Fr. William read the following letter from Bishop Stika at all the Masses this past weekend.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Four months ago I shared with you the deep concern that I and all my brother bishops have regarding the unprecedented attack upon our most cherished freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution—our religious liberty. Unfortunately, our concerns have only grown more acute and worrisome. This is a threat that transcends every religious affiliation and affects every person of conscience, such that no Catholic or Catholic institution will be unaffected.
If your source of information regarding this threat has only been the secular media, you could be led to believe that the bishops’ concerns are unwarranted, exaggerated, or even politically motivated—or made to believe that this is really only about a “crusade” against birth control. But I can assure you that it is none of these. Why then this bias in reporting?
History demonstrates that whenever there is an erosion of religious freedom and rights of conscience, there is a corresponding rise of anti-Catholicism, and this is the pattern we see today. “Catholic bashing,” said to be “a national past-time,” has risen to new levels of indecency, with even full page advertisements smearing the Church and her teachings and calling upon Catholics to “quit” in protest, featured in major newspapers. And yet, it is only the Catholic Church that is attacked in such ways.
This is why Catholics across the nation, led by their bishops, will be observing a “Fortnight for Freedom” from June 21to July 4, 2012. This 14 day period is meant to help every Catholic to become better informed, not only about religious freedom, but about our Catholic faith. It is a time for us to consider what it truly means to be a Catholic and to stand up against these attacks upon our freedom to exercise our faith.
Our freedoms are something to be grateful for. We are Americans and we are Catholic, and our allegiances though distinct, need not be contradictory. So when our government forces us to choose between two citizenships, we must stand up for the one that is of Heaven. We will give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but we cannot give to Caesar what belongs only to God—our conscience.
Let me be very clear. There is no government creed that can supersede the Creed we profess in every Mass. Nor is there any self-appointed government spokesperson, even should they profess to be Catholic, who can impose boundaries and restrict our preaching and living the Gospel and expressing it in our works of mercy. But only to the bishops in union with the Pope is it given by divine right to not only teach the truth of the Gospel, but to safeguard and protect it against all that is contrary.
So I have asked all our pastors to observe this “Fortnight for Freedom” in their parishes, to conduct Holy Hours of prayer, to preach on religious liberty, and to utilize the educational materials available from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, at www.fortnight4freedom.org.
And so I ask all of you to join in solidarity with me, and with all our priests, deacons and religious, to pray for our country, our government leaders, and for the protection of our religious freedoms. I also ask for your prayers, and for you to especially pray for all the bishops and priests in our country, that we will not be lacking in courage or resolve to defend the Gospel. Please be assured of my continued prayers for all of you. May God bless you.
Sincerely in Christ,
+ Richard F. Stika
Bishop of Knoxville