Linking abuse and freedom confuses equally important but separate issues.
To demonstrate the unrelated linkage she uses, Fortnight for Freedom is quite simply an effort to call attention to the growing need to protect the religious freedom of all faiths guaranteed by the Constitution. Indeed, this proposed intrusion on religious freedom is alarming citizens of all faiths. Catholics are not the only faith group challenging it.
On April 12, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops called for the observance of a Fortnight for Freedom, a two-week period from June 21 until July 4 in which prayer, fasting and catechesis could be observed to raise awareness of the present threats to religious freedom and conscience protection.
Besides the HHS mandate on contraceptive coverage, these threats also include state immigration laws that make it a crime to assist undocumented workers, laws seeking to entangle the state in Church structure and governance, laws that force Catholic foster care and adoption services out of business, and discriminatory policies against small church congregations and Catholic humanitarian services.
Hogan's assertion that U.S. bishops have chosen the 10-year anniversary of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People to play the victim card is wholly unwarranted and just plain wrong. We did not impose the mandate, but the Catholic Church has no choice but to stand against it and other infringements of our religious liberty.
The USCCB committee that investigated the clergy sex abuse issue -- leading the way for the adoption of the Dallas Charter -- resulted from a commitment to unite all bishops that this had to be dealt with in as strong and forthright a manner as possible.
The outcome was summed up in a recent article by David Gibson of the Religion News Service that noted: "The Catholic Church in the U.S. has made unparalleled strides in educating their flock about child sexual abuse and ensuring that children are safe in Catholic environments. Over the past 10 years, Catholic parishes have trained more than 2.1 million clergy, employees, and volunteers about how to create safe environments and prevent child sexual abuse. More than 5.2 million children have also been taught to protect themselves, and churches have run criminal background checks on more than 2 million volunteers, employees, educators, clerics and seminarians."
The bishops of this country and around the world understand that the sex abuse crisis has undermined the credibility of the Church's witness and moral authority in the public square. But to replay this misconduct every time the Church raises its voice in an attempt to obfuscate is not an argument, and does no justice to our political discourse.
The Catholic Church has served and will continue to serve as a voice of reason in defense of the poor and vulnerable, on behalf of justice and the common good, and in service to universal moral truth. Some may not always agree with her stance, but let us together make a commitment to civil debate on the issues, particularly when the church is defending religious freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution.
The Rev. John C. Nienstedt is archbishop of the Archidocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. The Rev. Harry J. Flynn is archbishop emeritus.
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