Bishop addresses thousands at Topeka rally
By David Myers
Southwest Kansas Register
Nobody knew what to expect in the days leading up to the Religious Freedom rally, which took place on the steps of the state capitol building June 29.
They knew the crowd would be big – several thousand – they knew it would be very hot, and they knew they were passionate about the subject.
What they didn’t know was whether the event would lean more toward protest or celebration.
On June 28, just hours before masses of people would gather in Topeka, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the health care law, part of which, the HHS mandate, had drawn so much ire.
Speakers at the rally included the Most Rev. John B. Brungardt, Bishop of Dodge City, the three other Kansas bishops and a host of others, including Gov. Sam Brownback and keynote speaker, Cathy Ruse. With a worldwide audience tuning into the EWTN live coverage – which can still be viewed at dcdiocese.org -- Bishop Brungardt shared an opening prayer:
“Heavenly Father, we adore you, we glorify you, we marvel at the wonders of your work. You knit us together in our mother’s womb; we are fearfully, wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works (Psalm 139). We come before you to be catechized, to be educated, to learn more about your gift of religious freedom so that we can follow you. We come together to know how we can spread your Gospel message, not just in the four walls of our church, not just in the silence of our homes, but in the world, for the common good.
“This common good is for every person in these wonderful United States, every person in the world, every child of you, men and women, boys and girls, all made in your sacred image and likeness. We come before you in prayer, listening to your word, being changed by your sacred scripture, receiving your sacraments, full of grace, listening to your quiet voice in the depths of our hearts as our consciences are formed by you, to follow you. We beg your help. Our grandparents, our great grandparents, our great great grandparents crossed these plains of Kansas without bottled water and air conditioning, to follow you, to raise a family, to build a state, to strengthen a nation. But there is hope, great hope.
“As Pope Benedict said in his first visit to the United States, ‘Hope in Christ!’ You gave us your Son to live and die and rise from the dead, to free us from sin, to open up the gates of Heaven for those who believe. We trust in You. Give us the strength to continue that trust. Jesus will be with us. He loves us more than we can ask or imagine. To Jesus’ blessed Mother: we ask her intercession, we pray the rosary, trusting in her prayers. Let us trust in you, Heavenly Father. We ask this through Christ, our Lord, Amen.”
In her rich Panamanian accent, Mercedes Helms, pastoral minister at Prince of Peace Parish in Great Bend, read from Hebrews 12; 1-4, sharing with the multitude gathered in Topeka – and the masses of people around the globe – to “…let us run with patience the particular race that God has set before us. Keep your eyes on Jesus, our leader and instructor …. If you want to keep from becoming fainthearted and weary, think about his patience as sinful men did such terrible things to him.”
Ruse, Senior Fellow for Legal Studies at the Family Research Council, explained why the United States bishops are against the HHS mandate within the health care law. “In part, because it allows federal tax dollars to pay for the killing of children in elective abortions in the name of health care, but also, because it doesn’t protect the conscience right of employers. …
“Without conscience protection, Catholic institutions are defenseless against regulations like the HHS mandate, which forces every Catholic employer in America to help their employees violate God’s law as the Church sees it.”
With the new law, Catholic employers are forced to provide funding through their health insurance for contraception, including abortion-inducing drugs.
Ruse made clear that there was no need for the mandate, noting that there’s no law against contraception, and that contraceptive devices are inexpensive and easy to obtain with or without a prescription.
“There are numerous drugs and devices on the market, with new ones created all the time,” she explained. “…Most employee insurance plans already cover them. Not only are they available, but Americans are availing themselves of them in record numbers.
“…At the end of day, this isn’t about coverage of a medical condition. It’s simply a demand that a Catholic institution pay for drugs that make it possible for [a person] to have sex without getting pregnant. It’s nothing grander or nobler than that.
“This is not a victim issue, this is not a women’s issue; It is a freedom issue. Anyone in America who wants contraception can get it. But forcing religious employers to provide it against their will is nothing but a diminishment of freedom.”