In “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty,” the bishops called for a “Fortnight for Freedom,” a 14-day period of prayer, penance, education and action in defense of religious freedom from June 21st through the Fourth of July.
The Fortnight is packed with liturgical and civic significance. It starts on the vigil of the feast of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, martyrs who remained faithful to their conscience despite persecution by political power. Archbishop William Lori, chair of the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, will open the Fortnight with Mass in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the first diocese established in the United States.
The Fortnight culminates on Independence Day. At noon on July 4, churches across the country – both Catholic and non-Catholic — will ring their bells in a witness of solidarity. Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, will preside at a nationally-televised Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. Archbishop Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Philadelphia, home of the Liberty Bell, will preach the homily. These key locations in our early American experience emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty…
In addition to our prayers, it is time to act. The most pressing need is to fight the unjust HHS rule that coerces employers to pay for sterilization and contraceptives, including drugs and devices that can induce early abortions. It forces Catholic organizations which play a vital role in providing health care and social services either to violate their conscience or severely curtail their vital work — harming religious freedom and access to health care, alike.
Virtually no one is exempt. There is no room for conscientious objection. Neither individuals nor the vast majority of employers can opt out of the mandated coverage without severe penalties – prohibitive fees that would force many out of business. The law tramples on our basic rights of conscience and religious liberty – all while treating pregnancy as a disease, and fertility as a pathological condition.“