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Religious groups in the United States have been questioning the wisdom of the Health and Human Services Mandate, that narrowly defines a religious organization to the extent that most Catholic service organizations (and many other religious groups) would not qualify for exemption from the mandate to include contraceptive and abortion services as part of their healthcare plans for their workers.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have made the case, the HHS Mandate is not a battle over healthcare (as it may seem on the service level), but is in truth, a redefining religious freedom in America; a redefinition which strips the human person of living according to their conscience.

For this reason, the US Bishops have proposed a Fortnight for Freedom, from June 21st to July 4th, reflecting on the right to religious liberty and our need to protect it for all peoples.

I will be posting the Bishops’ daily reflections on my blog, encouraging you to consider, what does it mean for us, as human beings, when we cannot act according to conscience? Where will it lead our society?

Let us Begin!

Day 1 – June 21st:

The Vatican Synod declares

that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that in matters religious no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs. Nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his own beliefs, whether privately or publically, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.

The Synod further declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person, as this dignity is known through the revealed Word of God and by reason itself. This right of the human person to religious freedom is to be recognized in the constitutional law whereby society is governed. Thus it is to become a civil right. Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae), no. 2 December 7, 1965

Reflection for Day One

In the opening chapter of Declaration on Religious Liberty, the Council Fathers at Vatican II forthrightly declared that “the human person has a right to religious freedom.” This right is founded upon the intrinsic dignity of the human person. From God’s revelation we know that the dignity of human beings resides in their being created in the image and likeness of God (Gn 1:27). Like God we are intelligent beings with free will. Because of this we can know the truth and perform God-like actions, such as being loving, kind, forgiving, etc. Reason itself, in knowing what a human being is, confirms that we possess a dignity and worth that exceeds the rest of creation and that cannot be violated, but rather needs to be protected and fostered.

What human beings believe concerning God is of supreme importance. Religious belief lies at the very center of who we are in relation to what is most central and cherished in our lives. Therefore, the Council insists that the religious convictions of individuals or groups should never be coerced but must be held freely, protected by a civil constitutional right.

What challenges to religious liberty do you see within our contemporary world? When the Council says that religious liberty must be upheld “within due limits,” what would fall outside of “due limits”? What religious belief would seriously offend the moral order or a just law?

Available in PDF.

Let us pray:

Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty

O God our Creator,
Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.

We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.

Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome—
for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us—
this great land will always be “one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

More on Fortnight for Freedom:

Catholic Bishops launch “Fortnight for Freedom” protest over HHS contraception mandate << Hotair

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