• The following is the homily that Bishop Rhoades preached on May 14th at Mass in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception during the Dorothy Day Conference sponsored by the University of Saint Francis:

    Dorothy Day is pictured with children in an undated photo. Co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement and candidate for sainthood, Day was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1897, and died at the Catholic Worker’s Maryhouse in New York in 1980. The University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne is the sponsor of the “Dorothy Day and the Church: Past, Present, and Future” conference, May 13-15.

    Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Matthias, the apostle chosen to replace Judas, as we heard in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles. Matthias is not mentioned anywhere else in the New Testament, so we know very little about him. We do know that he was suited for apostleship because of his experience of being with Jesus from His baptism to His ascension, as Acts tells us. He must also have been suited personally or he would not have been considered and nominated for so great a responsibility. Perhaps the Gospel today can help us to see what made him suitable, indeed, what makes us suitable for discipleship and the apostolate.

    First and foremost, it involves remaining in Jesus’ love. This is what Jesus said to the disciples in His farewell discourse: Remain in my love. Jesus and the apostles shared an intimate friendship. Jesus told them that He no longer calls them slaves, but He calls them friends. As He prepares to take leave from them, Jesus asks the apostles to remain in His love, in His friendship. This entails keeping His commandments: If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love. And Jesus gives them the new commandment: love one another as I have loved you.

    It’s all very simple when we think about it. Remain in my love. That’s the essence of the Christian life, together with the command: Love one another as I have loved you. Dorothy Day understood this. With her conversion, she became a true friend of the Lord who, through a devoted prayer life, learned to remain in His love. She understood, of course, that this love for God could not be separated from love of neighbor, especially the poor and destitute. I think of her powerful and challenging words: I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.

    Dorothy Day desired to change the world. She and fellow members of Catholic Worker fought for the rights of workers and the poor. In the midst of this battle for justice, she said, there is nothing we can do but love, and, dear God, please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy as our friend.”

    We can learn so much from the words and example of Dorothy Day. She challenges us with the radical truth of the Gospel. She challenges us to love one another as Christ has loved us. She challenges us, as Pope Francis challenges us, to be a Church of and for the poor. They challenge us with the words of Jesus in the parable about the last judgment: “whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me.” In her typically incisive way, Dorothy Day wrote that “those who cannot see Christ in the poor are atheists indeed.”

    Pope Francis is very critical of a Church that is egocentric, that is engaged in an ego-drama, what he calls a “self-referential Church,” one that is turned in on itself. He is calling us to go out from our comfort zone in order to reach all the peripheries in need of the light of the Gospel. This is what Dorothy Day did. At the same time, Dorothy Day and Pope Francis do not mean that we rush out aimlessly into the world. We go out with a mission, a clear mission, the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ, the Gospel that invites us to respond to the love of the God who saves us. Dorothy Day’s life was anchored in the Word of God and in the Eucharist. The Word and the Mass strengthened and nourished her. She experienced the Eucharist as the sacrament of love, the mystery of the cross made present, the most amazing encounter we can have with God on this earth.

    Dorothy Day teaches us that Christianity isn’t about embracing abstractions. It’s about living the Gospel. Dorothy Day would quote the words of Dostoevsky: Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams. Think of the saints: they were men and women who embodied the Gospel. They didn’t just talk about it in lofty language. When they saw someone hungry, they gave them food. When they saw someone suffering, they helped them. This is our vocation as well. As Dorothy Day wrote: everything a baptized person does every day should be directly or indirectly related to the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. 

    We are called to sanctity: the perfection of charity, to love God and neighbor, and to love one another as Christ has loved us. Encountering a multitude of challenges in her life and efforts, Dorothy Day kept this at the center: love of God and neighbor. She wrote that love and ever more love is the only solution to every problem that comes up.

    When we think of Dorothy Day or of the lives of the saints, we should realize that they were not born perfect and they had their weaknesses. But they lived their lives with passion and purpose. What animated their lives was that they recognized God’s love and they followed it with all their heart without reserve or hypocrisy. They spent their lives serving others, they endured suffering and adversity without hatred and responded to evil with good, spreading joy and peace (Pope Francis, November 1, 2013). This is our calling too. And here at this altar, we see and we experience the epitome of such love, the sacrifice of Jesus. We hear anew the words of Jesus and the real truth of those words: No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. And yes, we truly are His friends if we do what He commands us, which is really to live the Eucharist we celebrate and receive.

