It’s the feast of Saints Thomas More and John Fisher, marking the beginning of Religious Freedom Week as observed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. It’s just a week, not a fortnight as was the case back in the early days of the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate. Still, a call to a dedicated time of prayer and action with religious liberty in mind is always timely.
A lateral move?
I write as I await the Supreme Court’s decision in the abortion-related Dobbs case, due within days. A draft of the Dobbs opinion hostile to Roe v. Wade was leaked some weeks ago, leaving me pondering just how low we’ve set the bar for being pro-life. Nothing in the draft either states or implies that the Court is ready to recognize the fundamental right to life of all human beings from the moment of conception without regard to age, health, or condition of dependency. The draft, if it holds, dumps the “issue” back to the states. Having spent a few decades making frequent trips to New Hampshire’s State House as a citizen speaking out on the right to life, I know that such a Supreme Court decision would be a lateral move at best.
Even so, the call is clear as I contemplate the likelihood of a Dobbs decision during a week celebrating religious liberty: prayer and action, now and always, wherever the law stands, whether or not our voices are welcomed in the public square.
The USCCB has suggestions for eight daily prayer intentions during the coming days. It’s not a comprehensive list. Only a few of our challenges can be addressed in such a short period of time. Treat each intention as inspiration for future work: thoughtful prayer, focused action, steadfast witness.
- June 22: walking with mothers in need
- June 23: pray that Christian witness in the face of attacks on churches may convert hearts to faith in Christ. Threats and vandalism to churches, including acts taken in the wake of the leaked Dobbs draft, underscore that this is an urgent challenge.
- June 24: adoption and foster care
- June 25: opposing taxpayer funding of abortion
- June 26: religious freedom in China
- June 27: pregnancy resource centers
- June 28: conscience rights for health care workers
- June 29: free speech. This means not only praying for protection of First Amendment rights, but also “that Christians will have the courage to proclaim the gospel of life and dignity for all with kindness and clarity, even in the face of adversity.”
Challenge: grow beyond unjust laws
My bishop has offered many examples of that kindness and clarity. I wrote in some detail at Leaven for the Loaf about what he said at one particular Mass during one of the first Fortnights for Freedom. An excerpt will serve here.
We can and we do lobby for just laws, and for the overturning of those laws, the repeal of those laws, that are unjust. But whenever [such an effort] is unsuccessful, we are called to make those laws obsolete.… Such must be the unjust law – that we have grown beyond such things…[to] a time where adherence to God’s law has turned us away from discrimination, murder, inordinate living, disordered belief, and the shame of a people who no longer value the true dignity of human life. Let us grow beyond.Bishop Peter Libasci, Diocese of Manchester, homily for Fortnight for Freedom, June 2013
All these years later, I stand by what I wrote in the same post, reflecting on what Bishop Libasci had said.
I looked around the Cathedral as the Bishop spoke. I saw no cameras or press. Perhaps a hundred people were there. In a secular environment, I’d have said that the man needs an agent. This was a church, though; a community of faith was present. Everyone there is the “agent,” so to speak, charged with getting out the message. In how many other churches will the same message be delivered in the coming days? From there, who knows where it could go? Small beginnings, perhaps, but with great potential and great hope.Leaven for the Loaf, 6/23/13