Archive of March 5, 2013

Survey reveals strong US connection to local churches

Washington D.C., Mar 5, 2013 (CNA) - A new survey reports that Americans feel more connected to their local church than to any other institution in society.

According to Rasmussen Reports, “nothing else comes close” to the bond between Americans and their local religious institutions.

A Rasmussen survey released March 3 found that 54 percent of U.S. adults feel somewhat or very connected to their local church or religious organization, with 34 percents saying they are “very connected.” The survey did not ask respondents’ religious affiliation.

Local charities and local recreational groups including sports leagues or theater groups tied for second place, with 12 percent feeling very connected.

Feelings of political connectedness are much lower than religious connections among Americans.

Forty-two percent said they are not at all connected to a local political party, while only 25 percent said they are not at all connected to a local church or similar religious organization.

Just seven percent of respondents said they feel very connected to their local government or to the federal government, while three groups of five percent each said they feel very connected to their state’s government, their local political party, or a local advocacy group like an environmental group or a pro-life group, Rasmussen said.

Feelings of connectedness may be age-related. Older Americans are more likely to say they feel very connected to all organizations.

Forty-six percent of senior citizens said they are very connected to their local church or religious organization, while 35 percent of middle-aged Americans and 28 percent of young adults said the same.

About 44 percent of Republicans said they felt very connected to their local religious group, while 30 percent of Democrats and 29 percent of the politically unaffiliated agreed.

The survey of 1,000 U.S. adults has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

A Rasmussen survey released in February also indicated how Americans prioritize religion.

The survey sought to measure U.S. adults’ strongest personal allegiance other than family. Among survey respondents, 35 percent of adults said their strongest personal allegiance is to their church, with 31 percent saying their strongest allegiance is to their country.

Only 30 percent of Catholics said their greatest loyalty was to their church, while 38 percent said they were more loyal to their country.

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'Strength in Christ' needed for Scotland Church's recovery

Glasgow, Scotland, Mar 5, 2013 (CNA) - The resignation of Cardinal Keith O'Brien following accusations of sexual misconduct is an opportunity to renew faith in Jesus for the Church in Scotland, says a local archbishop.

“We will draw what conclusions and lessons we can from it and, if anything, we will learn to trust even more fully in Jesus Christ who is alone the Lord of the Church,” Archbishop Philip Tartaglia Glasgow and Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh said.

In his homily for a March 4 Lent Station Mass at St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Glasgow, the archbishop, who will manage the Archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh until a new leader is appointed, noted that the “credibility” and “moral authority” of the Church in Scotland has been marred by Cardinal O'Brien's behavior.

On Nov. 13, the Holy Father accepted Cardinal O’Brien’s resignation 'nunc pro tunc' (now – but to take effect later) due to the Cardinal’s upcoming seventy-fifth birthday and “indifferent health.”

However, after allegations against the cardinal rom three priests and a former clergyman of sexual misconduct surfaced, Benedict XVI accepted the his resignation effective Feb. 25.

Cardinal O'Brien apologized to those he offended, as well as the Catholic Church and the people of Scotland, in a March 3 statement admitting that “there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal.”

In his homily, Archbishop Tartaglia said that “many reproaches” have been leveled at the Church as a result of this news, but the “most stinging charge” has been that of “hypocrisy.”

“I think there is little doubt that the credibility and moral authority of the Catholic Church in Scotland has been dealt a serious blow, and we will need to come to terms with that,” he said.

Although this “sad episode” will take “a long time” to recover from, Archbishop Tartaglia encouraged his flock to resist being defeatists and to “endure it with prayer and patience and hope.”

Instead of “throw(ing) in the towel,” he said Scottish Catholics “need, rather, to renew our faithfulness in Jesus Christ and to go about our business humbly.”

Even though this news marks a “sad moment for the Church”, Archbishop Tartaglia offered that there will be a “wonderful moment of hope and joy” in the election of a new Pope.

Overall, he encouraged Catholics under his care to keep in mind that they “are not alone as a Church.”

“We are in communion with the See of Peter and with the whole Catholic Church,” he said. “We are in communion with the Church throughout history. We are in communion with the saints in heaven. Through that communion, we will draw strength from Jesus Christ in whom we trust.”

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Screenwriter: without beauty, media fails to evangelize

Denver, Colo., Mar 5, 2013 (CNA) - The Catholic Church needs to “set the example of beauty” in evangelizing society through media rather than existing as an isolated sub-culture, says screenwriter Barbara Nicolosi.

