Vatican City, Jan 19, 2012 / 10:00 am
Pope Benedict XVI warned today of a “grave threat” to religious liberty in the United States that requires American Catholics to respond with intelligence and courage.
“It is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres,” he said Jan. 19 in an address to a group of American bishops visiting the Vatican.
The Pope said he was particularly concerned with “certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion.”
Pope Benedict’s address was delivered to the bishops from the Mid-Atlantic states region, which includes the Archdioceses of Washington and Baltimore. They are in Rome this week on their regular “ad limina” visit to discuss the health of the U.S. Church with the Pope and Vatican officials. The two bishops from the Archdiocese for the U.S. Military Services are also participating in the meetings.
Pope Benedict said that over the past few days many of the bishops have expressed concern over attempts in the U.S. to “deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices.”
Meanwhile, other bishops raised the “worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship” without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience.
At present, the Obama administration is considering imposing a contraception and sterilization mandate that would require all insurance companies to provide those services free of charge. The regulation has a religious exemption clause, but it provides very few exceptions for Church organizations.
Some states are also pushing Catholic adoption agencies out of business or severely limiting their work because they refuse to compromise the Church’s beliefs on same-sex “marriage.”