Preserve Religious Freedom

HHS Mandate

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As you know, volunteers from Holy Cross parish have been collecting signatures to express disagreement with the federal government's executive mandate to employers to provide morally objectionable medications and treatment, e.g. contraceptives and abortifacients. 

I don't have the final signature tally, but it was substantial, even for this time of year when parishioners travel. As our volunteers were inviting people to sign the petition and announcing its purpose, one person reported, "Oh, I'm not signing it, I agree with contraception."

That's a misconeption. The issue isn't whether or not one personally agrees with the Church's teaching, or practices it - the petition expresses concern that the government now mandates that companies not excused by the restrictive definition of "religious employer" provide health insurance which pays for contraceptives.  The mandate doesn't simply allow them, it mandates that those who morally object to their use provide them and pay for them.

Whether such an intrusion on religious liberty will be permitted will ultimately be decided when the record breaking number of cases challenging it come before the Supreme Court. It would have been more heartening if the proposal had to be withdrawn because of public outrage. 

 


Freedom of Worship or Freedom of Religion: Just Semantics?

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Perhaps you have noticed the criticism of the Obama administration, including the president himself, for substituting the phrase "freedom of worship" for "freedom of religion"?

It's difficult to know whether this rhetoric is carefully chosen to indicate a more restrictive interpretation of religious liberty in this country. Without the HHS mandate for health insurance contraceptives and the aggressive campaign to redefine the meaning of marriage, the rhetorical shift might not even be noticed. However, while freedom of worship is surely crucial to religious liberty, so is the freedom to practice the principles of one's faith outside the walls of a religious building. The Fornight for Freedom campaign aims to protect that freedom.

For the past nine days, Holy Cross parishioners have recited the Prayer for Religious Liberty after all our masses. We have also been conducting a campaign for signatures to express opposition to the HHS mandate that religious employers provide health care insurance for morally objectionable medications and procedures.

On July 2nd over 100 religious leaders and scholars released a letter entitled "Standing Together for Religious Freedom." The statement was supported by Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore and Dr. Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission among others. 

Here is the text of the open letter:

We write as an informal and diverse group of religious leaders, theologians, lay practitioners and community servants. We believe the doctrines of our respective faiths require something of us beyond the walls of our churches, synagogues, temples, and other places of worship. Those faith convictions manifest themselves through our daily interactions among family, neighbors, strangers and institutions.

 Further, we recognize the United States, at its best, is unique among the nations of the world when it defends the self­ evident freedom of all people to exercise their faith according to the dictates of their consciences. This freedom contributes to the vibrancy of our nation. Unfortunately, this delicate liberty of conscience is under threat. 

Through its contraceptive coverage mandate, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) continues to breach universal principles affirmed and protected by the U.S. Constitution and other federal laws. While the mandate is a specific offense, it represents a greater fundamental breach of conscience by the federal government. Very simply, HHS is forcing Citizen A, against his or her moral convictions, to purchase a product for Citizen B. The HHS policy is coercive and puts the administration in the position of de.fining-or casting aside-religious doctrine. This should trouble every American.

 Many of the signatories on this letter do not hold doctrinal objections to the use of contraception. Yet we stand united in protest to this mandate, recognizing the encroachment on the conscience of our fellow citizens. Whether or not we agree with the particular conscientious objection is beside the point. HHS continues to deny many Americans the freedom to manifest their beliefs through practice and observance in their daily lives.
 

The First Amendment states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Free exercise includes the freedom to order one's life, liberties and pursuits in accordance with his or her convictions. HHS breaches the free exercise clause and federal statutes (passed with broad bipartisan support) by selectively denying some Americans this constitutionally protected right.

 Americans afford each other broad liberties with respect to lifestyle choices. However, the federal government has neither a compelling interest nor the appropriate authority to coerce one citizen to fund or facilitate specific lifestyle choices of another. Ifthe federal government can force morally opposed individuals to purchase contraception or abortion-causing drugs and devices for a third party, what prevents this or future administrations from forcing other Americans to betray their deeply held convictions?

Therefore, we call upon HHS to, at a minimum, expand conscience protections under the mandate to cover any organization or individual that has religious or moral objections to covering, providing or enabling access to the mandated drugs and services. Further, because HHS claims to be acting on authority granted it by Congress, we ask Congress to consider how it might prevent such offenses from occurring in the future. Any policy that falls short of affirming full religious freedom protection for all Americans is unacceptable.