“We’re not just supposed to be in the culture; as Catholics, we're supposed to be important in the culture,” she said March 1 at the Living the Catholic Faith Conference in Denver.

“And right now, we're completely in our own little room.”

During her presentation, “Evangelization and media: re-thinking the Catholic sub-culture,” Nicolosi discussed the challenges facing Catholics' efforts to evangelize in society.

These difficulties, she said, first spring from a lack of beauty within the Church as seen by contemporary church buildings, modern liturgical music and a general absence of artistic endeavors.

Nicolosi added that the problem is worsened by many Catholics isolating themselves in a sub-culture which maintains poor artistic standards by not interacting with the culture at large.

The Church was once called “the patron of the arts,” but Nicolosi pointed out that “we couldn't begin to pretend the Catholic Church is the patron of the arts in any meaningful way today.” Christianity once produced such works as the Milan Cathedral, Handel's Messiah, and the sculptures of Michelangelo.

That heritage has been replaced by the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, “Our God is an Awesome God,” and Rainaldi's statue of John Paul II in Rome.

On the current state of liturgical music, Nicolosi remarked to CNA in March 2 interview that what's needed today is a recapturing of the “mysterious, mystical,” and “ethereal.”

“As Pope Benedict said, the music at the liturgy should not be like any music you hear anywhere else – you should know immediately, 'oh, this is of God.' That's going to take a whole re-thinking,” she noted.

During her presentation on Friday, Nicolosi said in order to re-vitalize efforts to evangelize, Catholics must first “admit we have a problem” with art and media in the Church today. Having done that, we must re-commit to beauty.

She presented a litany of what does not constitute beauty, including that which is facile, disproportionate, sentimental, cheap, non-threatening, and cute. Yet these adjectives describe “much of what we're awash in in our Church, and the broader society,” she said.

The screenwriter issued a call to “renounce the sub-culture.” Rather than being an isolated group, Christians must be a leaven for the wider culture. In recounting the legacy of Christian storytelling, she pointed to “The Divine Comedy,” “Pilgrim's Progress,” “Anna Karenina,” “Brideshead Revisited,” and the works of Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Tolkien, Flannery O'Connor, and Walker Percy.

“None of these books were written for the Catholic subculture,” Nicolosi noted. “They were all books written for the mainstream culture, yet are profoundly Catholic.”

Contrasting with that great legacy, Nicolosi pointed to contemporary works of Christian storytelling, saying that “not one of these comes close to untying the sandal strap of 'Brideshead Revisited.'”

Many of these efforts, she noted, are “created in the sub-culture for the sub-culture.”

The great works, however, were “written for the mainstream,” and have Christian subtexts which permeate their worldview yet rarely overtly deal with theology, she said. Works produced in the Christian sub-culture, by contrast, openly address religious themes yet fail to incite a theological response from the reader or viewer.

Nicolosi said that the Christian sub-culture, created originally as a refuge from the sexual revolution, has become “a prison, a ghetto artistically.” Christian works are relegated to this sub-culture, and do not reach non-Christian audiences.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen was for Nicolosi an example of the leavening influence Catholics ought to have in the mainstream culture, rather than being isolated in a sub-culture. Archbishop Sheen hosted a radio program for 20 years, and was then on television, including ABC, through the 1950s and 60s.

“Fulton Sheen used to be on network television not because he was Catholic, but because he was good.”

Poorly made Christian media which do not “get people to ask the questions they should be asking” are failures of evangelization, Nicolosi suggested. By contrast, well-made secular works such as “Finding Nemo” actually raise important questions in the minds of fathers: “Am I a good dad?”

Christian media, she emphasized, need to be willing to work with, and learn from, the best of secular figures in the media. Christian media has to engage the consumer and their passions, and create a dialogue with the audience.

“Nothing cheap, facile, or banal will do it. Don’t you dare put something out ugly and say the Holy Spirit inspired you to do it,” Nicolosi urged – “it undermines our entire faith project.”

She concluded her talk by presenting five things the Church can do to change the culture. First, she said the Church must identify those people who can represent us well to the wider culture. Media spokesmen are needed, orators are needed, and good singers are needed, she said.

Next, the Church needs to start training artists again. Those with talents for creating beautiful works of art need to be identified, encouraged, and taught, all within the Church. Nicolosi lamented that there is not one Catholic school among the top 20 film programs in the country – “there is no place in the Church to send your artist kid to be the best.”

