On April 12th, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released an update Our First, Most Cherished Liberty. The twelve page statement reminds us how historically religious of all denominations have exercised their faith in the public square for the benefit and service to the marginalized and the poor. The statement also warns us of what can happen if we do not defend the right to act according to conscience:
We need, therefore, to speak frankly with each other when our freedoms are threatened. Now is such a time. As Catholic bishops and American citizens, we address an urgent summons to our fellow Catholics and fellow Americans to be on guard, for religious liberty is under attack, both at home and abroad.
This has been noticed both near and far. Pope Benedict XVI recently spoke about his worry that religious liberty in the United States is being weakened. He called it the “most cherished of American freedoms”—and indeed it is. All the more reason to heed the warning of the Holy Father, a friend of America and an ally in the defense of freedom, in his recent address to American bishops:
“Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion. Many of you have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience.
Here once more we see the need for an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity endowed with a strong critical sense vis-à-vis the dominant culture and with the courage to counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society.”
Representing the Sacramento Diocese, our own Reverend Bishop Jaime Soto is a member of the administrative committee that approved the USCCB statement, and encourages us within the Diocese to do our part:
“The notion that our faith can no longer define our works is a threat to the grace we bring in the name of Christ. It will inhibit our ability to be ‘doers of the Word.” (James 1:22). The bishop urges the Catholic faithful to join the Catholic Legislative Network at www.cacatholic.org and communicate with the White House and congressional representatives to urge a clear definition of religious employer.
Let us do our part.
We can begin by making ourselves more aware of how our religious liberty is threatened. Go to the Religious Liberty page of the USCCB website, and read about it. Bishop Soto also encourages the faithful to read the latest Catholic Herald special report on Religious Freedom.
- Share this post with your friends and family, and ask them to do the same with others they know.
- Know who your elected representatives are, and write to them about your concerns.
- Go to the USCCB action center and see what petitions regarding religious pending need your help.
Mark your calendar.
- June 9, 2012 – Eucharistic procession on the Feast of Corpus Christi, following the 5pm vigil celebration at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. Bishop Soto will personally lead the procession, with stations of adoration along the way.
- June 21 – July 4 – A Fortnight for Freedom, the fourteen days from June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day, be dedicated to this “fortnight for freedom”—a great hymn of prayer for our country.
And pray. We must pray daily for our Bishops and the religious leaders of all denominations that they will be united in the defense of religious liberty in our nation. We must pray for wisdom to know what to do, and for the courage to stand firm in our faith.
May we turn to Mary, who acted with her own free will and became the Mother of God, intercede for us.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
you have given the world its true light,
Jesus, your Son – the Son of God.
You abandoned yourself completely
to God’s call
and thus became a wellspring
of the goodness which flows
forth from him.
Show us Jesus. Lead us to him.
Teach us to know and love him,
so that we too can become
capable of true love
and be fountains of living water
in the midst of a thirsting world.