U.S. bishops on offensive in debate over contraception
But Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, Pope Benedict XVI’s ambassador to the U.S., also said bishops should tread carefully as they take on the administration of President Barack Obama over its so-called contraception mandate.
The dispute, Viganò said, comes “in the context of an election year, making interventions even more delicate.”
But as a two-day meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrapped up Thursday, the event felt something more akin to generals conferring over a battle plan.
And next week, that battle will roll out nationwide as bishops launch a campaign called The Fortnight for Freedom. More than 70 of the nation’s 195 dioceses, including the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the Diocese of Belleville, have organized events.
“My brother bishops, we have a great task in front of us,” Baltimore Archbishop William Lori, who leads the bishops’ committee on religious liberty, told the gathering Wednesday. “It will not be easy, and we may well suffer, as we are called to do. But we will not fail.”
The bishops’ goal is to repeal a rule handed down by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in January that says religiously affiliated institutions, such as universities and hospitals, must soon include free birth control coverage in their employee health coverage.
The bishops say that the mandate will force Catholics to betray their consciences, and that for them the issue is not about women’s health — as the Obama administration has couched it — but about religious liberty. [More]