Defending the religious rights of the Catholic Church against the government's contraceptive mandate is tied to the church's ministry to those in need, Baltimore's archbishop told a New Albany audience Nov. 29.
church's worship life and its faith-driven ministries to the poor and
others cannot be separated from one another, Archbishop William E. Lori
said in a presentation to members of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish,
the parish of his youth.
Like many people around the country, he
was visiting family for Thanksgiving. He spent the holiday with his
parents, Francis and Margaret Lori, who are members of St. Anthony of
Padua Parish in Clarksville.
Archbishop Lori is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.
presentation, "The Defense of Religious Liberty and Service to the
Poor," took place just days after the U.S. Supreme Court chose to take
up two legal cases brought by for-profit companies that challenge the
Health and Human Services' mandate that all employers, including most
religious employers, provide employees with insurance coverage of
contraceptives, abortifacients and sterilizations.
The court will
take up the cases of Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma-based, family-run
arts-and-crafts chain, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Pennsylvania
family-run company that makes cabinets. The companies' Christian owners
object to all or part of the mandate on moral grounds.
Lori explored his topic in light of Pope Francis' "unmistakable
emphasis ... on the role of the church in serving the poor."
described the challenges of those in need in Baltimore, how he lives
close to them and how the Catholic Church there serves them in, among
other ways, a homeless shelter for women and in a soup kitchen close to
"Is there any way the church could be the church and
not respond, not only with prayers and personal concern but also with
practical assistance?" Archbishop Lori asked. "Who would ever want to
endanger such an operation in the face of such great need?
as the church has struggled against the Health and Human Services'
so-called preventive services mandate, this question has come to the
The mandated coverage also includes services such as mammograms, prenatal care and cervical cancer screenings.
went on to note that the Catholic Church is "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."
The HHS mandate includes an exemption for
some religious employers that fit its criteria and has an accommodation
for others that allows some employers to use a third-party to provide
the contraceptive coverage they find objectionable, but Catholic
entities say the accommodation still does not solve their problem over
being involved in providing coverage they reject for moral reasons.
lawsuits working their way through the courts have been filed to fight
the mandate on behalf of church entities, religious colleges and
In trying to show that the effort to
defend religious liberty is tied closely to the church's ministry to
those in need, Archbishop Lori recalled an address given in 2009 by the
future Pope Francis in which he said that the church, in caring for the
poor, must treat them like subjects, not as objects "'targeted by
paternalistic and interventionist action of the state and other
"When we view those we are privileged to serve
not as objects of our largesse but rather as subjects," Archbishop Lori
said, "then the importance of religious liberty becomes clear. Subjects
-- human beings -- have rights and liberties. Objects -- commodities,
statistics and trends -- do not."
He also noted that, because the
people served by the Catholic Church through its ministry of charity
are human subjects, the church must seek their "integral human
development," which includes nurturing their relationship with God and
protecting their "transcendent dignity."
"As we seek to meet the
immediate needs of the poor and vulnerable, as we seek to promote
efforts that bring about authentic human development," Archbishop Lori
said, "we do no one a favor by compromising religious freedom, by
acquiescing to the creation of a society where more and more the
government can privatize religious faith or otherwise discourage it by
promoting an aggressive secularism."
In fact, he said, religious liberty and the ministry of charity are closely interrelated.
same Gospel that impels the church to offer compassionate care to
others also constrains it from acting in ways contrary to human
dignity," Archbishop Lori said. "And just as the church is enjoined by
the Gospel to work toward integral human development, so too, it is
called to conduct that work with integrity, without moral compromises
that would undermine the very basis of its works of mercy, charity and
justice on behalf of those most in need."
He noted that the HHS
mandate seeks to drive a wedge between the church's faith and worship,
on the one hand, and its service to those in need on the other.
that's not what it means to be Catholic," Archbishop Lori said. "As
Pope Francis has said, we can't be 'part-time Christians.' We must 'live
out our faith at every moment of every day.'"
In addition, he warned that the mandate could pave the way for future restrictions of religious liberty.
serves notice that, from now on, this is how the federal government
will regard church ministries," Archbishop Lori said. "Only those that
pertain to worship, the government will tell us, are fully religious and
thus deserving of full religious liberty. Those that serve the common
good would henceforth be regarded as quasi-religious institutions that
are not fully deserving of religious liberty exemptions."
he noted that the mandate endangers the church-related ministries that
serve those in need by "imposing steep fines on schools, hospitals and
charities that choose not to act against their convictions. These fines
would greatly burden these ministries and their ability to serve those
who rely on them.
"As you can see, our struggle against the HHS
mandate is not about the small print," Archbishop Lori said. "It is
about protecting the church's ability to serve the poor in dignity and
truth, in proclaiming and acting upon the Gospel, as Pope Francis has
said, 'in its entirety.'"