Catholics called to act for religious freedom

By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz is encouraging Catholics to pray and act in support of religious liberty at home and abroad during Religious Freedom Week, which will be observed June 22 to 29 under the theme “Strength in Hope.”

The observance, sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, begins on the feast of English martyrs who fought religious persecution — Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More — and ends on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, apostles martyred in Rome.

“Catholics face challenges both in our current political climate of polarization and within the church,” Archbishop Kurtz, chairman of the USCCB’s committee for religious freedom, said in a statement.

“Christian child welfare institutions and Catholics in public life are encountering significant obstacles to their work, while our brothers and sisters in places like Nigeria suffer violent persecution,” the archbishop said. “We want to build solidarity and to encourage Catholics to persist in the struggle to advance the kingdom of God by finding hope in Jesus Christ.”

The Archdiocese of Louisville and the USCCB have compiled a list of ways for parishes and parishioners to engage in Religious Freedom Week, including:

  • Attending an archdiocesan Mass at the chapel of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 15 Audubon Plaza Drive, at 5 p.m. July 3.
  • Reflecting, praying and taking action on various topics. Daily reflections for Religious Freedom Week can be found at www.usccb.org/issues-and-
    action/religious-liberty/religious-freedom-week/index.cfm.
  • Praying the Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty each day after Mass during Religious Liberty Week. The prayer can be found at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/prayer-resources.cfm.
  • Learning more about the issue of foster care and volunteering to become foster parents. Some Catholic Charities offices — providers of adoption and foster care services across the nation — have been affected by changing laws that infringe on religious freedom, according to the USCCB.
    Some of these offices have been affected by new laws which forbid them from placing children only with married couples. As a result, some of those offices have closed.

Ed Harpring, pro-life coordinator for the Archdiocese of Louisville, said he is concerned about changing laws and how they impact religious freedom.
Anti-discrimination laws, such as the recent Equality Act, affect Catholics, said Harpring in an interview June 7.

The Equality Act, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, seeks to add the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” as well as “pregnancy” to the definition of “sex” in federal civil rights laws, according to a May 17 report from Catholic News Service.

The U.S. bishops are concerned that “rather than offering meaningful protections for individuals, the Equality Act would impose sweeping new norms that negatively impact the unborn, health care, charitable services, schools, personal privacy, athletics, free speech, religious liberties and parental rights,” the report said.

Harpring said, “On the surface, it seems like a good thing, but when you drill down there’s an agenda there.”

He also noted a proposed law in California, Senate Bill 360, which seeks to force priests to disclose information about child sexual abuse heard during confession.
These violations of religious liberty are “big issues,” said Harpring.

Religious Freedom Week can prompt Catholics to think and talk about these far-reaching issues, he said.

Harpring, who helped coordinate the resources for Religious Freedom Week, said religious freedom issues go further than first amendment rights in the United States.
“It goes past our borders. You see the slaughter of Christians in other parts of the world,” said Harpring. “We need to be in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are modern day martyrs.”

We can do so, he said, by praying and taking action through donations and advocacy.
The Archdiocese of Louisville has published a list of 10 ways to participate in Religious Freedom Week. That list can be found at www.archlou.org/religiousfreedom.

More information on Religious Freedom Week and issues pertaining to religious freedom are online at www.usccb.org.

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