Catholic Bishops Begin National Campaign for Religious Liberty

A mass at Baltimore’s Basilica of the Assumption on Thursday night was the setting for the start of what U.S. Catholic bishops are calling a “Fortnight for Freedom,” a campaign “of teaching and witness for religious liberty.” 

The initiative is in response primarily to the HHS mandate, part of ObamaCare, which forces Catholic and other religious institutions such as schools, hospitals, and charities, to provide free contraception, abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization procedures for its employees in their health insurance plans. The mandate is set to go into effect on August 1st.

The celebrant of the mass, Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, head of the “Fortnight for Freedom” initiative, was greeted by a standing ovation and applause as he entered the standing-room-only basilica.

During his homily, Archbishop Lori explained that the two-week campaign is in response to President Obama’s “morally objectionable” policies which amount to an attack on religious freedom. The Archbishop said:

Religious freedom includes the freedom of individuals to act in accord with their faith but also the freedom of church institutions to act in accordance with their teachings and to serve as a buffer between the power of the state and the freedom of the individual conscience.

Outside the basilica, approximately 40 members of Catholic groups protested the archbishop’s message, criticizing it as political activity and stating that it is inconsistent with the rights of women. James Salt, executive director of Catholics United, a group that says it is committed to “social justice” issues, said, "We think that the decision to have a 'Fortnight for Freedom' really is a political attack on President Obama, and it doesn't reflect the moral priorities of Catholics sitting in the pews, who are really more concerned about bread-and-butter issues."

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has dedicated fourteen days from June 21st, the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, to July 4th, Independence Day, as a “special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action” that will serve to “emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty.” The bishops chose June 21st as the starting date for the campaign because Saints John Fisher and Thomas More are both known as martyrs who were executed when they refused to deny their faith and beliefs in the face of persecution.

The “Fortnight for Freedom” will include daily reflections, available on the USCCB website, bulletin inserts, a texting campaign, and special events in dioceses and parishes throughout the country. The two-week period will end on July 4th with a special mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, celebrated by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington D.C.

Headline Image: Ryan J. Stanton, AnnArbor.com


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