Religion Freedom Week, as we wait for Dobbs

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.

Inspiration

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

USCCB leads petition drive to FDA: keep COVID-19 vaccine free from abortion connection

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Originally published at Leaven for the Loaf.

letter to the commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from a coalition of concerned Americans has urged that any vaccine being developed for COVID-19 be derived from ethical sources, without use of cell lines derived from aborted human beings. An associated email petition drive organized through the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) invites the general public to send the same message to the FDA.

The April 17 letter says in part, “To be clear, we strongly support efforts to develop an effective, safe, and widely available vaccine as quickly as possible. However, we also strongly urge our federal government to ensure that fundamental moral principles are followed in the development of such vaccines, most importantly, the principle that human life is sacred and should never be exploited.”

The letter, released by the USCCB, is signed by several USCCB members as well as by physicians and other health care professionals, medical ethicists, and pro-life activists.

NOT A HYPOTHETICAL SITUATION

According to the letter, the concern over how a COVID-19 vaccine is to be derived is based on work that is already happening. Practical decisions are being made now. 

We are aware that, among the dozens of vaccines currently in development, some are being produced using old cell lines that were created from the cells of aborted babies. For example, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. has a substantial contract from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and is working on a vaccine that is being produced using one of these ethically problematic cell lines. Thankfully, other vaccines such as those being developed by Sanofi Pasteur, Inovio, and the John Paul II Medical Research Institute utilize cell lines not connected to unethical procedures and methods.

It is critically important that Americans have access to a vaccine that is produced ethically: no American should be forced to choose between being vaccinated against this potentially deadly virus and violating his or her conscience. Fortunately, there is no need to use ethically problematic cell lines to produce a COVID vaccine, or any vaccine, as other cell lines or processes that do not involve cells from abortions are available and are regularly being used to produce other vaccines.

from coalition letter to FDA, 4/17/2020

SHARE THE MESSAGE 

Share this letter and petition as you see fit. The online petition has a clear message, but includes space for your own words. 

Petition: https://www.votervoice.net/USCCB/Campaigns/73486/Respond?fbclid=IwAR1hxb17qXYhIVy8a099oh7PPJh_YBXRi6vJZGV-DvXwP13lXJadrhmlV-Q

This is not about whether vaccines in general are a good idea. (I am grateful for some and reject others.) This is about refusing to embrace abortion in order to cure or prevent COVID-19. 

I wish the letter had been unnecessary. The people who signed it clearly saw the need, though. All of them live and work in the real world with real people. They take things like pandemics seriously. 

They have the right idea. I’m with them.

Image in post header by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.

Undermining the First Amendment in the Name of “Health Care”

Short memories make for bad public policy. I can’t help but reflect on that.

As I write this, Congress is about to take a vote on doing something-or-another with Obamacare: repeal, replace, whatever. I’m not sure they know what they’re doing, despite good intentions all around. In all the tinkering, I am not hearing much from Members of Congress about what made the “Affordable Care Act” utterly unacceptable to so many Catholics, including me: the contraceptive mandate. Continue reading “Undermining the First Amendment in the Name of “Health Care””