Our First, Most Cherished Liberty

A favor:  this year, on the Fourth of July, will you not only shoot off fireworks, but ring the bells at every church in the archdiocese at noon as we conclude our national Fortnight of Prayer for Religious Freedom?

This promising endeavor will begin this Thursday, June 21.

The cause is as old as the country we love, whose independence we’ll celebrate on July 4:  religious freedom.

It’s not new at all:  Our first bishop, John Carroll — whose cousin, Charles, signed the Declaration of Independence — constantly urged the tiny Catholic flock of his time to pray in thanksgiving for the freedom promised us to exercise our faith without harassment from anybody, government included, and to pray for its protection.

Nor is it uniquely American, for that matter.  Just look at the saints whose feasts we’ll celebrate over the two-weeks of prayer:

St. John Fisher (June 22), who refused to render the king the allegiance that only belonged to God, and was murdered for it;

St. Thomas More (June 22), who would not violate his properly formed conscience to appease the crown, and lost his head;

St. John the Baptist (June 24), who would not disobey God’s law about marriage, and was beheaded by King Herod;

SS. Peter and Paul (June 29), who were martyred by Caesar for not worshipping him as a god. 

The First Martyrs of Rome (June 30), slaughtered in the first generation of Christians for not genuflecting to the emperor, but only to the Lord.

St. Thomas the Apostle (July 3), whose defense of the basic freedom of faith led to his martyrdom in India.

What people of every faith longed for — the liberty to worship God and live out their religious convictions without oppression — finally came to be fulfilled in the country whose 236th birthday we will observe this July 4th.

I invite you to join this Fortnight of Prayer June 21 – July 4, thanking God for this first of our God-given rights — freedom of religion — and to ask the Lord to preserve it in the country we love as our earthly home.

Check the Archdiocese of New York website and the USCCB website for prayers and activities.  I trust every parish will encourage this promising endeavor, as we will at the cathedral.

12 Responses to “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty”

  1. Peter & Claire Brockmann says:

    We’ll eagerly participate.

  2. Irene says:

    And we also have the very exciting Nuns On The Bus effort complementing the Fortnight; with “Nuns on the Bus: Nuns Drive for Faith, Family and Fairness” the Sisters are trying to insert Catholic social teachings into our budget policy debates. The increased voice of Catholics in the public square is a good thing, I think.

  3. I will be attending events in my diocese, as well as offering personal prayer, throughout this fortnight. The connection between these two weeks and the feast days of martyrs is a blessing as well as a warning, for the events that led to these men and women giving their lives for Christ could easily happen even in our day and age if religious freedoms are not respected – or worse, taken away.

    God bless you, Your Eminence.

  4. Nancy and Al Harradine says:

    We will be supporting our Bishops and Roman Catholic Church. Very sad our pastor will have none of it and the people of Coxsackie St Mary’s remain uninformed.

  5. Rita says:

    My earliest personal recollection of religious liberty/ freedom controversies relate to school prayer decisions in the early 1960s. Since then, there have been many squabbles about this issue, which have been resolved, sometimes in the courts, to the benefit (although not always full satisfaction) of all. The histrionic tone of the USCCB statement and invocation of martyrs are unjustified and, in the current political climate, inappropriately inflammatory.

    Two years ago there was a controversy about building an Islamic center/ mosque in lower Manhattan. While some political and religious leaders (to my recollection no Catholic bishops) supported the right of the sponsors to go forward, on the basis of a clear First Amendment Right, then-Archbishop Dolan, offered to mediate the dispute between the sponsors and those who opposed the project. Mediation is, of course, a process of conciliation and compromise. It is disappointing to me that Cardinal Dolan apparently sees no need for a conciliatory attitude in our current controversies.

  6. AndyP/Doria2 says:

    An honest Catholic tells how to win this war. And yes Your Eminence, this is war. I never thought that in my 58 years I would ever see this in America. Please, let’s get the smoke of satan out of the sanctuary.

    Obama Sandbags the Archbishop
    Jan 312012 By Patrick J. Buchanan

    At the end of Sunday mass at the church this writer attends in Washington, D.C., the pastor asked the congregation to remain for a few minutes.

    Then, on the instructions of Cardinal Archbishop Donald Wuerl, the pastor proceeded to read a letter.

    In the letter, the Church denounced the Obama administration for ordering all Catholic schools, hospitals and social services to provide, in their health insurance coverage for employes, free contraceptives, free sterilizations and free “morning-after” pills.

    Parishioners were urged to contact their representatives in Congress to bring about a reversal of President Obama’s new policy.

    Now, not only is this a battle the Church must fight, it is a battle the Church can win if it has the moral stamina to say the course.

    In forcing the Church to violate its own principles, Obama has committed an act of federal aggression, crossing the line between church and state to appease his ACLU and feminist allies, while humiliating the Catholic bishops.

    Should the Church submit, its moral authority in America would disappear.

    Now, undeniably, the church milquetoast of past decades that refused to discipline pro-abortion Catholics allowed the impression to form that while the hierarchy may protest, eventually it will go along to get along with a Democratic Party that was once home to most Catholics.

