Church cannot live with contraception mandate, bishops say

Cardinal Sean OMalley speaks about the US election results as Archbishop William Lori looks on Credit Michelle Bauman CNA CNA US Catholic News 11 12 12 Cardinal Seán O'Malley speaks about the U.S. election results on Nov. 12, 2012 as Archbishop William Lori looks on. | Michelle Bauman/CNA.

In the aftermath of the Nov. 6 elections, the U.S. bishops stressed that they will push ahead with defending religious liberty from the Obama administration's contraception mandate, which cannot be lived with as it stands.

"Currently the HHS mandate is on the books," said Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, who leads the bishops' ad hoc religious freedom committee. "That's what we actually concretely have to deal with now."

"And as it stands, certainly we would not be able to live with it," he explained, "especially the four-part definition of what Church activity is."

"That's just not who we are, and we don't find it appropriate for any government to draw lines in our mission where we don't draw them," Archbishop Lori said.

The archbishop explained that Church leaders are monitoring and engaged in the ongoing federal rule-making process that will determine how religious organizations are accommodated under that mandate, and as that continues, "our range of options will probably become a little clearer."

Archbishop Lori spoke at a Nov. 12 press conference during the U.S. bishops' fall general assembly in Baltimore.

He and other panelists reacted to the outcome of various ballot measures in the Nov. 6 election. The bishops explained that the Church does not identify with any one political party because Catholic social teaching transcends party agendas.

And Catholic teaching should not be seen as divided, added Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, who leads a conference subcommittee on defending marriage.

He called it unfortunate that "a lot of our people view these issues politically, rather than through the lens of the Gospel."

If Catholics saw societal issues through the lens of the Church's social teaching and the common good, Archbishop Cordileone said they would see "the consistency among all these issues," including life, the economy and immigration.

The San Francisco archbishop said he was disappointed at the outcome of referenda in Maryland, Maine and Washington state that approved a redefinition of marriage, as well as the rejection of a constitutional amendment to protect marriage in Minnesota.

"But rather than being a cause for giving up, it is a call to intensify efforts to strengthen and defend marriage," he said.

The archbishop observed that "this election is a symptom of a much larger problem," namely, that many people do not understand what marriage is.

"Marriage is not a matter of two consenting adults simply coming together for the state to ratify their romantic relationship," he said. "Rather, marriage is the only institution that unites a man and a woman to each other and to any children born of their union."

"It's child-centered, and its meaning is written in our nature," Archbishop Cordileone told the press. "It's either this, or it's nothing at all."

He stressed the need to continue working to increase educational efforts and to "build a renewed culture of marriage and the family."

Archbishop Lori applauded the passage of a referendum upholding the Dream Act in Maryland, allowing undocumented students to pay in-state tuition in schools throughout the state.

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Although the measure met with significant opposition when it was first introduced into the legislature, the archbishop noted that "there was a change in the public's perception" after a public education campaign helped people understand how the law would benefit society.

He observed that this law continues in the Catholic Church's "long heritage of offering educational opportunities for the disadvantaged."

Cardinal Seán O'Malley of Boston expressed gratitude to the diverse coalition that came together to inform voters about the negative consequences of a Massachusetts ballot initiative to legalize physician assisted suicide. The measure was narrowly defeated.

With the cooperation of medical organizations, newspapers, religious groups and disability rights advocates, he said, "we were able to stop this terrible assault on human life."

"At the same time, this calls us to be more focused on the fact that we must do more to promote good palliative and hospice care at the end of life," he added.

Noting that the Church has always been committed to compassionate end-of-life care, he offered examples of ways that dioceses can work to improve the quality of such care.

"We are called to comfort the sick, and not to help them take their own lives," Cardinal O'Malley remarked.

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