire. Written primarily by Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration is a formal explanation of why Congress had voted on July 2 to declare independence from Great Britain, more than a year after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War.
By the time the Declaration of Independence was adopted in July 1776, the Thirteen Colonies and Great Britain had been at war for more than a year. Relations between the colonies and the mother country had been deteriorating since the end of the Seven Years’ War in 1763. The war had plunged the British government deep into debt, and so Parliament enacted a series of measures to increase tax revenue from the colonies. Parliament believed that these acts, such as the Stamp Act of 1765 and the Townshend Acts of 1767, were a legitimate means of having the colonies pay their fair share of the costs to keep the colonies in the British Empire.
Boston Archdiocese parallel: In Boston, faithful Catholics and clergy have been “at war” with the ethically corrupted leadership of the Archdiocese of Boston for more than a year. The sexual abuse crisis led to substantial debt for the Boston archdiocese. Relations between the archdiocese and parishes and pastors have been deteriorating for some time. The archdiocese will be taxing parishes a fixed percent of their contributions as part of what they believe is a fair and equitable way to have parishes contribute to the archdiocesan bureaucracy, part of which will go toward paying for excessive six-figure salaries of lay executives in the Pastoral Center.
The issue of Parliament’s authority in the colonies became a crisis after Parliament passed the Coercive Acts in 1774 to punish the Province of Massachusetts for the Boston Tea Party. Many colonists saw the Coercive Acts as a violation of the British Constitution and thus a threat to the liberties of all of British America. In September 1774, the First Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia to coordinate a response. Congress organized a boycott of British goods and petitioned the king for repeal of the acts. These measures were unsuccessful because King George III and the North ministry were determined not to retreat on the question of parliamentary supremacy.
Boston Archdiocese parallel: In Boston, the archdiocese reduced pensions payments for former lay employees and coerced them into accepting a lump-sum payout with the threat that benefits would be even lower if they held out for an annuity payment. Faithful Catholics have been boycotting the archdiocesan Catholic Appeal in order to send a message to the Cardinal and his leadership team that they want an end to the corruption and want their donations used more prudently.
Even after fighting in the American Revolutionary War began at Lexington and Concord in April 1775, most colonists still hoped for reconciliation with Great Britain. When the Second Continental Congress convened at the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia in May 1775, some delegates hoped for eventual independence, but no one yet advocated declaring it. Although many colonists no longer believed that Parliament had any sovereignty over them, they still professed loyalty to King George, who they hoped would intercede on their behalf.
Boston Archdiocese parallel: Even after years of complaining, faithful Catholics still hope Cardinal O’Malley will make a stronger effort to teach, sanctify, and govern and rid his administration of excessive six-figure salaries, corruption, cronyism, and breaches of fiduciary responsibility. As evidenced by this recent blog post by Cardinal O’Malley, many wealthy Catholics are still loyal in their financial support for the archdicoese and have a desire to be photographed with the Cardinal
In January 1776, just as it became clear in the colonies that the king was not inclined to act as a conciliator, Thomas Paine’s pamphlet Common Sense was published. Paine, who had only recently arrived in the colonies from England, argued in favor of colonial independence, advocating republicanism
as an alternative to monarchy and hereditary rule.
Boston Archdiocese parallel: In June of 2010, just as layoffs were hitting in the Pastoral Center, the Boston Catholic Insider blog started publishing, arguing in favor of integrity, transparency, an end to conflicts of interest, ethical breaches, cronyism, excessive spending, and violations of canon and civil law that undermined the ability of the Church to keep doing her good works.
Although some colonists still held out hope for reconciliation, developments in early 1776 further strengthened public support for independence. In February 1776, colonists learned of Parliament’s passage of the Prohibitory Act, which established a blockade of American ports and declared American
ships to be enemy vessels. John Adams, a strong supporter of independence, believed that Parliament had effectively declared American independence before Congress had been able to. Adams labeled the Prohibitory Act the “Act of Independency”, calling it “a compleat Dismemberment of the British Empire”. Support for declaring independence grew even more when it was confirmed that King George had hired German mercenaries to use against his American subjects.
Boston Archdiocese parallel: The annual reports for the Archdiocese of Boston reveal increased hiring of a large number of six-figure salaried mercenaries, led administratively by Chancellor Jim McDonough, and complemented by Terry Donilon, Mary Grassa O’Neill, Carol Gustavson, and others. The Archdiocese of Boston has also hired a former assistant prosecutor from the Plymouth County DA’s office to head the Office for Professional Conduct to investigate his Archdiocesan clergy.
Despite this growing popular support for independence, Congress lacked the clear authority to declare it.
Boston Archdiocese parallel: Despite the growing frustration with the leadership of the Archdiocese, Catholics have no authority or plans to declare independence. Rather, we just want the Catholic Church to function like the Church should function.
Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence on this portable lap desk of his own design.
Boston Archdiocese parallel: BCI is typically written on a portable laptop computer.
The first sentence of the Declaration asserts as a matter of Natural law the ability of a people to assume political independence, and acknowledges that the grounds for such independence must be reasonable, and therefore explicable,
and ought to be explained.
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
The next section, the famous preamble, includes the ideas and ideals that were principles of the Declaration. It is also an assertion of what is known as the “right of revolution”: that is, people have certain rights, and when a government violates these rights, the people have the right to “alter or abolish” that government.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
Boston archdicoese parallel: In the Catholic Church, clergy and laity have certain canonical rights. A long series of abuses and usurpations has been underway for some time. Though we cannot “throw off such Government” under Canon Law, we have the right and duty to let our pastors know of our needs.
The next section is a list of charges against King George III, which aim to demonstrate that he has violated the colonists’ rights and is therefore unfit to be their ruler:
Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation
till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Boston archdiocesan parallel: Anything from the above list sound familiar?
Many Americans still felt a kinship with the people of Great Britain, and had appealed in vain to the prominent among them, as well as to Parliament, to convince the King to relax his more objectionable policies toward the colonies. The next section represents disappointment that these attempts had been unsuccessful.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
In the final section, the signers assert that there exist conditions under which people must change their government, that the British have produced such conditions, and by necessity the colonies must throw off political ties with the British Crown and become independent states. The conclusion incorporates language from Lee’s resolution of independence that had been passed on July 2.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
Do you notice any other parallels? Have a very safe and enjoyable July 4th!