Nicolosi's third recommendation for Catholics to change the culture is to start treating the arts as important, by again becoming patrons of beauty. Singers and architects need to well-compensated for their efforts to produce beautiful works of art; “we used to be willing to pay for gorgeous art.”

Medieval inhabitants of Europe sacrificed to produce magnificent Cathedrals, giving a sign of their faith for the future. Our sign for the future, Nicolosi lamented, is the popular 1980s hymn, “Gather Us In.”

Fourth, we need to work with professionals in the media field. Poorly made Catholic media does not evangelize: “ugly, shoddy, embarrassing work is not orthodox Catholic – it's another kind of lie,” she said.

“You're saying one thing with your mouth, and something else with your style.” As when building a Church one hires construction professionals, not necessarily daily Mass-goers, the production of Catholic films must include professional filmmakers.

Finally, Nicolosi urged prayer for artistic geniuses – for “Mozarts.” We must “pray to God to send a new influx of beauty, and people who can send it into our midst.”

“Ask God to send a Mozart, and that we'll recognize him,” she concluded. “Let us, for the sake of the people out there beyond our doors, make what John Paul II called the sacrifices that beauty requires.”

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Cardinals announce adoration, Vespers ceremony for conclave

Vatican City, Mar 5, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The College of Cardinals has agreed to hold a public prayer service on March 6 in St. Peter’s Basilica to pray for the upcoming conclave and the process of electing a new Pope.

“Since there is no afternoon meeting, tomorrow afternoon at 5:00 p.m. at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica, the cardinals are inviting people to a time of adoration and Vespers,” Vatican press office director Father Federico Lombardi announced March 5.

The proposal was made at the end of the March 5 general meeting, which was the third in a series that the cardinals are holding as they prepare for the conclave. It was gladly accepted by the cardinals.

The papal master of ceremonies, Monsignor Guido Marini, said that it will last for approximately one hour and will begin with the recitation of the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary in Italian and Latin.??

This will be followed by the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and a brief time for adoration.

Vespers, the evening prayer of the Church, will then be recited.

The ceremony will close with benediction offered by Cardinal Angelo Comastri, Archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica.

The initiative was announced as a way for the entire Church to gather in prayer as it prepares to make an important decision that will impact its future.

In other news, the cardinals decided to not hold afternoon sessions as they did on March 4. This will allow the newer princes of the Church to get a better grasp of the issues at hand and who the various papal contenders are.

There are still five cardinals who have not yet arrived in Rome, but they are all expected in the next couple days. Those who are not yet present are: Cardinals Antonios Naguib, Karl Lehmann, Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man, Kazimierz Nycz and John Tong Hon.

Fr. Lombardi stressed that their arrival is tied to personal commitments that had already been made and that they have been in communication with the College of Cardinals about their travel plans.

Once all the cardinals arrive in Rome, there will be 115 electors who will vote for the next Pope.

Updated at 7:11 p.m. Rome time with more information about the ceremony. The story originally listed Cardinal Angelo Sodano as the presider, but no one will officially preside over the ceremony.

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Cardinals send message of thanks to Benedict XVI

Vatican City, Mar 5, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The College of Cardinals sent Benedict XVI a message of thanks for his ministry and decided to only hold morning meetings as they prepare for the conclave.

“The Cardinal Fathers, gathered at the Vatican for the General Congregations in view of the next conclave, send you their devoted greetings and express their renewed gratitude for all your illustrious Petrine ministry and for your example of generous pastoral care for the good of the Church and of the world,” reads the telegram that was sent to Benedict XVI.

The idea was first proposed on March 4 at the first meeting of the cardinals. It was sent via telegram the following day to the Pope Emeritus at Castel Gandolfo.

The cardinals also said that they hope their gratitude will “represent the recognition of the entire Church for your tireless work in the vineyard of the Lord.”

The message concludes by saying “the members of the College of Cardinals trust in your prayers for them, as well as for the whole Church.”

The College of Cardinals still has not chosen a date for the beginning of the conclave to elect the next Pope. As of Tuesday afternoon, five cardinals were still not yet in Rome.

Vatican press office director Father Federico Lombardi told journalists March 5 that all of the remaining cardinals had informed the College of their travel plans. The full number of cardinals who will vote for the next Pope is expected to be 115.

