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US archbishop urges Congress to include ‘conscience provisions’ in funding bills


american-bishops(ICN) Congress should incorporate two provisions that strengthen conscience protection in any proposed funding bills in the weeks ahead, said Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore in a February 15 letter to Congress. Both provisions were part of the House draft of the Labor/HHS appropriations bill.

Archbishop Lori, who chairs the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), wrote that he feared “the federal government’s respect for believers and people of conscience no longer measures up to the treatment Americans have a right to expect from their elected representatives. The new approach even threatens to undermine access to quality health care, by telling providers as well as those who offer or purchase insurance that they need to drop their participation in the health care system if they want to preserve their religious and moral integrity. A restoration of full respect for one of our nation’s founding values is urgently needed.”

The first provision supported by USCCB would extend longstanding federal policy on conscience to the new mandates for private health plans created by the Affordable Care Act. The other clarifies nondiscrimination laws to improve protection of individuals and institutions that decline involvement in abortion, allowing them to seek vindication in court.

Archbishop Lori wrote that they perceive “a new, more grudging attitude in recent years toward citizens whose faith or moral principles are not in accord with the views of the current governing power. And while the mandate for coverage of abortion-causing drugs, contraceptives and sterilization is hailed by some as a victory for women’s freedom, it permits no free choice by a female employee to decline such coverage for herself or her minor children, even if it violates her moral and religious convictions.”

Archbishop Lori said it was discouraging to find this coercive element in the latest proposed rulemaking by the Obama administration in response to widespread criticism of its original mandate. He reiterated the hope of Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of USCCB, who said that while the new proposal falls short of meeting the bishops’ concerns, the bishops remain committed to engaging with the administration and all branches of government to address the issue.


Independent Catholic News



  1. Mark says:

    Dear “Concerned,”

    I do not find the positions of the bishops in the above article to be hypocritical at all.

    Many, many people do disagree with the bishops in their official teachings, even publicly, without being “thrown out of the Church.” Your own comments in a public forum are an illustration of this.

    What the bishops are objecting to in this article are laws that force at least some Catholic employers, including themselves, to cooperate in evil actions if they want to continue doing the excellent work that they do in hospitals, schools, and public charities. Ironically, it is now the government which is trying to impose its own morality on them.

    • Carl says:

      Mark, you make an elementary but quite common mistake: we are a secular society. I may be against contraception because of the Church, yet my secular co-worker should not be forced to obey my conscience.

      • Ann says:

        Agree Carl. A person may believe whatever he/she chooses, but as a member of a secular/civil society, one is required to obey the laws of the land. One may believe in polygamy, but one may not practice it. Obama has bent over backwards to assure churches that they do not have to provide concraceptive coverage, for example, allowing their insurance companies to cover it, but insofar as a church is a public employer, it is required to follow Obama care, currently the law of the land. Obama has attempted to be fair while the bishops continue to come off as biological, knuckle- dragging troglodytes when it come to women’s health issues.

    • Concerned says:

      Mark, tell that to the priests who have been dismissed for any type of opposing view. Tell that to the catholic public figures who have been denied Communion. Tell that to the Religious Women who have been threatened with excommunication for opposing views. No one in the Church is allowed to claim something is a matter of “conscience” to be spared from the iron hand of those who seek to enforrce their own will. As an example, a priest may find that it is a matter of conscience that he disagrees with the Church on the matter of women priests, but he is not allowed to say that. A person may find it a matter of “conscience” to be unable to support the Church’s position on birth control, but if that person says it publicly a priest can deny the Eucharist. I never said I disagree or agree with the position of the Bishops on the HHS issue. My point is, if the Bishops want consideration – they should show consideration. They do not – that action, or inaction, makes their overall position hypocritical.

  2. Concerned says:

    Perhaps the hierarchy should lead by axample. They have absolutely no issue with disregarding an individual’s conscience when someone disagrees with them. Their resopnse, “throw them out of the church.” But here they are preaching a message simply because it benefits them. The hierarchy of the Catholic CHurch wants it both ways. It is so bad that now they can not even see the hypocrisy of their comments. This is part of the reason why the hierarchy has ero credibility in the world. It is why they are ignored. It is why many leave the CHurch. If a priest were to say his conscience calls him to speak out in favor of something different, the hierarchy would not care one bit. When will these blind guides see what they are doing? When will they reverse their adoption of the the way of the Pharisees and Scribes and prefer the way of Jesus? Can the next Pope be the one who will have eyes that are open? Can the next Pope begin to rebuild credibility? Let’s hope so – because time is running out before the Church reaches the popint of no return – and becomes completely meaningless, obsolete and totally lacking in any credibility at all.


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