    Obama’s problem today is that not only is he forcing the Church to violate her conscience, he dissed the highest prelate in America.

    In November, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, held what he describes as an “extraordinarily friendly” meeting with Obama at the White House.

    The president assured the archbishop of his respect for the Church, and the archbishop came away persuaded Obama would never force the Church to adopt any policy that would violate her principles.

    Ten days ago, Obama sandbagged the archbishop

    He informed Cardinal-designate Dolan by phone that, with the sole concession of the Church being given an extra year, to August 2013, to comply, the new policy, as set down by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, will be imposed. All social and educational institutions of the Catholic church will offer health insurance covering birth control, or face fines.

    “In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences,” said Archbishop Dolan, who went on:

    “To force American citizens to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their health care is literally unconscionable. … This represents a challenge and a compromise of our religious liberty.”

    Where do Obama and Sebelius get the power to do this?

    The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed into law on March 23, 2010, the colloquial name for which is “Obamacare.”

    NARAL Pro-Choice America is celebrating the new policy. Planned Parenthood’s president, Cecile Richards, calls it a “health care issue … based on what’s best for women’s health.” Others have argued that many Catholic women practice birth control.

    But that Catholics choose to ignore doctrine does not justify the U.S. government imposing on Catholic institutions a policy that violates Catholic teaching.

    Even Washington Post liberal E.J. Dionne, in a Jan. 30 column titled “Obama’s Breach of Faith,” charges that the president “threw his progressive Catholic allies under the bus. …

    “Speaking as an American liberal who believes that religious pluralism imposes certain obligations on government … the Church’s leaders had a right to ask for broader relief from a contraception mandate that would require it to act against its own teachings.”

    Why did Obama do it?

    Facing a close race for a second term, Obama chose not to antagonize his left. Yet he must have known that siding with them meant leaving Archbishop Dolan with egg all over his face. Obama, calculatedly, came down on the side of those he believes to be more crucial to his re-election.

    This affront should tell the Catholic hierarchy, if they did not already know, where they stand in the party of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Kathleen Sebilius. And where they sit — in the back of the bus.

    Yet if the bishops will look upon this crisis of conscience, this insult, as an opportunity, they can effect its reversal and recapture a measure of the moral authority they have lately lost.

    Not only should the bishops file suit in federal court against the president and Sebelius for violation of the constitutional principle of separation of church and state, they should inform the White House that no bishop will give an invocation at the Democratic Convention.

    Then, they should inform the White House that in the last two weeks of the 2012 campaign, priests in every parish will read from the pulpit at Sunday mass a letter denouncing Obama as anti-Catholic for denying the Church its right to live according to its beliefs.

    If Obama loses the Catholic vote, he loses the election.

    The White House will come around, fast. Rely upon it.

    Link – http://buchanan.org/blog/obama-sandbags-the-archbishop-4996

  7. Bruno Bianchi says:

    Odd. Last I heard, not too many Catholics have been martyred in this country lately for expressing their religious beliefs.

    Wouldn’t a more appropriate title for your campaign be “A Fortnight of Politicking to be Able to Take Government Money Without Complying with the Government’s Rules Applied to Every Other Organization that Takes that Money?”

    Your whole campaign is transparent as disingenuous lobbying and all it will succeed in doing in the long run is alienating more people from the RC Church. If what you want is a small church just for the Rick Santorum acolytes in this country — keep it up.

  8. Jerry Colby says:

    After watching Cardinal Wuerl on EWTN with Raymond Arroyo, I am even more depressed with the leadership in the Roman (In America) Catholic Church. To make this short and direct here it is. Cardinal Wuerl said that this stand for religious freedom was a the Lay peoples fight. I totally disagree!! This is the Bishops fight, and every Priest and religious that took VOWS!! Jesus sent out the 72 Disciples telling them to preach the truth of Salvation to the ends of the earth. Jesus did not say to only teach if people followed them!! I say this to all the Bishops, this is your fight!! I will take care of my family regardless of what the government says, my family will follow the Roman Catholic Church’s teachings. We as Lay people will defend our Church and her Bishops, but they have to ask us to join them!! Not fight without them!! You believe this is an attack on the teachings of the Church? Then YOU challenge it. I will not go to another meeting or rally for the CHURCH unless the LOCAL Bishop is willing to stand out in front of us leading us. The Bishops were called to pass the teachings on, and to make sure they are not wiped away by any person , Government, or rouge Bishops. So when you plan a rally or speak to us at Mass, don’t shrink from YOUR responsibility!1 You want us to HELP you and the foundation of the CHURCH?? JUST ASK US face to face, I will die for my Church and her leaders, but only if they too, are willing to stand with us at the rallies, protests and be the leader they were called to be. You just have to say it this way. As your Bishop I know we have Catholics that don’t agree with or practice all the teachings of the church, but I ask you to put your personal issues aside, I need you to help me to keep the freedom of religion and how we as Catholics practice this religion between you and your church and NOT dictated by your government. I as your Bishop I swore to God himself i would do this by myself, but I really need your help. Look the people in the eye’s and ask us to help you wherever you see us, call us on the phone, stop us after church, speak to us and stop shutting yourself in, WE NEED LEADERS!! AND YES THEY MUST HAVE A COLLAR!!!

