Skip to comments.Fortnight for Freedom: Freedom to Serve, June 21 to July 4, 2014
Posted on 06/21/2014 10:40:50 AM PDT by Salvation
Fortnight for Freedom 2014
The U.S. bishops have scheduled The Fortnight for Freedom: Freedom to Serve, which will take place from June 21 to July 4, 2014. This comes during the time when our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power – St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome. The theme of this year’s Fortnight will focus on the freedom to serve the poor and vulnerable in accord with human dignity and the Church’s teaching.
There are many ways parishes can observe the Fortnight, such as praying the Prayer for Religious Freedom, posting information in the parish bulletin, sponsoring a Mass for Religious Freedom, scheduling special prayers and novenas, as well as educational events. Please see 14 Ways your parish can celebrate the Fortnight, for some excellent ideas. The USCCB web site, Fortnight4Freedom.org, has additional resources, and more will be added soon. Our office has prepared some suggestions on preparing for a Mass for Religious Freedom (attached).
Fortnight for Freedom
Video at the site.
Freedom to Serve
The Fortnight for Freedom: Freedom to Serve will take place from June 21 to July 4, 2014, a time when our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power—St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome. The theme of this year's Fortnight will focus on the freedom to serve the poor and vulnerable in accord with human dignity and the Church's teaching.
Special Masses will be celebrated in Baltimore on June 21 and in Washington, D.C. on July 4. Please check your local TV listings!
Standing Together for Religious Freedom
Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, Dr. Russell D. Moore, President of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and over 100 religious leaders and scholars released an open letter entitled Standing Together for Religious Freedom!
The 14 Ways pdf (which is linked above) was included in our bulletin this week. Some good suggestions.
Fortnight for Freedom Ping!
1. Sponsor a day of faith-based service within the community, perhaps volunteering at a soup kitchen or helping to paint, garden, clean, or organize donations at a local charity. Highlight existing Catholic service activities and institutions and how they would be harmed if existing religious freedom protections were eroded.
2. Celebrate a memorial Mass for SS. Thomas More and John Fisher on June 21 (vigil) or June 22 (their feast day) to open the Fortnight for Freedom.
3. Present a Catholic movie night for members of your parish, showing any of the following movies: a. A Man for All Seasons, about the martyrdom of St. Thomas More; b. For Greater Glory, about the struggle for religious freedom in Mexico; c. First Freedom: The Fight for Religious Liberty, a PBS video about religious freedom; and/or d. Becket, about 12th century English martyr St. Thomas à Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
4. Invite a local or national figure to speak to your parish about religious liberty. Also, encourage parishioners to read Our First, Most Cherished Liberty, a document of the Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.
5. Host a concert with religious music.
6. Plan a parish outreach event including a meal—a fish fry, a picnic, a pancake breakfast, or a spaghetti supper—to raise awareness about the Fortnight and advertise local Fortnight events.
7. Organize day-long (or multi-day) Eucharistic Adoration.
8. Sponsor a presentation on the history of Catholicism in the United States.
9. Host a study group on Dignitatis Humanae, the groundbreaking document from the Second Vatican Council on religious liberty, using the 14-day reflection piece at www.Fortnight4Freedom.org.
10. Lead a Eucharistic Procession through your community on a path that passes important government or civic buildings.
11. Host a panel discussion on the wide range of current religious freedom issues; on a single religious freedom issue in depth; or on how religion can and should influence policy issues generally.
12. Remind parishioners that the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision—a religious freedom challenge to the HHS mandate against for-profit businesses—is expected to occur during the Fortnight (likely on the last day of the Court’s term, June 30). Consider events surrounding the announcement of the decision.
