From Sr. Mary Ann Walsh on behalf of the USCCB:
WASHINGTON—A statement by Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, expressed “deep gratitude” and “solidarity and appreciation” for litigants challenging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate, which forces employers to pay for contraceptive services even over their religious and moral objections. The statement was issued April 8.
Archbishop Lori issued his statement as dozens of lawsuits against the mandate are being considered nationwide. Among litigants are Catholic dioceses, Catholic and other religious non-profit organizations and for-profit companies that operate according to the religious principles of their owners.
In voicing his support for bishops and other Catholic entities, he noted that “Their goal is nothing less than securing the freedom of the Church to continue to obey the Lord’s command—and, in turn, to serve the common good—by providing charitable ministries in health care, education, and service to the poor, all without compromising Catholic beliefs.” He also expressed “deep gratitude to the scores of people and organizations—from various denominations and walks of life—who have challenged the HHS mandate in federal courts around our country over the last year.
“We continue to pray for the success of all of these lawsuits,” he said.
Archbishop Lori added that “in our Catholic tradition, the right to religious freedom proceeds from the inherent dignity of each and every human person. Accordingly, our concern for religious freedom extends well beyond our own ministries of service.”
He singled out for special praise “those in the business sector who have courageously challenged the HHS mandate in court.”
“Their actions have been a source of encouragement, particularly because of their high rate of success in obtaining early injunctions to block the mandate,” Archbishop Lori said.
He acknowledged the recent move by the government to clarify the definition of a “religious employer”—which would receive a full exemption from the mandate. He said that “this small, incremental step is welcomed,” but added that “most of the serious problems with the definition and mandate remain, and so we will continue our vigorous efforts to correct those remaining flaws.”
Archbishop Lori said that “Catholics in America have long been advocates for religious liberty, and we continue to affirm this basic right today.
“We have consistently supported the rights of individuals not to act against their religious beliefs or moral convictions, especially when individuals seek to protect the dignity of human life,” he said. “As Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee, I would like to urge all people of good will to pray that our leaders, and all people of this great country, will promote and protect religious liberty and its fundamental place in society.”
The full statement can be accessed in PDF format on the USCCB site.