Cardinal Donald Wuerl and the U.S. bishops have been warning us and warning us about a full-press assault on religion and religious freedom. The bishops are urging all people of goodwill to stand up against these attacks.

For those who think that the cardinal and his brother bishops are engaging in hyperbole, consider the following:

- When it was announced March 20 that Archbishop William Lori was named to head the Archdiocese of Baltimore, radio station WTOP's website headlined its article with "Leading Obama critic named archbishop of Baltimore." That was a swipe at the new archbishop's vocal and very public objection to the HHS mandate requiring the health insurance plans of Catholic institutions to offer birth control, abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization.

- A March 9 full-page advertisement in the New York Times invited the faithful "to quit the Roman Catholic Church," and to make a choice between "reproductive freedom, or back to the Dark Ages." The ad accuses the Church of promoting "acute misery, poverty, needless suffering, unwanted pregnancies, overpopulation, social evils and deaths."

- A Feb. 15 editorial cartoon in the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader shows a Catholic bishop hollering at a woman for her "evil desire" to use birth control while at the same time leering and commenting on her "adorable" young son.

- The Huffington Post website recently ran a two-part series of columns in which Catholicism was called a "cannibalistic cult" with a "phony theology" that promotes pedophilia and whose Mass is a "barbaric ritual." And just for good measure, it slams our Holy Father, who was referred to as a former Nazi.

- The Vatican's website was hacked by "Anonymous" earlier this month, and this was the message that was displayed there: "Anonymous decided today to besiege your site in response to the doctrine, to the liturgies, to the absurd and anachronistic concepts that your for-profit organization spreads around the world. This attack is not against the Christian religion or the faithful around the world but against the corrupt Roman Apostolic Church."

The bishops are aware of this, and they are attempting to raise that awareness in all of us. They have issued a statement pledging that they are "strongly unified and intensely focused," in their efforts to protect religious freedom in the United States.

Regardless of what the secular media says, this issue is not about a loving and all-caring government championing women's health and reproductive "rights" against the big bad Catholic Church.

The Administration loves to haul out those Catholics who support its position - such as the leadership of the Catholic Health Association, editorial writers at America magazine and lay Catholics who choose not to follow the teachings of the Church - as some sort of proof that it is doing the right thing. The secular media (as the examples above show) have been emboldened by that to attack us.

Remember, the bishops speak for the Church, they have never claimed that their job is to speak for all Catholics. They are not demanding that Catholics - and the rest of the country - march lockstep with what they say. They are telling us what the Catholic Church teaches, what the Catholic Church believes.

And, they are telling all of us that we must be vigilant as our precious right to religious freedom is being chipped away. Members of other denominations, including many Jews and Evangelical Christians, are siding with the bishops on this.

New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a letter to fellow bishops stressed that, "They [the Obama administration] know that this is not just about sterilization, abortifacients, and chemical contraception. It's about religious freedom, the sacred right of any Church to define its own teaching and ministry."

In their statement pledging to defend religious freedom in this country, our bishops said, "This is not about the Church wanting to force anybody to do anything; it is instead about the federal government forcing the Church -- consisting of its faithful and all but a few of its institutions -- to act against Church teachings. This is not a fight we want or asked for, but one forced upon us by government on its own timing."

We ought to thank our bishops -- and thank God -- that they are willing to take this on for us. We ought to find out also what we can do to assist our bishops in this noble cause.