Catholics have long been staunch defenders of God-given religious liberty. Today, such liberty is threatened in our country by government intrusion. Both the federal and state governments have made attempts to inhibit – and even to make illegal – efforts by Catholics and Catholic institutions to operate according to their faith.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for a second consecutive year has called on Catholics across the United States to observe a Fortnight for Religious Freedom from June 21 until July 4, a two-week period of prayer and action, to address many current challenges to religious liberty, including the August 1, 2013 deadline for religious organizations to comply with the HHS mandate; Supreme Court rulings that could redefine marriage in June, and religious liberty concerns in areas such as immigration and humanitarian services.
Here in the Archdiocese of Detroit, Archbishop Allen Vigneron published a letter encouraging Catholics to participate in this second Fortnight for Religious Freedom, which starts this Friday, June 21.
From The Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron, Archbishop | Issued June 7, 2013
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Religious liberty is not only about our freedom to go to Mass on Sunday, or to pray the rosary at home, or even to say publicly that we are Christians. It is about whether we can live how Christ would have us live. Unfortunately, in many instances in our country, our Christian actions – the very things we do to follow Christ and His Church – are being infringed upon and impeded by the government that we so often have counted on to protect our religious liberties.
We are weeks away from the federal government enforcing a mandate that would have many Catholics violate their consciences by forcing them to provide abortion-inducing drugs and contraceptives to employees. We face landmark decisions in federal courts that may redefine marriage and, accordingly, how the Church is required to treat marriage under the law. In states, laws have inhibited the Church from providing foster care, adoption services, refugee services and vital humanitarian aid – because we do so according to our Christian faith.
With these and other critical issues in front of us, and as we approach the anniversary of American Independence, my brother bishops and I are for a second year asking every Catholic in the United States to share their concern about the state of religious liberty by participating in a Fortnight for Religious Freedom from June 21 through July 4. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have supplied the faithful with prayers, educational resources, social media outlets, and various other ways to become involved in speaking up for our religious liberty. A Mass at 7 p.m. on June 21 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore will begin the Fortnight for Religious Freedom. A Mass at noon on July 4 at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. will conclude our observance.Resources from the U.S. Bishops, as well as local resources and event listings, will be updated on the Archdiocese of Detroit website throughout June at www.aod.org/freedom.
Religious freedom is the “first freedom” in our constitution and is meant to be protected by government. I thank you for your prayerful attention to this serious matter, as we join in thanking God for our freedoms and asking His guidance in preserving them for all persons,
Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty
(From the United States Conference for Catholic Bishops)
O God our Creator,
from your provident hand we have received
our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
You have called us as your people and given us
the right and the duty to worship you, the only true God,
and your Son, Jesus Christ.
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.
May God bless you and, and may God bless our United States of America. Through our nation’s patroness, Mary as the Immaculate Conception, I remain,
Sincerely yours in Christ,
The Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron
Archbishop of Detroit