There is an inherent connection between the right to life and liberty, said Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, and the faithful must be vigilant in defending against secularist attacks on both.

We must recognize "that a culture of life is also a culture of freedom and that a culture of death is a culture of oppression, indeed a dictatorship of relativism," he stated.

Archbishop Lori delivered his remarks in his homily for the Oct. 14 Mass for Life and Liberty, before an overflowing congregation at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

The Mass was part of a pilgrimage that drew both local attendees and groups from out of state. The pilgrimage also included Eucharistic adoration and the recitation of a Rosary to begin a Novena for Life and Liberty.

"Indeed, wisdom tells us that the decisions facing us these days are not just economic," said the archbishop. "Instead, they go right to the heart of who we are, and they go right to the heart of our freedom to put into practice what we know to be true."

"For some time now, both life and liberty have been under assault by an overarching godless secularism, replete with power and money but sadly lacking in wisdom, both human and divine," he observed.

Archbishop Lori warned that this secularism "relentlessly seeks to marginalize the place of faith in our society."

"In rejecting the wisdom of religious faith, in seeking to contain and to diminish it, secularism has at the same time foolishly devalued human life," he told the congregation. "When man and woman are no longer perceived to be created in the image of God, then sooner or later their lives and their liberties become dispensable."

For four decades the secular culture has ignored science, reason and faith in allowing for unborn human life to be killed by abortion, he said, and now the "secularist assault on human life" is turning towards the elderly and terminally ill through efforts to legalize physician-assisted suicide.

"Human life is further undermined by the dismantling of the most fundamental unit of society, the family," he said, warning of efforts to "upend marriage as a God-given institution that is unique for a reason, namely a relationship of love between one man and one woman, whereby children are welcomed into the world and nurtured."

"All these things have been done in the name of freedom of choice, the right to choose," the archbishop observed.

And yet "our right to choose to practice the faith we profess, a right guaranteed by the First Amendment, seems to mean little or nothing to many who wield power," the Baltimore archbishop said.

He pointed to the federal mandate that requires most private and religious employers to "fund and facilitate" contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their religious convictions.

Surveying society, Archbishop Lori noted that "many of the secularist threats to religious liberty seem to hinge on the Church's teaching with regard to the sanctity of human life," whether it be the dignity of unborn life or the importance of sexual difference and openness to life in marriage.

The archbishop turned to the words of Thomas Jefferson, that "the God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time: the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them."

This illustrates the idea underlying the founding of our nation that life and liberty are inherently connected as rights that come from God, independent of the state, he explained. When life is threatened, liberty is also in peril.

In the archbishop's analysis, secularism has encroached this far "because so many people have set aside their faith," either by failing to practice it or by "compartmentalizing it in their lives." As an example, he pointed to "elected officials who say that they are opposed to intrinsic evils like abortion while doing everything in their power to promote them."

To fight this growing secularism, we must engage in the New Evangelization, working to know, love and share our faith, reaching out to those who have fallen away from the Church and those who are "looking for the true meaning of their existence," he stressed.

In a spirit of "charity, civility and persistence," believers must defend the fundamental right to live the faith that they profess, "at home, at work and in public," he told the packed basilica.

Archbishop Lori urged the faithful to vote with a well-formed conscience and to continually remind elected leaders "that we expect them to protect the God-given rights of life and liberty."

In addition, he urged encouraged them to call upon Mary, the "seat of wisdom," praying that they may be granted "the understanding, the creativity and the courage to defend the God-given gifts of life and liberty in the context of our times."