During the cardinals’ second March 4 meeting, they decided not to hold additional afternoon meetings. This will allow the cardinals to have more time to get together informally to discuss the needs of the Church and who the next Pope might be.

At their March 5 assembly, 11 different interventions were made by cardinals on topics that included the activities of the Holy See, the relationship between the various Vatican departments and the bishops around the world, the renewal of the Church in the light of Vatican II, efforts to engage in the New Evangelization in different parts of the world, and the relationship of the Church in the different cultures.

The gathering went from 9:30 a.m. to 12:40 p.m. and had 148 cardinals present. Of that number, 110 are cardinals who will be able to vote for the next pontiff.

At the very end of today’s gathering the cardinals agreed to hold public Eucharistic adoration and Vespers at 5:00 p.m. on March 6 in St. Peter’s Basilica.  Fr. Lombardi explained that the intention is to provide an opportunity for the cardinals and the whole Church to enter into this time of decision with prayer.

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Cardinals will be informed of Vatileaks background

Rome, Italy, Mar 5, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley said he trusts the cardinals taking part in the papal election will be informed on the necessary background information related to the Vatileaks scandal.

“The cardinals feel confident that we will get all the information that we need for our deliberation,” said Cardinal O’Malley at a March 5 news conference at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

“It does not necessarily mean that the report will be shared with us, but if anything remains that we need to know about, I’m sure they will inform us,” said the cardinal.

The Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, was also at the Tuesday afternoon briefing.

“In general, obviously, we want to know as much as we can regarding the governance of the Church,” said Cardinal DiNardo.

The Vatileaks scandal involved Benedict XVI’s former butler stealing and sending confidential papal correspondence to the Italian press, revealing some of the internal workings of the Vatican.

Cardinal DiNardo also touched on the topic of any possible influence by the Pope Emeritus on the conclave, saying, “he’s not interested at all in dealing with this.”

“There would be theological influences, but from the point of view of a political influence, and knowing him, that just won’t happen,” said Cardinal DiNardo.

“Benedict is a very shy and quiet person. And as he has moved into this life of prayer, so he will be off the stage,” he said.

Cardinal Seán O’Malley went on to clarify that the meetings between the cardinals is “very similar to a synod of bishops.”

This means the cardinals are hearing more speeches and interacting less between each other, at least for the time being.

But the cardinals can get to know each other in their 30-minute coffee break midway through their conclave preliminary meetings taking place each morning this week.

“I think it’s at the coffee breaks that you can get individual conversations that go on,” said Cardinal DiNardo.

Cardinal DiNardo also said that although some news stories are unfair, they sometimes make him laugh.

But Cardinal O’Malley stated that many news stories are “very reflective” and have been helping him to “understand the importance of this moment in history.”

“All of us are in some ways amazed to see how much news has been generated by the Holy Father’s retirement,” he commented.

Cardinal O’Malley said that the conclave date is currently being discerned by the cardinals and has not yet been chosen.

“I think this is the most important decision we will ever make and we need to give it the necessary time,” said Cardinal O’Malley.

“We need time for prayer, reflection and getting information, so we need to use the right time,” he remarked.

Cardinal DiNardo added that none of the cardinals want to rush on deciding the conclave date.

The cardinals will continue to hold morning general assemblies from 9:30 a.m. to around 12:30 p.m. in the Vatican’s New Synod Hall.

The last five cardinal electors are expected to arrive in Rome during the next two days.

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Proposed federal bill to strengthen religious freedom

Washington D.C., Mar 5, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Members of Congress have introduced a new bill that would create a broad exemption to the HHS mandate and strengthen protections for health care professionals and institutions with moral and religious objections to abortion.

“We have come together to act to protect Americans’ most basic rights – our rights of conscience and religious freedom,” bill co-sponsor Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) said March 5.

“The bill simply restores the basic rights in health care that were widely accepted before the implementation of the new health care law.”

The Health Care Conscience Rights Act creates a full exemption from the Department of Health and Human Services mandate requiring most employers with 50 or more employees to cover sterilization, contraception and some abortion-causing drugs.

It also strengthens conscience protections for individuals and health care providers that refuse to provide, pay for or refer for abortion because of their deeply held beliefs.

The legislation’s 50 initial co-sponsors include Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), a former nurse. She charged that the Obama administration is “forcing Americans to make an impossible choice: either defy your religious convictions or break the law and face financially-crippling legal penalties.”

