US Bishops Defend Religious Freedom for all


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ABSTRACTWhispers in the Loggia: "The Embodiment of Culture War": On the Mandate and "Accommodation," Chaput Speaks Whispers in the Loggia Saturday, February 11, 2012 "The Embodiment of Culture War": On the Mandate and "Accommodation," Chaput Speaks Over the month since the US bishops rose up to join the most intense policy battle they've known in a generation, a key part of the bench's messaging strategy has been to lay out the church's case for religious freedom on editorial pages nationwide. Leading the charge against the Obama administration's proposed contraceptive mandate, the USCCB chief, Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan of New York, quickly penned pieces for the Wall Street Journal and USA Today following the mid-January release of the initial Final Rule; the conference's newly-designated hand on religious liberty, Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, took to the Washington Post, and a key voice of the body's moderate-progressive wing, Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta -- a former conference president -- warned this week both on local TV and the op-ed page of his city's Journal-Constitution that, were the policy to be enforced, "All people's freedom is at risk." Concerted as the American hierarchy's current engagement in the public square has been, though, the figure who's arguably become the church's most forthright and formidable presence in the nation's civil discourse over recent years has laid relatively low in the latest fight... at least, until now. Then again, that's likely not for lack of trying -- on other fronts, Lord knows his plate's pretty full these days. In his first mainstream op-ed since taking the reins of the crisis-ridden Philadelphia church last September, Archbishop Charles Chaput OFM Cap. addresses the White House mandate and yesterday's "accommodation" in a piece for this Sunday's editions of the city's Inquirer , whose advance "bulldog" run hit local newsstands and retail outlets earlier today. A former member of the US' Commission on International Religious Freedom who's previously called the right to faith "humanity’s first and most important freedom," here below is Chaput's complete take, both on the HHS ruling and the "pattern" it indicates. * * * T he U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) refused on January 20 to broaden the exception to its mandate that nearly all Catholic employers must cover contraception, abortifacients and sterilization in their health care plans. An "accommodation" offered Friday by the White House did not solve the problem. Instead, it triggered withering criticism from legal scholars like Notre Dame’s Carter Snead, Harvard’s Mary Ann Glendon, Princeton’s Robert George and Catholic University of America president John Garvey, along with non-Catholic scholars like Yuval Levin, the religious liberty law firm The Becket Fund and numerous Catholic and other organizations. Many Catholics are confused and angry. They should be. Quite a few Catholics supported President Obama in the last election, so the ironies here are bitter. Many feel betrayed. They’re baffled that the Obama administration would seek to coerce Catholic employers, private and corporate, to violate their religious convictions. But it’s clear that such actions are developing into a pattern. Whether it was the administration's early shift toward the anemic language of "freedom of worship" instead of the more historically grounded and robust concept of "freedom of religion" in key diplomatic discussions; or its troubling effort to regulate religious ministers recently rejected 9-0 by the Supreme Court in the Hosanna Tabor case; or the revocation of the U.S. bishops’ conference human trafficking grant for refusing to refer rape victims to abortion clinics, it seems obvious that this administration is -- to put it generously -- tone deaf to people of faith. Philadelphians may wish to reflect on the following facts. The Archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Human Services spends $278,000,000 annually on services to the community. About 4,000 employees comprise our Secretariat’s work force. Catholic Social Services is the largest social service agency in Pennsylvania and the largest residential care/social service sub-contractor with the Department of Human Services of the City of Philadelphia. There’s more. Archdiocesan Catholic Health Care Services is the largest faith-based provider of long-term-care services to the poor and elderly in the five-county area, and the seventh-largest nationally. And our Nutritional Development Services ministry serves more than 8 million meals a year to school children, summer programs and child care centers. It.......