‘Fortnight’ important US momentBy: Bishop James V. Johnston
“It is natural, and right, to say that the HHS mandate undermines religious liberty. But it is important to add that this argument about religious liberty is more about the adjective than it is the noun. It is chiefly an argument about whether religion is about reality, truth, the way the cosmos is really structured, or whether it is about the byways of an individual’s psyche.”
–Gerard Bradley, Professor of Law, Univ. of Notre Dame
The next two weeks mark not only the beginning of summer, but also a special time for us to deepen our awareness of and appreciation for the heritage of religious liberty in America. These two weeks, beginning June 21 (the Vigil of Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More) and ending July 4 (Independence Day), are being called the “Fortnight for Freedom.” This is a time to pray, learn, and be involved in the public square as a religious citizen.
Many of the people of our diocese have already taken part in similar action earlier this year, especially with the rally at the state capitol in March, and the response to the Department of Health and Human Services mandate that religious entities provide morally objectionable services in health care plans. For these reasons, I have given broad discretion to our pastors on how to observe the Fortnight in each of our parishes.
Pray and contact Gov. Nixon
At a minimum, we can all pray from the heart for our leaders and our nation, that people of faith will not be unjustly discriminated against or bullied by those who wish to impose an immoral ideology on everyone. We can also take important action here and now. Many of you may not be aware that a bill is currently sitting on Gov. Jay Nixon’s desk (SB 749) which would insure conscience protections for Missourians who object to mandates such as the HHS directive. The bill was passed by the Missouri state legislature weeks ago, and now awaits the governor’s signature. But it is facing very stiff opposition, led by Planned Parenthood, urging him him to veto the bill. It is urgent that we contact Gov. Nixon to encourage him to sign SB 749 so that Missouri citizens will be protected. [Gov. Nixon’s office phone number is (573) 751-3222; he can be reached by E-mail at governor.mo.gov and then using the Online form].
The larger debate
While the HHS mandate has provided a flash point of controversy, it is simply a sign of the deeper struggle between religious citizens who advance moral positions that are defensible by reason, and those who consider these same positions to be merely “subjective religious beliefs” that are indefensible when it comes to making public policy. This is what is at stake, not only with the HHS mandate, but also with the struggle in many states to redefine marriage to include those of the same sex.
It is important for us to be aware that our Catholic faith on these matters is confirmed not only by God’s revelation, but also by the truth of reason. In fact, we can and should be vigorous in our defense of human life, human dignity, marriage, and family, using sound arguments that any atheist or agnostic can understand.
As these defining moments unfold in the coming years, we can play a crucial role in the history of America. We should not miss this moment.