.- Denver's newly-appointed archbishop says the federal contraception mandate is the result of a larger push to remove religion from the public sphere.
“Essentially what people are saying to us is, 'We want you to pretend you're agnostic or atheist like us, and that is the way society should be,'” Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila explained to CNA on May 28, as he assessed the thinking that made the mandate possible.
“Today what is happening is that those who do not want faith in the public square are really saying, 'It's our lack of faith, our unbelief that we want you to follow,'” he said.
Archbishop Aquila, who was announced as the new Archbishop of Denver on May 29, called the federal mandate a direct infringement on the First Amendment that is simply another example of “the erosion of religious liberties” which has been occurring for some time.
“It's the violation of our consciences and it is the violation of religious liberty,” he said.
In its current form, the federal contraception mandate would force employers to purchase health insurance to cover birth control, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs even if doing so violates their religious beliefs.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, announced a narrow “exemption” from the mandate for religious organizations that serve and employ only members of their own faith on Feb. 10.
Since then, 43 Catholic organizations across the country, including dioceses, charities, hospitals and universities, have filed lawsuits against the Obama administration on the grounds of religious liberty.
Bishops from every diocese in the U.S. have spoken out against the mandate, warning that it poses a serious threat to religious liberty and could force such organizations to shut down.
Archbishop Aquila said that he would “continue to speak out” against the mandate and will “ help people to recognize the violation that is taking place.”
Christians, he said, should do the same, even if doing so is unpopular.
“If we become martyrs, so be it,” he said. “It is for the Lord that we do it.”
Although such comments may sound pessimistic, the archbishop said that history has already proved that the Catholic Church is able to withstand such opposition.
Throughout the 2,000 year history of Christianity, “there have been the rise and fall of many governments,” Archbishop Aquila said, “but the Church is still here.”