Catholic Free Press

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Celebrating our ‘Freedom to Serve’

Posted By June 5, 2014 | 1:05 pm | Lead Story #2
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The diocese will begin its observance of the national Fortnight for Freedom – June 21 to July 4 – with a vigil Mass at 7 p.m. June 20 in St. Paul Cathedral, to be celebrated by Bishop McManus.This year’s theme is “Freedom to Serve.”
After Mass, Hillary Byrnes, assistant general counsel for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, will speak about current threats to religious liberty at a reception in the Cenacle on the lower level of the cathedral.
Ms. Byrnes also serves as lead staff to the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, established by the U.S. bishops in 2011 to address the erosion of religious freedom in the United States.
She is a member of bars in New York and the District of Columbia and has been admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court as well as other federal trial and appellate courts.
Allison LeDoux, director of the diocesan Respect Life Office, said the bishop has asked that all parishes in the diocese be represented at the June 20 Mass.
The U.S. bishops spoke out for religious freedom three years ago when they took a stand against the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The Affordable Care Act requires businesses, with a few exceptions, to either pay a fine or pay for health care programs which include contraceptive coverage to female employees, including drugs that can cause early abortion.
Hobby Lobby Inc., a chain of several hundred arts and crafts stores, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a small furniture manufacturer, have sued the federal government over certain requirements in the federal Affordable Care Act. The families who own the two companies have objected to the requirement, stating that requiring them to provide such coverage violates their religious beliefs. The U.S. Supreme Court has already heard arguments in the case and is expected to issue a ruling in late June.
Mrs. LeDoux said the ACA and the spread of legalized same-sex marriage has placed ministries of the Church and business owners with a conscience in  jeopardy.
A fact sheet published  by the USCCB points out that a U.S. Health and Human Services mandate for sterilization, contraception and abortion-inducing drugs “forces religious institutions to facilitate and/or fund a product contrary to their own moral teaching. Further, the federal government tries to define which religious institutions are ‘religious enough’ to merit protection of their religious liberty.”
The fact  sheet  states that “Boston, San Francisco, the District of Columbia and the State of Illinois have driven local Catholic Charities out of the  business of providing adoption or foster care services – by revoking their licenses, by ending their government contracts, or both – because those charities refused to place children with same-sex couples or unmarried opposite-sex couples who co-habitate.”
The fact sheet also points out that some states have passed laws forbidding the harboring of undocumented immigrants, that New York City adopted a policy barring small church congregations from renting public schools on weekends for worship, and that the federal government changed contract specifications regarding administering services for victims of human trafficking to require providing or referring victims to receive contraceptive and abortion services.
The fact sheet also said that Pope Benedict XVI recognized two years ago that various attempts to limit the freedom of religion in the United States were “particularly concerning.”
He said the threat to religious freedom is rooted in secularism in the culture and asked for the laity to have the courage to counter the secularism that would “delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society.”
The Fortnight for Freedom is a call to prayer, education and action, Mrs. LeDoux said. People can focus on prayer and fasting to try to change hearts and minds on the issues threatening religious freedom.
The Respect Life Office has prepared a resource package for priests listing steps they can take in their parishes during the Fortnight for Freedom. They include inviting speakers to talk about religious freedom, encourage prayer, fasting and/or acts of reparation, hold holy hours, eucharistic adoration or Masses, praying the rosary, ring church bells at noon July 4, among other suggestions.
The Respect Life Office also has prepared inserts for parish bulletins with information about threats to religious freedoms, along with web sites for more information.
Web sites listed include www.fortnight4freedom.org; www.usccb,org/conscience and www.worcesterdiocese.org/respectlife. Those wishing more information may contact the diocesan Respect Life Office at 508-929-4311.