The bishops have launched a Fortnight for Freedom, running from June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day. The bishops describe it as a “great hymn of prayer for our country,” a period of “study, catechesis, and public action,” a “great national campaign of teaching and witness for religious liberty.” This includes reflections on the lives of “a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power.”
This is an excellent concept, and the bishops are to be commended and supported. So, too, are the priests and parishes observing the Fortnight for Freedom. This is good news.
Now, the bad news….
This event will make do difference in achieving its intent unless it’s clearly explained to the folks in the pews, especially the 70-something Catholics who will be voting for Barack Obama in 2012. Why will they do that? Because Obama is a Democrat, and so are they. That’s just what they do.
Let me give an example of what will not work with these folks:
If you simply tell them that the Fortnight for Freedom is about religious tolerance and religious liberty, or provide prayer cards from the USCCB petitioning God for protection of our inalienable rights, it will make no impact on their voting behavior. They will not connect the dots to President Obama and his HHS mandate and other anti-life actions. They won’t understand.
No, they will merely nod their heads in assent: Religious tolerance? Religious liberty? Inalienable rights? Sure, I support that! And then they will walk into the voting booth in November and do what they always do: vote for a Democratic president. They will see no contradiction whatsoever.
Look, I know that bishops and priests have a tough job. I’m not asking them to make blatantly partisan political statements or endorsements. But if you want to educate the laity about threats to religious freedom, then make the threats clear. Do it right. Explain to them what’s really at stake, what the bishops are really worried about, and the real motivation behind the Fortnight for Freedom. Otherwise, talk about tolerance and liberty are mere platitudes.
For Catholic Exchange dot com and Ave Maria Radio, I’m Paul Kengor.