    Posted on May 13, 2015, to:

  • Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades gives the homily at the Ave Maria Press 150th anniversary Mass at Moreau Seminary at the University of Notre Dame.

    The following is the homily given by Bishop Rhoades at the Mass celebrating the 150th anniversary of Ave Maria Press on May 1st at Moreau Seminary, Notre Dame:

    Early in the existence of the community of Holy Cross, Blessed Basil Moreau told his religious that the work of Holy Cross is not the work of human beings but the work of God. The anniversary we celebrate today can be counted among those works: the 150th anniversary of Ave Maria Press.

    On this day, May 1st, in the year 1865, the first edition of the family magazine, The Ave Maria, a weekly periodical devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, was published. That was before May 1st was designated by the Church as the feast of Saint Joseph the Worker. But it seems appropriate that today we celebrate the Mass of Saint Joseph the Worker as we celebrate the holy work of Ave Maria Press, 150 years of work for the Church, the work of evangelization and catechesis, the work of promoting devotion to the Blessed Mother, the work of providing good Catholic reading, a work that continues today. As we celebrate this publishing work that is under the title of the Blessed Virgin Mary, it seems appropriate that we do so on this feast of her spouse, Saint Joseph, the patron of workers. We ask Jesus, the one known as the carpenter’s son, as we heard in today’s Gospel, to continue to bless the work of Ave Maria Press.

    Saint Paul wrote to the Colossians: Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. These words are good for all of us to ponder as we consider our daily work. Certainly, these words express the attitude Father Edward Sorin had in founding the Ave Maria as well as Notre Dame.

    With the spirit of parrhesia (boldness) typical of him, Father Sorin began the venture of the Ave Maria magazine despite many naysayers who thought the project would fail. But Father Sorin was determined to honor the Blessed Virgin through this periodical. He wanted to encourage Marian devotion. He was resolute in moving forward because he felt that there was a great need to provide this publication for the Catholic faithful, mostly immigrant and poor, living in a dominant Protestant culture. He wanted them to have the spiritual sustenance that the Blessed Mother provides. A few months before the first publication, Father Sorin wrote to Neal Gillespie the following: I may be deceived, disappointed, laughed to scorn, but with all that I will still retain my conviction that the Ave Maria will be the source of most abundant blessings, one of the best things ever done in the Congregation, and ultimately a glorious work for our Blessed Mother.

    I don’t think the rather quick and early success of the Ave Maria endeavor would have happened without the support and work of the Holy Cross brothers and sisters, especially Mother Angela Gillespie at Saint Mary’s. This strong, well educated, cultured and faith-filled woman, having just completed her great service of the wounded and dying in the Civil War, did so much to make the Ave Maria a success. Mother Angela was the actual director of the new magazine in those early years. She solicited the essays and articles and discerned what should be published in each issue.

    Mother Angela Gillespie also oversaw the sisters who did the typesetting and layout of the magazine. She worked hard to assist Father Sorin, the editor, in making the Ave Maria the most popular and most read Catholic periodical in the country. Father Sorin once said that Mother Angela is a person whom heaven blesses in everything she touches. And she certainly touched the Ave Maria enterprise. I recently learned that my predecessor, the first bishop of Fort Wayne, John Henry Luers, whose native language was German, sent an article or essay to be inserted into the Ave Maria. In doing so, he said to Father Sorin, if my English is not correct, let Mother Angela rectify it.

    Though I am focusing on the early years of Ave Maria Press, we should also remember today all those who continued the work of Father Sorin and Mother Angela through the past century and a half. I think, for example, of Mother Angela’s younger brother, Father Neal Gillespie, who succeeded her as the behind-the scenes editor of the Ave Maria, and all the Holy Cross priests, brothers, and sisters through the years, as well as all the devoted lay people who continue this Holy Cross apostolate.

