Archbishop Chaput: “The central issue in the HHS debate is religious liberty”

By Dave Andrusko

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput

Just because the story is not in the daily headlines doesn’t mean that resistance to President Obama’s mandate has grown any the less resolute. As you recall the Obama Administration is mandating that all religious institutions–universities, hospitals, and charities–pay for health insurance that covers sterilization and contraception, not just Catholic institutions.

When various churches objected on religious liberty grounds to the Health and Human Services mandate, the Obama Administration and Democrat leaders such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi insisted that resistance to this onslaught against First Amendment freedoms was actually one battle in a bogus “war on women.”

We’ve run excerpts from several speeches and an op-ed written by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, who has described the HHS mandate as “belligerent, unnecessary, and deeply offensive to the content of Catholic belief.”

Earlier this week Archbishop Chaput was interviewed by Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor-at-large of National Review Online. The following are some excerpts from the interview which can be read in full at

LOPEZ: Your concern about religious liberty in America runs much deeper than the HHS-mandate debate. How important is this one regulation, and how do you see it playing out? If you’re compelled by the Gospel to provide charity, to do good works, etc., you’re going to continue to do them, state penalty or not, aren’t you? Or will you simply have to shut down hospitals and charities?

CHAPUT: The mandate debate has serious implications. Shutting down services is very much a possibility if the circumstances require it. We can’t violate what we believe as Catholics in order to do good works as Catholics. That doesn’t make any sense.

LOPEZ: Is there an element of anti-Catholicism driving the mandate and its supporters?

CHAPUT: There’s clearly an indifference to religious liberty.

Later Chaput said

“The central issue in the HHS-mandate debate isn’t contraception. Casting the struggle as a birth-control fight is just a shrewd form of dishonesty. The central issue in the HHS debate is religious liberty. The government doesn’t have the right to force religious believers and institutions to violate their religious convictions. But that’s exactly what the White House is doing.” …

LOPEZ: How can Catholics save religious liberty in America? How can they work ecumenically — and with those of no faith — to do so?

CHAPUT: The most important thing they can do is realize that constitutional guarantees are just scraps of elegant prose unless people fight to keep them alive. This country has no special immunity to anti-religious bigotry in our courts and legislatures. If we don’t press our lawmakers to defend the rights of religious believers and communities, then we’ll lose those rights. It’s already happening

And one more excerpt:

LOPEZ: Why the Melville quote — “Truth is like a threshing-machine; tender sensibilities must keep out of the way”?

CHAPUT: The public discourse of Catholics needs to be guided by charity and respect for others, but above all by truth. The truth can be difficult, so we often want to soften its edges. But this just wastes time and compounds our problems. Candor can be uncomfortable in the short run, but it’s much healthier in the long run.

The point is this: We need to be frank with each other as Christian adults, frank in our public witness and frank in our own self-criticism. Again, we also need to be prudent and kind — but not at the expense of courage, and not at the expense of speaking the truth.

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