Fortnight 4 Freedom: Prayers, Witness and Action
By Deirdre A. McQuade
June 6, 2012
In "Our First, Most Cherished Liberty
the bishops called for a "Fortnight
," a 14-day period of prayer, penance, education and action in defense
of religious freedom from June 21st through the Fourth of July.
The Fortnight is
packed with liturgical and civic significance. It starts on the vigil of the feast
of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, martyrs who remained faithful to their
conscience despite persecution by political power. Archbishop William Lori, chair
of the bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, will open the Fortnight
with Mass in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the first diocese established in the
culminates on Independence Day. At noon on July 4, churches across the country –
both Catholic and non-Catholic -- will ring their bells in a witness of
solidarity. Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, will preside at a nationally-televised
Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in
Washington, DC. Archbishop Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Philadelphia,
home of the Liberty Bell, will preach the homily. These key locations in our
early American experience emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of
Throughout the two
parishes, Catholic groups, families, and individuals will raise "a great hymn
of prayer" for our country. Well over half a million prayer cards have already been
ordered in English
with the text available online in Tagalog
and Vietnamese as well. The English prayer card features
our national patroness, Mary Immaculate; the Spanish card has an image of Our
Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of all the Americas and of the unborn. Other prayer
resources may be found at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/resources-on-conscience-protection.cfm#prayers.
In addition to our
prayers, it is time to act. The most pressing need is to fight the unjust HHS rule
that coerces employers to pay for sterilization and contraceptives, including drugs
and devices that can induce early abortions. It forces Catholic organizations which
play a vital role in providing health care and social services either to
violate their conscience or severely curtail their vital work -- harming
religious freedom and access to health care, alike.
Virtually no one
is exempt. There is no room for conscientious objection. Neither individuals
nor the vast majority of employers can opt out of the mandated coverage without
severe penalties – prohibitive fees that would force many out of business. The
law tramples on our basic rights of conscience and religious liberty – all while
treating pregnancy as a disease, and fertility as a pathological condition.
As a Catholic
woman in her childbearing years who works for a religious employer, I
personally find it offensive on many fronts. Thank God the bishops are fighting
not only on behalf of religious employers, but also on behalf of those in the private
and public sector whose conscience rights are violated by this mandate, too.
you have already written to HHS in opposition to the mandate, thank you! We now
have one final chance to make our voice heard on the oppressive rule. Visit www.usccb.org/conscience and click
on the action alert in the right margin.
confident in how best to express yourself? No worries. The action alert offers
pre-written email text to HHS for you to personalize if you like. It is
followed by a message to your representative and senators urging their support
for the sensible Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (H.R. 1179/S. 1467).
Please act now. While
we will continue to urge support for conscience rights in Congress, the
deadline for the last wave public comments to HHS is coming up quickly: Tuesday,
June 19th. Together, our prayers, church bell-ringing, and e-mail
messages will raise "a clear and united voice," as our prayer for religious
we pray, O heavenly Father,
clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters [so that] …
great land will always be "one nation, under God,
with liberty and justice for all."
Deirdre A. McQuade is Assistant Director for Policy &
Communications at the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of
Catholic Bishops. For more information on the bishops' work protecting
conscience rights, go to www.usccb.org/conscience.
Fortnight for Freedom information is posted at www.Fortnight4Freedom.com.