Fortnight observance needed this year more than ever

Archbishop Nienstedt

Archbishop John C. Nienstedt

For a second year in a row, the U.S. bishops have called for a “Fortnight for Freedom” from June 21 until July 4. This is a focused time of prayer, education and action in support of religious freedom. To my mind, this observance is needed this year more than ever.

Having settled into its second term, the present administration appears to be determined to impose its secular, godless ideology on the nation. From Tea Party organizations to conservative journalists to the Catholic Church, no opponent is to be spared.

Range of concerns

Here are some examples of religious liberty at risk:

1) The HHS mandate that forces for-profit (with more than 50 employees) and non-profit employers to provide health care coverage that includes free contraception, sterilization and abortifacients (i.e., morning-after pills) irrespective of said employer’s beliefs that such services are immoral.

Clearly, the Catholic Church teaches that making these services available to employees involves the employer in moral cooperation with evil, and such cooperation, done knowingly and willfully, is sinful. A very narrow conscience exemption is provided for churches with religious objections, but other religious organizations, such as universities and hospitals, as well as private business owners, are not exempt.

Stiff fines, assessed by the IRS, will be leveled against those who do not comply. The message is clear: Either cooperate with evil or go out of business.

2) Catholic Charities in Boston, San Francisco, the District of Columbia and in the state of Illinois have had to shut down their adoption and foster care services because they refused to place children with same-sex couples or unmarried opposite-sex couples who cohabit. Again, the message is clear: Cooperate with evil or go out of business.

3) After years of widely acknowledged excellent performance by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) in administering contract services for victims of human trafficking, the federal government changed its contract specifications to require MRS to provide or refer for contraceptive and abortion services, in violation of Catholic teaching. This was a clear case of religious discrimination with the message: Cooperate with evil or go out of business.

On a state level, one could also cite the New York City ban on allowing churches to rent public schools on weekends or the University of California’s denial of student organization status to the Christian Legal Society because it requires its leaders to be Christian and to abstain from sexual activity outside of marriage.

Clearly, this is ideological warfare against those who hold solid Christian beliefs. It is difficult for me to conceive of such intolerance in a democratic society. But, unfortunately, the evidence is in plain sight for those who are able to see.

Principle wrongly applied

Critics may appeal to a principle of “separation of church and state,” but the U.S. Constitution never envisioned denying people of faith a voice in the public square.

The right of religious liberty, the first freedom guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, permits the free exercise of religious belief. Religious liberty is more than freedom to worship; it includes the ability of persons of religious belief to contribute to the common good without having to compromise those beliefs.

I urge our Catholic clergy and lay faithful to become knowledgeable of the threats to religious liberty and join in our archdiocesan events to commemorate this year’s Fortnight for Freedom.

God bless you!

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Category: Only Jesus

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