In this Year of Faith, the Catholic Bishops of the United States have called for a nationwide effort to advance a movement for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty through prayer, penance, and sacrifice. Catholics across the nation are being encouraged to continue to pray for rebuilding a culture favorable to life and marriage and for increased protections of religious liberty.
This call to prayer is prompted by unprecedented challenges to the Church and the nation, particularly the HHS Mandate, which requires almost all employers, including Catholic employers, to pay for employees’ contraception, sterilization, and abortifacient drugs regardless of conscientious objections; and current trends in government and culture toward redefining marriage as the union of any two persons, ignoring marriage’s fundamental meaning and purpose as the universal institution that unites a man and a woman with each other and with the children born from their union.
The goal of this call to prayer is twofold: (1) to increase awareness of these challenges and (2) to build spiritual stamina and fortitude among the faithful so that we can be effective and joyful witnesses of faith, hope, and charity and agents of the New Evangelization.
This Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty began last year on the Feast of the Holy Family and will continue until the feast of Christ the King on November 24, 2013. It encourages Eucharistic Holy Hours, praying the Rosary, Prayers of the Faithful at Masses, fasting and abstinence from meat on Fridays, and a Fortnight for Freedom, which was observed last June/July.
For more information and resources on the Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty, please visit: www.usccb.org/pray
I am pleased to share with you that the Bishops of the United States are once again organizing the Fortnight for Freedom – a 14 day period of prayer, reflection and action to promote a greater understanding of religious liberty during the two weeks leading up to Independence Day from June 21st to July 4th.
In their 2012 statement on religious freedom: “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty” the Catholic Bishops of the United States outlined their concerns over threats to religious freedom, both at home and abroad. These threats continue today and have the potential to erode the religious liberty that serves as a cornerstone of our democracy; a right that every citizen enjoys and a right that each of us has a duty to protect.
Beginning on the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More and continuing until Independence Day, which highlights one of our country’s most treasured freedoms: the freedom to practice one’s religion without government interference, bishops in their own dioceses have again dedicated this time to signify the importance of defending religious freedom. As such, during this period of time, parishes and Catholic institutions are encouraged to provide prayer opportunities and catechetical resources to the faithful entrusted to their care so that in union with Catholic churches across the United States we will engage in a great national campaign of teaching and witness for religious liberty … working together to promote and protect religious freedom in our Country.
There will be many opportunities for us to join in an expression of unity on religious freedom here in the Diocese of Scranton. Parishes have been provided with a variety of resources to help achieve this. Additionally, resources are available below, through Catholic Television of the Diocese of Scranton and in the upcoming edition of The Catholic Light.
I especially welcome your participation in two Fortnight for Freedom events that will be held in Saint Peter’s Cathedral, Scranton: On Wednesday, June 26, at 12:10 p.m., we will host an Ecumenical Service of Prayer for Religious Freedom with representatives of Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant denominations in attendance; and on Sunday, June 30 at 12:15 p.m., I will celebrate a special Mass of Faith and Freedom.
Below this letter are links to various resources which provide information on this very important issue, including links to websites that enable you to easily contact your legislators so that you can urge them to protect religious liberty. Finally, you will see a Prayer for Religious Liberty that everyone can recite on a regular basis.
Thank you in advance for joining me in this effort to preserve and defend religious liberty.
Faithfully yours in Christ,
+ Joseph C. Bambera
Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton
Prayer for Religious Liberty
Almighty God, Father of all nations,
For freedom you have set us free in Christ Jesus (Gal 5:1).
We praise and bless you for the gift of religious liberty,
the foundation of human rights, justice, and the common good.
Grant to our leaders the wisdom to protect and promote our liberties;
By your grace may we have the courage to defend them, for ourselves and for all those who live in this blessed land.
We ask this through the intercession of Mary Immaculate, our patroness,
and in the name of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
with whom you live and reign, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC) and the Pennsylvania Catholic Health Association (PCHA) have sent a joint letter to Catholic colleges, universities and religious orders in the state urging them to submit comments to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Congress and the White House in protest of the mandate that violates our religious liberty. The PCC also asked its Catholic Advocacy Network to submit comments; you can become a member by visiting www.pacatholic.org and clicking on “Take Action: HHS Mandate”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Affordable Care Act, continues to demand coverage of sterilization, contraception and abortion-causing drugs as women’s preventative services. Religious ministries of service – such as charities, schools, health care facilities and institutions of higher education – are given, at best, second-class status under the law in the form of a still-murky “accommodation.”
