“Fortnight for Freedom” Begins Two Weeks of Prayer and Public Education

By Dave Andrusko

Bishop William E. Lori chairs the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

And so it begins. Today Catholics around the country are participating in a “Fortnight for Freedom.” Critics (never any shortage of them) dismiss the two weeks of “prayer, study, catechesis, and public action” as merely politics in disguise to deny women “choice.”

They ask, what could President Obama possibly have done to convince the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) that religious liberties are imperiled?

My wife and I saw a movie last weekend, set in Mexico in the early 20th Century. It emphatically reminded us Protestants that the Catholic Church has been in existence for a very long time and has endured many persecutions. They can see the storm coming, or, to switch metaphors, church leaders don’t need to wait for the other shoe to drop to spring into action.

The Obama Administration has made it clear that religious liberties are optional, never more so than when abridging them curries favor with Obama’s allies.

As single-issue pro-lifers we focus on one phrase of the onslaught: The Obama Administration’s mandate that religious institutions and individuals of conscience pay for health insurance plans that cover medical procedures and drugs contrary to their religious beliefs and conscience.

Referring to the “two weeks of non-stop nationwide teaching, preaching and public events to press their cause,” USA Today put it this way today: “Government, they say [referring to the Bishops], should not decide who is religious enough to be exempt from government mandates,” writes Cathy Lynn Grossman, “that would force the faithful to violate church doctrine.”

There is enormous symbolism at work, as you would expect. Baltimore, the first American diocese, is where the campaign kicks off. The diocese is led by Archbishop William Lori, who heads the USCCB’s committee on religious liberty. “It will not be easy, and we may well suffer, as we are called to do, but we will not fail,” he said last week.

The national campaign ends on the 4th of July at Washington’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the nation’s largest Catholic church. 

“Nearly half of the nation’s 195 dioceses have announced events from prayer breakfasts to town-hall-style meetings to readings of the Constitution,” Grossman writes. “The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is providing resources including a dramatic special prayer for strength and courage.” [The prayer can be found at the end of this post.]

The “Fortnight for Freedom” is only one component of a multifaceted campaign of resistance. In May, 43 Catholic dioceses, schools, hospitals, social service agencies filed twelve separate lawsuits, accusing the Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services of violating the First Amendment and federal law by requiring Catholic organization to “sacrifice their beliefs in order to be able to continue their mission of serving all people in need.”

National Right to Life warned of the potential for mischief when ObamaCare was under consideration in the Senate in 2009. NRLC warned that a provision dealing with “preventive health services” would empower the Secretary of Health and Human Services to mandate coverage of any medical service, including abortion, merely by adding the service to an expandable list.

Were he elected to a second-term, Obama could use precisely the nearly infinitely expandable statutory authority to mandate that virtually all health plans pay for elective surgical abortion on demand.

As single issue pro-lifers and the Bishops have said over and over and over again, we didn’t pick this fight. It was begun by the Obama Administration out of its own political calculation. Opponents merely want traditional conscience protections restored.

Prayer for the Protection of Liberty

O God our Creator, from your provident hand we have received our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

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.

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