    We remember all who have worked, and continue to work, with Ave Maria Press as its publishing has expanded since the weekly magazine ended in 1970. The form of the mission has changed, but not its substance. It continues as a Catholic enterprise, a ministry of the Congregation of Holy Cross. It continues in the mission of Holy Cross in helping people know, love, and serve God and in spreading the Gospel of Jesus. It continues to spread Father Sorin’s deep devotion to the Mother of God. It continues to serve the spiritual, catechetical, and pastoral ministries of the Church.

    On this memorial of Saint Joseph the Worker, when the Church reflects on the value and meaning of human work, it is good for us to remember that work honors the gifts of God our Creator and the talents we receive from Him. All of you who work for Ave Maria Press and support its work are collaborators with Jesus in His redemptive work. As disciples of Jesus, we are all called to holiness by doing the work He calls us to accomplish, by doing our work with dedication and love. The Church teaches that work can be a means of sanctification and a way of animating earthly realities with the Spirit of Christ (CCC 2427). This happens by being industrious, using our talents for the glory of God and the good of others.

    On this anniversary and as we look to the future, we ask the Lord’s blessing on the work of Ave Maria Press. We move forward with the counsel of Saint Paul in our minds and hearts: Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. And we move forward, asking the intercession of Saint Joseph the Worker and his most-holy spouse, our Blessed Mother. With the angel Gabriel, we say Hail Mary, Ave Maria. Like Father Sorin, we entrust this work to Jesus through Mary; we entrust Ave Maria Press to Our Lady. May the mother of the carpenter’s son who is the Son of God pray for us!

    Posted on May 5, 2015, to:

  • Before their fifth annual fundraiser dinner on April 24, members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society from Sacred Heart and Saint Henry churches gather in the lobby of Lester’s Banquet Hall in Fort Wayne. In the photo, from left, are Ed Weber, St. Vincent de Paul Society president, Father Daniel Durkin, pastor of St. Henry Parish, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, Helen Doyle and Lou Ann Weber, St. Vincent de Paul Society vice president.

    The following is the text of a talk by Bishop Rhoades at a fund-raising dinner for the Saint Vincent de Paul Society of Saint Henry and Sacred Heart Parishes, Fort Wayne, on April 24:

    “God’s heart has a special place for the poor,” Pope Francis teaches us by his words and actions. Our Holy Father is calling all of us to hear the cry of the poor. He says: “Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society.”

    When I think about Pope Francis’ call for us to be a Church of and for the poor, I think immediately of the example and work of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society in our diocese. Hundreds of the faithful, like you, in parish conferences throughout our diocese faithfully, and often quietly, day by day lovingly serve the poor, reach out to the needy, in the spirit of Saint Vincent de Paul, a great “apostle of charity” who has been called the “father of the poor.” I thank you and all the Vincentians throughout our diocese for your witness to God’s love through your works of charity.

    I have always been inspired by the mission and the spirituality of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society. It is much more than a philanthropic organization. It is an apostolate rooted in the Gospel. It has only one purpose, as Blessed Frederic Ozanam said: “to sanctify its members in the exercise of charity and to help the poor in their corporal and spiritual needs.”

    When the founder of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, Frederic Ozanam, was beatified at World Youth Day in Paris in 1997, Saint John Paul said that Blessed Frederic “believed in love, the love of God for every individual. He felt himself called to love, giving the example of a great love for God and others. He went to all those who needed to be loved more than others, those to whom the love of God could not be revealed effectively except through the love of another person. There Ozanam discovered his vocation, the path to which Christ called him. He found his road to sanctity. And he followed it with determination.”

    These words of Saint John Paul II about Blessed Frederic remind us that your vocation as Vincentians is precisely that, a vocation, a calling. It is a vocation to love: love of God and neighbor. Your love of neighbor is focused especially on those who are poor and marginalized in our society. When you serve them, you are honoring Our Lord in their persons. Remember the words of Blessed Frederic about those whom you serve: “We must fall at their feet and say to them, like the Apostle You are my Lord. You are our masters and we are your servants; you are for us the sacred images of the God whom we do not see and, not knowing how to love Him in another way, we love Him through you.”

