In today’s editorial piece, Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski personally addressed the US President Barack Obama on matters pertaining to conscience and religious freedom. Conscience is more than a policy; conscience is a basic human right given by God Himself. It is good piece for all to read –especially Catholics– as it outlines recent history lest we forget. Wenski is right to bring to light the transgressions on conscience by this Administration. Our thanks to the Archbishop for teaching the faith. Thoughts?
In May 2009, President Obama gave the commencement address at Notre Dame University and received an honorary degree. That Notre Dame would confer an honorary degree on an elected official who advances abortion rights in contradiction to Catholic teaching caused no small controversy among many Catholics throughout the United States.
Those who supported Notre Dame felt vindicated, however, when in his speech the President promised to “honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion,” stating that his Administration would provide “sensible” protections for those who wanted no involvement in the procedure. This would presumably include health-care providers, social-service providers, and consumers who might otherwise have to pay through their health-care plans for other people’s abortions. Obama later reiterated this position to Catholic newspaper editors, stating that he would make such protections “robust.”
The USCCB Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty headed up by Bishop William Edward Lori announces the bishops and consultants:
Ten bishops and 10 consultants were named to the committee in early November.
New members are Bishop John O. Barres of Allentown, Pa.; Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia; Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas; Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta; Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of St. Paul and
Minneapolis; Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix; Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Ill.; Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi of Mobile, Ala.; Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle; and Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington.
Consultants include Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus; attorneys Kevin Baine, Philip Lacovara and L. Martin Nussbaum; Father Raymond J. de Souza, a columnist and priest of the Archdiocese of Kingston, Ontario;
Richard Garnett, associate dean and professor of law and political science at the University of Notre Dame; John Garvey, president of The Catholic University of America; Mary Ann Glendon, Harvard Law School professor; Judge Michael
McConnell, Stanford University Law School professor; and Mary Ellen Russell, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference.
Lori said we need to have “a new appreciation for religious liberty and a renewed determination to defend it.”
As mere commentary, the lay members of this committee are impressive.
Today, Pope Benedict spoke to the volunteers who work with the Cor Unum group led by Cardinal Robert Sarah. He defines very clearly charitable work. Pay attention Communion and Liberation people!!!
I am grateful for the opportunity to greet you as you meet under the auspices of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” in this European Year of Volunteering.
Let me begin by thanking Cardinal Robert Sarah for the kind words he has addressed to me on your behalf. I would also like to express my deep gratitude to you and, by extension, to the millions of Catholic volunteers who contribute, regularly and generously, to the Church’s charitable mission throughout the world. At the present time, marked as it is by crisis and uncertainty, your commitment is a reason for confidence, since it shows that goodness exists and that it is growing in our midst. The faith of all Catholics is surely strengthened when they see the good that is being done in the name of Christ (cf. Philem 6).
For Christians, volunteer work is not merely an expression of good will. It is based on a personal experience of Christ. He was the first to serve humanity, he freely gave his life for the good of all. That gift was not based on our merits. From this we learn that God gives us himself. More than that: Deus Caritas est – God is love, to quote a phrase from the First Letter of Saint John (4:8) which I employed as the title of my first Encyclical Letter. The experience of God’s generous love challenges us and liberates us to adopt the same attitude towards our brothers and sisters: “You received with paying, give without pay” (Mt 10:8). We experience this especially in the Eucharist when the Son of God, in the breaking of bread, brings together the vertical dimension of his divine gift with the horizontal dimension of our service to our brothers and sisters.
On 25 October 2011, Los Angelus Archbishop José H. Gomez, STD, 60, spoke on the slow loss of America’s first freedom. On March 1, 2011, Archbishop Gomez became the Archbishop of Los Angelus, after being the Archbishop of San Antonio; he’s been a bishop for nearly 11 years. A stellar article follows:
There is much evidence to suggest that our society no longer values the public role of religion or recognizes the importance of religious freedom as a basic right. As scholars like Harvard’s Mary Ann Glendon and Michael Sandel have observed, our courts and government agencies increasingly treat the right to hold and express religious beliefs as only one of many private lifestyle options. And, they observe, this right is often “trumped” in the face of challenges from competing rights or interests deemed to be more important.
These are among the reasons the U.S. Catholic bishops recently established a new Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. My brother bishops and I are deeply concerned that believers’ liberties–and the Church’s freedom to carry out her mission–are threatened today, as they never have been before in our country’s history.
Catholics have always believed that we serve our country best as citizens when we are trying to be totally faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ and his Church. And since before the founding of the American Republic, Catholics–individually and institutionally–have worked with government agencies at all levels to provide vital social services, education, and health care.
But lately, this is becoming harder and harder for us to do. Just last week, the federal government declined a grant request from the U.S. bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services agency. We are not really sure why. No reason was given. Our agency has been working well with the government since 2006 to help thousands of women and children who are victims of human trafficking.
Recently, the government had been demanding that our agency provide abortions, contraception and sterilizations for the women we serve. We hope our application was not denied because we refused to provide these services that are unnecessary and violate our moral principles and religious mission.
And this is not an isolated case. Right now, the federal government is also trying to force private employers to provide insurance coverage for sterilizations and contraception–including for medications that cause abortions. This not only violates the consciences of Catholic business owners, it also undermines the religious autonomy of Church employers.
For several years now, it seems that whenever there is a merger or expansion involving a Catholic hospital, some legislator or government agency tries to block it unless our Catholic hospitals and doctors will start providing abortions and sterilizations. So far, these efforts at coercion have failed. What’s troubling is that these efforts continue, without regard to the historic contributions of Catholic health care or to the First Amendment.
More recently, the push to legalize “same-sex marriages” has posed a new set of challenges to our freedoms. Church adoption and foster-care ministries have already been forced to shut down rather than submit to government demands that they place children with same-sex couples or provide benefits for same-sex employees.
And in an ominous development, the U.S. Justice Department went on record this summer as saying that those who defend the traditional definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman are motivated by bias and prejudice.
Of course, that is our ancient Catholic belief, rooted in the teachings of Jesus and also the Jewish Scriptures. It is a belief held by many Protestants, the Orthodox, and also by Jews and Muslims, among others. But scholars like Princeton’s Robert P. George warn that this belief might now be labeled as a form of bigotry and lead to new challenges to our liberties.
We are also concerned about the signals the federal government is sending in a case now before the U.S. Supreme Court, Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC. Experts say that if the government’s case prevails, it will have broad new powers to regulate the inner workings of Church institutions–even to possibly interfere in areas of Church practice and doctrine.
All of this is troubling and represents a sharp break with our history and American traditions. Religious liberty has always been “the first freedom” in our Bill of Rights and in our national identity. Our country’s founders recognized that religious freedom is a right endowed by God, not a privilege granted by government. And they respected that what God has given, no one–not a court, a legislature, or any institution–can rightly deny.
In our history, religious freedom has always included the rights of churches and religious institutions to establish hospitals, schools, charities, media outlets, and other agencies–and to staff these ministries and run them, free from government intrusion.
And religious freedom has always included the churches’ rights to engage in the public square to help shape our nation’s moral and social fabric. We see this throughout our history–from the abolitionist movement, to the civil rights movement, to the pro-life movement.
America’s founders understood that our democracy depends on Americans’ being moral and virtuous. They knew the best guarantee for this is a civil society in which individuals and religious institutions were free to live, act, and vote according to their values and principles. We need to help our leaders today rediscover the wisdom of America’s founding. And we need to help believers once more understand the vital importance of this “first freedom.” At stake are not just our liberties but also the future character of our democracy.