Thursday, June 7, 2012

Our First and Most Precious Freedom

Shouldn’t a widow be allowed to hold a Christian burial for her veteran husband? Shouldn’t a man be able to choose a health care plan that doesn’t violate his religious beliefs? And shouldn’t timeless religious memorials be allowed to stand?
One would think. But in a country founded on religious liberty, the government now says “no” in every single one of those situations.
This is why our U.S. Bishops have called upon American Catholics to use our voices, our votes, and our prayers to fight for our first and most cherished freedom.
Two weeks ago, 43 Catholic institutions filed 12 separate lawsuits challenging the federal government’s healthcare rule. The Archdiocese of Washington is one of those institutions, and the Archbishop of Washington, His Eminence, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, gave a clear and powerful explanation of why they are suing:
[The] mandate, issued in February by the Department of Health and Human Services… requires religious organizations to provide health-care coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilization procedures, even if their faith teaches that those drugs and procedures are wrong. That is what has prompted the Archdiocese of Washington to go to court to protect our First Amendment right to practice our religion without government interference.
Blessed John Paul II was very familiar with the struggle for religious freedom.  As Archbishop of Krakow, he constantly defied the oppressive communist regime in order to protect the Church. So when he visited Baltimore two decades ago, he discussed the importance of religious liberty:
The challenge facing you, dear friends, is to increase people’s awareness of the importance for society of religious freedom; to defend that freedom against those who would take religion out of the public domain and establish secularism as America’s official faith.

And it is vitally necessary, for the very survival of the American experience, to transmit to the next generation the precious legacy of religious freedom and the convictions which sustain it.

So how can we “increase people’s awareness” and “defend that freedom?” First of all, we can stand up for religious freedom on Friday, June 8th, at the next Stand Up Rally. We can also support state legislators and members of Congress who are doing everything in their power to protect our rights at the legislative level.  We can take part in the U.S. Bishops’ Fortnight for Freedom from June 21 to July 4, and come together with people in our home dioceses to pray and to learn more about the importance of religious freedom in America and throughout the world. And in November, we can vote.

All faith traditions will be affected by the U.S. government’s violations of religious freedom, so this isn’t just a Catholic fight. This is an American fight. We must unite, then, and pray that religious freedom is respected and protected. For inspiration, head out to the theaters and see For Greater Glory—a film depicting the Cristero War, in which the Catholic men and women of Mexico fought and died for the right to practice their religion.
Viva Cristo Rey!

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