13. As a parish at the end of daily Mass, pray the Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty.
14. Organize an Independence Day family picnic with a special Mass to close the Fortnight for Freedom.
Reflection for Day One
In the opening chapter of Declaration on Religious Liberty, the Council Fathers at Vatican II forth- rightly declared that “the human person has a right to religious freedom.” This right is founded upon the intrinsic dignity of the human person. From God’s revelation we know that the dignity of human beings resides in their being created in the image and likeness of God (Gn 1:27).
Like God we are intelligent beings with free will. Because of this we can know the truth and perform God-like actions, such as being loving, kind, forgiving, etc. Reason itself, in knowing what a human being is, confirms that we possess a dignity and worth that exceeds the rest of creation and that cannot be violated, but rather needs to be protected and fostered. What human beings believe concerning God is of supreme importance.
Religious belief lies at the very center of who we are in relation to what is most central and cherished in our lives. Therefore, the Council insists that the religious convictions of individuals or groups should never be coerced but must be held freely, protected by a civil constitutional right.
What challenges to religious liberty do you see within our contemporary world? When the Council says that religious liberty must be upheld “within due limits,” what would fall outside of “due limits”? What religious belief would seriously offend the moral order or a just law?
Reflection for Day Two
The Council Fathers note that it is precisely because human beings are “endowed with reason and free will” that they naturally seek what is true and good and also, then, have “a moral obligation” to search for the truth. This is especially the case of seeking religious truth.
Moreover, the truth they believe they have come to know binds them to that truth. Even if the “truth” they believe is not actually true, yet, because they believe it is true, they are bound to follow their conscience.
As long as what they believe does not infringe the just rights of others, they cannot be coerced into giving up or changing what they believe. Moreover, the Council states that in order for human beings to fulfill their obligation to seek the truth and live by it, they must be free to do so.
No one or no authority is to force them to believe some- thing to which they themselves have not freely given their consent.
Why does the Council stress the need to seek freely religious truth? Why do those who believe what is actually false still possess religious freedom?
Reflection for Day Three
God is the author of all truth and all good. All of what is true and good in our world and cosmos finds its source in God, the Creator of all. Moreover, what is true and good about ourselves as human beings finds its source in God in that he created us in his image and likeness. Thus, for the Council Fathers, all that exists is in conformity with the divine law, the providential plan of God.
Because of this, the Council emphasizes that truth must be “sought after in a manner proper to the dignity of the human person and his social nature.” This means that human beings must be free to seek the truth. However, human beings do not seek the truth as isolated individuals. The search for the truth is common to all, and so all share in the finding of truth and all share in the receiving of truth from oth- ers. Because the search for truth, the finding of truth, and the sharing of truth is a social exercise, human beings must not only be free to search for truth in the hope of finding it, they must also be free to communi- cate and discuss together the truth they believe they have found. It is through our free assent that we each personally lay hold of the truth.
What are the contemporary means of seeking, finding, and sharing truth? In what ways can this free- dom to seek, to find, and to share be inhibited?
Reflection for Day Four
It is through their consciences that human beings perceive the requirements of the divine law. Human beings must follow faithfully their conscience if they are to grow in their knowledge of and union with God. Again, the Council restates that, because of this, no one should either be forced to act contrary to his or her conscience or be forbidden to act in accordance with his or her conscience. This is especially the case when it involves one’s religious beliefs. The Council Fathers note that this applies not only to one’s internal private religious acts but also to public communal religious acts. Human beings hold religious beliefs within a community of like-minded believers and so have the right to publicly live out their beliefs. To forbid the just and proper public expressions of religious belief would be contrary to the order that God has established for human beings as social and religious beings.
The Council Fathers want to ensure that religious liberty is understood to be both private and public. It cannot be limited to what takes places in houses of worship. Rather, since religion is by its nature a social phenomenon, its presence within the broader society and culture should not be hindered or forbidden.
