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July 2, 2017

 

As many of you are aware, over the past couple of weeks (June 21st through July 4th), we’ve been observing the Fortnight for Freedom.  During these two weeks, our bishops are drawing our attention to the importance of religious freedom and elements in our current social context that threaten this liberty.

 

The Fortnight for Freedom began on the feast of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas Moore, both of whom were martyred for failing to compromise their religious beliefs under massive pressure from the government.  It concludes on Independence Day, a day when we as Christians remember that freedom of religion was one of the founding principles of our nation.  During this time, we remember that “freedom of religion” includes a lot more than just the freedom to worship God as we choose behind the closed doors of a church or other house of worship.  It includes the freedom to practice this religion in all aspects of our lives.  At a macro level, this means that all religious institutions (including the Catholic Church) should be able to (among other things) serve the poor, care for the sick and educate the young in a way that is consistent with our beliefs.  On the more individual level, it means that each and every person should not have to check their religious beliefs when they show up for work or school, but rather that they should be able to allow their faith to inform how they carry out the daily tasks of their lives.  We all can name many ways that this type of freedom is being jeopardized today, and we must be vigilant in recognizing these threats and responding to them in a firm-yet-loving way.

 

As the Fortnight for Freedom comes to a close, there is still much that each of us can (and must) do in order to support religious liberty for people of all faiths.  First of all, we must pray that all people throughout the world are free to worship according to the dictates of their conscience.  While we certainly face some threats to religious liberty here at home, there are people in other parts of the world who are truly suffering severe persecution for their faith, and they should never be far from our prayers.  Secondly, we should stay informed on national policy issues by finding good, reliable news sources that allow us to understand the issues without getting wrapped up in the partisan bickering that often surrounds them.  Finally, we can promote religious freedom by simply being willing to talk about our faith – including controversial issues – with others, including those who don’t share our beliefs.  If we can have these discussions in a civilized and charitable way, then maybe all people can understand that freedom of religious expression is a good thing for everyone, whether they practice a particular religion or not.  Please continue to pray that our legislatures and our courts will protect the right of all Americans to worship God as they choose, and to live their beliefs in their public life.