If you’re Catholic, you probably have heard about the Fortnight for Freedom declared by the US Bishops last Thursday (and if not, here‘s a friendly reminder ). And whether you’re Catholic or not, you likely have heard about the controversy over the Federal Government’s healthcare mandate that employers provide contraception and family planning to employees — even if it violates the employers’ conscience. You might also have heard about certain “compromises” being offered by the government, but these are more acts of lip-service and public image than they are actual concessions: Numerous Catholic (and other religious) organizations remain nonexempt.
Whatever way you look at it, this is governmental compulsion that violates religious liberty: An employer should be free not to provide contraception if she is morally opposed to it, especially if she is being required to pay for it. Contraception is not a health care need, and if the employees don’t like that, they can switch jobs. (This is like forcing Jews to serve pork at a restaurant or Muslims to serve alcohol at their weddings.)
Religious liberty is a fundamental right. The right to worship and follow our religion’s teachings is as much a right as the right to life.
That’s why many people — Catholics, Protestants, faithful religious, and other people of good will — are taking a stand. (Check out the video above to get an idea of this…it’s pretty stirring.) The US Bishops are leading the way, and they have declared 14 days for Catholics to discuss, study, advocate for, and pray for the preservation of religious liberty in America.
Anyway, it’s the 5th night of the Fortnight, so I thought I’d offer 5 quick thoughts on the Fortnight for Freedom. Only skims the surface of the issue, but hopefully it can get you thinking — and praying — too.
- I may be new to Catholic history in America, but I can’t think of another time when a reaction like this happened on such a wide-scale: across the nation, on every level from bishops to laypeople, and with every just means available (legal, educational, political, prayer). Yes, Catholics are far from a united front, but this may be the closest we’ve been to one in recent memory. Maybe. (More on this thought from Catholic Online.)
- Not only that, but other Christians, religious, and people of good will are coming together to stand against the tide of statist secularism in defense of religious liberty. (Word on Fire‘s Fr. Barron discusses this here…learn some English history while you’re at it!)
- The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops states on its website that the Fortnight of Freedom is a “special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action.” Note that “prayer” comes first, because that’s where all our efforts should start. We’re nothing without God.
- As religious liberty is a fundamental right, Catholics have always been committed to its defense throughout history. In fact, in the early years, Catholics may have been more committed to freedom of religion in America than the first “Americans.”
- Be careful. The coming assault on the church won’t be like what you saw in For Greater Glory, with priests killed and churches ransacked. Rather, it’s going to be very PC, very subtle, in which Catholics who resist will be portrayed as “insane zealots” while Catholics who stand by idly or, worse, support the mandate, will be portrayed as restrained and rational by the media and government. Read Fr. Longenecker’s reflection on this here.
Even with that last point in mind, it’s important that we keep hope! And keep praying! Pray for our rights. Pray for our bishops, our priests, our religious, and all members of our Church. Pray for our allies, our political leaders, and our nation. Pray for peace, justice, goodness, and above all, pray for Truth. So pray! And pray hard, because there remains a nation’s heart to be won.
Our Lady of Victory, pray for us!
Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty
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.