And other threats to religious freedom persist, he said, like the legalization of same-sex marriage, which could pose problems for religious institutions that uphold the Church's teaching on marriage.
The archbishop cited then-Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, who admitted during oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states, that there could be an issue with the tax-exempt status of religious universities teaching that marriage is between one man and one woman, if same-sex marriage were the law of the land.
Some bishops voiced their strong support for the committee on Thursday, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, who chaired the USCCB when the committee was formed, and Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. The most recent president of the USCCB, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, also supported making the committee permanent.
The bishops of the world "look to us," Cardinal Dolan told his fellow bishops, "to be the real quarterbacks" in "defense of religious freedom."
A few bishops voiced objections to making the committee permanent in the discussions before the vote on Thursday.
Several were concerned about how it would appear to make the religious liberty committee permanent at the same time that the bishops' working group on immigration, begun in November, finished its formal work.
However, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, vice president of the conference, clarified later on Thursday at an afternoon press conference that the working group "will continue," although Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston-Galveston, president of the conference who had begun the working group last November, had not specified a timeline for how long it would continue.
Furthermore, Archbishop Lori stressed, the conference already has a standing Committee on Migration. "The important thing is that as the sun sets, there's a permanent committee in place, because we understand the questions of migration are permanent," he said.
Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, Vt. also voiced concerns that funding for the religious freedom committee could eventually dry up, while Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark said that domestic religious freedom concerns "can be handled by the domestic policy committee," referring to the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
"I am not convinced that there is a need at this time for it," he said of the religious freedom committee.
Bishop Francis Kalabat of the Chaldean Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle in Detroit strongly supported extending the committee, however.
(Story continues below)
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There are "currently 60 million refugees in the world," he said. "What percentage of them came as a result of a lack of religious freedom?"
"Who you back up, or who backs you up, is who gives you the strength" in the Middle East, he said, noting that if the U.S. shows strong support for religious freedom, it also shows support for persecuted Christians elsewhere.
Religious freedom, Archbishop Lori stressed, covers "a wide spectrum of ministries, a wide spectrum of advocacy," and there is need for "some consistency for a clearing house and a clear voice."
"Religious liberty is a concept that really relates to one's fundamental stance towards God," he said, "that first and primal relationship towards God." As Dignitatis Humanae states, he noted, religious freedom is "rooted in human nature" and "granted by God as a fundamental human endowment.
On Thursday, the bishops also voted to approve new guidelines for the celebration of the sacraments of persons with disabilities.
The new guidelines were said to pay deeper attention to allergy problems, for example the gluten intolerance or alcohol intolerance of a communicant. They encouraged parishes to be more aware and accommodating of persons with disabilities in the distribution of the sacraments.