    Blessed Frederic Ozanam, as you know, was an exemplary husband and father. He is an example for the laity of living the call to holiness. As a university student in 19th century France, in an atmosphere of much anti-clerical and anti-Catholic opinion, the young Frederic defended his Christian convictions without hating those who were the Church’s adversaries. In fact, he loved them, as Jesus taught us. Blessed Frederic was a courageous believer who sought to spread the faith and renew the Church through action on behalf of the poor. I think what he did is very instructive for us today, in the midst of our increasingly secularized culture. We are called to love the Church’s adversaries and opponents, remaining firmly faithful to the truths of our faith, while also living that faith with the love that attracts others to the truth and beauty of the Gospel.

    Here in our diocese, your ministry as Vincentians is a great testimony of what Blessed Pope Paul VI called “a living Catholicism.” You don’t just serve the poor, you love them, you see them as brothers and sisters and as friends. You recognize and respect their dignity. It is not just giving material assistance to an anonymous person. You are to see in each person you serve a child of God, a brother, a sister, a unique individual whom God loves. You are to see in each individual the face of Christ.

    I encourage you to read the lives of the Vincentian saints and blesseds, great models for you and for all of us: Saint Vincent de Paul, Blessed Frederic Ozanam, Saint Louise de Marillac, Blessed Rosalie Rendu, Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, and others. These holy members of the Vincentian family are great models and intercessors for you.

    I have a special devotion to one of the Vincentians, Blessed Pier Giorgio. At the age of 17, when he joined the Society, he said: “Jesus visits me every morning in Holy Communion. I repay him with my poor means, visiting the poor.” He did not love the poor in general; he loved the poor individual. Blessed Pier Giorgio was a man of prayer who loved Eucharistic adoration and the rosary. He loved his friends and family. He was a vibrant young man and outdoorsman. He died at the age of 24. Blessed Pier Giorgio is a great example for our Catholic youth, a young man of deep faith and love for Christ, a man of prayer, a man who had a passion for life, a man of great virtue who loved and served the poor through the Saint Vincent de Paul Society. I think the conferences of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society in our diocese have an important task today to reach out to our young people and invite them to become members. The story of Blessed Pier Giorgio should be shared with them. It will attract them to the Vincentian vocation.

    I wish to conclude by thanking you again for your dedication and commitment to your holy charism. Your ministry of aid to the needy is a vital part of the Church’s mission to bring the good news to the poor. May your service of the poor in the spirit of Saint Vincent de Paul help you to grow in holiness. Today, April 24th, is the birthday of Saint Vincent de Paul. He was born April 24, 1581 in a village of southwest France. Here we are 434 years later. May Saint Vincent de Paul, the apostle of charity and father of the poor, intercede for you and for all the Vincentians of our diocese and throughout the world!

     

    Posted on April 28, 2015, to:

  • The painting “The Good Shepherd,” shown above is by Bernhard Plickhorst, a German painter and graphic artist, 1825-1907. Good Shepherd Sunday is the Fourth Sunday of Easter in the Catholic liturgical calendar.

    Every year, on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, the Church’s liturgy presents to us the figure of Jesus, the “Good Shepherd.” The Gospel reading is taken from the tenth chapter of Saint John’s Gospel. This coming Sunday, the passage is John 10: 11-18. I wish to reflect in this column on this Gospel passage in which Jesus identifies Himself as the “good shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep.”

    In the early Church, the figure of Christ as the Good Shepherd was a prominent image. This image is seen often in early Christian art. Clearly, it had great meaning for the early Christians since it often appeared, painted or sculpted, in the catacombs and on sarcophagi and baptismal fonts. Clearly, our ancestors in the Christian faith were moved by this image of Jesus. These effigies by the first generations of Christians show us that the image of Christ as the Good Shepherd was an image of faith that touched their hearts in a special way.

    Already in the Old Testament, the figure of the shepherd was an image for God. The prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel spoke of God as the shepherd of the people of Israel. The people were referred to as the Lord’s flock. There is a particularly moving reflection on God as shepherd of His people in the famous Psalm 23 which begins: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” In this beautiful psalm, the author writes that he lacks nothing as long as the shepherd is with him. He speaks of letting God, his shepherd, lead him to safe pastures: He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters; He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

    It is significant that Jesus applies this image of God as the shepherd to Himself. Jesus revealed an aspect of the Good Shepherd’s love that had not been revealed in the Old Testament when He said that a good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. These words were confirmed during Christ’s passion. Jesus laid down His life on the cross. He did so with love and He did so freely. In this Sunday’s Gospel, Our Lord says: This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. Jesus offered Himself up on the cross to redeem humanity, to save every individual person. He did so with love, in union with His Father’s love for us.

