(Arlington, Va.) - The Most Reverend Paul S. Loverde, Bishop of Arlington, today made the following statement:
Today, the Catholic Diocese of Arlington joins with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholics across the nation in marking the start of the second Fortnight for Freedom. In light of the growing threats to our religious liberty, I once again encourage all the faithful to enter prayerfully into this "special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action," continuing through Independence Day, July 4.
The start of the Fortnight commences fortuitously for the Diocese of Arlington on the vigil of the Solemnity of our patron, Saint Thomas More, who sacrificed all worldly honors and ultimately his life in defense of the freedom of conscience and the Church. For us, today, the challenge to religious freedom is also pressing down. Beginning on August 1, 2013, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' (HHS) mandate forcing employers to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilizations to employees goes fully into effect. The conscience protections provided in the federal rule are weak, and Catholic business owners, religious organizations and other conscientious objectors will be required to comply or face serious fines. While relief might come from pending lawsuits, including those filed last year by many Church institutions across the nation, a final, definitive decision by the administration in support of our religious liberties has not yet been handed down prior to the August 1 deadline.
It is clear this violation of our First Amendment rights, and other challenges that Catholics face in the public square, still require us to come together as a community. Indeed, it is more important than ever that these challenges to our faith are met, above all, with prayer and fasting, but also with activities that build awareness and joint action. In particular, all are welcome on June 27 to participate in the Diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Prayer Service for the Fortnight for Freedom to be held at 7:30 p.m. at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More, Arlington.
From June 21-July 4, I call on all Catholics in the Diocese of Arlington to consider ways in which to pray, fast and become educated on our vital "first freedom," the constitutional right to religious liberty, and the current challenges we face as a Church and individuals.