In what ways is religion being reduced to the merely personal and private? Why should religion have a voice in the public square
Reflection for Day Five
What the Council Fathers teach in this short para- graph is very important. They previously stated that governments should not deny religious liberty. Here they state what governments should positively do with regards to religion. Since people, through their religious beliefs, direct their lives toward God, governments are positively to take this into account. Not only should governments not hinder religious life, they should also “show it favor.” Since religious belief is a good within culture and society, governments should foster and aid the good that religion brings to the commonwealth. This does not mean that a government should favor one religion over another or that it should attempt to direct what religions should believe or do. Rather, governments are to create an environment in which religious life flourishes for the good of all. In providing such an environment where religious life prospers, governments contribute to the good of individuals as well as to the good of society as a whole.
How does religion contribute to the good of society? In what ways might it hinder the good of society? Do contemporary Western governments view religion in a positive or negative light? How can governments today foster or aid the good of religious belief?
Reflection for Day Six
The Council once more addresses the public nature of religious belief. Religious communities have a right to act as a community of faith, for this is inherent within the social nature of human beings and religious belief itself. Provided that the just civil and religious rights of others are not transgressed, religious bodies must possess the freedom to live out publicly what they believe. They must be free to gather for worship, to instruct their members, and to develop institutions that further the religious life of their members. From within the Catholic tradition this would include reli- gious institutes and orders, schools, fraternities and sodalities, prayer groups, and Bible study groups.
Likewise, religious bodies must be free to appoint and train their own ministers. For Catholics, that means the Church’s freedom at least to appoint bishops and ordain priests. It also means that Catho- lics are free to be loyal to their church and its leaders while also being loyal to their country and its leaders. Religious bodies should also be free to govern them- selves financially.
Consider examples in contemporary life where governments—federal, state, or local—fail to respect the above rights? What is the relationship between the religious freedom of individuals and institutions?
Reflection for Day Seven
While the Council Fathers insist that religious bodies must be free to teach and bear witness to their faith, they equally stress that this freedom must never be abused. It is not only governments that can deny their freedom; in attempting to spread their own beliefs, religions should not force others, physically or psychologically, to convert. Rather, each person’s dignity and freedom must be maintained. The accepting of religious beliefs must be an act of freedom, otherwise it is done not because it is believed to be true but rather out of fear and force. The right to profess and proclaim one’s own faith cannot violate the same right of another.
That being said, religious bodies should be free to provide reasons as to why their beliefs are true and why it would be of value for others to believe what they believe. They should also be free to address how their beliefs contribute to the good of society.
What contemporary examples are there of religious bodies using coercion in an attempt to spread their faith or hindering others from exercising their faith? What contributions does the Catholic Church make to society and culture?
Reflection for Day Eight
The Council Fathers now address the religious freedom that is enjoyed by the family. Families have the right to live out their faith within the family. More- over, parents have a natural right to religiously guide their families. They are the ones who have primary responsibility for the care and education of their children, and this is especially true of the religious education of their children. Thus, while parents are primarily responsible for the religious education, they are also free to choose the kind of religious education their children receive.
From within the Catholic tradition, Vatican II stated that the family is a “domestic church,” that is, it is within the family that children are first taught the Gospel, are taught to pray and to keep the Commandments. Together the members of a family live out the Gospel life of love. In keeping with this, the Council states that parents must be free to choose their children’s schooling. The exercise of this freedom should not be the cause of undue financial burdens upon the family. Likewise, children should not be forced to attend instruction that is contrary to the religious belief of their families. Lastly, if there is only one form of education within a country, this does not mean that all religious instruction should be forbidden. Accommodation is to be made. What we see here is the Church ardently wanting to assure a broad and extensive scope for families to live out their faith as families, and this extends to the education of children.
Why is the above important for parents and their families? Are the above aspects of domestic religious freedom jeopardized today?