Violators of the HHS mandate could pay fines of $100 per employee per day. While objectors include several Protestant institutions and businesses, the mandate particularly impacts Catholic organizations and Catholic-run businesses because Catholic moral teaching recognizes the mandated drugs and procedures as sinful and rejects cooperation in their provision.

The Obama administration’s proposed compromise only slightly expands the mandate’s narrow religious exemption for non-profit organizations. The mandate’s impact on for-profit companies owned by those with religious objections to the coverage is unaffected by the accommodation.

Several leaders directly affected by the mandate attended a March 5 press conference announcing the legislation, including Sister Jane Marie Klein, O.S.F., Chairperson of the Board of the Indiana-based Franciscan Alliance, Inc. The health care system runs 13 hospitals across three states and is a party to one of the over 40 lawsuits challenging the federal rule.

Owners and executives of Hercules Industries, a Colorado HVAC company owned and run by a Catholic family, also attended the press conference.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of the Susan B. Anthony List, applauded the proposal.

“The so-called accommodations recently announced to the HHS Mandate do nothing to address the concerns of non-religious entities and employers who do not wish to be complicit in the destruction of life through abortion-inducing drugs,” she said March 5.

She said the legislation would “ensure the conscience rights of all Americans are protected.”

The legislation is not the first effort to undo the HHS mandate. In March 2012, the U.S. Senate voted to table discussion on the Blunt Amendment, which would have allowed health care providers to opt out of providing coverage that violates their religious beliefs or moral convictions.

However, the new legislation also supports individuals like Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo, a Catholic New York nurse who filed suit against her employer for compelling her to participate in an abortion. She attended the March 5 press conference that unveiled the Health Care Conscience Rights Act.

Rep. John Fleming (R-La.), who is a family physician, said the proposed bill “protects the First Amendment rights of the American health care community” because it allows them to refuse to participate in actions that “violate their deeply held beliefs.”

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Benedict XVI's cobbler fondly remembers retired Pope

Rome, Italy, Mar 5, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The man who is known around the world as “the Pope’s shoemaker” expressed sadness at the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI but also gratitude for the opportunity to serve the pontiff.

“I saw on television that he was wearing my shoes and I felt so proud,” recalled Antonio Arellano, who mended shoes for Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI when he was cardinal and also made special shoes for him during his pontificate.

In a March 4 interview with CNA, Arellano explained that among his vast clientele of cardinals, monsignors and religious, his most special client will always be Pope Benedict XVI.

Arellano was born in Trujillo, Peru, where the learned to be a cobbler. He moved to Rome in 1990 and opened a shoe repair shop near the Vatican.

Today, a pair of red shoes and a picture of Benedict XVI hang over the entrance to the shop, and the walls inside are covered with articles about “The Shoemaker of the Pope.”

Arellano recalled that he first met Benedict XVI and his personal secretary Archbishop Georg Ganswein years ago when the Pope-emeritus was still a cardinal. Benedict XVI was a simple, normal client, he said. 

“He came in, very politely said good morning, sat down while I did my work, and afterwards said goodbye and thank you.”

On the day that Benedict XVI was elected Pope, Arellano said that he was at a nearby restaurant watching the events on television.

“Everyone was running through the streets, and I saw Cardinal Ratzinger appear on television,” he explained. “I was amazed because he was my customer and I was so happy.”

“All of us there were local artisans, we all knew each other and we were thrilled. It was a moment of great joy for us, because someone like the Pope came to our store.”

Arellano said he remembered Benedict XVI’s shoe size, 42, and decided to give him a new pair of red shoes in person for his pontificate. He gave them to the Pope during a general audience at the Vatican.

“When we got there to greet him, the Pope recognized me, smiled and said, ‘Here is my shoemaker.’ It was a wonderful moment, because he makes you feel important,” Arellano said. “He gave a blessing to me and my family and we said goodbye.”

When the time came for the beatification of John Paul II, Arellano received a request from the Vatican to make a new pair of shoes for Benedict XVI.

“It was awesome, because then I really did feel like I was the Holy Father’s shoemaker,” he said, explaining that “it’s one thing to give the Pope a present; it’s another for them to call you to specifically make some shoes for him.”

Arellano said he used only the best materials to make the Pope’s shoes. “Natural, very smooth leather,” he explained, and very light soles. He also touched the shoes up before World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid. 

“It was great because I also made him some slippers to wear at home,” he added.

