Religious Freedom Week started on the Feast of St. Thomas More, June 22, and extends to the Solemnity of SS. Peter and Paul, June 29. It is a good time for us to take to prayer, with devotions, attending Masses and making sacrifices to aid the cause of religious liberty in our land. The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops brings to our attention some important issues.
You may have heard of a very promising decision from the Supreme Court recently regarding religious liberty. The Court ruled unanimously by a decision in favor of Catholic Charities in Philadelphia. The city had prohibited the Archdiocese from placing children in adopted homes because the church can’t morally place a child in a home without a mother and father. Nevertheless, we must be aware that the only reason that the customarily left leaning judges of the court agreed to this was because the scope of the decision was defined so narrowly to the particulars of the case so as not to be applied more broadly nation-wide. Therefore, what is needed is The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act. (Contact your U.S. Senators and Representative today and ask them to co-sponsor and support the federal Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act.)
Another looming threat to religious liberty is the Equality Act. It is a bill that has passed the House of Representatives and will be presented to the Senate this summer. “The Equality Act purports to protect people experiencing same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria from discrimination in these and other areas. But at the core of the Equality Act is the codification of the new ideology of “gender” in federal law, dismissing sexual difference and falsely presenting “gender” as only a social construct.” (https://www.usccb.org/committees/religious-liberty/religious-freedom-week) “(It) is the most comprehensive assault on religious liberty, the right to life, and privacy rights ever packaged into one bill. Catholic hospitals would no longer be allowed to govern as Catholic facilities, threatening healthcare for everyone, especially the poor.” Bill Donohue, The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equality_Act_(United_States)
Opposition to the Equality Act needs the positive enforcement of the Conscience Protection Act. In recent years, “activists have sought to undermine the Church’s mission by forcing Catholic hospitals to perform procedures that destroy human life and undermine human flourishing, such as sterilization, gender reassignment surgery, and even abortion.” (USCCB, ibid.) The Conscience Protection Act would address deficiencies that block effective enforcement of existing laws, most notably by establishing a private right of action allowing victims of discrimination to defend their own rights in court. (Contact your elected officials in Congress and urge them to support the Conscience Protection Act!)
Our cherished freedom of speech is becoming strained. “Just this year, a book on problems with gender ideology by a prominent commentator was removed from Amazon. A Catholic news outlet had its Twitter account suspended for noting that a government official who claims to be a transgender woman is a biological male.” We need to speak up while we can. (USCCB, ibid.) Church Vandalism – “Recent years have seen a number of high-profile attacks on houses of worship. Beginning in May of 2020, there was a wave of attacks on Catholic churches and statues. Vandals entered churches and desecrated sanctuaries. A man in Florida even attempted to set a church on fire with people inside. There have been at least 61 attacks so far, and that number continues to grow.” (USCCB, ibid.)
Let’s be perfectly clear, this fits an historical pattern of persecution: from ancient Rome, the Iconoclasts of 8th & 9th centuries, Reformation England, the French Revolution, Soviet Russia, the Cristeros War in Mexico, and the Spanish Civil War. Such persecution always starts with the symbols of our faith, then progresses to the places of our faith, the churches, and then finally, the faithful. As far as the faithful are concerned, the clergy take the heat first. E.g., Thomas More heard of Bishop John Fisher’s execution from his jail cell.
Until we take to catacombs, let’s celebrate our freedom. Middleburg is returning to their annual fireworks display. I invite all of you to join me at our church’s front steps for one of the best views of the display without the hassle of traffic, parking or fees. The Knights of Columbus have agreed to grill hamburgers and hot dogs for us. Feel free to bring a side and beverage. Fireworks are scheduled at 9:15 PM. We’ll start gathering at 7:00 PM.