.- The right of the Catholic institutions to exist with integrity is threatened by the Health and Human Services contraception and sterilization mandate, Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt of Greensburg said in a pastoral letter to his diocese.
The mandate “relegates religious freedom to the sacristy, and will not allow it to exist or be operative outside of the Church and in the public square,” the Pennsylvania bishop wrote in “Integrity and the Political Arena,” which was issued on Oct. 11.
“This corresponds to a conception of religious freedom which means only freedom of worship. But those who share the same faith also have the right to a collective or institutional religious freedom which is public,” he stated.
Bishop Brandt's comments come with the elections only two weeks away, and Pennsylvania is expected to play a key role as a battleground state. Though Democrats won the last three presidential votes there, the Republican Party won the governorship and Senate elections in 2010.
Under the contraception mandate, “religious freedom becomes just a type of privacy right which can be given, restricted or withdrawn as the government sees fit,” wrote Bishop Brandt.
“The founding documents of this country, however, clearly indicate that religious freedom is an inalienable right which comes not from government but from the Creator Himself.”
Much of the letter was dedicated to the importance of integrity among politicians, particularly on the issue of abortion. Bishop Brandt said citizens can use their right to vote to “bring our faith perspective … to evaluate the integrity of the candidates and the validity of the positions they advance or support.”
The bishop said that a Catholic politician who has “an established pattern of voting in favor of abortion legislation and an established pattern of public rejection of a core teaching of the Church” is “engaged in public cooperation with a grave moral evil.”
The bishop said he also believes that Catholic politicians who continue to receive Communion “should be challenged to take ownership of the consequences of a lack of integrity by publicly acknowledging that what they do contradicts who they say they are,” he said.
“Any individual who says he can advocate for and enable the practice of abortion and claims that he can still be a Catholic in good standing, has a very serious problem with integrity which any community can ignore only at its own peril.”
Politicians who live in such a disintegrated way are a matter of concern not only to Catholics, but to “society itself,” Bishop Brandt said.
“It is a cause of very serious concern for all the citizenry about a matter of integrity. It is a very serious concern about placing public trust in a person who has demonstrated public misrepresentation.”