CHARLESTON—Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone delivered a Fortnight for Freedom homily during Mass that elicited a loud round of applause.
It was the opening night for a Fortnight for Freedom, and the bishop had some strong words on the current threat to religious freedom in the United States.
He noted that the 14-day prayerful event is not about partisan politics, or about forcing others to believe or act as Catholics do; it is about the ability to continue enjoying the freedom of religion on which this country was founded.
The bishop pointed to the saints — John Fisher, Thomas More, Peter and Paul — and others throughout history who were martyred for their beliefs, and he told the faithful to tap into the spirit of those men and women, to gather their courage and proclaim the message of Jesus Christ.
“It is a stark question that we face: obey the laws of the state or obey the laws of God,” he stated.
“When the government commands us to do what God commands us not to do, the American heritage of freedom is imperiled and the response of the Christian citizen, as we learned vividly in the example of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. is to refuse to cooperate with laws and mandates that are unjust,” Bishop Guglielmone declared.
He stressed that the battle for religious freedom isn’t just about the health care mandate, but encompasses numerous threats, including the ability to offer pastoral care to undocumented immigrants.
The definition of religion has become so narrow, he said, that it only recognizes houses of worship, excluding any and all outreach services meant for God’s people.
“It is an absurd position and a clear violation of the Bill of Rights,” the bishop proclaimed, adding that defining ministry is a task for the church, not the government.
“All of our vast charitable works … exist because of our faith in Jesus Christ!” he said. “They are not optional extras, but essential. As Catholics, we care for the poor, the sick, the immigrant, the unemployed, the orphan, the expectant mother in distress, not because they are Catholic, we do it because we are Catholic!”
He quoted the words of Pope Benedict XVI, who told the faithful that works of charity are just as essential as preaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments.
Bishop Guglielmone said the government’s attempt to restrict religious life is unacceptable.
“The Catholic Church can no more abandon the sick in our hospitals or the immigrant at the border than she can set aside the Word of God, or the Holy Mass,” he proclaimed.
“When the government says we must do what our faith forbids us to do, or says we cannot do what our faith mandates us to do — then we might be called upon to have the courage of John the Baptist and refuse those unjust orders,” the bishop said.
Read more and see more photos in the The Catholic Miscellany newspaper.
Top photo by Douglas Deas