June 21, 2012
The Fortnight for Freedom begins today, June 21, and concludes on the fourth of July.
The greatness of our nation emerges as people of faith act as good neighbors and good citizens in the context of their faith within and beyond their churches. The “Fortnight for Freedom” provides an opportunity for us to reflect more deeply about how to live our faith as we seek to be good neighbors and citizens.
Catholics are known for being good neighbors. For more than two decades, I was privileged to serve in Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Allentown. During that time, I had many enriching opportunities to work with faithful Catholics and people of many faiths in serving the needs of those whom the Lord Jesus Himself called the least of our brothers and sisters.
In carrying out this service, I became keenly aware of twin priorities. The first priority is serving all people. We never ask for a baptismal certificate before we serve but operate with the conviction that we serve others not because they are Catholic, but because we are. The second priority is that while never proselytizing, we always act in a way that is consistent with our faith. We expect to be able to act with integrity, and so do those we serve. In fact, our faithful integrity and consistency has become a hallmark of Catholic Charities and is a source of assurance to many.
Sadly, this fortnight of prayer, study and action exists this year because those priorities are being challenged and threatened. A false choice of serving virtually only Catholics (with few exceptions) or serving all — but in a way that violates our Catholic conscience — is being included in governmental regulations governing healthcare plans and could become a precedent for other issues in the future.
While we cannot predict the future, the present course is clear. In the past, I have urged all Catholics to become well-informed and well-formed in conscience. The materials in The Record, on our archdiocesan web site and in your parish bulletins are prepared to help in this task. In all cases, there is a link to a web site that will give you more in-depth information, and I appreciate your willingness to focus on your knowledge and formation, especially during this Fortnight period.
Other priorities during this period include prayer and action. Well-written prayers are available for personal reflection as well as for communal prayer at liturgies. As actions become clear, we will continue to get the word to you. At this point, the HHS mandate is being challenged by a series of court suits. If executive action or legislative remedies become realistic possibilities, we will let you know. One quick way for you to be informed is through our archdiocesan web page and through the faithful citizen advocacy network of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky. It is easy to join by going to http://capwiz.com/ccky/mlm/signup/.
We are also good citizens. Just as being good neighbors requires commitment beyond the doorstep of our Church, it is even more vital that we exercise good citizenship in a broader context. I have written before about the ominous narrowing of our freedom of religion as only freedom of worship, defined as a completely private affair that takes place for an hour on Sunday or when a community worships. Good citizenship, however, needs the richness that our faith can bring to all areas of life, and we benefit in the Catholic Church from a very well-developed ethic of faithful citizenship and Catholic social teaching. For more information about both, visit www.usccb.org.
In exercising faithful citizenship, our Church is not partisan. Church teaching does not fall neatly into the categories of one political party or another, but calls us to form our consciences about the vital issues of the day. While some who vote only consider what might benefit or hurt them economically or personally, the good Catholic citizen looks beyond self-interest to the common good. It takes some clear thinking and prayer to uncover that common good, and Sacred Scripture and Church teaching provide a solid foundation for such formation.
Some have said that for those who see life as only a form of shallow self-expression without a commitment to the adventure of uncovering God’s plan, an immature freedom results, which dislodges rights from duties. Rights become entitlements, regardless of their effects on others. Catholic moral and social thought, which identifies inalienable rights flowing from our nature, also recognizes that many rights flow from duties.
Since Father’s Day is recently passed, this connection is an excellent topic for reflection. A father does not own his children or have rights devoid of responsibilities. Rather, God has blessed him with the privilege and duty of being a father. Because of his grave responsibilities, he has the right to embrace his vocation well, and society has the responsibility to find ways to support his effort. This small but important example is one of many ways in which a good Catholic exercises a duty to be a good citizen who seeks to have his or her faith influence the journey we as a nation embark upon to find and support the common good.
Be a good neighbor. Be a good citizen. Support the Fortnight for Freedom!