The bishops of the United States invite us to observe Religious Freedom Week from June 22 to 29, which is from the memorial of the martyrs Saints John Fisher and Thomas More to the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. All four of these saints were killed by governments (England and the Roman Empire) which denied Catholics freedom of religion.
At the bishops website, https://www.usccb.org/committees/religious-liberty/religious-freedom-week, suggestions are given for each day of the week.
On Tuesday, June 22 the focus is on adoption and foster care. The bishop ask that we “Pray that children waiting to be placed in a loving home and the caregivers who serve those children will find strength and support from the Church… In places like Massachusetts… service providers with a proven record of excellence in recruiting and assisting foster families have already been forced to shut down because they do not place children with same-sex couples… Philadelphia Catholic Social Services has taken their struggle to continue to foster children to the Supreme Court. Intolerance for religious organizations has real consequences.” The Church is not asking that the state ban adoption by same-sex couples, just that it not force the Church to facilitate such adoptions.
The bishops ask that we contact our members of Congress and urge them to pass the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, which “prevents faith-based child welfare service providers from being targeted by government discrimination.”
The second day, June 23, the focus is on “Catholic Social Service during the pandemic.” The bishops ask that we “pray that God would continue to grant Catholic institutions the wisdom and courage to serve a world suffering the effects of the COVID pandemic… Catholic Charities U.S.A. has provided personal protective equipment, organized food donations, and started the Francis Fund for Eviction Protection.” On the USCCB web page for June 23 you can click on to links about those programs. The action step for that day is that you get involved in your local Catholic Charities — which you can do by contributing to the annual Catholic Appeal (before this month ends!) and checking out Catholic Social Services’ website.
Thursday, June 24 is the birthday of St. John the Baptist, who was killed for not supporting the adultery of Herod and Herodias. The bishops ask that we “pray that the dignity of all people will be respected in our country… That means we need to honor every person’s right to gainful and decent employment free of unjust discrimination or harassment, and to the basic goods that they need to live and thrive. The Equality Act purports to protect people experiencing same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria from discrimination in these and other areas. But at the core of the Equality Act is the codification of the new ideology of ‘gender’ in federal law, dismissing sexual difference and falsely presenting ‘gender’ as only a social construct. As Pope Francis has reflected, ‘It is one thing to be understanding of human weakness and the complexities of life, and another to accept ideologies that attempt to sunder what are inseparable aspects of reality.’ By requiring all Americans to speak and act as if there is no meaningful distinction between the sexes and as if gender has no connection to the body, the Equality Act legally and socially harms Americans in serious ways and injures the common good. The Equality Act discriminates against people of faith and, by including a potential abortion mandate, threatens unborn life. Tell your elected officials to oppose it!”
Friday, June 25 the focus is on vandalism against the Church. “Pray that Christian witness in the face of attacks on our churches will convert hearts to faith in Jesus Christ… There have been at least 61 attacks so far, and that number continues to grow. The precise reasons for these attacks are often unknown. In some cases, they are tied to anger at perceived injustices from the past. Other cases may involve mental illness … The recent vandalism of churches and their Sacred art gives us the opportunity to bear witness to our hope in the Lord Whose beauty is revealed on the cross. The USCCB Beauty Heals initiative invites us to learn about works of devotional art significant to local churches and how they inspire Catholics to live beautifully. Learn more at usccb.org/BeautyHeals.”
Saturday, June 26 the bishops ask us to pray for Catholics in Nicaragua. “When peaceful protests began in April 2018, the government’s brutal response left at least 19 dead and over 100 missing.… In one case, paramilitaries laid siege for 15 hours to a church where priests, students, and media had taken refuge. Bishop Silvio Jose Baez of Managua and other clergy were assaulted while trying to shield protesters. With death threats mounting against him for speaking out in support of human rights, Bishop Baez was recalled to Rome for his safety… Catholic Relief Services began working in Nicaragua in 1964. Support CRS’s agricultural, emergency relief, health, and youth job training programs to help save lives.”
Sunday, June 27 the bishops ask that we “pray that governments would respect the consciences of all people who care for the sick and vulnerable… [A]ctivists have sought to undermine the Church’s mission by forcing Catholic hospitals to perform procedures that destroy human life and undermine human flourishing, such as sterilization, gender reassignment surgery, and even abortion… A nurse in Vermont was forced to choose between her job and her faith when she was told by her employer that she had to participate in an abortion… The Conscience Protection Act would address deficiencies that block effective enforcement of existing laws, most notably by establishing a private right of action allowing victims of discrimination to defend their own rights in court.” The bishops ask that we lobby in favor of this proposed law.
Monday, June 28, the memorial of St. Irenaeus, who was martyred by the Roman Empire, we are to “Pray for Christians in Iraq, and that people of all faiths in the land of Abraham may live in peace… In Baghdad, the Holy Father celebrated Mass in the Syro-Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation, the site of a horrific attack by extremists in 2010 who killed two priests and took 150 of the faithful hostage, leaving dozens of worshipers and police dead… Pope Francis said, ‘We must work to ensure that the Christian presence in these lands continue to be what it has always been: a sign of peace, process, development and reconciliation….’ You can join these efforts by donating to the Knights of Columbus Persecuted Christian fund. Support our brothers and sisters in the Middle East today!”
On the final day of the week, we are to “Pray that Christians will have the courage to speak the truth with kindness and clarity, even in the face of adversity…. One of the promises of our country is that many voices, even voices expressing minority views, have a right to express themselves. Is that promise being fulfilled?… A Catholic news outlet had its Twitter account suspended for noting that a government official who claims to be a transgender woman is a biological male… On the feast day of two of our boldest preachers of the gospel, Saints Peter and Paul, who faced intense hostility, let us resolve to have the courage to speak the truth with grace. And let us pray that the Lord will give us the prudence to be creative and compassionate in our witness… Connect with the USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty. Text FREEDOM to 84576 and Sign up for First Freedom News, the Committee’s monthly newsletter.”