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Fortnight for Freedom Closing Mass Remarks

July 04, 2013

Washington, D.C.

Thank you, your Eminence, for this wonderful celebration of the liturgy and for your continued leadership on the important issue of religious liberty.

It has been noted time and again throughout these past two weeks that religious liberty is under threat in many and varied ways.

In looking back at this second Fortnight for Freedom we can see that people are starting to understand the serious and sometimes subtle nature of these threats and have begun to appreciate the need to raise others’ awareness.

And we have witnessed great enthusiasm by our people throughout the Fortnight, as evidenced here today by the great numbers in attendance, including the priests, deacons, consecrated religious and the laity. A special thanks to the members of the NeoCatechumenal Way who have helped make the Opening and Closing Fortnight Masses so special.

I would like to speak to you today about two particularly serious affronts to religious liberty.

One already-serious threat that has been a focus this Fortnight became an even greater one when the Supreme Court issued its decisions on marriage last week.

The Court’s decision on the Defense of Marriage Act effectively paves the way for more lawsuits to redefine marriage to include two persons of the same sex, and in doing so, raises the religious liberty stakes for the men and women of conscience and the religious institutions that continue to teach the truth about marriage.

Though no minister will likely be forced to “solemnize” a same-sex relationship, the redefinition of marriage in the law will assuredly result in pressure being put on the Church to violate her teachings by forcing her to treat two persons of the same sex in the same way as a husband and a wife—in employment, in benefits, in social services, and in so many other areas where marital status justly confers special recognition and rights in accord with marriage’s special role as the foundation of the family, the key cell of society. These and other threats are close at hand.

Sadly, many who support the redefinition and dismantling of the institution of marriage have tried to intimidate and silence supporters of marriage by branding them as bigots, depicting anyone opposed to so-called same-sex “marriage” as people against equality. This sentiment was again expressed last week in the Supreme Court’s majority opinion in the DOMA case. In fact, Justice Antonin Scalia, in his dissenting opinion, acknowledged as much when he wrote, “In the majority’s telling, this story is black-and-white: hate your neighbor or come along with us.” The majority treats supporters of traditional marriage, he said, as "unhinged members of a wild-eyed lynch mob." Such claims are patently unfair and false and ignore the central question of marriage.

Dear friends, we are not against anyone…and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. We are for marriage, we are for children, we are for families, and we are for preserving the religious liberty God has given us and our Constitution guarantees us as Americans who are also people of faith.

I beg you not to be silenced or unfairly shamed into remaining silent when it comes to supporting marriage. We know the truth about marriage. We know that marriage is unique for a reason. We know what civilized societies have recognized for century upon century: that marriage as the union of one man and one woman is a benefit to children and to society, is foundational to the common good, and as such is worthy of special protection and privileges.

The second particular threat to religious liberty involves violations of conscience rights, particularly for healthcare workers and for business owners. I’m speaking of the HHS mandate, which the bishops have been opposing for over a year now. Sometimes issues like a government mandate can seem abstract. But they affect real people and real ministries. I invite you to watch a short video featured on the USCCB website about three women – Cathy, Sr. Jane Marie, and Christine – whose conscience rights have been violated in the medical field and in private business. Their stories make very clear the seriousness of fighting to protect our God-given religious freedom. You can view this video by going to the USCCB’s home page, which is www.usccb.org.

We must stand firm and be emboldened by the strength of our religiously-held convictions not just 2 weeks a year, but always, for the threats continue to come.

We defend marriage and defend religious liberty not for our own sake, but for the good of our Church, for the good of our fellow man, and for the good of the United States of America. Thank you and God bless you all.