FORTNIGHT FOR FREEDOM.
Our “great hymn of prayer” in defense of Religious Liberty has begun—the Fortnight for Freedom (June 21 to July 4). This fourteen days of prayer is a response to the Obama Administration’s Health and Human Services (HHS) regulations requiring Catholic employers to provide their employees with insurance policies that cover contraception, sterilization and abortifacients (abortion inducing drugs)—directly contradicting our Catholic moral beliefs. But while this is the most recent, and most clear and egregious, attack on our religious liberty, it is not the first. For the last few years Christians, and Catholics in particular, have been the target of growing efforts on the part of local, state and national government efforts to restrict or direct the practice of religion.
In its recent document on Religious Liberty, “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty,” the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) provides a short list of recent attacks on the free practice of religion. Two actions are particularly noteworthy and troubling:
In the last two years the District of Columbia, Boston, San Francisco, and the state of Illinois have driven local Catholic Charities out of the business of providing adoption or foster care services because those Charities refused to place children with same-sex couples or unmarried opposite-sex couples who cohabit.
Notwithstanding years of excellent performance by the USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services (MRS)in administering contract services for victims of human trafficking, the Obama administration recently changed its contract specifications to require all contract partners like MRS to provide or refer for contraceptive and abortion services. A federal court in Massachusetts upheld this regulation, declaring, incredibly, that such a disqualification is required by the First Amendment—that the government somehow violates religious liberty by allowing Catholic organizations to participate in contracts in a manner consistent with their religious beliefs.
This, as well as the rhetoric we find in some of the media, lead us to recognize a disturbing trend of treating Catholic moral principles as either not something necessarily related to freely practicing our Catholic faith or, alternatively, as infringing on the fundamental rights and freedoms and others. In either case we see the gradual establishment of a new legal or societal norm that certain very newly discovered liberties and rights are more important than the liberty to practice your religious moral beliefs, even though the latter is specifically protected under the constitution.
In particular one type of newly discovered liberty/right seems to trump all others: the almost absolute right to sexual pleasure and expression, or sexual libertinism. The rights to contracept and abort, flows from this, as do the so-called rights to homosexual activity and “gay marriage.”
What seems to stand in the way of firmly establishing such a new society norm are the Christian morals, which have shaped America’s understanding of laws since before our founding in 1776. And even though many of the mainstream Christian denominations have grown ambiguous on ancient moral norms, or even explicitly reject them, the Catholic Church stands athwart this trend as the largest obstacle to this moral, legal and societal revisionism.
The current federal administration, being openly very supportive of these new moral norms and rights, seems determined to overcome Catholic and other Christian opposition by whatever means necessary. Even if it means trampling on the very first right listed and guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Amazing: the newly invented freedom of sexual libertinism trumps the first liberty guaranteed in the Constitution.
What does this mean for the future of Catholicism and Christianity in America? Defenders of the administration have already raised the alarm against a so-called “conservative” “war on women,” led by the Catholic bishops, and we hear many accuse Catholics of “hating” homosexuals. If religious liberty is overridden in favor of absolute sexual liberty, and if traditional Christians are truly at war and hateful, where will this lead? How can it not lead to even further oppression of Christians and, especially faithful Catholics?
Remember, after the first amendment guarantees religious liberty it immediately goes on to prohibit: “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” If the first part of the first amendment–religious liberty–is overridden by absolute sexual liberty, why wouldn’t the second, third, fourth and fifth parts of the first amendment–freedom of speech, the press, assembly and petitioning the government—also be overridden?
If so, how far off is the day when Catholic priests won’t even be able to preach inside our own churches that extra- or pre-marital sex, contraception, abortion and homosexual acts are sinful? Even closer to home, how soon before Catholic parents won’t be able to say the same thing to their own children in their own homes? How soon before these priests and parents will be behind bars?
They’re already trying to do this in other western countries. Recently in Canada—so like America some call it “the 51st state”—the government of the Province of Ontario (Toronto), passed a law forcing all Catholic Schools to have clubs called “gay-straight alliances” to support openly gay students, and there is open talk on the part of government officials, including the Premier, of penalizing teachers and administrators if they say anything in these clubs that is negative toward homosexuality.
It can’t happen here, right? Read the words of Judge Vaughn Walker, United States District Chief Judge, for Northern California, when he overturned the democratic vote of the free people of California to amend their constitution to prohibit “gay marriage”: “Religious beliefs that gay and lesbian relationships are sinful or inferior to heterosexual relationships harm gays and lesbians.”
We must defend our religious liberty. We must fight the good fight, and keep the faith. Not with a war against women, or sexual libertines, but a battle against religious oppression by our own government. We must not do so with hate, as we are accused, but with love even for our enemies. We will not harm others, but help them. We will not act with violence, but with reason and faith. We will not wield a sword, other than the swords of truth and the Word of God, and our main weapons will be simple but devout, earnest and constant prayers.
Please join in the Fortnight. Come to the liturgies (see below in this bulletin), or offer prayers and penance in private. Remembering the words of Jesus, “this kind is not cast out but by prayer and fasting” (Mt. 17:21).
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles