Catholic bishops across the country have not backed down from their battle against what they see as threats to the church's religious liberty.
They encouraged the faithful to host rallies and meet with their elected leaders. Devotionals were created and prayer gatherings were held as part of the “Fortnight of Freedom,” which took place about two weeks before the Fourth of July.
The Most Rev. Paul S. Coakley, archbishop of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has not bowed out of the fight — quite the contrary.
Coakley said the bishops' group, of which he is a part, decided at their November assembly to issue the “Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty” in 2013.
Coakley explained various aspects of the new initiative in a letter to the Oklahoma City Archdiocese. The letter was read last Sunday during Mass at many parishes within the archdiocese.
The letter was also was printed in the archdiocese's official newspaper, The Sooner Catholic, and posted on the archdiocese's website.
“I want to join my voice to that of my fellow bishops in summoning the faithful, clergy and religious of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City to embrace this coordinated spiritual effort to combat these looming challenges to the free and public exercise of our faith,” Coakley wrote in the letter.
The archdiocese represents two-thirds of Oklahoma. The Tulsa Diocese, led by Bishop Edward Slattery, encompasses the eastern portion of the state.
Coakley said U.S. bishops wanted to build on the momentum from the “Fortnight of Freedom.” At the heart of that initiative was the bishop's ire over a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate issued in January 2012 requiring employers, including those affiliated with religious groups, to provide employee health coverage of services such as contraception and abortion-inducing drugs.
Coakley said the bishops' concerns about the federal mandate go beyond contraception and abortion to what they see as the government's intrusion on the Catholic Church's religious freedom. They also are troubled by cultural assaults on traditional marriage and the sanctity of life.