Diocese responds to the Fortnight for Freedom call
By MICHELLE DELANEY, Globe staff reporter
Fortnight for Freedom officially kicked off throughout the country on June 21. The campaign, called to action by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, calls for two weeks of prayer, education and action in support of religious freedom, freedom of conscience and religious liberty in the U.S.
Bishop Walker Nickless celebrated noon Mass at Cathedral of the Epiphany on June 22 for the cause. Father Merlin Schrad, Father Steven McLoud, Father Brent Lingle and Msgr. Mark Duchaine concelebrated. Deacon Richard Roder and Deacon David Lopez assisted.
Bishop Nickless began Mass by thanking all of the priests, deacons and everyone who came to Mass and made the special effort to witness and celebrate the Eucharist while praying for religious freedom. Over 150 people attended the Mass.
June 22 marked the Feast Days of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher. More resigned his position of Lord Chancellor under King Henry VIII and wrote in defense of the church and opposition to Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne. Refusing to give his allegiance to the king and defy the Catholic Church, More was beheaded.
St. John Fisher was a bishop and eventually was made cardinal during King Henry’s rule. Fisher also actively opposed the king’s divorce and refused to take the oath of succession. Fisher was also beheaded for his allegiance to the Catholic Church.
During his homily, Bishop Nickless spoke about the sacrifices More and Fisher were willing to make for their religion.
“They were not about to give up their faith in God or the teachings of the Catholic Church for the sake of government demands,” said Bishop Nickless.
Bishop Nickless went on to ask if people today would be willing to sacrifice for their religion. He spoke about the U.S. bishops meeting in Atlanta held earlier in the month and read an excerpt from John Garvey’s, the president of the Catholic University of America, address.
Garvey’s speech touched on how people today have united to protect the freedom of religion because it is wrong to coerce beliefs. More and Fisher’s story show what can happen when religious protections are not there.
“My brothers and sisters, something serious is going on concerning religious freedom in our country,” said Bishop Nickless. “As a part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, the United Sates Department of Health and Human Services forces virtually all private political plans nationwide to provide coverage for sterilization and contraception, including abortion drugs.”
He went on to explain how the exception for religious employers doesn’t make any difference because it forces others to go against church teachings.
“This is not about access to contraception, this is not about religious freedom for Catholics, this is not about the church wanting to force anybody to do anything, it is instead about the federal government forcing the church, consisting of its faithful, and all but a few of its institutions, to act against church teaching,” said Bishop Nickless.
He explained that this is about defending the First Amendment, freedom of religion.
The worldwide Catholic community will spend the next two weeks, until Independence Day, praying, fasting and giving penance for religious freedom.
During Mass, prayers were offered for the president and all the government officials that they may uphold religious liberty in the United States.
Rita Held, a member of Cathedral of the Epiphany, attended the Mass because she believes in the importance of the issue.
“This is probably one of the most important issues in my lifetime as a Catholic in this country,” said Held. “If you don’t have the freedom to express your faith, life is a horror.”
She plans to attend as many Fortnight for Freedom events as she can and expressed a desire to make it to Washington D.C. for the rally at the end of the fortnight.
“Our lives must reflect what we believe. We are called everyday to live what we believe. We just can’t sit idly by and let our freedoms and rights be slowly striped away from us. It is time to make our voices heard. It is time to follow our faith and to follow our informed conscience. It is time to pray and to act boldly stating clearly we will not, we cannot comply,” said Bishop Nickless.
Several parishes and other groups have held various prayer services for this cause. For instance, an event was held in support of the Fortnight for Freedom campaign at Trinity Heights.
On June 24, there was a gathering at 7 p.m. at the Marian Center at Trinity Heights. During the event over 100 people responded to the bishop’s call to pray, become educated, discuss and be active in relation to the HHS mandate.
Father Dennis Meinen led the liturgy of the hours and Deacon Richard Billings gave a thorough explanation of the HHS mandate and the effect it would have on the Catholic Church.
“Perhaps the greatest result of it is that knowledge is power and we are not going to get that knowledge from the normal media outlets,” said Larry Walsh, a member of the spiritual life committee at Trinity Heights.
Walsh also commented on how they plan on heeding the call of Cardinal Raymond Burke who said people have a serious duty to vote and to recall that the most basic right people have is the right to life, freedom of conscience and religious freedom.
|Back to top|
|Headlines | Home|