The Archdiocese of Anchorage began participation in the nationwide “Fortnight for Freedom” with an appeal to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
On June 21, local Catholics gathered for a “rosary rally” at St. Andrew Church in Eagle River, followed by an presentation on religious freedom by pastor Father Tom Brundage, the judicial vicar for the archdiocese.
The gathering was part of a national campaign of prayer, education and action in support of religious liberty that runs June 21 to July 4.
The campaign is sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in response to a federal mandate from the Department of Health and Human Services that forces Catholic organizations to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion-causing drugs to employees – even though this contravenes Catholic moral teaching.
At St. Andrew’s Father Brundage touched on the underlying reasons why religious freedoms are under attack in the United States. In an outline of his speech, which was published on the parish’s Facebook page, Father Brundage pointed to the “tyranny of relativism” — the phenomena in which secular governments seek to strip religiously motivated groups from the public square.
Father Brundage also pointed to the attempts by many pro-abortion groups “to shift public sentiment away from an issue about religious freedom to that of contraception.”
Father Brundage noted that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects religious liberty by prohibiting the government from establishing a state religion, or interfering with religious groups. But he said the current threat to religious liberties are more due to U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings in recent decades, which have enshrined a so-called “right to privacy” — a claim that has led to a “slippery slope” in which new “reproductive rights” have emerged, including the notion that there is a fundamental reproductive right to abort an unborn child.
In addressing the main flaw with the federal mandate, Father Brundage said it coerces Catholics to violate their conscience and disregard the teachings of the Catholic Church regarding the prohibition of contraceptives, including abortion causing drugs and sterilization.
Father Brundage called the mandate “government coercion against conscience and an unprecedented government intrusion into the practices and beliefs of church institutions as well as business owners.”
In a recent letter to Catholics across the Anchorage Archdiocese, Anchorage Archbishop Roger Schwietz urged the faithful to stand up for their religious freedoms.
“As Catholics, we have a right to practice our faith in the traditions and beliefs that we have held for centuries,” Archbishop Schwietz wrote. “Government cannot and should not interfere by forcing us to act against our conscience and deeply held beliefs.”
In a separate letter, Archbishop Schwietz urged pastors to hold religious freedom educational events and to raise the issue in homilies and prayers during Mass. He also encouraged pastors to utilize online resources at fortnight4freedom.org, a new website established by the U.S. bishops.
Upcoming events include a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Schwietz on June 30 at 5:30 p.m., at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. Following the Mass Archbishop Schwietz will host a discussion titled “Religious Liberty: Our Most Cherished Freedom.”
There will also be a Mass on July 1 at 9:30 a.m., at Holy Family Cathedral with Archbishop Schwietz.
Then on July 4, at noon, parishes across Alaska will ring their church bells in support of religious liberty.
For breaking updates to the schedule of activities visit CatholicAnchor.org.