As it stands the HHS mandate ignores our nation’s foundational freedoms of conscience and religion. The Church and its ministries have been told that we can call ourselves Catholic; we just can’t act like we are. The mission of all religious employers is threatened by these regulations, so every Catholic organization and individual should consider submitting comments to HHS, the White House and Congress. A unified response will send a clear message that we will not abandon our religious freedom.
Congress is currently considering legislation that would address this issue and HHS is holding an open comment period about its mandate until April 8, 2013. Your comments are needed. Even if you submitted comments in the past, please do so again. Click on this link and forward this message to your family and friends and visit www.pacatholic.org for more information.
Cardinal Urges Support For Health Care Conscience Rights Act
Choosing between religious integrity and participation in health care system unacceptable
Religious freedom, conscience rights foundational to American society
Conscience rights protections essential to Catholic ministries
WASHINGTON—Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, urged members of the U.S. House of Representatives to support the Health Care Conscience Rights Act of 2013.H.R. 940 was introduced by Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) on March 4; the bill has 66 co-sponsors.
“Protection for conscience rights in health care is of especially great importance to the Catholic Church, which daily contributes to the welfare of American society through a network of schools, social services, hospitals and assisted living facilities,” Cardinal O’Malley wrote in a March 8 letter to Congress. “These institutions, which have been part of the Church’s ministry since the earliest days of the Republic, arose from religious conviction. They provide a substantial savings to communities and states throughout the nation, and we believe they contribute to the common good.”
“The legal protections which allow us to fulfill our obligation to serve others, without compromising our religious or moral convictions, are essential to the continued vitality of these ministries,” he said.
Cardinal O’Malley wrote that “while those protections have long enjoyed bipartisan consensus, they are under greatly increased pressure today.” He cited the mandate for coverage of contraception, sterilization and abortifacient drugs and devices under the Affordable Care Act’s “preventive services” provision and referred representatives to a letter written by Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, who set forth the need for such legislation in greater detail.
“A failure to provide clear and enforceable protection for a right of conscience could undermine Americans’ access to quality health care. Providers of health care, as well as those who offer or purchase insurance, should not face an unacceptable choice between preserving their religious and moral integrity or participating in our health care system,” the cardinal wrote.
He closed by urging support for the bill and the incorporation of its policies into upcoming “must-pass” legislation.
The full text of Cardinal O’Malley’s letter may be found at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/upload/Letter_to_Congress_Cardinal_O-Malley_Mar8_2013l.pdf and Archbishop Lori’s February 15 letter is available at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/upload/Letter-from-Archbishop-Lori-to-Congress.pdf
Prayer for Protection of Conscience Rights in Health Care
Father, in Jesus our Lord, we praise and thank you for your most precious gift of human life and for forming us in your divine image. Keep us, the dwelling place of your most Holy Spirit, ever healthy in body and soul.
Jesus, Divine Healer, pour your grace upon all those afflicted with illness or disease. Protect from all harm those who are vulnerable due to sickness, suffering, frailty, poverty or age, whether elderly or unborn.
Holy Spirit, touch the hearts of all who serve human life in medicine and science, so they will protect the dignity of each person, from conception to natural death, and remain faithful advocates of all entrusted to their care.
Grant those who are called to serve as health care providers renewed conviction in their ministry, and increased wisdom to treat the whole person, and not merely the illness.
Protect the right of health care providers to serve their patients without being forced to violate their moral and religious convictions. Guard them against discrimination, that they might be free to follow you faithfully while fulfilling their professional duties.
Grant our lawmakers the wisdom and courage to uphold conscience rights for those called to the ministry of healing, and help them resist the pressure to become collaborators in the culture of death.
Give us strength to be bold and joyful witnesses to the truth that every human life is sacred.
In your goodness, guard our freedom to live out our faith and to follow you in all that we do.
Father, we ask this in Jesus’ name, through the Holy Spirit. Amen.