As the US bishops’ second “Fortnight for Freedom” approaches later this month, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia has a column about the religious liberty issues at the center of the bishops’ efforts.
From Archbishop Chaput’s column:
In the Christian tradition, basic medical care is a matter of social justice and human dignity. Even now, even with the financial and structural flaws that critics believe undermine the 2010 Affordable Care Act, the bishops continue to share the goal of real health-care reform and affordable medical care for all Americans.
But health care has now morphed into a religious liberty issue provoked entirely – and needlessly — by the current White House. Despite a few small concessions under pressure, the administration refuses to withdraw or reasonably modify a Health and Human Services (HHS) contraceptive mandate that violates the moral and religious convictions of many individuals, private employers and religiously affiliated and inspired organizations.
Coupled with the White House’s refusal to uphold the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, and its astonishing disregard for the unique nature of religious freedom displayed by its arguments in a 9-0 defeat in the 2012 Hosanna-Tabor Supreme Court decision, the HHS mandate can only be understood as a form of coercion. Access to inexpensive contraception is a problem nowhere in the United States. The mandate is thus an ideological statement; the imposition of a preferential option for infertility. And if millions of Americans disagree with it on principle – too bad.
“The day when Americans could take the Founders’ understanding of religious freedom as a given is over,” Archbishop Chaput concludes. “We need to wake up.”
Over the weekend Pope Francis also discussed religious freedom, in remarks at a meeting with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano. From Vatican Radio’s report:
“In today’s world, religious freedom is more often affirmed than put into practice”, the pope said. It is often threatened, and not infrequently violated. The serious outrages against this fundamental right are a source of serious concern, and need to be confronted at the global level.
Defending religious liberty and making it available for everyone, Pope Francis said, is everyone’s responsibility. Doing so “guarantees the growth and development of the entire community.”
Below is a video posted today by the USCCB promoting the Fortnight for Freedom, June 21-July 4.