Full Text in English and Spanish with Signatories is here.

 

 

 


Text of National Prayer Card Fortnight for Freedom

O GOD OUR CREATOR, 
from your provident hand we have received
our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
You have called us as your people and given us
the right and the duty to worship you, the only true God,
and your Son, Jesus Christ.
Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.
We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.
Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome—
for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us—
this great land will always be “one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.
Copyright © 2012, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC. All rights reserved

Fortnight for Freedom

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As a way of participating in the national Fornight For Freedom organized by the United States Bishops, Holy Cross will offer parishioners the opportunity to sign petitions alerting our elected representatives that we object to the HHS contraceptive/abortifacient mandate imposed administratively by Washington. 

After all the weekend masses, we will also pray the novena prayer to protect religious liberty in America 

 


Christians Persecuted Worldwide

Persecution of Christians is increasing all around the world noted Catholic Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomassi during an interview on Vatican Radio.

The bishops of the United States have asked all Catholic parishes to participate in the Fortnight for Freedom, a prayer and petition crusade to protect religious liberties, especially here in the United States. 

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/05/29/vatican-spokesman-claims-100000-christians-killed-annually-because-faith



Holy Cross Parish will again participate in the petition signing and will have petitions available at all our masses. More details to follow.

 


New Jersey Right To Life Rally for Religious Freedom in Trenton NJ

 

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The rally starts at noon local time, Saturday October 20, unless otherwise noted.
Signs will be provided.
It is not necessary to RSVP.
Pray the mass at the Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption at 10:30 in Trenton just before the rally.

 

 

 

Some of the Organizations and Groups forming the Coalition to Stand Up For Religious Freedom


Wow, US Catholic Bishops Fact Check Vice-President Biden

The USCCB today issued a statement correcting the Vice-President's erroneous assertion that Catholic organizations and institutions will not be forced to provide coverage for morally unacceptable drugs and procedures in its healhcare coverage policies.

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WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued the following statement, October 12. Full text follows:

Last night, the following statement was made during the Vice Presidential debate regarding the decision of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to force virtually all employers to include sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortion, in the health insurance coverage they provide their employees:

"With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear. No religious institution—Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital—none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact."

This is not a fact. The HHS mandate contains a narrow, four-part exemption for certain "religious employers." That exemption was made final in February and does not extend to "Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital," or any other religious charity that offers its services to all, regardless of the faith of those served.

HHS has proposed an additional "accommodation" for religious organizations like these, which HHS itself describes as "non-exempt." That proposal does not even potentially relieve these organizations from the obligation "to pay for contraception" and "to be a vehicle to get contraception." They will have to serve as a vehicle, because they will still be forced to provide their employees with health coverage, and that coverage will still have to include sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients. They will have to pay for these things, because the premiums that the organizations (and their employees) are required to pay will still be applied, along with other funds, to cover the cost of these drugs and surgeries.

USCCB continues to urge HHS, in the strongest possible terms, actually to eliminate the various infringements on religious freedom imposed by the mandate.

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Catholics are free to believe the Vice President's debate statement that all is well for Catholic institutions under the mandate from the Obama administration's HHS directive. Nevertheless, the bishops have spoken quickly and forcefully to correct his statement. Smiling, pointing and repeating something to be a fact over and over doesn't necessarily make it true.


Prayer Service for Religious Liberty

2f26f341f4caea7a5809ab9751f2fef7Thank you to all who stayed to pray today after the 10:30 AM mass for religious liberty in our country and in the world. We prayed the litany suggested by and composed by the American bishops which was quite beautiful and very appropriate.

Our campaign to collect signatures for letters to our elected representatives is ongoing and there were letters available for signing after all the masses this weekend. To date, almost 1000 signatures have been collected and letters mailed.

Sunday's Homily

"Do not be afraid, just have faith." I hope these words of Jesus go straight to our minds and hearts this weekend; how sorely we need to hear them. 

In the face of sin, illness, even death, Jesus reassures us. How much more should we be reassured in the face of disorder in our relationships, finance, politics, family?  Increase our faith, O Lord!

