With the Fortnight for Freedom beginning today, the nation’s Catholic bishops have released a new prayer calling for greater respect and appreciation of religious liberty — which they say the Obama administration has abrogated with its HHS mandate.
The mandate has caused massive controversy within pro-life and religious circles by forcing Catholic and evangelical groups and businesses to pay for abortion-causing drugs and birth control for their employees.
The full Prayer for the Protection of Liberty the bishops released reads:
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. Amen.
During the Fortnight for Freedom event, the bishops are distributing an insert in church bulletins around the country that draw attention to the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s leadership on civil rights and defense of civil disobedience, saying King understood how the Catholic Saints Augustine and Thomas Aquinas justified peaceful resistance to unjust laws. They say civil disobedience may be necessary if the HHS mandate is not overturned in court, because Catholic groups, hospitals and other institutions can’t comply with it.
“Some unjust laws impose such injustices on individuals and organizations that disobeying the laws may be justified,” the insert reads. “Every effort must be made to repeal them. When fundamental human goods, such as the right of conscience, are at stake, we may need to witness to the truth by resisting the law and incurring its penalties.”
“It is a sobering thing to contemplate our government enacting an unjust law,” said the bishops. “An unjust law cannot be obeyed. In the face of an unjust law, an accommodation is not to be sought, especially by resorting to equivocal words and deceptive practices. If we face today the prospect of unjust laws, then Catholics in America, in solidarity with our fellow citizens, must have the courage not to obey them. No American desires this. No Catholic welcomes it. But if it should fall upon us, we must discharge it as a duty of citizenship and an obligation of faith.”
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Meeting last week, the bishops unanimously adopted a statement further explaining their opposition to the Obama HHS mandate:
“The HHS mandate creates still a third class, those with no conscience protection at all: individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to act in accordance with their faith and moral values. They, too, face a government mandate to aid in providing ‘services’ contrary to those values—whether in their sponsoring of, and payment for, insurance as employers; their payment of insurance premiums as employees; or as insurers themselves—without even the semblance of an exemption. This, too, is unprecedented in federal law, which has long been generous in protecting the rights of individuals not to act against their religious beliefs or moral convictions. We have consistently supported these rights, particularly in the area of protecting the dignity of all human life, and we continue to do so.”
John Jansen of the Pro-Life Action League urges everyone to participate and commended the Catholic bishops for leading what is not a Catholic-only fight.
“The U.S. Bishops have been steadfastly outspoken against the HHS Mandate’s assault on religious freedom, and their leadership and messaging has been widely praised by Catholics and non-Catholics alike,” he said. “As part of their response to the HHS Mandate, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has called for a Fortnight for Freedom—a time of prayer, education and action on religious freedom from June 21 to July 4.”
“We wholeheartedly support the Fortnight for Freedom, and we encourage you to take part,” he added.
Eric Schiedler, of the Pro-Life Action League, stressed the election component of the event.
“As we approach the crucial elections in the fall all people of faith must make it clear to our leaders that we will not allow our religious freedom to be compromised,” he said.