By Christopher M. Riggs The faithful of the Diocese of Wichita will gather in Wichita Thursday evening, June 21, and faithful from throughout the state of Kansas will gather in Topeka Friday afternoon, June 29, to peacefully protest a federal mandate that would require Catholics to act against their conscience. Bishop Michael O. Jackels is urging Catholics to educate themselves about the U.S. Health and Human Services mandate that will require religious organizations and other entities who provide health care coverage to include contraceptives, sterilization, and contraceptive drugs that act as abortifacients. In a video now at the Diocese of Wichita’s YouTube site, Bishop Jackels says that only a very few organizations or churches will qualify for the exemption. “As a result, individuals and employers, and institutions like Catholic Charities or a hospital system – even an employer and insurer like the Diocese of Wichita – will have to provide these services that go against what we believe and what we try to follow according to a conscience formed by the teachings of Christ and the church.” This is a problem for Catholics and others, he says in the video, “because this is a direct transgression of the First Amendment which says that governments cannot intervene into the religious practices of churches, religious organizations, institutions.” The church is not taking this lying down nor will it remain silent,” Bishop Jackels adds.
“There have already been numerous attempts to keep this issue alive and in front of people. On June 21, here in the city of Wichita there will be a rally to express our protest of this imposition on our consciences. And on June 29 in Topeka the four Catholic dioceses of the state…are sponsoring a statewide rally to do the same.” Bishop Jackels emphasized the importance of a public expression of the church’s dissatisfaction of the mandate. “This is not right. This must not go forward!” He asked that those unable to attend the rally in Wichita or Topeka to pray “that this transgression, this imposition on a properly formed conscience is overturned.” Bishop Jackels also urged the faithful to contact their representatives and senators in Washington, D.C., about the matter. “Please for the sake of our American freedoms which were purchased at a great price, the price of so many men and women giving their lives for these freedoms, please join us either in person or in spirit and in prayer, join us in an effort to overturn this position.” Bonnie Toombs, director of the diocesan Respect Life and Social Justice Office, said religious freedom is necessary to fulfill our duty to worship God. “It has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society,” she said. “The government should not demand that we do those things that we morally oppose.” Although the federal government has attempted to accommodate the church, Toombs said, the accommodation does not solve the moral dilemma created by the HHS mandate. “The accommodation still requires insurers to provide contraception, abortion drugs, and sterilizations.” Toombs urged the faithful of the diocese to participate in the Fortnight for Freedom which begins with an opening Mass Thursday, June 21, at Cathedral’s Good Shepherd Chapel, and continues with a march to the U.S. Courthouse two blocks away. “The Fortnight for Freedom is a time to pray, to learn more about how the HHS mandate will affect our ability to practice our Catholic faith,” she said. “Until now our laws have respected and honored the conscience rights of religious institutions and individuals – a heritage that has helped the United States stand out among free nations around the world. As Catholics, we cannot and will not compromise our core beliefs. We cannot and will not allow any government mandate to force us to participate in any activity morally or religiously objectionable.”
Protect Religious Freedom calendar Thursday, June 21: A Fortnight Mass, 6 p.m., Good Shepherd Chapel, Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Wichita. (A Fortnight of Prayer continues through July 4. Go to usccb.org for prayers.) A rally led by Bishop Michael O. Jackels will follow at the U.S. Courthouse, a short walk to 401 N. Market. Speakers include Fr. John Lanzrath, Dr. Gerard Brungardt, Congressman Tim Huelskamp, and Fr. Daniel Duling. Wednesday, June 27: Panel on HHS mandate and religious freedom, 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 27, St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Wichita. Learn more about the HHS mandate and how it will affect you. Speakers: Fr. Ken Schuckman, pastor Sacred Heart Parish, Colwich; Amy Pavlacka, director Office of Communications, Diocese of Wichita; Dr. Gerard Brungardt, medical director Harry Hynes Memorial Hospice; Karen Vines, vice president of Employee Benefits for IMA Financial Group, Wichita. Questions will be answered. Friday, June 29 State-wide Rally for Religious Freedom, 2 to 3:30 p.m., south steps of the Capitol in Topeka. For charter bus information go to www.cdowk.org or see box at right. Parking map available at the Respect Life page at www.cdowk.org. Volunteers are needed for the state rally. Please contact Bonnie Toombs at (316) 269-3900 or at
Want to attend the Topeka rally? Chartered buses are leaving from the Wichita area and from Chanute and Pittsburg. Wichita area: Catholics may call (316) 269-3900 or go to www.cdowk.org to register. The cost is $20. Chanute area: St. Patrick Parish, (620) 431-3165. The bus from Chanute is only $5, including lunch, because the bus is being subsidized by a generous parishioner. Pittsburg area: Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, (620) 231-2135. The fee is $10 to ride the air-conditioned school bus. Bring a sack lunch.
Story at-a-glance • Almost all private health plans will be required to pay for sterilization and contraceptives, including drugs that can cause abortion. • The rallies are being held to protest the HHS mandate that will force persons to act against their conscience. • If we are not free in our conscience and our practice of religion, all other freedoms are threatened.