The Fourth of July is coming, and it's an election year.  It should feel like a carnival, but instead, my politically conscious friends feel more like putting on black arm bands when we head to the polls.

As a Catholic, I associate myself more or less with conservative candidates, not because I own solid gold toilets and like to eat welfare mothers for breakfast, and not because I have an ounce of admiration or trust for any current prominent Republican, but because the Republican party is very slightly less pro-death than the Democratic party.  I don't expect to gain any ground; I just want to slow down how quickly we lose.

The dreadful part of such a position is that I'm pretty much robbed of any of the enjoyment that used to come with being politically involved:  no one wants to wave a flag and set off fireworks when you're forcing yourself to vote for the lesser of many evils.

Even more depressing is when we run into otherwise decent human beings who are so battered and disgusted by the abuses of liberalism that they have retreated into a grotesque parody of conservatism, with all the strength and none of the wisdom.

And even worse than that is when folks like this present their cruel brand of conservatism as Catholicism.

Just as a handy reference, the following ideas are probably not true conservative ideas, and they are most certainly not Catholic ideas:

  •     People with same-sex attraction, whether they act on it or not, are subhuman, and should be treated with disdain, lest we be tainted. Likewise feminists, women who've had abortions, women who don't shave their legs, and anyone who speaks Spanish.
  •     The poor are, by definition, guilty.
  •     If Jesus Christ were alive today, he'd be investing heavily in hydrofracking.
  •     Torture only bothers you if you secretly want to see the Lincoln Memorial replaced with a minaret.
  •     Men are not true men unless they brew their own beer, own guns, own boar bristle shaving brushes, and frequently go on Facebook to post pictures of themselves with their beer, guns, and boar bristle shaving brushes.

And so on.  You know what I mean.  It's just no damn fun to be a conservative anymore.  It's lonely, and embarrassing.  I want to be patriotic, but I'm no Knothead proctologist with a red-hot rage center and large bowel complaint

Well, I'm delighted to report that the USCCB is giving us an opportunity to do something really patriotic and really Catholic -- and really conservative, as in "conserving something vital that is in danger of being lost."  The Fortnight for Freedom will be

 a 14-day period of prayer, education, and action in support of religious freedom, from June 21 to July 4. The event begins with the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More and ends with Independence Day. This special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action is intended to emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty.

Nice, eh?  Catholics have always been good at taking advantage of the liturgical year, and this sort of quasi-liturgical time frame, linking Thomas More and John Fisher (martyrs for religious freedom) with Independence Day, strikes me as an eminently tasteful and genuinely stirring call to action, both spiritual and civic.   Here are some more details:

To open the Fortnight for Freedom, a Mass will be held on June 21 at 7:00 p.m. in Baltimore, Maryland at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, celebrated by Archbishop William E. Lori of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. On July 4 at 12:10 p.m. at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Archdiocese Washington will celebrate Mass, and the homilist will be Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap of Philadelphia. The Mass on July 4 will be televised nationwide on the EWTN cable network.

My own diocese of Manchester, NH adds the following suggestions with lots of handy links:

    Visit The USCCB will be updating this site with prayer resources, including a prayer for each day of the Fortnight. This website also includes ideas from other dioceses and will be updated to provide educational resources.

    Hold a prayer service during the Fortnight for Freedom. Visit the USCCB's website for Prayer Resources, including prayer cards and prayers of the faithful as well as prayers for our nation and leaders. Prayer resources are available in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese.

    Educate others about religious liberty issues by distributing the USCCB’s educational bulletin inserts on religious freedom (CLICK HERE for the current bulletin for April/May and additional bulletin inserts will be updated on this webpage).

    Encourage those in your parish to fast or make an appropriate act of reparation during this period, such as meatless Fridays or a fast day on Wednesdays.

    Promote a parish Novena for religious freedom during the Fortnight.

    Learn more. Use this time to learn how you can make a difference in religious liberty efforts. Visit the new Religious Liberty page on the Diocese of Manchester website for links to education and prayer resources. ... Visit the Conscience Protection page of the USCCB’s website for information and action alerts, including information to help you write to your federal legislators.

Here is a list of participating dioceses.  U-S-A!  Catho-lic-Church!  Hip, hip, hooray!