New Albany, Ind., Dec 4, 2013 / 04:18 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Religious freedom is an important component in aiding those in need, and imposing upon religious liberty harms groups that work for social justice, said Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore.
“As we seek to meet the immediate needs of the poor and vulnerable and as we engage in efforts to promote authentic human development, we do no one a favor by compromising religious freedom,” Archbishop Lori said during a Nov. 29 talk.
It is the poor who will ultimately suffer, he said, if the faithful accept “the creation of a society where more and more the government can privatize religious faith or otherwise discourage it by promoting an overarching and aggressive secularism.”
Archbishop Lori spoke on “The Defense of Religious Liberty and Service to the Poor” at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, in New Albany, Ind., which was his childhood parish.
In his address, the archbishop observed a connection between religious liberty and the Christian call to serve those in need.
Pope Francis has reminded Catholics “that serving the poor goes to the heart of evangelization, the Church’s mission of spreading the Gospel,” he said.
However, free exercise of religion is critical for faith-based groups and individuals to be able to carry out their work to aid the poor and vulnerable, he explained. When religious liberty is attacked, the ability of religion to serve the poor is also threatened.
Today in the United States, the archbishop said, the federal HHS mandate threatens both religious freedom and the Church’s ability to serve the poor. The mandate requires employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and some early abortion drugs, even if doing so violates their religious beliefs.
“No one concerned about the Church’s mission – a mission to proclaim and act upon the Gospel ‘in its entirety’, as Pope Francis has said – thinks this mandate is a good thing,” Archbishop Lori reflected.
He explained that the mandate threatens the continued existence of Catholic hospitals, schools and charitable agencies, and said that the bishops are currently “striving to develop creative steps to avoid the extremes of compliance and shutting down” services that help those in need.
“In other words, we are looking for every legal avenue to provide good health insurance to our employees that is also in accord with the Church’s teaching while robustly carrying forward our ministries of service,” he clarified.
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