More reflections on religious liberty

July 17, 2012

In recent weeks, we have been reflecting on the gift of religious liberty. Under the direction of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the period from June 21 to July 4 was set aside for prayer, discussions, bulletin inserts, homilies and the celebration of Mass to serve as a genuine basis for our understanding of and commitment to the reality and challenge of religious liberty throughout the world and in our own blessed country. The current issue of the Texas Catholic Herald also has pages dedicated to the treatment of and summary of the various dimensions of the issue.

Religious liberty is a fundamental human right, a gift and a task. Even in our own United States, where the right of religious freedom is incorporated in the First Amendment of our Constitution, it is a right not to be taken for granted. It must be continually proclaimed that religious liberty is not a right granted by governments but a right they acknowledge as intrinsic to the human person.

In light of practices about and restrictions on religious liberty in many countries of the world, the guarantee of religious liberty in the United States is remarkably forthright and stands as a beacon, an example for others to follow. At the same time there have been growing attempts to pare down, dilute or narrowly focus that right. Some even reduce the right to a freedom of worship and compromise the role of religious liberty in the public square. These assaults on religious liberty must be watched with great vigilance.

Part of that vigilance nowadays centers upon the Affordable Care Act passed by Congress and recently upheld constitutionally by the Supreme Court regarding its mandate of requiring individuals to enroll in a health plan. The ACA contains other provisions that have allowed the Department of Health and Human Services to mandate requirements which seriously compromise religious liberty and rights of conscience.

I call your attention to an article in the Life Issues Forum by Susan Wills, Assistant Director for Education and Outreach of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. Published July 6, the article outlines current deficiencies in the ACA, including its mandates about "preventive services" that require most employers (including Catholic and private organizations) to fund and facilitate sterilization, contraceptives and abortifacients against their conscience. The mandate also in this case greatly narrows what is an exempt religious organization.

Besides reminding us all of some other troubling details of portions of the HHS implementation of ACA, Wills also brings to our attention some corrective legislation for ACA that has been introduced into the House and Senate. The article is worth your reading attention.

I offer my great thanks to all who have been a part of our Fortnight for Freedom. Our attentiveness to and participation in the issues that have been raised about religious liberty are part of our ongoing witness to the faith in our own time and culture.

Watch Daniel Cardinal DiNardo's July 4 homily below: