Bishops’ Statement Affirms Opposition to threat to religious freedoms

By Dave Andrusko

Timothy Cardinal Dolan

Living in a free country, it is difficult to persuade people that fear and intimidation are tools of the trade for pro-abortionists and their friends in the Obama Administration. As we talk about elsewhere today pro-abortionists in Virginia turned a procedure abortionists routinely use—an ultrasound–into “rape”!

Their objective was to scare legislators into beating a hasty retreat, not just in Virginia but also in all other states contemplating ultrasound legislation. In an attack that turned very ugly and very personal, they failed in Virginia. Elsewhere it has required enormous courage on the part of pro-life legislators to withstand the barrage of misinformation, media attacks, and personal slurs.

But intimidation mixed with generous portions of misinformation is not confined to attempts to short-circuit passage of laws requiring ultrasounds (which are almost always used anyway). There is the obnoxious and intolerant Obama Administration mandate requiring virtually all employers to pay for services whether or not they regard them as wrong on religious or moral grounds.

Yesterday, we ran a release from by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). It quoted from a statement by the Administrative Committee of the USCCB which stated unequivocally that the Bishops “are strongly united in their ongoing and determined  efforts to protect religious freedom” (www.nationalrighttolifenews.org/news/2012/03/bishops-promise-to-continue-vigorous-efforts-against-hhs-violations-of-religious-freedom-in-health-care-reform-mandate).

Columnist and author George Weigel brilliantly summarized the Bishops’ unyielding determination not to allow the Obama Administration to play off parts of the Catholic community against each another. Weigel wrote of the statement from the USCCB ‘s Administrative Committee that

“Thus those who expected the bishops to try and find some 50-yard line of agreement with the administration, a middle ground on which the Church’s institutions would be protected while individual Catholic employers would be left to the tender mercies of HHS [the Department of Health and Human Services], were proven exactly wrong: The bishops intend to defend religious freedom in full, and that defense will be all-in.”

The statement can be read at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/Admin-Religious-Freedom.pdf . It is filled with powerful affirmations of unity, a refusal to be bullied by Obama, and a reminder that people of good will are in this fight together.

The statement quickly places the fight in its ecumenical context:

“We begin, first, with thanks to all who have stood firmly with us in our vigorous opposition to this unjust and illegal mandate: to our brother bishops; to our clergy and religious; to our Catholic faithful; to the wonderful array of Catholic groups and institutions that enliven our civil society; to our ecumenical and interfaith allies; to women and men of all religions (or none at all); to legal scholars; and to civic leaders. It is your enthusiastic unity in defense of religious freedom that has made such a dramatic and positive impact in this historic public debate. With your continued help, we will not be divided, and we will continue forward as one.”

The Bishops must be tired of this by now, but they emphasize yet again this is NOT about contraception. Nor is it about religious freedom only for Catholics

“but also of those who recognize that their cherished beliefs may be next on the block. Indeed, this is not about the Church wanting to force anybody to do anything; it is, instead, about the federal government forcing the Church . . . to act against Church teachings.”

The Bishops’ statement talks about their “next steps.”

“We will continue our vigorous efforts at education and public advocacy on the principles of religious liberty and their application in this case (and others). We will continue to accept any invitation to dialogue with the Executive Branch to protect the religious freedom that is rightly ours. We will continue to pursue legislation to restore the same level of religious freedom we have enjoyed until just recently. And we will continue to explore our options for relief from the courts, under the U.S. Constitution and other federal laws that protect religious freedom.

As Weigel concluded in his piece at National Review Online,

“In sum, the bishops have rebuffed calls for a tactical retreat…There will be no compromise here, for there can be no compromise of first principles. Those who understand that will gather their energies and continue to defend both Catholic and American tradition.”

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