Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
As both Catholics and Americans, we have enjoyed a freedom to live our faith that, in many parts of the world, sadly does not exist. As we approach the anniversary of American Independence this year, my brother bishops and I are asking every Catholic in the United States to reflect seriously on the state of religious liberty through your own participation in the Church’s Fortnight for Religious Freedom, which begins on Thursday.
Today, we face some alarming circumstances. The freedom we have to believe in Jesus Christ and to live our lives according to the teachings of His Church is a freedom we are accustomed to having protected by our federal government and by our states. It is a freedom given by God, that is meant to be protected by government. Today, however, in too many instances, we are finding it under attack.
Most prominently, Catholic institutions in Michigan and across the country are fighting an unconstitutional health care mandate that would force Catholic organizations to pay for services that violate our deeply held religious beliefs. That, however, is not our only concern. As Christians, we give charity and pastoral care to undocumented immigrants – a practice that is threatened by a number of state laws. We are experiencing the federal government imposing its own definitions on what a church is, and what a minister is. In several states, Catholic organizations can no longer provide foster care, adoption services, and vital humanitarian aid –simply because we do so according to our Christian faith. We are seeing Christian student organizations at college campuses being denied their status in certain states because of their beliefs. The list goes beyond what I can convey in this letter. Religious liberty is not only about our ability to go to Mass on Sunday, or to pray the Rosary at home. It is about whether we can live as Christ would have us live – whether we can make our contribution to the common good of all Americans.
In your parish bulletins, and on the website of the Archdiocese of Detroit (www.aod.org), you will find information on the Fortnight for Religious Freedom, which takes place from June 21 through July 4. The fortnight entails Masses, rallies, prayer services and other events. All are welcome to join me for Mass at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament at 4 p.m. on June 24. I also encourage you to take part in the events and services in your area – and to learn more about this initiative through our website.
Above all, I ask that you pray for our country, and for its leaders. I invite you to join with Catholics across the country in our urgent prayer for religious liberty:
Prayer for Religious Liberty
Almighty God, Father of all nations,
For freedom you have set us free in Christ Jesus (Gal 5:1).
We praise and bless you for the gift of religious liberty,
the foundation of human rights, justice, and the common good.
Grant to our leaders the wisdom to protect and promote our liberties;
By your grace may we have the courage to defend them, for ourselves and
for all those who live in this blessed land.
We ask this through the intercession of Mary Immaculate, our patroness,
and in the name of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
with whom you live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen
Preserving our God-given religious liberty is not a Catholic issue. It is an American issue. If our obligations and duties to God are impeded or contradicted by the government, then we can no longer claim to be a land of the free and a beacon of hope for the world. May God bless you, and may God bless our United States of America.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
The Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron
Archbishop of Detroit