The Administrative Committee of the USCCB has just released a statement about religious freedom, focusing on the HHS mandate. Despite the smears in the press, despite the accusations of an imagined “war against women,” despite claims that the bishops are trying to restrict and make illegal contraception, the bishops are standing strong and will continue to fight….and pray.
The bishops clearly articulate what this debate is NOT about:
This is not about access to contraception, which is ubiquitous and inexpensive, even when it is not provided by the Church’s hand and with the Church’s funds.
This is not about the religious freedom of Catholics only, but also of those who recognize that their cherished beliefs may be next on the block.
This is not about the Bishops’ somehow “banning contraception,” when the U.S. Supreme Court took that issue off the table two generations ago.
Indeed, this is not about the Church wanting to force anybody to do anything; it is instead about the federal government forcing the Church—consisting of its faithful and all but a few of its institutions—to act against Church teachings.
This is not a matter of opposition to universal health care, which has been a concern of the Bishops’ Conference since 1919, virtually at its founding.
This is not a fight we want or asked for, but one forced upon us by government on its own timing.
Finally, this is not a Republican or Democratic, a conservative or liberal issue; it is an American issue.
The debate is primarily about:
An unwarranted government definition of religion.
The mandate affects people of all faiths, not only Catholics. With this mandate, the government has put itself in the position of defining what is religion, and has defined the ministries of the Church (charities, hospitals, education) as not part of religion.
A mandate to act against our teachings.
By defining most institutions as not being “religious employers,” the mandate forces those institutes to violate the teachings of their faith.
A violation of personal civil rights.
The mandate makes into a new class of citizen those employers who live according to their faith. Individuals have the right to religious liberty, and this mandate crushes that right by requiring individuals to violate their consciences.
The bishops end with a call to prayer and penance:
Most importantly of all, we call upon the Catholic faithful, and all people of faith, throughout our country to join us in prayer and penance for our leaders and for the complete protection of our First Freedom—religious liberty—which is not only protected in the laws and customs of our great nation, but rooted in the teachings of our great Tradition. Prayer is the ultimate source of our strength—for without God, we can do nothing; but with God, all things are possible.
Let us all pray for the conversion of this administration and the reversal of this HHS mandate.