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John J. Conley, S.J., the Knott Professor of Philosophy and Theology at Loyola University Maryland wrote a challenging column in the Feb. 25th edition of America Magazine, entitled: An Unwelcome Anniversary. I don’t think I have seen a more concise or co-gent description of why the Campaign for Religious Liberty is so important. After speaking at length about the changes in the abortion landscape since Roe vs. Wade, he writes:

“The pro-life movement has become intertwined with the effort to defend the rights of conscience. It is no accident that our bishops’ noble campaign to de-fend religious liberty is very much a crusade to oppose legal efforts to force health care workers to participate in abortions, nursing homes to facilitate physician-assisted suicide, pharmacists to distribute abortifacients and employers to finance the destruction of human life and of the very capacity to give life. Decades ago, the campaign to legalize abortion and euthanasia appealed to privacy. But it has since be-come an effort to make every citizen an accomplice in the culture of death under the rubric of access.”

It was hard to read those words. I recognize in them a truth that cannot be wished away, ignored or conveniently dismissed. We are closer to becoming a nation of accomplices under the guise of access to ‘health care.’ As much as we acknowledge the need and right of individuals to affordable health care, it cannot be at the expense of our souls. Fr. Conley continues: “As our bishops have reminded us, the struggle to protect the lives of the vulnerable at the dawn and dusk of existence is the preeminent civil rights issue of our age. When the right to life recedes, the entire edifice of human rights buckles.” In 1981, a man named Tom Mallon said to me, on my final night of volunteering in Northern Ireland: “I fear a world where life is cheap.” Some 30 years later, sadly, I understand what he was trying to tell me.

As ONE response to these challenges, our Bishops are encouraging Catholics throughout the country to offer their Friday acts of sacrifice and penance, and particularly to abstain from meat and fast on Fridays until Christ the King Sunday (November 24, 2013), for the intention of the protection of Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty. Go to www.USCCB.org for more action steps…

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