Bishop Foys Calls for Fortnight of Freedom
The Messenger, the Diocese of Covington’s official newspaper, reports that Bishop Roger Foys has asked all parishes in the diocese to participate in the national “Fortnight for Freedom” called for by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
In a letter to Covington’s priests, Messenger editor Tim Fitzgerald says, Bishop Foys directed that homilies during the June 21 – July 4 period address religious liberty. He also asked that all priests coordinate a prayer and information campaign to educate area Catholics about the issues involved.
In January, US Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (a Catholic whose bishop instructed her several years ago not to receive communion because of her work to support and promote abortion) announced that the country’s new health care law includes a rule requiring that nearly all employer-paid health insurance policies cover contraception, sterilization, and “morning-after” abortifacients, without co-pays. This rule would require Catholic churches, institutions, and private companies to pay for procedures and drugs they consider immoral. The only exception is for religious entities that employ and serve only members who share their own beliefs, and whose principle purpose is teaching that belief.
The USCCB says this Rule violates the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion and free exercise of religion, and that it also represents and unprecedented attempt of the US government to define what what is and is not a religious entity. By this definition, for example, a convent would not be considered a religious entity (it is not run by a church and does not teach Catholicism), nor would a Catholic hospital or school (because the are not run by churches, they treat and educate anyone, they employ people of all faiths, and their principle purpose is not to teach Catholicism).
“We cannot — we will not — comply with this unjust law,” Francis, Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago wrote of the Rule in a letter quickly republished throughout the county.
The USCCB suggests dedicating June 21, the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, through Independence Day to “a great hymn of prayer for our country,” according to their letter Our First, Most Cherished Liberty (read it and other documents and resources about religious liberty at the USCCB web site’s Conscience Protection page).
“We cannot comply with a directive from the federal government that will violate our conscience,” The Messenger quotes Bishop Foys saying in his letter. “Never before has the precious freedom of religious expression, the very basis of our democracy, been so flagrantly challenged.”
Bishop Foys previously designated all Fridays for 2012 as Days of Prayer and Penance for religious freedom, calling on all Catholics in the diocese to pray and fast. The new letter, The Messenger says, encourages priests to schedule Friday prayer services or other events.
Covington’s Pro-Life Office will distribute prayer cards with the USCCB’s “urgent prayer for religious liberty” to all parishes, and Bishop Foys has asked that priests pray it at all weekend masses. He will also, The Messenger says, send one with a letter to all Catholic households in the diocese.
Prayer cards can be ordered from the USCCB web site. Here is the text of the USCCB’s prayer for religious liberty:
Almighty God, Father of all nations,
For freedom you have set us free in Christ Jesus (Gal 5:1).
We praise and bless you for the gift of religious liberty,
the foundation of human rights, justice, and the common good.
Grant to our leaders the wisdom to protect and promote our liberties;
By your grace may we have the courage to defend them, for ourselves and for all those who live in this blessed land.
We ask this through the intercession of Mary Immaculate, our patroness,
and in the name of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
with whom you live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Catholic Beat will continue to provide coverage of religious liberty rallies, prayer services, and other events. The next nationwide Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally will be noon, June 8. Cincinnati’s rally will take place at Fountain Square; plans are underway for a Dayton rally as well. We will bring you further information later this week. Please bookmark our site or sign up for our email digest (or better yet, do both!) so you don’t miss these and other important stories.
Photo courtesy the Diocese of Covington, logo courtesy the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.