by Jessica Langdon
TOPEKA — Now is a critical time for every Catholic to stand up and pay attention, believes Cathy Ruse, senior fellow for legal studies with the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.
“I think everybody should pay attention when the bishops speak in unison — and forcefully — about an issue of public policy,” said Ruse, who will be the keynote speaker this month at the statewide Rally for Religious Freedom.
The rally will take place on the south steps of the Capitol in Topeka on June 29.
Early this year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services revealed details of a health care mandate that will require employers to provide insurance coverage to employees that includes contraceptives, sterilization and drugs that are considered abortifacients.
Catholic entities such as colleges, hospitals and other institutions are included in that requirement, regardless of religious objections.
“Every single [bishop or archbishop] has spoken out and called this a violation of religious freedom,” said Ruse. “Everybody should look up and take notice.”
The Kansas rally — which will bring together thousands of Catholics from across the state to the Capitol from 2 to 3:30 p.m. on June 29 — is one of many similar events across the country.
It is part of a nationwide “Fortnight for Freedom” called for by the U.S. bishops to heighten the awareness of all Americans to the threat this mandate represents to the religious liberty of all. Running from June 21-July 4, the Fortnight focuses on our American heritage of religious liberty and is intended to be a time not only of prayer, study, and catechesis, but also of public action.
This is an unprecedented occurrence and an important issue, Ruse said.
Ruse, who has written numerous columns on the issue, converted to Catholicism after she graduated from Georgetown Law School in Washington. D.C.. She went on to work for some time at the USCCB.
And she sees unprecedented unity on this issue.
In her keynote address at the rally, Ruse expects to draw on a “beautiful” idea from Cardinal William H. Keeler, the retired archbishop of Baltimore, who said, referring to the work of Catholic schools, “We don’t educate our students because they are Catholic. We educate them because we are Catholic.”
And Catholics aren’t alone in noting the threat to religious freedom, said Ruse. In one of her columns on the topic, Ruse referred to more than 2,500 religious leaders who, “in solidarity with the Catholic Church,” signed a letter this year opposing the mandate.
Because the parts of the health care act that have caught Catholics’ attention haven’t yet gone into effect, many people might not even realize its full impact of them, Ruse said.
“If this is allowed to stand, we may well see Catholic institutions closing,” she said. And so many of them are a backbone of today’s society, she added. One in six patients in the United States, for example, is served by a Catholic hospital.
“Real people,” she said, “are going to be affected by this ruling if it causes Catholic institutions to close.”
Catholics can be proud that their church has held fast to its beliefs over hundreds of years, Ruse said, and she doesn’t see that changing.
“The church is going to hold onto her beliefs here, too,” she said.