U.S. Catholics must “speak out” for religious freedom in a time that calls for “sentinels and public witness”, Archbishop of Philadelphia, Rt Rev Charles Chaput has said.
In a homily at a Mass in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, to mark the end of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Fortnight for Freedom, a two week series of events to protest against President Obama’s health care law, Archbishop Chaput said that “[r]eligious liberty is a foundational right. It’s necessary for a good society”.
But he said that “it can never be sufficient for human happiness”.
He said: “It’s not an end in itself. In the end, we defend religious liberty in order to live the deeper freedom that is discipleship in Jesus Christ.”
The “Fortnight for Freedom,” a nationwide serie of prayer, services and other religious observances, was part of the Bishops’ attempts to rally opposition to President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which the Catholic Church opposes because it forces faith-based schools, hospitals and other employers to provide health insurance coverage for abortofaeceints and sterilisation services.
Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, said the event’s purpose was “simply to bear witness and celebrate our religious freedom”.
Cardinal Wuerl added that American Christians see patriotism as a virtue and the goal for Christians was to “build a society built on the highest moral and constitutional institutions.”
Archbishop Chaput, told the standing-room-only crowd of 4,000 to “render unto Caesar those things that bear Caesar’s image, but more importantly, render unto God that which bears God’s image - in other words, you and me. All of us.”
He said: “True freedom knows no attachments other than Jesus Christ. It has no love of riches or the appetites they try to satisfy. True freedom can walk away from anything — wealth, honor, fame, pleasure. Even power. It fears neither the state, nor death itself.
“This is the freedom of the sons and daughters of God. It’s the freedom of Miguel Pro, Mother Teresa, Maximillian Kolbe, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and all the other holy women and men who have gone before us to do the right thing, the heroic thing, in the face of suffering and adversity.
“I say this for two reasons. Here’s the first reason. Real freedom isn’t something Caesar can give or take away. He can interfere with it; but when he does, he steals from his own legitimacy.”
Maureen Ferguson, a spokeswoman for the Catholic Association, said that the Fortnight for Freedom was a huge success and said she had never seen so many people engaged, “from the bishops down to the laity.”
Ms. Ferguson praised the actions of churches across the country, citing multiple prayer vigils, guest lecturers and church bulletins, and she dismissed criticisms that the events had become too political.
“We don’t surrender our First Amendment rights because it is an election year,” she said.