THE BISHOP'S VOICE: Fortnight for Freedom

By MOST REV. MICHAEL J. SHERIDAN, S.Th.D.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Below is the text from a video Bishop Michael Sheridan recorded to be played at all parishes in advance of the Fortnight for Freedom campaign which begins June 21.]

Bishop Sheridan My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I want to thank your pastor for allowing me to speak to you today on a most important matter.

As most of you know, the Catholic Church in the United States is engaged in a fight to preserve our first and most cherished freedom — our religious freedom. This is a fight that we did not start, nor is it a fight that we relish having to carry on; but the fact is that our federal government has made an unprecedented — indeed, almost unimaginable — intrusion into the mission and ministries of the Catholic Church, and we cannot and must not allow this intrusion to be sustained.

Beginning this August, nearly every health insurance program in the country will be bound by federal law to provide so-called "reproductive health care services" to women. These services include sterilization and contraceptives — even contraceptives that serve as abortion-inducing drugs. Catholic institutions are being given an extra year before providing these services — an extra year "to figure out how we Catholics are to violate our consciences" — in the words of Cardinal Timothy Dolan. The administration has been firm in saying that there will be no rescinding of this mandate, even if that mandate violates the consciences of countless Americans, Catholics as well as non-Catholics. As we bishops of the United States have said publicly and often: We cannot and we will not comply with this rule that strikes at the heart of religious liberty and is, we believe, patently unconstitutional.

Friends, I cannot overstate the seriousness and urgency of this situation. If this mandate goes into effect, as we are told it will, most of our Catholic institutions and apostolic works will be affected. Our universities and other Catholic schools, our hospitals and our Catholic Charities will be compelled to act in violation of our consciences or suffer the consequences. Again, we cannot and we will not comply. It is perhaps unthinkable to most of us that this attack on religious freedom could take place in a country that has cherished religious freedom for more than two centuries. But it is happening right now; and, if we do not wake up and act decisively, we risk the decimation of our Catholic institutions in the United States.

For this reason, the Catholic bishops of the United States have called for a "Fortnight for Freedom," two weeks of intense prayer, fasting, education and action on behalf of religious liberty. The Fortnight for Freedom goes from Thursday, June 21 until July 4, the anniversary of our American Independence. I hope that you have already received information on the Fortnight from the current issue of The Colorado Catholic Herald or from the Herald website (www.coloradocatholicherald.com) and from your pastor. Many of the opportunities for prayer and education will come from your own parish. Here are some of the activities that I would encourage all of you to consider.

On Wednesday, June 27, I am hosting a special panel presentation and discussion of religious liberty and the current threats to that liberty. This panel will be held at the Gates Common Room of Colorado College, from 7 until 8:45 p.m. and will feature five very qualified speakers. Again, that’s Wednesday, June 27. There is no charge, and I pray that many of you will take advantage of this special event.

I also ask all of you to join with me in praying in a very special way throughout the Fortnight for Freedom. Make use of the prayer for religious liberty that has been made available to all of you on prayer cards. If possible, attend Mass daily during these two weeks. I would strongly suggest fasting, as well as abstaining from meat on the two Fridays of the Fortnight. And please contact your federal legislators, and let them know that you count on them to help preserve our first and most cherished liberty. Other activities within your parish are being scheduled by your pastor and his pastoral team.
 
Once again I thank you for your attention. May God bless you, our church and our country.