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Hudson and Fournier: Catholic Countdown to Election 2012 - Day 36. Defend Religious Liberty

By Deal W. Hudson and Rev. Mr. Keith Fournier
October 2nd, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

What is this election? It is, in large part, a popular referendum on whether or not the President of the United States can openly and egregiously violate the conscience of Catholic citizens. We must act.

WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - The USCCB has issued a "nationwide bulletin insert" for September-October, 2012. You can read it below and also click the link on the conference web site.

We have made it a point to regularly praise the leadership of our Bishops in these challenging times. Having Cardinal Dolan at the helm is a particular blessing for all of the faithful. The appointments of new Bishops - and transfers of some already in office to Dioceses which are in need - all manifest the Lord's continued care for His Church. They also give us hope for the future.

However, please note the following about the bulletin insert recommended for all the parishes in our nation:

1. There is NO mention of the election on Nov. 6.

2. There IS a recommendation to contact Congress but NO mention about voting on Nov. 6.

3. There IS a recommendation to pray a Rosary Novena or to GO "on a Marian Pilgrimage" -- NOTHING about voting on Nov. 6.

4. The HHS mandate is first mentioned in paragraph 5 with NO mention of Secretary Sebelius and NO mention of President Obama's support of the mandate.

5. There is NO mention of the Congressional remedy to override the mandate, the Religious Freedom Tax Repeal Act, H.R. 6097, introduced on July 10 with 57 co-sponsors.

Unfortunately, the message of this insert, it must be said, is so indirect it's practically a whisper, the faintest hint at the message that should be proclaimed boldly by all Catholics as we approach this historic election.

What is this election? It is, in large part, a popular referendum on whether or not the President of the United States can openly and egregiously violate the conscience of Catholic citizens.

The urgency of this referendum is completely missing from the USCCB document below. So, all of us must add what is missing. We must turn up the volume on the whisper. We must fill in the gaps, through our focused prayer, our compellingly delivered message shared in the public square and our concerted Catholic action as faithful citizens.

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PRAYER AND ACTION ARE NECESSARY TO KEEP OUR FIRST FREEDOM FIRST

When Pope Benedict visited the United States in 2008, he asked the U.S. bishops a question: "Is it consistent to profess our beliefs in church on Sunday, and then during the week to promote business practices or medical procedures contrary to those beliefs?"

The Holy Father then answered his own question:

"...Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted. Only when their faith permeates every aspect of their lives do Christians become truly open to the transforming power of the Gospel."

Although the full impact of the Holy Father's words might not have been understood then, they have since proven prophetic. The Pope was challenging Catholics in the United States to resist the growing pressure to confine religious beliefs to houses of worship and to prevent the Church and individual believers from living out their faith in their day-to- day work and care for others.

The U.S. bishops have since raised numerous concerns over the increasing threats to religious freedom, especially the now-finalized rule of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which would force virtually all private health plans nationwide to provide coverage of sterilization and contraception-including abortifacient drugs.

While there is an exemption for certain "religious employers," it only covers employers that serve people of their own faith. Jesus and his apostles would not qualify. Mother Teresa would not qualify. As the bishops noted in their statement, United for Religious Freedom, this is an extremely narrow and unprecedented federal definition of religion, resulting in coercion to act against our teachings and the violation of civil rights.

Federal law has long been generous in protecting the rights of individuals and institutions to not act against their religious beliefs or moral convictions. Is that now changing? Are we entering a time when the federal government may now force the Church-consisting of its faithful and all but a few of its institutions-to act against Church teachings?

While we seek remedies from the White House, Congress, and the courts, the U.S. bishops have called upon the Catholic faithful, and all people of faith throughout our country, to join in prayer and penance for our political leaders and for the complete protection of our first freedom-religious liberty. Prayer is the ultimate source of our strength-for without God, we can do nothing; but with God, all things are possible.

What can you do to help protect religious freedom?

- To get breaking news and opportunities for action,
text the word "Freedom" to 377377 on your cell phone.

- To learn more about our first freedom, and to send your message to Congress urging them to stand up for conscience rights in health care, go to www.usccb.org/conscience.

- To join in the Rosary Novena for Life and Liberty, October 14-22,
or to sponsor a Marian Pilgrimage or other prayer efforts for religious freedom and conscience rights, go to www.usccb.org/freedom

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