Upcoming Fortnight for Freedom religious liberty events will show Catholic solidarity in defense of “front-line institutions” that serve the poor and needy, says Catholic commentator Kim Daniels.
Daniels, a coordinator of the lay communications group Catholic Voices USA, said that recent and numerous legal actions against the federal contraception mandate have “witnessed to the unity of our Church.”
“It's no surprise that this unity is often most evident precisely in these local institutions that so explicitly serve the common good,” Daniels wrote June 16 at the website Real Clear Religion.
“It's these groups – the neighborhood parish school, the local Catholic nursing home, the soup kitchen run by Catholic Charities – that will suffer most if the mandate and the stiff fines that it imposes remain in force.”
The Department of Health and Human Services has required that employers of 50 or more people must provide insurance coverage free of charge for sterilization and contraception, including some abortion-causing drugs. The mandate’s narrow religious exemption does not exempt many Catholic charities, health care systems and colleges.
A proposed accommodation from the Obama administration, which would require insurance companies rather than employers to provide the coverage, is not acceptable to Catholic leaders. Last month, 43 Catholic dioceses and organizations filed suit against the mandate.
Many Catholic dioceses have organized Fortnight for Freedom events from June 21-July 4 to encourage prayer, education and public action about religious freedom.
Daniels said Catholic unity is “remarkable” in light of efforts to divide Catholics along political lines.
“The Catholic commitment to religious freedom doesn't stem from partisan political concerns,” she said, citing a “long-standing bipartisan consensus” for health care conscience exemptions and a “robust” idea of religious freedom.
She cited the “broad” Democratic support for conscience exemptions and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act under the Clinton administration.
She suggested that the Obama administration has “politicized” the issue by portraying opposition to the HHS mandate as “evidence of a manufactured 'war on women.''”
Daniels said Catholic institutions that serve the poor and needy would welcome a “workable compromise.”
“Unfortunately, for all its talk of compromise, the administration has yet to take concrete steps towards a solution, and the mandate itself has been adopted without change.”
The commentator also stressed the urgent need for Catholic action.
“Too much is at stake for Catholics to just sit on their hands and hope that all will work out in the end,” Daniels concluded. “Despite attempts to divide us, Catholics are standing together with strength and purpose and standing up for religious freedom.”
Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, who heads the U.S. bishops’ religious freedom committee, has said it is “crucial” for lay men and women in all walks of life to take part in the ongoing defense of religious freedom.
“Without those voices and without the involvement of the laity, we just won’t get very far,” he told EWTN News June 9.
“It’s very important that elected politicians hear, not so much from the bishops, but rather from Catholics and from all people of good will who are participating in this fortnight with us.”