'Fortnight' about religious freedom, not politics, archbishop says
ATLANTA -- Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said June 13 that the U.S. bishops' Fortnight for Freedom campaign has come under heavy criticism in the secular media, in the blogosphere and by some Catholics as being a partisan political effort.
But the two-week period is meant to be free of politics and will emphasize Church teaching on religious freedom, the chairman of the bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Freedom said in Atlanta.
"Already we realize that defending religious freedom is not a walk in the park," Archbishop Lori said during the spring meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, saying that politics plays no role in the effort.
"We've seen some reaction to our work that is sometimes hostile, sometimes unfair and inaccurate and sometimes derisive," he said.
The upcoming Fortnight campaign will be a period of prayer, education and action aimed at explaining how a federal health care contraceptive mandate violates religious principles. The mandate requires most religious employers to provide free health insurance coverage for contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs and sterilizations.
The Fortnight was to open with Mass June 21 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore. It ends in Washington, D.C., July 4 with Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and the tolling of bells at churches across the country at noon.
Bishop Lori encouraged his fellow bishops to maintain their focus on religious rights as established in the U.S. Constitution and to avoid choosing to "soft-pedal" the Church's basic message.
During a news conference following the afternoon session, Archbishop Lori said the bishops' religious liberty campaign was being funded by the Knights of Columbus, the Knights of Malta, Our Sunday Visitor and "many other groups as well."
Archbishop Lori said the bishops remain interested in meeting with officials from President Barack Obama's administration.
As part of his presentation to the bishops, Archbishop Lori reviewed documents explaining Church teaching on religious freedom recently issued by the bishops.
One document, "United for Religious Freedom," which describes various threats to religious liberty in the United States, was adopted by the USCCB Administrative Committee in March. The five-page statement explained that the bishops' concerns about the contraceptive mandate of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under the health care law as well as its "new definition of who we are as people of faith and what constitutes our ministry."
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan moved that the full body of bishops adopt the statement as its own. His motion was approved unanimously.
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