Catholic Bishops declare a 'Fortnight for Freedom'
In response to the federal threats to religious freedom, pastors in Catholic churches across the country this Sunday are announcing the "Fortnight for Freedom," a program of public action and special events to "highlight the importance of defending our first freedom."
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has called for the period from June 21, when the Church commemorates Catholic martyrs to political persecution, through Independence Day, to be dedicated to "this 'Fortnight for Freedom' - a great hymn of prayer for our country," emphasizing "both our Christian and American heritage of liberty" and constituting "a great national campaign of teaching and witness for religious liberty."
The bishops call for an "end to an institutional coercion by the government against conscience, and government intrusion into the ordering of Church institutions," as a letter from our local archbishop phrased it.
In an article titled "A Statement on Religious Liberty," the bishops make the case that religious liberty is "more than freedom of worship."
Religious liberty is not only about our ability to go to Mass on Sunday or pray the Rosary at home. It is about whether we can make our contribution to the common good of all Americans. Can we do the good works our faith calls us to do, without having to compromise that very same faith?
What is at stake is whether America will continue to have a free, creative, and robust civil society-or whether the state alone will determine who gets to contribute to the common good, and how they get to do it...
Restrictions on religious liberty are an attack on civil society and the American genius for voluntary associations.
The bishops also quote from a statement by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America:
Most troubling, is the Administration's underlying rationale for its decision, which appears to be a view that if a religious entity is not insular, but engaged with broader society, it loses its "religious" character and liberties...
The Administration's ruling makes the price of such an outward approach the violation of an organization's religious principles.
The bishops and pastors are careful to note that the issue is religious freedom, and not a political cause. But as might be expected, the Washington Post tried to find fault with the Fortnight for Freedom:
The upcoming "Fortnight for Freedom" campaign to push back against this administration's contraceptive health care mandate, however, sounds so much like a "Fortnight to Defeat Barack Obama" that I've gotten to wondering what our prelates would have to do to cost the church its tax-exempt status. (IRS rules are pretty clear that churches have to give up their exemption if they campaign for or against a political candidate.)
Following close on the heels of 12 separate lawsuits filed by 43 Catholic institutions, the bishops are showing a resolve that reflects two thousand years of history under all manner of tyrannical regimes and countless martyrs in defense of the Catholic faith.
The Fortnight for Freedom will conclude fittingly with a nationally televised mass at the Basilica in Washington D.C. at noon on the Fourth of July, on the day we celebrate the greatest freedoms ever known to mankind.
As the bishops observe:
This is not a Catholic issue. This is not a Jewish issue. This is not an Orthodox, Mormon, or Muslim issue. It is an American issue.