America loves a good fortnight. I mean, who doesn't love the star-spangled pageantry of religious freedom, fighting the man and prayers for miracles (of course, only in the Judeo-Christian sense of the word). In this American Spirit the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops launched their "Fortnight for Freedom." Ending on July 4th, the Church spent the time reflecting on martyrs who died for the faith, calling for peaceful civil disobedience, and texting "Freedom" to 377377. If there ever was a Fortnight to remember -- this was it.
I've never seen the American Church's leadership so united for a cause -- every pulpit in America had the same message, every bulletin had the same letter, and every Catholic was hearing the same thing: The President's administration was attacking our Freedom. Unfortunately for the hierarchy, American Catholics saw right through the politicking.
I'm fine with the bishops having a Fortnight for Freedom -- and who isn't really? We all love freedom, and I'd venture to even say we love fortnights. However, we're missing the real issue at hand.
Your average Catholic supports religious liberty and women having access to the healthcare they need. Like many Americans, we're fed up with policy makers and prelates trying to pit the issues against each other for their own political gain. We need to stop preaching and start practicing the faith that we so dearly wish to protect.
The Catholic Church needs a Fortnight for the Poor. Yes, you heard me correctly. While the Catholic Church is the world's most robust and effective humanitarian institution, we need to more actively engage the laity in our call to service to the least of these among us. We need to show the same institutional enthusiasm for being our brother's keeper that we did for the Fortnight for Freedom. If we're not texting "Poverty Reduction" to 377377, I don't know what I'll do!
We've already planted the seeds: The bishops have spoken out against the Romney-Ryan budget because it fails a basic moral test by taking 62 percent of its cuts from programs serving those living on the margins of society. It would further divide our nation between the haves and the have-nots and put the burden of economic recovery on the backs of lower-income Americans. The real struggle for the core-teachings of our faith are taking place this election -- and for some reason we're still talking about contraception!
Let's build an economic policy that benefits all Americans. Let's listen to our faith-traditions and keep society's vulnerable at the forefront of our political consciousness and truly answer our call to love our neighbor as ourselves. We need to refocus our efforts as a faith community to build the kingdom here on earth. We have the potential to unite Catholics of all political persuasions around a common issue that Jesus really taught about (I don't remember him saying much about contraception). Let's have a Fortnight for the Poor and remind America what Catholicism has always been about.
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