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Venezuelan bishops call for unity after death of Chavez

Caracas, Venezuela, Mar 5, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The secretary general of the bishops' conference of Venezuela, Bishop Jesus Gonzalez de Zarate Salas, called for national unity after the death of President Hugo Chavez.

The bishop, an auxiliary of the Archdiocese of Caracas, said that this unity is essential in order for the country to face the “painful fact” of Chavez's passing.

“At this moment, we speak to our highest feelings,” the prelate told the television program “Hello Citizen,” on the private channel Globovision.

Bishop Gonzalez de Zarate Salas noted that “death is not the end of our life, death gives way to a life full of happiness, beside God, our father.”

Vice president Nicolás Maduro announced the afternoon of March 5 that the Venezuelan leader died at the age of 58 from cancer. Chavez passed away at the Caracas Military Hospital at 4:25 p.m.

The president had been gravely ill with cancer for almost two years and had not been seen publicly for months. He was for a long time in Cuba undergoing operations.

The White House issued a statement Tuesday saying that “At this challenging time of President Hugo Chavez's passing, the United States reaffirms its support for the Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government.”

“As Venezuela begins a new chapter in its history, the United States remains committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.”

On several occasions the bishops of Venezuela had called on their people to pray for the health of the president.

At the beginning of Lent in February, the Archbishop of Caracas Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, encouraged the faithful to pray for Chavez' recovery.

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Lawmakers, medical workers speak up on conscience bill

Washington D.C., Mar 5, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Members of Congress and individuals who have been forced to violate their consciences came together to stress the need for a federal law protecting religious freedom in the field of health care.

Highlighting the importance of conscience protections for all individuals, Rep. Diane Black, (R-Tenn.) explained that religious freedom means more than “going to church on Sunday.”

Black spoke at a March 5 press conference in Washington D.C., following her introduction of the Health Care Conscience Rights Act the previous day. The legislation aims to protect the conscience rights of healthcare workers, employers and individuals who are morally opposed to cooperation with the provision of contraceptives, sterilization and abortion.

Reps. Jeff Fortenberry (R- Neb.) and John Flemming (R- La.), who are among 50 initial co-sponsors of the bill, also spoke at the press conference. 

Flemming, who previously worked as a family physician, argued that there is “no excuse for this assault on our First Amendment Rights, no excuse for this assault on our conscience protections.”

He described the protections of the “freedom of religion – which is really freedom of conscience” provided by the bill. 

The proposed law, Flemming explained, “applies a long-standing policy of conscience rights” to the Affordable Care Act, particularly its mandate requiring employers to offer health insurance plans covering contraception, sterilizations and some early abortion drugs.

In addition, the bill would protect health care workers from discrimination if they chose not to participate in procedures they find unconscionable.
It would further give medical personnel specific standing in court, enabling them to file lawsuits if they are illegally forced to undergo abortion training and assistance against their conscience.

This last provision of the legislation will protect individuals such as Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo, a nurse who filed suit after she was forced to participate in the abortion of a 22-week-old pre-born infant or face termination of employment.

DeCarlo, a Filipino immigrant to the United States, said that the hospital where she worked knew that “as a faithful Catholic, I would not assist in the killing of a pre-born child,” yet the state-funded hospital forced her into a position she described as “a horror film unfolding before my eyes.”

“I felt violated and betrayed,” she explained, “but I felt violated all over again when the courts told me that I had no right to have my day in court.”

“Patients and doctors should be able to choose healthcare that heals instead of kills,” DeCarlo said of her hopes for the proposed legislation.

She added that without protections to prevent similar violations in the future, “this country would no longer be the America of my dreams.”

Also speaking at the press conference was Sister Jane Marie Klein, OSF, who chairs the board of Franciscan Alliance, Inc., which is one of more than 130 plaintiffs suing the current administration over the mandate.

Sr. Klein said that allowing these violations of conscience to persist would “hurt many patients most in need of help and care” and threaten the existence of many religious healthcare providers.

“We need your help in keeping our Catholic healthcare system alive,” she pleaded.

Congressman Fortenberry also offered comments, saying that government should respect healthcare workers, recognizing that “the very purpose of healthcare is for healing, not to create ethical divisions.”

He also quoted President Barack Obama – whose administration is responsible for the mandate – agreeing that “we should not leave our values at the door” and should protect those values in the law.

“No American should be forced to choose between their faith and their job,” Fortenberry stressed.

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