There is a surely a crisis of faith, both secular and religious. All human institutions and promises are undergoing a trial: do we mean what we say, can we trust anyone's promise? Can we rely on each other? These questions are serious enough, but the crisis of religious faith tempts us to believe we cannot or better not rely on God. Or equally perilous, we might come to believe that our faith is simply an inner assertion of belief which carries no obligations to live a faith-filled life.

Our faith is a precious gift and it must be nurtured and protected. How many times, if we're honest, have we chosen fun over faith? Our amusement and leisure time is important, but so is preserving some of it to nurture and practice our faith. 

Pope Benedict has proclaimed a Year of Faith beginning in October 2012. In calling for a year of prayer and action to nurture our faith, he reminds us that Mary's "yes", her life of discipleship from Bethelehem to Golgotha, her taste of the fruits of Jesus' resurrection and participation in the formation and life of the early Church at Pentecost - all were acts of faith. The first apostles left everything in fatih and preached everywhere. This very faith which has been handed down to us by countless men and women so that we can recognize Jesus in the Eucharist and in each other, in our church and in our history.

Faith has both an intellectual and spiritual component. We hope our faith resides down deep in our hearts, but it is also fed by our mind and our reason. To nurture our faith, we need acts of prayer and charity, the Eucharist, the sacraments, but we also need to read, study, appropriate the faith for each stage of our journey. There is a rich content to the faith, even called "the deposit of faith," a rich tradition and beautifully clear Church teachings for us to know and understand. In conjunction with the Year of Faith, Bishop O'Connell has proclaimed that the preaching on the second Sunday of each month be reserved for teaching an important aspect of our faith, church tradition or church teaching.

We must appreciate how threatened our faith can become by simple everyday events, if we don't take precautions to strengthen and protect it. The books we read, the news we hear, the movies we see, the conversations we have and the jokes we laugh at; the friends we keep, the things we buy, the ad campaigns we respond to, the way we permit our children to dress, the song lyrics they carry around in their heads, the trends we become part of...all these can be a slow and relentless drip, drip, drip eroding the foundations of our faith. Without reparative and preventive measures, we should not be surprised to discover at a funeral, or a wedding, or the doctor's office, that when we turn to rely on our faith...it has collapsed.

This weekend, especially, we remind ourselves that our civic freedom also needs protection. If we fail to nurture and protect our liberties, pay little heed to world events, our nation's history, or political discourse, our freedoms will wither or be clipped and trimmed into a shape our forbearers wouldn't even recognize.

Today we join in prayer for the preservation of faith and freedom in our nation and in the world. This will become more important as specific articles of our faith bring us into conflict with the political and moral climate of our country, but also with a militant secularism which strives to sanitize God from any American public discussion. Some seek to regulate our Catholic charities and our Catholic teaching institutions no differently than MacDonalds or Walmart. We are different! What we do and how we do it springs directly from our faith, which we must be free to practice in private and in public.

Faith and our freedom to practice it is a God given liberty, which today we acknolwedge, has required heroic human sacrifice to preserve. Let us resolve today to reinforce both faith and freedom by prayer, reading and study, by witness and whenever necessary by willing sacrifice.



Preserve Religious Freedom

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Preserve Religious Freedom

A webpage initiative of the Archdiocese of Washington with information about the decision of several Catholic groups in the Archdiocese to file suit against the Obama administration's HHS mandate that Catholic institutions provide coverage for immoral drugs and procedures when they offer employee medical insurance. 

This lawsuit is about an unprecedented attack by the federal government on one of America’s most cherished freedoms: the freedom to practice one’s religion without government interference. It is not about whether people have access to certain services; it is about whether the government may force religious institutions and individuals to facilitate and fund services which violate their religious beliefs.

 

The Archdiocese of Washington, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, The Consortium of Catholic Academis of the Archdiocese of Washington, Archbishop Carroll High School and the Catholic University of America are joining the lawsuit which is only one of twelve lawsuits filed today on behalf of 43 Catholic institutions around the country.

The lawsuits have been filed in eight states and the District of Columbia by the Archdioceses of Washington and New York, the Michigan Catholic Conference, Catholic Charities in Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri and Indiana, health care agencies in New York and two dioceses in Texas.

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In an irony too rich, but also too unjust to savor, the University of Notre Dame is also joining the lawsuits. Perhaps Obama will return his honorary doctorate in protest?