The timeless truth of religious freedom Print this post

(L’Osservatore Romano) – U.S. Bishops will listen to the voice of anyone willing to dialogue and look for solutions deemed just, but they will not compromise in maintaining the bottom line on principles that cannot be renounced: that is, in brief, what was stressed in a new letter addressed by the Cardinal Archbishop of New York, Timothy Michael Dolan, as President of the USCCB, to other members of the Conference, on the issue of protecting human life and religious freedom. These principles, according to the episcopacy, have been seriously threatened by government health mandates, which mean to provide women easy access to abortifacients through the coverage of private insurance plans.

The situation has worsened in the last few months following the government’s decision obliging all employers to offer insurance plans that include reimbursement for contraceptives and sterilisation. Choosing to use the term “accommodation”, the Obama administration wanted to ease religious organizations and institutions of the burden of paying the health insurance, first by moving the time frame for implementing the new mandate back to 1 August 2013 and then by moving the pressure onto the insurance companies themselves, leaving unresolved the problem of exemptions for companies run by religious entities or by foundations that are still inspired by the values that protect life. The matter, he observes in his letter, does not seem to bring forth any developments. “the President invited us to ‘work out the wrinkles’,” Cardinal Dolan wrote, “We have accepted that invitation. Unfortunately, this seems to be stalled”. On this point, the Prelate cited the fact that the White House already notified Congress that the dreaded mandates are now published in the Federal Registry “without change”.

The Cardinal declared: “We have made it clear in no uncertain terms to the government that we are not at peace with its invasive attempt to curtail the religious freedom we cherish as Catholics and Americans. We did not ask for this fight, but we will not run from it”. The president of the Bishops’ Conference wanted to point out that “this is not a ‘Catholic’ fight alone”, but one of all citizens of other confessions and faiths as well, recalling an observation made by a Baptist minister, the former governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, “In this matter, we’re all Catholics”. For this, he adds in the letter, “We are grateful to know so many of our fellow Americans, especially our friends in the ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, stand together in this important moment in our country. They 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”. Concluding, Cardinal Dolan did not hide the fact that “Given this climate, we have to prepare for tough times”. There have been many threats to religious freedom in the past “but these often came from without. This one sadly comes from within”. This is why “we will tirelessly defend the timeless and enduring truth of religious freedom”.

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