.- With the nationwide Fortnight for Freedom event beginning today, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles said that any compromise that means Catholic institutions provide birth control insurance to employees is “capitulation” and “the temptation to serve the government instead of God.”
The Catholic Church “doesn’t serve the poor to please the government,” he said.
Rather, Catholics serve the poor “because we are compelled by the love of Christ.” This love also compels Catholics to testify to the sacredness of life, marriage and family and to testify that “preventing children from being born is immoral.”
The archbishop’s comments come in his June 21 essay “Fortnight for Freedom: Why Now?” published on the website of First Things magazine. The Fortnight for Freedom is a period of prayer, education and religious freedom advocacy organized by the U.S. bishops from June 21-July 4.
Religious freedom was brought to the fore this year on Jan. 20 when the federal Department of Health and Human Services finalized a mandate requiring employers, including many Catholic institutions, to provide insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including some abortion-causing drugs.
Outcry over the mandate prompted the Obama administration to propose an accommodation on Feb. 10, which Catholic leaders said failed to address their inability to provide the objectionable coverage in good conscience.
Archbishop Gomez acknowledged in his essay that Americans enjoy great religious freedoms compared to other countries around the world.
However, he said that religious freedom in the U.S. is still in jeopardy due to an “eroding” American consensus on religious liberty, conscience protection and the role of religion in public life.
He blamed religious indifferentism and also “constant agitation from de-Christianizing and secularizing elements in American society.”
Archbishop Gomez said that while secularization has happened for some time, the government has taken on a new role. Instead of observing its duty to protect religious liberty, the government has “taken sides against the liberty of the nation’s largest religious community.”
He accused the U.S. government of “using the full weight of its powers to try to dictate the terms under which the Catholic Church and individual Catholics will be permitted to participate in our society.”
The Los Angeles archbishop also noted that there are increasing portrayals of Christian faith as “a form of bigotry.” There are “relentless efforts” to force Church agencies to comply with “secular agendas,” such as attempts to force Catholic hospitals to perform abortions and sterilizations or to force Catholic adoption agencies to place children with homosexual couples.
“It’s hard to escape the conclusion that our present conflict is part of a larger cultural struggle to redefine America as a purely secular society—a society in which religious institutions have no legitimate public role unless they are serving the government’s purposes,” he said.
In response to these trends, the archbishop called on Christians to love their enemies and “resist their evil with good.”
“We live our faith with the freedom of the children of God, in season and out of season, with a love that serves and heals and inspires,” he said.