    There are other aspects of the shepherd that Jesus teaches us. He says: I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me. This is wonderful and consoling news. Jesus knows each of us. He knows our name. We are not anonymous persons to Him. We are not just part of a multitude or crowd. We are each individually known and loved. Saint Paul grasped this when he wrote: Christ loved me and gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20).

    Jesus not only says that He knows His sheep; He also says that His sheep know Him. The knowledge is mutual. The more we know Christ, the more we trust Him and love Him.

    In speaking of Himself as the Good Shepherd, Jesus contrasts this with the mercenary (a hireling) whose sheep are not his own. When this hired shepherd sees a wolf coming, he leaves the sheep and runs away. Jesus says: This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. The Good Shepherd, in contrast, defends His sheep. He goes so far as to lay down His life for the sheep.

    There are still mercenaries in the world who run away when a wolf comes. They do not really care about the sheep at all. Unfortunately, there are wolves who seek to devour the sheep. There are those who sow hatred, malice, doubt, and confusion. But Jesus, the Good Shepherd, defends us from these things. With the light of His divine word and the grace He gives in the sacraments, Christ forms our minds and strengthens our wills. He protects us.

    In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus also speaks of other sheep that do not belong to this fold. He says: These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. Jesus desires to increase His flock. The Good Shepherd wants all people to know Him, love Him, and follow Him. These words of Our Lord remind us of the Church’s evangelizing mission. We should not ignore or neglect those who do not belong to the fold: those who do not yet know the Gospel, those who have abandoned it, or even those who are its adversaries.

    As we reflect this Sunday on Jesus, the Good Shepherd, it is also good to reflect on our call to imitate the Good Shepherd. I naturally think first of bishops and priests who are configured to Christ, the Good Shepherd, by ordination. We are called to shepherd our people with the heart of Christ, to know our people, to lead them, to feed them, to love them, indeed to lay down our life for them. I also think of parents and their vocation to exercise the functions of the Good Shepherd with regard to their children.

    By virtue of Baptism, every Christian is called to be “a good shepherd” in the environment where he or she lives: in the family, at work, in the community. I think, for example, of those who care for the sick and the suffering. There are many opportunities to be “good shepherds” in society, through works of mercy and compassion. And there is the mission of evangelization: sharing the Gospel with those who do not belong to the sheepfold of the Church.

    I conclude with the following words of Saint John Paul II: What a blessing it is to know Christ, the Good Shepherd, to know Him as the Redeemer who laid down His life for the sheep, to know Him as the Risen Lord, the source of everlasting joy and life. What a blessing it is to know the Good Shepherd and to believe in Him. This gift of faith is the greatest blessing we could ever receive in life.

    Posted on April 21, 2015, to:

  • A national firestorm erupted after Governor Pence signed into law the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Indiana’s RFRA, supported by the Indiana Bishops, was modeled after the 1993 federal RFRA law and its counterparts that have been adopted in 19 other states. Without getting into the technicalities of the laws, they basically prevent the government from “substantially burdening” a person’s exercise of religion unless there is a “compelling government interest” and unless such restriction of religious freedom is “the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”

    The federal RFRA law has protected religious freedom, especially that of religious minorities, for over two decades. The federal and state RFRA laws have not been used as tools for discrimination. The RFRA laws, including the Indiana law, do not give people of faith a blank check to discriminate against anyone. In fact, they are meant to protect people against discrimination, in particular, people of faith whose rights to follow their deeply held religious beliefs are increasingly attacked today.

    The anger that was expressed in the intense campaign against Indiana’s RFRA law was focused on the issue of discrimination against homosexuals. It is important to state from the start our Catholic teaching that opposes every sign of unjust discrimination against homosexual persons. Our Indiana Catholic Conference would have opposed the Indiana RFRA law if it would promote such discrimination.