  9. Deacon Andy says:

    Viva Cristo Rey!

  10. John G. says:

    Your Eminence,

    Tolling church bells at noon is nothing new. For senior members of the Church, we remember when every parish tolled the Angelus at noon. I would bet that very few, if any, Catholic grammar school pupils today would know what the “Angelus” represents. Perhaps the recitation of the Angelus should be revived. So should the zeal of Catholics for their faith. We need a “Revival” now.

  11. John G. says:

    Your Eminence,

    We Catholics are now in our second week of Prayers for Religious Freedom as requested by the USCCB. These special prayers are scheduled to end on Independence Day, July 4th, the termination date of the “Fortnight For Freedom”. Why are these prayers ending? Will not the “critical time” still exist after July 4th?

    Have you considered continuing the special prayer – “O God Our Creator” or a similar but perhaps shorter prayer in the Mass Petitions of every Mass until the “critical situation” ends?

    I have written to you in the past on this subject. I am happy that we are praying for our Nation for a fortnight. I merely wonder why we should not pray every single day for the United States of America.


  12. Nate Easley says:

    Let’s see–for a few days, the Catholic Church was required to assume health care costs that covered lay workers in the Church access to birth control. Catholic Bishops then declared war upon the United States of America, claiming that President Obama himself–and all by himself–was denying American Catholics the freedom to worship as they pleased. Then, that requirement to pay health care costs for birth control was lifted. But the Catholic Bishops continued their Jihad against President Obama, going so far as to declare him a worse threat to religious freedom than both Hitler and Stalin. And now it appears that the Catholic Church is taking its marching orders from Pat Buchanan, who adheres more closely to Nazi and Stalinist principles than President Obama ever could.

    Let me make a couple of points here: First, the Church got what it wanted, and no longer is responsible for health care costs that cover birth control. Second, not every woman who uses a birth control medication does so to avoid conception. Many women have legitimate health concerns that require the use of a birth control type medication. So, tell me now, in what ways is President Obama denying Catholics the right to worship? He isn’t. A moderately intelligent six year old can understand this. So why are the bishops pursuing this jihad so relentlessly?

    It’s interesting that the Catholic Bishops–like the rest of the radical right wing–are so adamantly “pro-life” until a child is actually born. Then, the bishops, just as the rest of the radical tea party republicans, don’t want to support the care, including health care, these most vulnerable souls require. Otherwise, they’d quit the silliness that is their war against President Obama–who, by the way, worked with and for the Catholic Church when he was a community organizer in Chicago–and start speaking out against the cruel and inhumane policies that will take effect if the republican economic plan is ever put in effect. Under those policies known as the Ryan Budget, supported by republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, take effect, infants and children will not be the only ones to suffer. The Ryan budget is designed to rip away our social safety net while lining the pockets of American billionaires and our most profitable corporations. Yet–the only outrage over such a diabolical plan is expressed by a few Catholic nuns traveling the nation abord a bus. Not a word of protest from our revered bishops.

    If the Catholic Bishops are so concerned about right-to-life issues, where is their outrage against Mitt Romney who has invested heavily and reaps huge profits from the abortion industry?

    I’ve heard not one word from Catholic Bishops about Mitt Romney–who used to be “pro-choice” until it suited him politically to become “pro-life” and “anti-abortion”–investing $75 million in Stericycle, a medical waste disposal company. What exactly does Stericycle dispose? Aborted fetuses.

    Romney has reaped over $49 million in profits from his investment in a company that disposes of aboted fetuses. But not one word about that from the Catholic Bishops. Not one Catholic Bishop has compared Romney to Hitler or Stalin. Why is that? And why aren’t all Catholics in America sickened and disgusted and angered by this? Afterall it should be obvious that Mitt Romney does not invest in companies in order to create jobs for Americans. He does not invest on the basis of family values. He does not invest on the basis of his moral values. Rather, he invests simply and solely to make money and increase his personal fortune.

    Why have the Catholic Bishops not railed against Mitt Romney as an enemy of the Catholic Church? Why haven’t the Catholic Bishops demanded an accounting of Romney’s secret and numerous investments that might very well conflict with the teachings and beliefs of the Catholic Church? What might the Catholic Bishops have invested in the election of Willard Mitt Romney as President of the United States?

    No one makes an investment in anything, except to realize some kind of gain. The Catholic Bishops want all Catholics in America to go “all in” to ensure a radical, right wing political agenda is adopted in the United States. What do our bishops have to gain from this? Why aren’t other Catholics asking this question?

    One more–marginally related point–I look at most of our Catholic Bishops, such as Jenky and Dolan, and I notice that they live lavish lifestyles. They are well-fed, well-housed, and fiscally secure. They are aligning themselves with the most politically powerful and wealthiest Americans, and banding against a President and administration that endeavors daily to improve the lives of middle class and poor Americans. Why is that?