WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - Prominent Catholics are singling out President Trump's attorney general, Catholic William Barr, for his defense of essential Catholic principles.
At the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast (NCPB) on Wednesday, Barr received the prestigious Christifideles Laici Award for his work within Trump's administration.
Leonard Leo, founder of NCPB, explained during the virtual ceremony that the award is presented to those "who have gone to great lengths to advance the teaching and tenets of the Catholic Church."
The award's citation reads, "In honor and gratitude for fidelity to the Church, exemplary selfless and steadfast service in the Lord's vineyard."
"I can think of no better description of this year's recipient than Attorney General William Barr," Leo lauded.
Leo was instrumental in promoting the nomination of both Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch to the High Court. In addition, Trump's current five top choices to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg are also members of the Federalist Society, which promotes an originalist and textualist interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.
Barr, as the 85th attorney general of the United States, is "truly a Catholic public servant," notes Leo. "His faith informs the attributes of his public service — integrity, honesty, humility, sincere and wise counsel."
During his acceptance speech on Wednesday, Barr spoke to those who are fearful of the country's future. He assured them that God is ultimately in charge.
"As people of faith, we take comfort in the knowledge that God has a purpose and a plan," Barr observed. "And as citizens, we gain strength from the knowledge that our forebears confronted and overcame even greater tests."
Always willing to keep God at the center of politics, Barr recalled, "As Washington and his fellow founders understood, religion is at the heart of the American experiment in self-government. In his farewell address, Washington said, 'Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.'"
He then cited testimony from John Adams, who spoke of the dire consequences of not allowing God to inform America's political life.
"That is why John Adams declared that our Constitution, which recently celebrated its 233rd birthday, was made only for a moral and religious people," recalled Barr.
The head of the Department of Justice (DOJ) went on to debunk the misconception concerning the separation of Church and State:
Militant secularists have long seized on that slogan as a facile justification for attempting to drive religion from the public square and to exclude religious from bringing a religious perspective to bear on conversations about the common good. Yet, as events like this one remind us, separation of Church and State does not mean and never did mean separation of religion and civics.
Leo also spoke of Barr's role in protecting religious liberty. Barr himself brought up three notable cases in which the U.S. Supreme Court, bolstered by briefs filed by his DOJ, favored religious liberty in rulings that:
The Barr-led DOJ has also been pushing back against the restrictions on Mass attendance imposed principally by Democratic governors. He's also defended religious-minded photographers from having to participate in so-called same-sex wedding ceremonies.
Many Left-leaning Catholics objected, however, to honoring Barr because the DOJ cleared the way for the use once again of capital punishment. But canonists say Catholics are allowed to disagree in good faith on the use of the death penalty.
This has been the constant position of the Church. In 2004, one year before becoming Pope Benedict XVI, Cdl. Joseph Ratzinger, as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, relates:
If a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. ... There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty.
Leo also brought up Barr's speech given at Notre Dame in October 2019 remarking that it took courage for Barr to deliver it. During this Notre Dame speech, Barr warned of what "the Founding Fathers foresaw" as the "supreme test" of America's free society, which would result from the absence of God and morality:
They never thought the main danger to the republic came from external foes. The central question was whether, over the long haul, we could handle freedom. The question was whether the citizens in such a free society could maintain the moral discipline and virtue necessary for the survival of free institutions.
The Framers, thus, viewed America's version of a limited government, said Barr, as "only suitable and sustainable for a religious people."
President Trump also spoke at the NCPB, something former president Obama refused to do. After congratulating Barr, Trump thanked everyone for their prayers.
"I also want to express my deep gratitude to every person who prays for me and for the First Lady and for our country," said Trump. "We love our country. There's no country like it."