    I think the crux of the matter has to do with same-sex marriage. The Catholic Church and many other people of faith oppose the redefinition of marriage, not as discrimination against homosexual persons, but because of our belief, founded on reason and faith, that male-female complementarity is intrinsic to marriage. The very nature of marriage, as established by our Creator, is a union between one man and one woman. Should we not have the freedom to uphold this perennial teaching of the Church, a teaching affirmed throughout history and cultures, which has only recently been rejected by many in our society? Advocates for gay marriage are winning the debate as they frame the issue cleverly as “marriage equality,” rather than focusing on the deeper question of the nature and meaning of marriage.

    The vocal and strident opponents of Indiana’s RFRA raise the issue of discrimination against homosexual persons. As I mentioned, RFRA is not a blank check for bigotry. There are other laws that protect people from discrimination. RFRA does not provide immunity to discrimination claims. But the real issue seems to me to be about same-sex marriage. Would Indiana’s RFRA, prior to the changes enacted after the national uproar, have allowed businesses and others to deny services for a same-sex wedding? Would this be justified? Should a business owner be compelled to be involved in a ceremony that he or she believes to be against the divine and natural law? I expect this will be an ongoing debate. Opposition to gay marriage is viewed by many as bigotry. Some have even lost their jobs for expressing opposition to gay marriage. Religious liberty has become subjugated to what some claim to be “civil rights.” But they seem to forget that religious freedom is a civil right.

    Where does the Catholic Church stand? I think it is important to recall the important teaching of the Second Vatican Council in its Decree on Religious Liberty. It declares that “the human person has a right to religious freedom. Freedom of this kind means that all people should be immune from coercion on the part of individuals, social groups and every human power so that, within due limits, nobody is forced to act against his or her convictions nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his or her convictions in religious matters in private or in public, alone or in associations with others. The Council further declares that the right to religious freedom is based on the very dignity of the human person as known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself. This right of the human person to religious freedom must be given such recognition in the constitutional order of society as will make it a civil right.” The Council further teaches that “the exercise of this right cannot be interfered with as long as the just requirements of public order are observed.”

    The Church believes and teaches that the right to religious freedom is founded on the very dignity of the human person. It is not an “absolute” right in that there are “due limits” and “just requirements of public order.” It seems to me that the RFRA laws are in accord with this teaching of the Church. They seek to protect our religious liberty, while also allowing for exceptions when it comes to a “compelling government interest,” since the Church also speaks of “due limits.” The “common good” would be such a limit. How to apply all this to the present debate? It does not seem justifiable to me to compel believers in authentic marriage to seemingly condone “same-sex marriage” any more than it is justifiable for anyone to unjustly discriminate against persons with same-sex attraction. In other words, not cooperating with same-sex marriage is not unjust discrimination. Not respecting the genuine human rights of homosexual persons would be unjust discrimination.

    I think we should be concerned about the changes made by our Indiana lawmakers to the state RFRA. Our legislators and governor were under intense pressure to make these changes. The attacks from opponents were unfair and relentless. The well-orchestrated opposition included not only LGBT activists, but also major corporations, and even the NCAA, threatening retaliation for enacting the law. The hastily enacted changes calmed the storm. I worry about the possible repercussions for religious liberty. Continued vigilance is needed.

    I fear that there will be a continual erosion of religious liberty in our country. I think, for example, of the HHS mandate which is still being fought to defend our freedom not to cover abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization in our health care plans. I think also of the present attack on religious freedom in Washington, D.C. The Council of the District of Columbia recently passed the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act (RHNDA) and the Human Rights Amendment ACT (HRAA). RHNDA prohibits discrimination on the basis of “reproductive health decisions” even if those decisions conflict with the organization’s beliefs. For example, it does not allow religious and faith-based groups to ensure that their employees uphold their teachings. HRAA would repeal the “Armstrong Amendment,” which protected the freedom of religious schools not to fund or provide facilities to those who violate the schools’ beliefs about marriage and human sexuality. I don’t expect these attacks to end. That’s why we need RFRA, on both the federal and state levels. We must continue to strive to uphold and protect religious freedom, founded on the dignity of every human person.

    Posted on April 8, 2015, to: