Bishops Raise Alarm: Catholic Freedoms Under Attack

Bishops are calling attention to new "Catholics Need Not Apply" signs.

The Church is raising the alarm: Our religious liberty is under attack.

Cardinal Francis George was prophetic in 2009 when he said the White House had taken “the first step in moving our country from democracy to despotism.” That was when President Obama broke the promise he made to Catholics at Notre Dame and made the decision to strip conscience rights from Catholic health care professionals, a ruling that could force them to either perform abortions or lose their jobs.

Now, Bishop Lori has testified to Congress that the march toward despotism continues.

“The Bishops of the United States have watched with increasing alarm as this great national legacy of religious liberty … has been subject to ever more frequent assault and ever more rapid erosion,” he said.

Bishop Lori counted the ways:

Forced Contraception. Health and Human Service has issued a regulation mandating contraceptive coverage from almost all private health insurance plans. “There is an exception for certain religious employers,” said Lori, “but to borrow from Sr. Carol Keehan of the Catholic Health Association, it is so incredibly narrow that it would cover only the ‘parish housekeeper.’”

Federal “Catholics Need Not Apply” Signs. It was bad enough when local businesses barred Catholics from certain jobs in the early 20th century. Now the White House has put “Catholics Need Not Apply” signs up in two key places:

–Last Spring, Health and Human Services issued a rule that bars the Church from help refugee and human trafficking victims who are kids separated from their parents. The regulation says to work with them you have to be willing to perform abortions on them to be allowed to help them.

– The State Department’s USAID bars Catholic groups from feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and caring for the sick overseas unless they promise to give them condoms, too.

Government Regulating Ministers. Lori also cited the test of the “ministerial exception” now before the Supreme Court. The exception recognizes the primacy of freedom of religion by exempting churches from federal oversight in the hiring and firing of ministers.

Catholics Officially Bigots. Said Lori, “The federal Department of Justice (DoJ) has ratcheted up its attack on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) by mischaracterizing it as an act of bigotry,” said Lori. So now, according to the Department of Justice, Christian (and Jewish, and Muslim) belief about marriage amounts to bigotry.  Lori cited several examples:

– “In New York, county clerks face legal action for refusing to participate in same-sex unions, and gay rights advocates boast how little religious freedom protection individuals and groups will enjoy under the new law.”

–  In Illinois, Catholic Charities has been driven out of the adoption and foster care business, because it recognizes the unique value of man-woman marriage for the well-being of children.”

“Religious liberty is not merely a privilege that the government grants us and so may take away at will,” he said. “Religious liberty is prior to the state itself.”

In First Things, Los Angeles Archishop Jose Gomez made the connection between Catholic rights and American freedom:

“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. …  At stake are not just our liberties but also the future character of our democracy. ”

In other words: In the debate over religious freedom, the real question America is asking is: Do we want to be a democracy, or a despotism?

Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., where he teaches in the Journalism and Mass Communications department and edits the college’s Catholic identity speech digest, The Gregorian.

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34 thoughts on “Bishops Raise Alarm: Catholic Freedoms Under Attack

  1. Cherish says:

    This country is in so much trouble. If you would prefer a secular hospital and agency be left to help people who have no conscience of what they offer our families then keep allowing these type of laws to be put in place. If it wasn’t for the Catholic church starting the hospitals and universities to help the poor and uneducated. I’m not sure where we would be. I have seen the shift of hospitals that have become secular they treat people like a number not a person. I don’t care if you like the Catholic church or not. If it’s an organization that chooses to help the public that has core beliefs should be allowed to retain them. We as he public have a right to choose which organization to use for help. As far as the priest scandal it’s horrible and I detest it ever occurred! There are many other religious,college,planned parenthood. who are allowing there coaches to molest children and covering it up. I see nothing done to those institutions. Let’s take planned parenthood. They have been found allowing children as young as nine who were molested be brought in by the molester and give them an abortion. This was reported. I sure didn’t see the news media, time or news week printing what out rages are happening in this so called women help clinics! So I guess you choose who you want treating you. To me the pill and abortion are a personal choice not a health choice. If there were a lack of institutions who gave this type of care not being funded then I could see where people who believe taking a child out a mothers womb limb by limb would feel there rights were being denied. So instead of giving us the public a choice of leaving it up to our own conscience. We know feel were going to the opposite extreme and force religious agencies to do what a secular agency would do. This is not freedom. I would like to see this country tell a muslim agency they have to provide abortions and contraception. I can promise this law would then have conscience protection. In fact I think that’s a great idea. I will contact all the muslim agencies and advise them under this plan they have to start providing such care to there out reaches!!!!

  2. Kingsley says:

    I whole heartedly agree. All these examples are just as discriminatory against Catholics as the fact that pacifist, conscientious objectors are not eligible to serve in the USMC is discriminatory against Quakers and others.

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