Pa. bishops respond to HHS mandate with day of fasting and prayer
Catholics pray in church. Credit: Mazur.
Catholics pray in church. Credit: Mazur.

.- The Catholic bishops of Pennsylvania are calling for a day of prayer, fasting and abstinence on March 30 in response to to the “unprecedented and gross infringement” of religious freedom by the Obama administration’s contraception and sterilization mandate.

“On that day, offer your sacrifice for the cause of religious liberty, that the Church may be granted the basic right to practice what she preaches, and for our political leaders, that their eyes may be opened to the rights of all Americans, including those of faith,” the bishops said March 10.

“We have entered dangerous territory – the government is defining religion and limiting its practice. This is an unprecedented and gross infringement on our religious freedom. We did not pick this fight, but neither will we run from it,” they said.

The HHS mandate will require Catholic employers to pay for sterilization and contraception, including some abortion-causing drugs.

The Pennsylvania bishops objected that the mandate’s narrow religious exemption tells churches what activities are religious. The exemption does not include Catholic schools, hospitals, nursing homes and Catholic charities because they serve and employ non-Catholics.

Though the Obama administration has proposed an accommodation, Catholic leaders say it changes nothing and note that the present mandate is already on the books.

The bishops suggested adding fasting to traditional Lenten practices of prayer and abstinence from meat on March 30 in recognition both of the efficacy of prayer and fasting and of the challenges posed in the “attack on our religious freedom.”

Catholics in times of need have turned to God through prayer and fasting, practices which “allow us to grow closer to the Lord, inspire us to do His will and invoke His protection in answer to our prayers,” they explained.

Religious liberty, said the bishops, “does not belong to the Democrats or Republicans, it belongs to all Americans.” They pointed to their own efforts to secure health care reform that respects human life and includes language to protect religious conscience.

“Our fervent entreaties were answered with promises that we had nothing to fear. We cannot now sit idly by and let this happen. We cannot, as a Church, be silent because some have sought to politicize our plight.”

Tags: Contraception mandate

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