Today, Catholics throughout the United States will begin to pray, reflect and take action in support of our right to freely express and practice our faith as part of the Fortnight for Freedom observance. For a second consecutive year, the U.S. Catholic Church has set aside this time leading up to Independence Day to draw attention to the need to resist the steady erosion of religious liberty in our country.
As the Church begins this prayerful effort, I am reminded of an inscription that Fr. Bihn and I saw during our recent trip to Rome at the Chapel of St. Columban. Within this chapel there is a mosaic of St. Columban and some of his monks, and a Latin expression which translated says, “If you take away liberty, you take away dignity.”
In reading this inscription, I could not help but reflect on these words and how they exemplify the current challenges our Church faces in many parts of the world to freely live and proclaim the Gospel. These struggles have occurred in every age and time of Faith. Many of these struggles have given us (and still give) the heroic witness of Saints and Martyrs, who refused to deny or compromise their Faith.
To be Catholic and American should not carry an inherent conflict. The Catholic Church and its faithful have worked tirelessly together with many public and faith-based organizations to care for the health and wellbeing of the poor and marginalized for generations. Catholic hospitals offer exceptional care to all within our communities, Catholic Charities feeds thousands and offer social services to the most vulnerable, and our parishes clothe and feed the hungry within their communities. Our Catholic faith obliges us to work together with and serve our fellow citizens for the common good of all. Communities of faith, including the Catholic Church, have played an essential role in making America a model of tolerance and freedom in a fractured world.
We are indeed fortunate to live in a nation that, from its beginnings, has valued religious liberty. However, these fundamental freedoms have begun to be eroded in several critical areas. For example, the Department of Health and Human Services has mandated that religious employers fund and facilitate health coverage that violates our deeply held beliefs, restricting the freedom of faith-based social service providers to continue serving their communities in a way that respects their beliefs. The HHS mandate is but one example of the erosion of the freedoms we take for granted.
Our faith and calling to serve our community greatly benefits public life. The growing threats to the American promise of religious freedom is threatening our right to freely practice our faith, care for our community and enhance the public good. Please join me and my brother Bishops in supporting the Fortnight For Freedom campaign, which runs from June 21 to July 4. For more information, please visit: www.fortnight4freedom.org.
+Bishop Kevin Vann
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.