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6/22/2017 9:00:00 AM
Retreat for lawyers part of Fortnight for Freedom
Joann Buff, a homeschooling mother from St. Joseph's parish in Worcester who gives talks on behalf of PerpetuaLife Care, Inc. (a local, Catholic-oriented reproductive healthcare practice) told The Evangelist that she has been advocating SRA (Sexual Risk Avoidance, Abstinence-Based) education, an alternative to the comprehensive sexual education offered in many schools that covers birth control and abortion. She's working toward renewing her certification in SRA from Ascend, formerly known as the National Abstinence Education Association. SRA, she said, is consistent with Catholic teaching and promotes abstinence among teens. Pro-choice advocates "claim that abstinence ed does not work, even though the most recent information shows that it does," she said. She believes that "Planned Parenthood exaggerates contraceptive effectiveness to teens, putting them at risk for making unhealthy decisions." Learn more at www.perpetualifecare.org.

The Fortnight for Freedom, an annual campaign to promote and defend religious freedom through peaceful prayer and activities, is being observed June 21-July 4 this year across the U.S. and in the Albany Diocese.

Along with several parishes praying "patriotic Rosaries" on the 4th of July and other pro-life events (see sidebar), there will be a mini-retreat for attorneys and others, titled, "Religious Liberty and Freedom of Conscience," June 24, noon-4 p.m., at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville.

The Catholic Lawyers Guild of the Diocese noted that the ­retreat is named for St. Thomas More, the patron saint of lawyers, who was beheaded by King Henry VIII for refusing to sanction the king's self-granted annulment and consequent break from the Roman Catholic Church. Retreat organizers see St. Thomas as a martyr for religious liberty.

Attendees at the event will explore the intersections between the law and religious liberty. Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger will be the keynote speaker; the day will also include panel discussions, a Mass, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the sacrament of reconciliation.

According to Thomas Fallati, the guild chose the topic of religious freedom because of its level of interest to lawyers and its pertinence to current events. A former federal prosecutor who is with the practice of Tabner, Ryan and Keniry, LLP, he will speak as a panelist at the retreat.

Mr. Fallati told The Evangelist that retreat attendees will discuss the recent mandates by the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) that aim to require religious and other employers' to include funding for abortions in their employee health plans. Diocesan attorney Michael Costello, who represents the Diocese in the case, is another panelist.

Mr. Fallati also cited the recent Hobby Lobby case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a for-profit company to be exempt from the requirement under the Affordable Care Act that employers cover contraceptives in employee health plans.

Open to lawyers and other interested parties, the retreat will outline the principles that govern questions of religious liberty and individual conscience.

"The focus will be discussing the extent to which the courts have defined and protected those rights, and how attorneys or non-attorneys can assert and defend those rights," said Mr. Fallati. "It's really to get lawyers together to combine some sort of a professional topic with an opportunity for spiritual development. We thought that a day at the shrine would be a good way to combine both."

The speaker hopes attendees will return home with a sense of spiritual clarity in regard to their profession, and with "a better understanding of the connection between faith and their professional lives, and their work and a better sense of important principles of religious freedom."

(The retreat is $60 for attorneys and $20 for non-attorneys. Contact Mr. Fallati at (518) 944-7457 or trf@trklaw.com and see www.rcda.org/life.)

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