FOR the third consecutive year, the U.S. bishops will sponsor a Fortnight for Freedom across the United States to encourage prayer and awareness of religious liberty, with a particular focus on how it enables service to the poor and vulnerable.
The June 21-July 4 initiative includes the Catholic feasts of saints like John Fisher, Thomas More, John the Baptist, Peter and Paul and the first martyrs of Rome who “remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power,” according to Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.
“This is a time when Catholics can unite themselves in prayer to the men and women throughout history who spread the Gospel and lived out Jesus’ call to serve the ‘least of these’ in even the direst of circumstances,” said the archbishop.
The national activities will be supplemented by diocesan-level prayer initiatives throughout the U. S. Past efforts have included special rosaries, Masses, prayer vigils and holy hours, study groups and community service events.
Some of the current domestic religious freedom concerns include:
• The federal HHS mandate that requires most employers, including many Catholic organizations, to provide employees with health coverage for sterilization, contraception and drugs that can cause abortions, despite their religious and moral objections. Violators of the mandate face heavy penalties.
• Threats to religious organizations and businesses caused by the redefinition of marriage and laws that consider objections to “gay marriage” to be illegal discrimination. Catholic adoption agencies have been shut down because they cannot in good conscience place children with same-sex couples.
• State immigration laws have also threatened charitable outreach and pastoral care to undocumented immigrants, while Catholic medical personnel and others who object to abortion have faced pressure to participate in the procedures.
With the threats to religious freedom ongoing right on our home front, the Fortnight for Freedom is a time for all Catholics to stand up for the principles our forefathers fought so valiantly for.