We are a group of thirty parishioners at The
Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Washington, DC. Our group, formed into
a small faith community in the 1960s, has been active in and deeply committed to
our parish for all the intervening years. Blessed Sacrament is our parish
community, and we have loved and served it to the best of our abilities. We
have helped to build and strengthen its institutions, participated in every
aspect of its spiritual and social life, seen our children educated in our
parish school, and received the sacraments in our church. Our views and actions
on issues of social and economic justice, war and peace, and the dignity of all
peoples have been in great measure determined by our life in this faith
in Washington, our parish community is a complex one, reflecting and bringing
together the political diversity of the nation's capital, with leaders in
government and media joining each Sunday in prayer. We have been through trying
times together—war, civil strife, scandals in the church, terrorist attacks on
our nation, contested elections, and controversial legislation—but we have
remained a community, with our parish serving as our refuge. For all of us,
whatever our political philosophy, our church has been a welcoming home.
we fear, may be changing.
recent consecutive Sundays, our parish bulletin has included rather alarming
inserts from the Archdiocese speaking of a grave threat to religious freedom in
America. The first of these was entitled "Our First, Most Cherished
Freedom," while the second closed with the dire warning that Catholics
must "Act on Your Beliefs While You Still Can." All of this, we
understand, is part of a buildup to mobilize Catholics to participate in the
"Fortnight for Freedom"—a two-week long demonstration planned by the
bishops chiefly as a protest against the Affordable Care Act.
deeply concerned that, under cover of a campaign for religious liberty, the
provision of universal health care—a priority of Catholic social teaching from
the early years of the last century—is being turned into a wedge issue in a
highly-charged political environment and that our parish, and indeed the wider church,
is in danger of being rent asunder by partisan politics. We, as a group, may
have differing views as to the wisdom of the details of the Health and Human
Services mandate, against which our archdiocese has now announced a lawsuit in
federal court, but we are united in our concern that the bishops’ alarmist call
to defend religious freedom has had the effect of shutting down discussion.
It is a
step too far. We, the faithful, are in danger of becoming pawns and collateral
damage in a standoff between our church and our government. While HHS may have
been tone-deaf and stubborn in its handling of the mandate, we believe that the
points of disagreement have been grossly overstated by the bishops. In no way
do we feel that our religious freedom is at risk. We find it grotesque to have
the call for this "Fortnight" evoke the names of holy martyrs who
died resisting tyranny. And we are concerned that the extremist rhetoric used
to describe the "threat to our freedoms" both undermines the
credibility of our church and insults those in Africa, the Middle East, and
Asia who are truly suffering for their faith.
we find it incomprehensible that, in this time of worldwide economic distress
and suffering, and with the church still reeling from the child abuse scandal,
our bishops have chosen to focus the spiritual and material resources of our
church on this issue, at the expense of the gospel injunction that we serve the
poor and attend to the needs of the "least of these".
finally, to return to the subject of our own parish, we are anguished by the
threat of its being drawn into the vortex of partisanship. This destructive
process has already begun.
our group recounts being disturbed and deeply hurt by an incident that occurred
recently at a parish-sponsored lecture featuring a diocesan official speaking
about the health care controversy. The lecture itself contained references to
what was repeatedly referred to as "Obamacare"—a term that elicited
more heat than light. During the question-and-answer period the atmosphere
became even more charged, until finally one person arose and spat out: "I
have seen cars in our parish parking lot with Obama stickers on them. They are
complicitous in all this." Since the member of our group had such a
sticker on her car, she felt unwelcome and left the event before it ended.
what we fear: that our church becomes tragically reduced to a partisan player
in an election-year campaign and that our parish community becomes a
battleground and no longer a source of spiritual strength.
Given our opposition to the misguided
and costly “Fortnight for Freedom" we are heartened by recent reports that the
bishops are not in full unity on the question of how to respond to the
Affordable Care Act and that at least some of them may be disposed to
reconsider the overwrought statements that have been made concerning threats to
our religious liberties.
we pray that our bishops, the clergy, and Catholic laypeople in our parish and
across the land will join hands to pull us all back from the brink before it is
too late. We pray also that we can come together as a community of faithful,
and as a country, with renewed resolve to address the broad range of critical social,
political, and economic issues affecting our nation and the world.
Our Group: Marie and Paul Barry; Tony
and Judy Carroll; Joy and Jerry Choppin; James and Jean Connell; Christa and Richard
Cross; Larry Carter and Odelia Funke; Kathleen and Richard Hage; Timothy and
Marilyn Hanlon; Ann and Ray Hannapel; James and Elizabeth Kane; Anne Kilcullen;
Marion and John McCartney; John and Betty O'Connor; Ivo and Patricia Spalatin;
Eileen and James Zogby