Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. believes that the Church can win its fight against the Obama administration’s contraception mandate if it takes its case to the public.
“We still have before us the opportunity to make the case to the American people,” said Cardinal Wuerl to CNA on Jan. 21.
“Americans by our tradition, by our heritage, are a people who tend to be very fair and don’t readily admit to excluding blocks and groups of people from participation in the common good,” he said.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Jan. 20 that it would not expand a religious exemption for employers who object to a requirement that their insurance plans cover contraception as part of a list of “preventative services.”
The policy requires free coverage for sterilization and contraception, including some drugs that can cause abortions.
Cardinal Wuerl underscored that the mandate will affect Catholic schools, hospitals, universities and charitable outreach to the poor.
“This is all new, in the sense that never before in our history has any government simply issued a decree emptying the religious convictions and conscience protections of all the institutions that serve the poor,” he said.
“All of a sudden, with one stroke of the pen, this administration has indicated that our objections to doing what the government wants us to do, our objections have no place.
“It is an outrageous situation.”
Cardinal Wuerl was in Rome as part of a delegation of bishops from the Mid-Atlantic states. The group spent the week updating the Vatican on the health of the Church in their dioceses.
On Thursday, Jan. 19 they met with Pope Benedict who warned of them of a “grave threat” to religious liberty in the U.S., something he described as “the most American of freedoms.”
Cardinal Wuerl thought the Pope’s address was a very timely reminder that the Gospel “implies and even demands that we be engaged in the public effort to mold a good and just society.”
With this in mind, the Pope told the bishops that the preparation of a new generation of “committed lay leaders” should be the “primary task of the Church in your country.”
“I think this new generation that the Pope is speaking about is already present,” said Cardinal Wuerl.
He believes that after two generations of young Catholics who suffered from “a devastating lack of solid catechetical teaching,” there is “a generation coming along that has been nurtured in the faith.” He credits that change to the production of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 1992, and the influence of Blessed Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.
“This generation is already rising up to say, ‘What can we do to restore the sense of gospel values in our lives, in our families, in our institutions, in our communities?’
“We’re seeing something wonderful happening.”