Reflection for Day Nine
Once again, the Council Fathers turn to what they consider a very important issue. It is not simply that governments should not deny or impede the religious freedom of their citizens, it is also of the utmost importance that they positively, through just laws, be the guardians of religious freedom, so that no constituency—religious or secular—within society would seek to undermine the religious freedom of all. While few today would consider this, the next point that the Council Fathers make is also very significant. Governments should actually “help create conditions favor- able to the fostering of religious life.” While governments do not control religions, they should recognize their value and so promote their well-being. This allows all religious bodies and their members to exercise their religious rights and “fulfill their religious duties.” The government’s fostering the religious life of its citizens not only benefits those citizens but also, the Council states, contributes to the good of society as a whole. It helps society grow in its understanding and implementation of what contributes to justice and peace. This justice and peace find their origin in God, who desires the good of all.
How do governments protect and promote the religious life of their citizens? Do governments take this into consideration today? In the U.S., how does the government foster religious life while respecting the principle of separation of church and state?
Reflection for Day Ten
Because all human beings possess equal dignity, value, and worth, the government is to ensure that this equality is maintained both for the good of the individual and for the good of society as a whole. This equality specifically should not be violated on religious grounds. Each religious body and the members of that body have equal rights to religious liberty. This equality demands that there be no discrimination based upon one’s religious beliefs
The Council Fathers now stress that, based upon this equality among its citizens, no government is permitted to impose in any way “the profession or repudiation of any religion.” Such an imposition is a violation of the right to be true to one’s conscience. Because of the freedom of conscience, the government is also not permitted to deny a person the right to join or leave a religious body. The government has no right to stipulate what a person can or cannot believe.
If the above is true, then the Council states that it is all the more wrong when “force is brought to bear in any way in order to destroy or repress religion.” This not only applies to governments but also to religious bodies themselves. No religious body is permitted to harass or seek to eliminate another religious group.
Within our contemporary world, where is religious equality denied or religious discrimination tolerated? Are there instances where one religion violates the rights of other religions?
Reflection for Day Twelve
In Chapter I, the Council Fathers considered the nature of religious freedom from a rational and philosophical perspective—the dignity and equality of human beings and the natural right to religious liberty. In Chapter II, they turn to examining religious liberty in the light of Christian Revelation.
In this context, the Council Fathers forthrightly insist that the Church must “enjoy that full mea- sure of freedom which her care for salvation of men requires.” Jesus became man, died, and rose from the dead so that all men and women would come to salvation—to know the fullness of truth and the fullness of the Father’s love. This is why the Church’s religious freedom is “sacred.” Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, founded the Church as the means by which his saving message and presence would go forth to all the world. Only then would Jesus’ Gospel be lived out among all nations and peoples. Only if the Church is free can she rightly fulfill her divine commission. This is why the Church jealously guards her freedom while simultaneously fostering harmonious, appropriate, and just relations with various governments throughout the world.
What present circumstances threaten the freedom of the Catholic Church particularly? Are threats to the Church’s freedom always from without, or do threats arise from within the Church itself? What threats in the past has the Church in our country had to contend with?
Reflection for Day Thirteen
While insisting upon the religious freedom of the Church, the Council Fathers do not wish to give the impression that in some manner the Catholic Church is special when it comes to religious liberty. Thus, the Council first states above that where the principle of religious liberty is present, the Church is able to peaceably fulfill her divine mission. It is this amicable relationship between herself and civil authorities that the Church always wishes to pursue and ensure.
In the light of this, the Church also champions the religious and civil rights of all so that all people can live “their lives in accordance with their conscience.” In this way there is no conflict with what the Church demands for herself and what she demands for others—the freedom to follow one’s conscience in matters religious. This religious freedom for all is what the Council once more believes should be acknowledged and sanctioned within the constitutional law of countries.
In the United States, religious freedom is protected in the Constitution, as the Council desires. Are those constitutional protections enough? Are they growing stronger or weaker in our society today? What else, apart from the law, can strengthen or weaken religious liberty? What should Catholics do to defend and foster religious liberty in America today? What have Catholics done in the past when religious liberty was threatened?
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