Archbishop José H. Gomez launched the Fortnight for Freedom events in his archdiocese by saying that they are “not about politics” but about Catholics’ relationship with God and “our freedom to do what our faith in Jesus Christ requires.”
“We’re concerned that our nation is losing its will to promote and defend our most basic freedoms — the freedom of religion and the freedom of conscience,” he said in his introductory remarks at a June 24 Mass at Los Angeles’ Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
“We are asking God to enlighten our leaders and to strengthen our own hearts.”
The U.S. Catholic bishops have launched the Fortnight for Freedom, lasting from June 21 to July 4, as a time of prayer, education and religious liberty advocacy. The events are a response to a federal rule requiring most employers, including Catholic institutions, to provide no co-pay insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including some abortion-causing drugs.
Catholic leaders say the rule’s narrow religious exemption and a proposed compromise from the Obama administration do not accommodate Catholic objections to providing the procedures and drugs.
Though federal action prompted the event, Archbishop Gomez focused the event on Catholics’ own shortcomings.
“The greatest threat to our freedom of religion doesn’t come from our government or from forces in our secular society,” he said in his homily. “The greatest threat we face comes from our own lack of faith and our own lack of courage.”
He encouraged congregants to ask Jesus to increase their faith and to love God more and more.
“Let’s commit ourselves again to telling Los Angeles and America — that Jesus is alive and that he is calling us to a great destiny of love.”
Jesus Christ set men free to love and serve God, he said. Religious freedom is “essential to our human dignity” because it allows us to live “as children of God.”
The archbishop countered narrow conceptions of religion, explaining that religious liberty is “much more” than personal freedom to pray and worship. Faith is “social” and lived “with others and for others.”
He said that human rights “come from God and not from government.” American democracy is made for “a moral and religious people” and the country’s future demands that everyone be free to worship God and carry out their religious duties.
Other large events have begun the Fortnight for Freedom in other parts of the country.
Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, who heads the U.S. bishops’ religious freedom committee, said Mass June 21 with 1,000 Catholics at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption in Baltimore, the United States’ first Catholic cathedral.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. and apostolic nuncio Archbishop Carlo Vigano held a D.C.-area Celebration of Freedom rally at George Washington University on June 24, drawing over 1,000 people.