Catholics around the country rally for religious freedom
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Catholics in dioceses across the country made their stand for religious freedom in a series of rallies June 8.
Organized by the Pro-Life Action League in Chicago and Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, based in Michigan, the rallies took place on the same day in an estimated 145 cities and all together drew about 63,000 participants.
The focus of the rallies has been the federal Health and Human Services mandate that would require the Catholic Church and other religious employers to provide free health insurance coverage for contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs and sterilizations- services they deem immoral.
Pictured: Karli Snell, Monica Deardorff and Emily Sturgeon, members of the pro-life youth group at St. John Cantius Parish in Chicago, join hundreds for the "Stand Up For Religious Freedom Rally" June 8 in Chicago. Rallies held across the nation took aim at the go vernment's HHS mandate that will require most employers to cover contraception and sterilization procedures in their health plans. The nation's Catholic bishops have repeatedly criticized the mandate. (CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)
A pair of "Stand Up for Religious Freedom" rallies drew about 200 each to the federal courthouses in both Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
The mandate that employers who do not meet a narrow religious exemption be required to pay for such coverage for all employees is "an unprecedented intrusion of the state" into the workings of religious institutions, said Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami at the Miami rally; he also attended the Fort Lauderdale event.
Archbishop Wenski said a trend in U.S. society today seeks to marginalize people of faith, to silence their voices in the public square.
"Religion is personal. But it should never be private. As people of faith we have a right to make our proposals," he said, noting that the purpose of the so-called "separation of church and state" is to "protect the church from the state, not the separation of religion from society or of society from religious belief."
A Mass at St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral in Trenton, N.J., was the starting point for a rally outside the Statehouse. A standing-room-only crowd estimated at more than 900 packed the cathedral.
"We come to pray for an end to this unwarranted and unprecedented governmental assault on religious freedom, created by the unwarranted and unprecedented intrusion of the federal government upon our ability as a people of faith to be who we are and to believe, freely and without restriction, as God has invited us to believe, has called us to believe," said Bishop David M. O'Connell of Trenton in his homily.
"But let's be clear, an opponent strikes only when that opponent senses or perceives weaknesses in the one to be assaulted. An opponent triumphs only when the opponent discovers that such perceived weaknesses are real," he said.
"I worry that we ourselves, within the church, may have set the stage for the 'radical secularism' of which Pope Benedict (XVI) has spoken by the way we have failed to hand on our Catholic faith, whole and entire, to this and to the next generation," he added.
Citing statistics that, among other things, put the number of Catholics who go to weekly Mass at 25 percent and those who believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist at under 50 percent, Bishop O'Connell said that "the fault, as Shakespeare wrote, may not be 'in our stars, but in ourselves.'"
An estimated 1,700 turned out for an interfaith "Stand Up for Religious Freedom" rally in Santa Ana, Calif.
"This is everyone's fight," Rabbi Dov Fischer told the crowd. "There is one common theme that unites us: A religion is not touchable by the government."
"All men are created. We're all anxious to get to the 'equal' part -- but all men are created," said another speaker, Greg Weiler, president of the St. Thomas More Society of Orange County. "The bottom line is that there is a God, and I'm not him."
Weiler added, "Where do your rights come from? Not from President Obama or even from President Reagan -- but from God."
Another rally, this time outside the federal building in downtown Detroit, drew an estimated 1,000 people.
"It is no longer enough for us to just be good Catholics or good Christians; God needs saints. It is time for us to take a stand," Auxiliary Bishop Michael J. Byrnes of Detroit told the gathering.
Felician Sister Rose Marie Kujawa, president of Madonna University in suburban Livonia, said the Felician-sponsored university is among the church-related institutions that would be required to provide the objectionable coverage under the mandate.
"Our question now is: If our government can withdraw our right to religious liberty, what is the next freedom that can be suspended?" she said. Perhaps the government will also find freedom of speech or freedom of the press inconvenient, she suggested, asking, "If one freedom can be swept under the carpet, why not others?"
In Green Bay, Wis., a large crowd filled the Brown County Court House Plaza.
"It's time for us to stand up and stand together to call people's attention to what's happening in our country, which is so precious," Bishop David L. Ricken told the crowd. "This is an act of solidarity where we are saying, 'wake up people' because these rights can crumble and be taken away from us very fast and almost underneath our own eyes. So we have to stand up and have people listen."
He closed his talk by encouraging people to take part in the "fortnight for freedom" called for by the U.S. Catholic bishops June 21 to July 4. Events are being sponsored in all U.S. Catholic dioceses.
Another thousand people stood outside the federal building in downtown Phoenix amid sweltering temperatures for a midday rally that took aim against the HHS mandate.
"Authentic health care prevents disease, saves lives and offers medical support to all, including unborn children and their mothers," said Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix. "Authentic health care does not kill anyone. It seeks first of all to do no harm."
Catholic obstetrician-gynecologist William Chavira told the crowd that life and liberty are under attack and that he objected to the government's attempt to interfere with his rights.
