On Tuesday, April 17th, in front of our Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, pastors and members of several congregations of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod gathered to present me with greetings and letters of support for the Catholic Church’s stand against the unjust mandate of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that violates our religious liberty.
I was deeply moved by this wonderful gesture of solidarity from our Lutheran brothers and sisters. I thank them for their strong stance in defense of religious liberty and for their commitment to stand together with us in this important matter.
In front of our cathedral, Reverend Daniel May, the Indiana District President of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and Reverend Charles Gieschen, Academic Dean at Concordia Theological Seminary, delivered eloquent speeches in support of our religious freedom in the face of the HHS mandate. Many area Lutheran pastors and others came forward with letters of support signed by members of their congregations and schools and presented them to me. It was a great public witness.
In response to this wonderful initiative of our Lutheran brothers and sisters in Christ, I expressed my heartfelt appreciation. I shared how we are all rightfully worried that religious liberty in our country is being weakened, the most glaring example being the coercive action by the HHS to force religious institutions and individuals to facilitate and to fund products that are contrary to our moral teaching. I also shared how wrong it is for the government to purport to define which of our religious institutions are “religious enough” to merit protection of their religious liberty.
In thanking our Lutheran friends, I stated that we must stand together in defense of our first liberty that is enshrined in the very first amendment of our U.S. Constitution. Religious liberty, protected in our Constitution, is a God-given right, a gift granted to us by God. The support of the Lutheran community has given me hope for the new birth of freedom we pray for in our beloved country.
I encourage all to read the recent Statement of our USCCB Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty entitled Our First, Most Cherished Liberty (http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/our-first-most-cherished-liberty.cfm). In this statement we write: “As Catholics, we are obliged to defend the right to religious liberty for ourselves and for others. We are happily joined in this by our fellow Christians and believers of other faiths.” In our diocese, we are happily joined by our fellow Christians of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and many others. Together “we affirm that our faith requires us to defend the religious liberty granted us by God, and protected in our Constitution.”
At the end of our statement, we invite our Catholic faithful to join us bishops in “an urgent prayer for religious liberty”:
Almighty God, Father of all nations,
For freedom you have set us free in Christ Jesus (Gal 5:1). We praise and bless you for the gift of religious liberty, the foundation of human rights, justice, and the common good. Grant to our leaders the wisdom to protect and promote our liberties; by your grace, may we have the courage to defend them, for ourselves and for all those who live in this blessed land. We ask this through the intercession of Mary Immaculate, our patroness, and in the name of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, with whom you live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
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