Failing at Politics, Bishops Turn to Prayer

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who failed in their increasingly histrionic efforts to get Catholic voters to reject President Obama, and whose first “Fortnight for Freedom” was overshadowed by the progressive “Nuns on the Bus” tour, are launching a new front in their “religious liberty” campaign.

In a press release, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, chairman of the bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, called the new effort a “pastoral strategy.” It’s not just another program, he says, but “part of a movement for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty,” which are “not only foundational to Catholic social teaching but also fundamental to the good of society.”

The “flashpoints” cited by the bishops are the HHS Mandate and the advance of marriage equality, which Cordileone has said “violates justice because it interferes with basic human rights.” After the hierarchy and its allies at NOM failed miserably on the marriage front in November, Cordileone said the bishops were grappling with how to be more persuasive. Notably, they were defeated in part by high-profile pro-equality efforts by Catholic leaders like Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Maine Gov. John Baldacci.

The pastoral part of the new campaign calls for a lot of individual and congregational prayer, including the kinds of prayers at masses that angered many Catholics this year. It also includes calls for Catholics to fast and abstain from meat on Fridays “for the intention of the protection of Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty.” The explicitly political part of the strategy is another “Fortnight for Freedom,” which is being planned in late June and early July 2013. The “key issues” it will address are potential Supreme Court rulings on marriage; the August 1, 2013 deadline for religious organizations to comply with the HHS contraception requirement; and “Religious liberty concerns in other areas, such as immigration, adoption, and humanitarian services.”

Mark your calendars.

Peter Montgomery, an associate editor for Religion Dispatches, is a Senior Fellow at People For the American Way Foundation where he was on staff for 15 years. Before that he was associate director of grassroots lobbying for Common Cause and wrote for Common Cause Magazine, an award-winning journal featuring investigative reporting about the federal government.