Thursday, 05 July 2012 14:23
Rallies for religious freedom held in Wichita and Topeka
So many people attended the Fortnight for Freedom Mass Thursday evening, June 21, that the faithful overflowed out the front entrance.
About 400 worshippers filled every corner of the chapel and heard Bishop Michael O. Jackels talk about religious freedom during the special Mass in Good Shepherd Hall on the campus of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita.
The Mass and the rally that followed were held to voice the diocese’s opposition to the federal mandate that would force Catholics to act against their conscience.
Bishop Jackels said the church’s opposition to the mandate is not “a Catholic issue, or a Democrat vs. Republican issue, or a woman’s issue, or even about contraception and sterilization.
“For example, this week a group of 150 mostly Protestant religious leaders expressed their opposition to the HHS mandate, saying that though they may not share the same moral evaluation of contraception and sterilization, they object to this invasion on religious liberty and freedom of conscience.”
Bishop Jackels added that the significant moral difference between contraception and natural family planning is that those who “use NFP care about the rule of God over us and the Creator’s plan.”
That’s the fundamental issue, he said. “Our opposition to the government’s invading our freedom, guaranteed by the Constitution, to live every aspect of daily life, not just Sunday worship, but also something as personal as practicing responsible parenthood, under the rule of God, in cooperation with God’s plan.”
After citing examples of St. John Fischer and St. Thomas More, who were both martyred for their faith and for refusing to capitulate to the king, Bishop Jackels said: “When there is concern about God, if there is a conflict between the service of God and of country, God must always come first.
“We care about God, God’s rule over us and God’s commandments, and so in response to the HHS mandate we raise the question of conscience protection, and we stand on our religious freedom to refuse to accommodate the government’s intrusions.”
After the Fortnight for Freedom Mass, the faithful attending the Mass and others unable to get inside the chapel followed Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus in a two-block march to the U.S. Courthouse where they sang patriotic songs and heard speakers talk about religious freedom.
Father John Lanzrath, chancellor of the Diocese of Wichita, said as Catholics we pray for our nation and as Americans we pledge allegiance to the flag.
“For generations of our history, the Catholic Church has been a staunch defender of religious liberty in this great nation,” he said from a raised platform in front of hundreds of the faithful, many holding U.S. flags.
“Protecting and defending religious liberty as an essential component of our Constitution is not only the responsibility of Catholics. As the Catholic bishops of our nation remind us, ‘This is not a Catholic issue. This is not a Jewish issue. This is not an Orthodox, Mormon, or Muslim issue. It is an American issue.’”
Fr. Dan Duling, an associate at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Wichita, said the protest was about religious freedom and cited several examples of attempts by the government to intrude on religious freedom.
“They are taking our freedom of practicing our religion away from us. Freedom of religion is the reason our forefathers came to the United States of America,” he said.
Fr. Duling quoted Cardinal Francis George of Chicago who said of the building persecution of the Catholic Church: “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr’s death in the public square.”
The faithful have an obligation to defend the faith and the church, Fr. Duling said. “We defend, we unite, we gather, and we fight for her because we love her, and we want what is best for her.”
A representative of Congressman Mike Pompeo read a letter written to those attending. He commended those attending for standing up for their religious freedom and talked about the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act that would provide conscience protection regarding the HHS mandate and any other rule that would violate religious liberties.
“We still have a long way to go in this fight, and I am happy to be on your side on this very important issue,” he wrote.
Also speaking in front of the U.S. Courthouse were Bishop Jackels; Rep. Tim Huelskamp, a member of Holy Cross Parish in Hutchinson, and a representative from the office of Sen. Jerry Moran.