On the eve of what the U.S. Catholic Bishops have called Fortnight for Freedom, over 300 people gathered at San Diego’s historic Mission de Acala to pray and rally for the protection of religious freedom.
San Diego’s Coadjuter Bishop, Bishop Cirilo Flores, and president and founder of Catholic Action for Faith and Family, Thomas McKenna, were among those who spoke at the June 20 event. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) organized Fortnight for Freedom in response to the Obama administration’s contraception mandate, often referred to as the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate. The HHS mandate would require employers, including religious institutions, to provide health insurance plans that offer free contraceptive services to their employees. At the heart of the debate is a narrowly defined exemption allowing parishes to forgo the mandate, but requires Catholic hospitals, charities, and universities to comply.
Bishop Flores, who described the exemption as “stingy,” expressed contempt for the government’s definition of what qualifies as religious ministry. In the government’s attempt to define religious ministry as an activity that serves only its own kind, Bishop Flores said that the exemption “sets aside our history of social services, of education, of hospitals. Because we serve people not because they’re Catholic but because we are Catholic.”
Thomas McKenna, addressing those gathered at the event, echoed the concerns of Bishop Flores saying that, “government ought to take account of the religious life of the people and show it favor since the function of government is to make provisions for the common good. However, it would clearly transgress the limits set to its power were it to presume to direct or inhibit religious activities.”
The U.S. Bishops have been strongly united against the HHS mandate. Fortnight for Freedom, lasting from June 21 to July 4, aims to rally the faithful together for fourteen days of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action. Dioceses from every corner of the United States will participate in Fortnight for Freedom activities.
Cardinal Raymond Burke, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura and Episcopal advisor to Catholic Action for Faith and Family, was recently interviewed on Catholic Action Insight, an EWTN program produced by Catholic Action for Faith and Family, about the HHS mandate. “I admire very much the courage of the bishops. At the same time, I believe they would say along with me, that they’re doing no more than their duty,” said Cardinal Burke. “Our government needs to understand that what is being done with this mandate is contrary first of all to a fundamental human right, the right to free exercise of one’s conscience, and at the same time contrary to the very foundations of our own nation.”
The Church has sent a message to the government that this debate is not about contraception or the availability of contraception, but is about the government’s attempt to squelch religious freedom and freedom of conscience. “As people of faith, we believe that we are created by God to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him in this world and to be with Him in the next. This is the root of our religious liberty: Our human dignity as daughters and sons of God. Our religious freedom is not a favor from the government. It is a gift from God, ” said Bishop Flores. “Not just worshipping in church, not just attending Mass, not just private devotions, but living our faith in the world.”
The U.S. Bishops have asked that the faithful join them in praying the Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty. Please join Catholic Action for Faith and Family in supporting the bishops, our Catholic faith, and religious freedom by praying:
O God our Creator,
Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit, you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world, bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel to every corner of society.
We ask you to bless us in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;give us courage in making our voices heard on behalf of the rights of your Church and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.
Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father, a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters gathered in your Church in this decisive hour in the history of our nation, so that, with every trial withstood and every danger overcome? for the sake of our children, our grandchildren, and all who come after us? this great land will always be “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen
For more information, visit the USCCB’s Fortnight for Freedom.