After 'United for Religious Freedom'


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ABSTRACTAfter ‘United for Religious Freedom’ - George Weigel - National Review Online Get FREE NRO Newsletters   Log In   |   Register Follow Us Everywhere         April 16 Issue  Subscribe to NR  Renew  April 16 Issue   |   Subscribe   |   Renew Home The Corner The Agenda Campaign Spot The Home Front Right Field Bench Memos The Feed Media Blog Critical Condition Larry Kudlow David Calling Exchequer Phi Beta Cons Planet Gore UK Between the Covers Radio Derb Tweet Tracker NR / Digital Subscribe: NR Subscribe: NR / Digital Give: NR / Digital NR Renewals & Changes Shop! Donate Media Kit Contact Costa: Rick Santorum’s Long Goodbye Editors: The Emperor Has No Plan Capretta: Unsubstantiated Budget Attacks, the Sequel Ponnuru: The Impropriety of Obamacare Interview: Peace Is the Word Fund: President Petulant Loyola: The EPA Abuses First, Apologizes Later Epstein: Cue the Boys of Summer 2012 Goldberg: Romney’s Savior Tanner: Conservatives and the Courts Sowell: Political Word Games Malkin: The Democrats’ Election Forgery Racket Zubrin: Carbon Emissions Are Good Derbyshire: March Diary Costa: The Ron Johnson Factor Hanson: Iran’s Win, Win, Win Bomb Habeeb: Too Young to Die Sowell: Argument from Disparity Charen: Violence and Family Breakdown Fonte: Saving Sovereignty New on NRO . . . Close To: Your Email: Your Name: Subject: March 17, 2012 9:00 A.M. After ‘United for Religious Freedom’ The bishops’ road to unanimity and the path ahead By George Weigel Archive Latest RSS Send Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Print Text   Comments 49 George Weigel  O n the night of February 17, I took a phone call from a senior Catholic official who was concerned about the pro-gay-marriage votes in the Washington and Maryland legislatures and the possible spillover effect of those defeats on the unity the U.S. bishops had thus far displayed in resisting the Health and Human Services contraceptive mandate. I told him not to worry. “The bishops of the United States,” I said, “haven’t been so unified since John Carroll took a deep breath in 1791 and decided something.” In 1791, of course, Bishop Carroll of Baltimore was the only Catholic bishop in the young Republic. This striking episcopal unity not only held during the March 13–14 meeting of the Administrative Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, it was strengthened. The vote to approve a statement entitled   “United for Religious Freedom,” in which the bishops declared that there would be no compromise with the Obama administration on the mandate itself or on the bogus “accommodation” of religious concerns, was unanimous, with bishops from across the spectrum of responsible Catholic opinion joining together to lay down an unmistakable marker. Thus those who reported fissures opening within the bishops’ conference that would lead to a retreat from the rigor of the bishops’ challenge to the administration were decisively rebutted. So were those whose leaks to the press were obvious attempts to paint a picture of discord within the episcopate and to smear some of the bishops’ ablest staffers as rabid “culture warriors.” And so were those journalists who, foolishly, tried to intimidate bishops, who don’t take kindly to such blunt-edged tactics. Advertisement Full marks, then, to Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, for guiding the Administrative Committee to a unanimous and tough statement, navigating the rocks and shoals of some bishops’ concerns about the substance of the USCCB’s challenge to the administration (which touched on questions of the very nature of religious freedom) and other bishops’ concerns about tactics. On the substance of the bishops’ challenge to the administration’s diktat , Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Connecticut (whom Dolan had earlier named the chairman of an Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty), has been the key figure. Hewing closely to the Catholic theory of religious freedom laid down by the Second Vatican Council and Blessed John Paul II, Bishop Lori has insisted on the indivisibility of the first liberty. Religious freedom, in other words, has both personal and corporate dimensions; both individuals and institutions enjoy the right of religious freedom. Thus any attempt to solve practical problems, such as those which the mandate poses to Catholic institutions and to conscientious Catholic employers and employees, by splitting the difference (i.e., the bishops’ defending their institutions but leaving individual Catholics to fend for themselves against Leviathan) would not only be pastorally irresponsible; it would mean an abandonment of Catholic tradition. Lori&rsqu.......