Baltimore, Md., Nov 14, 2013 / 03:15 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At their annual fall gathering in Baltimore, the U.S. bishops issued a message voicing their continued opposition to the federal contraception mandate and the threats that it poses to religious liberty.
“We stand together as pastors charged with proclaiming the Gospel in its entirety. That Gospel calls us to feed the poor, heal the sick, and educate the young, and in so doing witness to our faith in its fullness,” noted the Nov. 13 message from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“Our great ministries of service … strive to answer this call every day, and the Constitution and the law protect our freedom to do so. Yet with its coercive HHS mandate, the government is refusing to uphold its obligation to respect the rights of religious believers.”
Passed unanimously, the message was the first statement issued by the general membership of the bishops’ conference since the previous day’s election of Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., as the group’s president and Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston as its vice president. Their terms officially begin at the conclusion of the bishops’ meeting on Nov. 14.
The bishops’ statement renewed their opposition to the HHS mandate, or federal contraception mandate, which requires employers to offer health insurance covering contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can cause early abortions, even if doing so violates their religious convictions.
Issued under the Affordable Care Act, the mandate is being challenged in lawsuits by more than 200 plaintiffs across the country. The lawsuits are currently in different stages of the judiciary process and could reach the Supreme Court in a future term.
Although the Obama administration went through a lengthy process to revise the mandate, religious freedom advocates warn that the changes are not sufficient to secure the constitutionally-protected right to free exercise of religion.
The bishops said that protection of religious freedom, “especially as threatened by the HHS mandate,” is among their priorities, and went on to quote the words of Pope Francis: “In the context of society, there is only one thing which the Church quite clearly demands: the freedom to proclaim the Gospel in its entirety, even when it runs counter to the world, even when it goes against the tide.”
They identified three ongoing concerns surrounding the mandate: a reduction of religious freedom to mere freedom of worship; the compulsion of Catholic ministries to participate (Read More)