Monday, October 17, 2011

Archbishop Dolan Forms New Committee on Religious Liberty

On September 29th of this year, Archbishop Dolan, current President of the USCCB, sent a letter to his fellow bishops.  At their June plenary session the bishops united to form an important new committee to defend the American right to live according to conscience.  In recent years there has been a steady increase in the amount of attacks on our ability to follow Church teaching and our bishops believe it is time to act.  At this meeting Archbishop Dolan and the Conference addressed an:

Urgent need to safeguard religious liberty inherent in the dignity of the human person. We recognized our need to protect this foundational principle of our country…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, and that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

He went on to say that our religious liberties are, “increasingly and in unprecedented ways under assault in America. This is most particularly so in an increasing number of federal government programs or policies that would infringe upon the right of conscience of people of faith or otherwise harm the foundational principle of religious liberty.
As shepherds of over 70 million U.S. citizens we share a common and compelling responsibility to proclaim the truth of religious freedom for all, and so to protect our people from this assault which now appears to grow at an ever accelerating pace in ways most of us could never have imagined. “

In response Archbishop Dolan announced the establishment of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty which will be chaired by Bishop William Lori.  This committee “will work closely with national organizations, charities, ecumenical and interreligious partners and scholars to form a united and forceful front in defense of religious freedom in our nation.”  He enumerates the most serious threats to religious liberty Catholic Americans are facing including:

The federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued regulations that would mandate the coverage of contraception (including abortifacients) and sterilization in all private health insurance plans. There is an exception for certain religious employers, but, to borrow from Sr. Carol Keehan, DC, President of The Catholic Health Association, it would cover only the ―parish housekeeper. And the exception does nothing to protect insurers or individuals with religious or moral objections to the mandate.”

The federal Department of Justice has ratcheted up its attack on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as an act of bigotry… in July, the Department started filing briefs actively attacking DOMA’s constitutionality, claiming that supporters of the law could only have been motivated by bias and prejudice. If the label of ―bigot sticks to us—especially in court—because of our teaching on marriage, we’ll have church-state conflicts for years to come as a result.”

The Justice Department has also disappointed us in the critically important “ministerial exception”… (which provides) a strong protection of the right of religious groups to choose their ministers without government interference…the Department attacked the very existence of the exception.”

“The New York legislature passed, and the Governor signed, a law redefining marriage, with only a very narrow religious exemption. Already, county clerks face legal action for refusing to participate in same-sex unions, and gay rights advocates are publicly emphasizing how little religious freedom protection people and groups will enjoy under the new law.

Stressing the importance of this new committee’s work the Archbishop writes, “Never before have we faced this kind of challenge to our ability to engage in the public square as people of faith and as a service provider.  If we do not act now, the consequence will be grave. “

Finally Archbishop Dolan urges the bishops to prayer.  The issuance of this letter on the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Rafael ought to direct our prayer.  St. Michael, whose name means, “Who is like God?” reminds us to walk in humility.  If we enter the public square with St. Michael’s motto, we will speak the truth in love, knowing God is still on His throne.  St. Gabriel, named for “God’s strength”, encourages us not to rely on our own reserves, but on God.  The battle is the Lord’s.  He will fight it through us, for the good of all.  St. Rafael, bearer of “God’s remedy”, can bring healing to our nation so wounded by the loss of the dignity of the human person.   Pope Benedict XVI’s so named “dictatorship of relativism” has wrought the wounds, but they are not beyond God’s power to heal. 

Let us wield the weapon of prayer with all authority as Christians and Soldiers of Christ!  Our bishops, and our country, need us as never before.  We need only remember to:

Grow strong in the Lord, with the strength of His power.  Put on the full armor…or you will not be able to put up any resistance… or stand your ground even though you exert yourselves to the full.  So stand your ground...In all your prayer and entreaty keep praying in the Spirit on every possible occasion.   From Ephesians 6:10-18
It does not matter if the tide seems to be turned against us.  It does not matter if our opponents are well connected and well financed.  It matters only that we continue to pray and be willing to be God’s instruments for the good of our beloved nation.  Many souls are at stake.  Please pray!