The timeless truth of religious freedom

by L’Osservatore Romano | Source:
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2012-03-06 L’Osservatore Romano

Washington, 6. U.S. Bishops will listen to the voice of anyone willing to dialogue and lookfor solutions deemed just, but they will not compromise in maintaining thebottom line on principles that cannot be renounced: that is, in brief, what wasstressed in a new letter addressed by the Cardinal Archbishop of New York,Timothy Michael Dolan, as President of the USCCB, to other members of theConference, on the issue of protecting human life and religious freedom. Theseprinciples, according to the episcopacy, have been seriously threatened bygovernment health mandates, which mean to provide women easy access toabortifacients through the coverage of private insurance plans.

   Thesituation has worsened in the last few months following the government'sdecision obliging all employers to offer insurance plans that includereimbursement for contraceptives and sterilisation. Choosing to use the term“accommodation”, the Obama administration wanted to ease religious organizationsand institutions of the burden of paying the health insurance, first by movingthe time frame for implementing the new mandate back to 1 August 2013 and then by moving the  pressure onto the insurance companies themselves, leavingunresolved the problem of exemptions for companies run by religious entities orby foundations that are still inspired by the values that protect life.

   Thematter, he observes in his letter, does not seem to bring forth anydevelopments. “the President invited us to 'work out the wrinkles',” CardinalDolan wrote, “We have accepted that invitation. Unfortunately, this seems to bestalled”. On this point, the Prelate cited the fact that the White House alreadynotified Congress that the dreaded mandates are now published in the FederalRegistry “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 thereligious freedom we cherish as Catholics and Americans. We did not ask for this fight, but wewill not run from it”. The president of the Bishops' Conference wanted to pointout that “this is not a 'Catholic' fight alone”, but one of all citizens ofother confessions and faiths as well, recalling an observation made by a Baptistminister, the former governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, “In this matter, we’reall Catholics”. For this, he adds in the letter, “We are grateful to know somany of our fellow Americans, especially our friends in the ecumenical andinterreligious dialogue, stand together in this important moment in our country.

   They know that this is not just about sterilization, abortifacients, andchemical contraception. It’s about religious freedom, the sacred rightof any Church to define its own teaching and ministry”. Concluding, CardinalDolan did not hide the fact that “Given this climate, we have to prepare fortough times”. There have been many threats to religious freedom in the past “butthese 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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