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USCCB leaders press case against mandate, urge support for Rights of Conscience Act

February 22, 2012

The leaders of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) are urging American bishops to continue rallying opposition to the Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate, and to encourage support for the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act that is now pending in Congress.

In a February 21 letter to their brother bishops, Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Bishop William Lori—the president of the USCCB and chairman of a new episcopal committee on religious liberty, respectively—provide an update on the political battle.

In their letter Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Lori express “heartfelt appreciation” to the bishops and all others who joined the USCCB leadership in a strong and united opposition to the Obama mandate. That opposition, they write, was a “remarkable witness of our unity in faith and strength of conviction.”

The “compromise” offered by the White House failed to address the key moral problems, the prelates write, repeating arguments they had made in previous messages. In particular, they criticized the partial exemption that the Obama administration has promised to some religious institutions:

The exemption is too narrowly defined, because it does not exempt most nonprofit religious employers, the religiously affiliated insurer, the self-insured employer, the for-profit religious employer, or other private businesses owned and operated by people who rightly object to paying for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraception. And because it is instituted only by executive whim, even this unduly narrow exemption can be taken away easily.

Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Lori suggest that bishops should encourage their people to contact lawmakers in Washington, urging support of the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, which would provide more meaningful defense for those who object to the provisions of the health-care proposal.

The Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, now pending in Congress, faces likely defeat in the Senate, where the Democratic Party retains a majority. Even if the bill wins Senate approval, the margin of victory would almost certainly not be great enough to overcome a presidential veto.


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  • Posted by: mgreen32234 - Feb. 22, 2012 7:14 PM ET USA

    Sebelius is the sorcerer's apprentice. Mandates are the broomsticks. The Bishops better wake up -- there will be more mandates, and more and more. Reason, law, tradition don't count anymore. Only our vote.

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Feb. 22, 2012 6:23 PM ET USA

    This is NOT primarily a political struggle. What about obedience WITHIN THE CHURCH FIRST. It really doesn't exist. A political struggle, without reasonable order within our Church is an empty shell. Luk 14:29-30 "For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have [sufficient] to finish [it]? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish [it], all that behold [it] begin to mock him...?"