The nationâ€™s Roman Catholic bishops issued a proclamation on Thursday calling for every priest, parish and layperson to participate in a â€œgreat national campaignâ€ to defend religious liberty, which they said is â€œunder attack, both at home and abroad.â€
In particular they urged every diocese to hold a â€œFortnight for Freedomâ€ during the two weeks leading up to the Fourth of July, for parishioners to study, pray and take public action to fight what they see as the governmentâ€™s attempts to curtail religious freedom.
â€œTo be Catholic and American should mean not having to choose one over the other,â€ said the statement, issued by the bishopsâ€™ ad hoc committee on religious freedom.
For more than half a year, the bishops have put the religious liberty issue front and center, but it has not yet galvanized the Catholic laity and has even further polarized the churchâ€™s liberal and conservative flanks. In an election year, liberal Catholics have accused the bishops of making the church an arm of the Republican Party in the drive to defeat President Obama, an accusation the bishops reject.
â€œThis ought not to be a partisan issue,â€ the bishops say in their statement in a section addressed to political leaders. â€œThe Constitution is not for Democrats or Republicans or Independents. It is for all of us, and a great nonpartisan effort should be led by our elected representatives to ensure that it remains so.â€
In the document, the bishops seek to explain that their alarm is not only about the mandate in the health reform act that requires even Catholic colleges and hospitals to have insurance plans that cover birth control. They cite seven examples of what they say are violations of religious freedom, including immigration laws in several states that they say make it illegal to minister to illegal immigrants. [More]