What’s Wrong With the Fortnight for Freedom

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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.

Dr. Paul Kengor


Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values. His books include “The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism” and “Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.”

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  • Absolutely….and those of us in the pews need to be talking with our fellow parishioners as well.  This is not the time to continue the American call to action:  let the guy (or gal) in charge do it.  Get involved.

  • Cassie

    This is so true.  I know many Catholics who are pro-life and good people but they voted for Obama because they are Democrats.  Period.  No thought process went in to their voting.

  • Max Effort

    In the Q & A column of the June 29, 2012, issue of the Michigan Catholic, Father Kenneth Doyle states:
    “The Catholic church … does not, as a matter of policy, endorse or oppose any candidates for political office.  For one thing, the Church is prohibited from doing so by the Internal Revenue Code.  As a 501(c)3 charitable institution, the Church would risk losing its tax exemption by endorsing particular candidates.”
    In an era where some Catholic politicians create confusion among the congregations by advocating political positions in direct opposition to Church teachings, it is necessary to speak out and name those who scandalize the Church and misrepresent its teachings.
    Allowing the IRS to coerce the Church into silence by threatening to withdraw the Church’s tax exemption is a direct violation of the 1st Amendment guarantees of free speech as well as freedom of religion.  The Church must ask itself:  Which is more important – preserving its free speech and exposing these Catholic politicians or preserving its tax exemption?
    It is no wonder that our government believed that the Church would accept the HHS mandate since the Church was silent for so many decades over this infringement of its free speech.  Silence on any issue carries with it the implication of acceptance, at the very least, or approval.  It also suggests and unwillingness on the part of the Church to defend itself.
    In the past week, I have heard that some non-Catholic Christian denominations intend to challenge the IRS restrictions by discussing politics and politicians from the pulpit.  When they face enforcement by the IRS, they intend to battle this infringement all the way to the Supreme Court.
    Many non-Catholic denominations are supporting the Catholic Church in its court challenges to the HHS mandate.  It is appropriate that the Catholic Church join them as they battle our government over this other infringement on its freedom of speech.  Do our bishops have the courage and fortitude to join the battle?

  • Subvet

    The good news in my diocese (Dallas, TX) is there have been ongoing efforts to explain the Fortnight for Freedom and it’s need. The bad news, as shown at a recent presentation by our Auxiliary Bishop who explained how the Church is increasingly marginalized and persecuted, is too many parishoners don’t care to find out. In a parish of 3-4 thousand pewsitters a grand total of about 50 showed up. Whoop-dee-do-dah-day. Being willfully ignorant might not count as sinful, maybe it should.

  • YIMA

    It seems to me that in the rush to print prayer cards and organize talks, lectures and gatherings for the “Fortnight for Freedom” the bishops and organizers somehow forgot to call publicly for the intercession of the Blessed Mother of God–no insignificant ally in rendering victory to the Church when besought in the past two thousand years.
     As a matter of historical fact never was it ever known that anyone who sort her intercession or asked for her help was left unaided…One would think that such a sure source of help would be tapped by those who are supposed to know her the best.  Then again, we are talking about leaders who have by and large abandoned their duty to lead the faithful in reciting Pope Leo’s prayer to St. Michael the Archangel at every Mass.

    It’s amazing that  the two figures recorded in scripture as having whooped Satan and given the ability by God to put the kibosh on him at anytime,are not called upon by the Church when needed the most.

    A call by the bishops to the laity to turn to the sacrament of confession, public and private rosaries would have been more effective.

  • Dan

    All the protests in the world will be for naught if the present Administration gets to appoint two new Supreme Court justices.

  • sealawr

    The Bishops listed several examples:

    Most are superfluous or wrong.  That’s why the Campaign will be ignored.

    The expamples offered by the USCCB:

    HHS mandate for contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs.  Same mandate enacted in anumber fo states without objeciton by teh bishops.  Requires a an analysis of material cooperation with evil that yields differnt results for differnt individuals.

    State immigration laws.  Valid point, but likley to be voided for other reasons–conflict with federal immigaion scheme.  At best, a potential intereference that the vast majority of people agree is approriate.  Ther has been no enforcement action agsitn any clergy member.

    Altering Church structure and governance.  Neveer happned–the proposed law was laughed out of the legislature.
    Christian students on campus.  Yes, Chrisitan groups are nto entitled to special privleges on campus/.  Ther eis a differnce betwenen ffreesom of religion and special privileges for religion not allowed to other groups.  Student religous organizatiosn being held to the the smae standard applied to others is not discriminaiton.
    Catholic foster care and adoption services. These agencies have no entitlement to goverment funds.  If you don’t want to compy with the government regualtions, then don’t take the govermnent’s money.  You have no right to government money.
    Discrimination against small church congregations. Doesn’t exist, the organizations won in court.
    Discrimination against Catholic humanitarian services. See above.  These agencies have no entitlement to goverment funds.  If you don’t want to compy with the government regulations, then don’t take the gobermnent’s money.  You have no right to government money. 
    And to respond to above–Tax exempt status is a statutory privilege, not a constitutional right.  Elimination of religious tax exmeptions is entirely constitutional.  Religions are not entited to special treatment under the tax law.