"I will not stand for it ... for a government entity to impose what they define as religion or the practice of medicine on me. I will not tolerate it," he said.
At a rally in Boston, Raymond Flynn, former mayor of Boston and a onetime U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, spoke of the HHS mandate "causing a serious rift between the Democratic Party and Catholics -- and people of all faiths, for that matter."
Still, Flynn added, "despite what you hear from the media and some politicians, this is not about access to contraception; it is about the principle of whether the federal government can force religious organizations to take actions that violate their own faith and their own conscience."
Flynn said, "You can't imagine how I felt when I saw my longtime friend Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York city filing a legal challenge against the Obama administration for their discriminatory policies against religious institutions in America. I am proud of Cardinal Dolan, but ashamed that this administration has let it come to his.
"Nobody would have thought that this could have been imaginable 25 years ago. The Catholic Church suing the White House for violations of religious liberties? Unthinkable! What happened to separation of church and state?"
— Catholic News Service
Patron saints of familiesThere's a saint for everyone, and families are no different. Here are a few noteworthy examples for your family to learn more about. There is the familiar and beloved St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus, and St. Francis of Assisi, who's on everyone's...
Reflections on St. PeterPeter the fishermanAfter Jesus, Peter is the figure best known and most frequently cited in the New Testament writings: he is mentioned 154 times with the nickname of Pétros, "rock," the Greek translation of the Aramaic name Jesus gave him directly;...
Pope Francis on the Year of FaithPope Francis spoke about the Year of Faith in his audience with representatives of the Churches and Ecclesial Communities, and other religions March 20: "I begin my apostolic ministry in this year that my venerated predecessor, Pope Benedict...
As pope, Benedict worked to promote understanding of Vatican IIVATICAN CITY — On Feb. 14, in one of the last public appearances of his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI spoke to the clergy of Rome about his experiences at the Second Vatican Council, which he had attended as an expert consultant half a century...
People around world pledge to say rosary daily during Year of FaithEASTON, Mass. — The Family Rosary division of Holy Cross Family Ministries in Easton has gathered more than 80,000 pledges from people around the globe who said they would pray the rosary daily during the 2012-13 Year of Faith. The pledges,...
A culture of lifeIn 2013 our country observes a shameful anniversary: marking 40 years of a "culture of death" that began when the U.S. Supreme Court, in Roe v. Wade, struck down all state laws restricting abortion. Since the advent of "legalized" abortion,...
The Fathers of the Church
Lives of the Saints
St. Mark the Evangelist's feast day celebrated on April 25St. Mark is the patron of St. Mark Church in Huntersville, which was dedicated in 2009. (File, Catholic News Herald)St. Mark, the Evangelist, is the author of the second Gospel and the patron saint of notaries. He wrote the Gospel in Greek for the Gentile...
St. Damien of Molokai's life of sacrifice remembered May 10The Church will remember St. Damien of Molokai May 10. The Belgian priest sacrificed his life and health to become a spiritual father to the victims of leprosy quarantined on a Hawaiian island. Joseph de Veuser, who later took the name Damien in religious...
'Oracle of Palestine' St. Epiphanius of Salamis celebrated May 12On May 12 the Church honors St. Epiphanius of Salamis, an early monk, bishop and Church Father known for his extensive learning and defense of Catholic teachings in the fourth century. During a 2007 visit with the Orthodox Archbishop of Cyprus, Pope...
St. Katharine Drexel has local connectionOn March 3, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Katharine Drexel, a Philadelphia heiress who abandoned her family's fortune to found an order of sisters dedicated to serving the impoverished African American and Native American populations...
St. Bede known for scholarship and holiness, honored May 25The Church will celebrate the feast of St. Bede May 25. The English priest, monk and scholar is sometimes known as "the Venerable Bede" for his combination of personal holiness and intellectual brilliance. Bede was born during 673 near the...
- Read the Catechism in a year: A little to read every day, emailed each morning during the Year of Faith
- USCCB: Stories, videos and more about the Year of Faith
- Annusfidei.va: Vatican's Year of Faith website
- Catholic Relief Services: Features and stories about Year of Faith
- My Year of Faith App: Daily prayers, reflections and thoughts
- Video Catechism for Teens: A free online resource for youths and young adults
- Weekly video series: “C4: Ignite Your Catholic Faith”
- OnceCatholic.org: Geared for people who have left their Catholic faith
- Explore the Sacraments: An 8-part video series on the Sacraments
FROM THE PASTORS
Read and listen to homilies posted regularly by pastors at parishes within the Diocese of Charlotte:
- Fr. Frank Cancro at Queen of the Apostles
- Fr. Patrick Earl at St. Peter in Charlotte
- Fr. John Eckert at St. John the Baptist in Tryon
- Fr. Timothy Reid at St. Ann in Charlotte
- Fr. Benjamin Roberts at Our Lady of Lourdes in Monroe
- Fr. Patrick Winslow at St. Thomas Aquinas in Charlotte
- Watch full Masses live and on demand, listen to homilies and reflections from Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury
- Listen to homilies from St. William Catholic Church in Murphy