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Bishop Jugis: 'A sad time in the United States'

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CHARLOTTE — Calling this a sad time in the United States, Bishop Peter J. Jugis delivered a strongly-worded homily in defense of religious liberty at St. Patrick Cathedral in Charlotte June 30.

The bishop's homily was part of the Fortnight For Freedom observance – a time for prayer, education and public witness from June 21 to July 4.

In his homily Bishop Jugis asked the congregation, "Can you imagine what the government is asking of us?" He then explained the contradiction between the U.S. Constitution, which allows religious institutions to teach about the evils of abortion, contraception and sterilization, while the U.S. government now requires those same institutions to pay for such services in their health insurance plans.

Pictured: Bishop Peter Jugis greets parishioners at St. Patrick Cathedral in Charlotte after he delivered his Fortnight For Freedom homily June 30. Calling this "a sad time in the United States," the bishop implored the federal government to allow churches, church-affiliated institutions and private employers that object to contraception to exercise their religious liberty by excluding contraceptive coverage in their health insurance plans. Listen to the full homily here.

At issue for the Church are guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that are being put in place as the country adopts the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. HHS guidelines for implementing the federal contraception mandate, requiring most employers to provide contraceptive coverage in employee health insurance plans – including many Church-affiliated institutions and private Catholic employers – go into effect Aug. 1.

On June 28, HHS extended the deadline for the mandatory contraception coverage to Jan. 1, 2014. That delay and some new wording in the guidelines are currently under study by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has led the fight against the implementation of the contraception mandate.

"It is just hard to believe that here in the United States of America that it has come to this, that the Church has to take the federal government to court," Bishop Jugis said.

He also lamented the fact that as we approach the Fourth of July holiday, in which we celebrate our independence from a tyrannical government, our religious freedom remains under attack.

Bishop Jugis compared the suffering of the Church during the assault on religious liberty to the sting of rejection that Christ experienced in the Samaritan village that was recounted in the Gospel reading at Mass.

He pointed out that unless the HHS rules are changed, Catholic hospitals, schools and Church-affiliated institutions will face severe fines that could force them to close.

070213-HHS-courthouse-familyHoly Angels parishioner Eric Moledor of Mount Airy and his family reflect in front of the federal courthouse in Charlotte following a prayer vigil for the Fortnight for Freedom July 2. More than 20 people prayed the rosary as part of the Fortnight for Freedom campaign. (Photo provided by Andrea Hines)The HHS rules are currently in litigation in several federal courts. Additionally, Catholic public policy organizations such as Catholic Voice North Carolina are attempting to influence policy through lobbying efforts such as contacting elected officials.

Bishop Jugis asked the faithful to pray for the restoration of religious liberty. He suggested attendance at daily Mass, recitation of the rosary and devotion to the Eucharist during a Holy Hour as things anyone could do in response to the government's actions.

The bishop concluded his homily by reiterating the fact that the government's contraception mandate infringes on the First Amendment guarantee of free exercise of religion, and he prayed that the Mass would strengthen all to more closely follow Jesus and His teachings.

— David Hains, director of communication for the Diocese of Charlotte

More online

Listen to Bishop Jugis' complete homily here.

Read more about the Fortnight for Freedom campaign and religious freedom issues in our special section.

FROM THE PASTORS

Read and listen to homilies posted regularly by pastors at  parishes within the Diocese of Charlotte: