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Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
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Cardinal Wuerl defends lawsuits: ‘I don't want the president to define me’

May 28, 2012

Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington defended the lawsuits filed by the Archdiocese of Washington and 42 other Catholic institutions against the Obama administration’s HHS mandate.

“This lawsuit isn't about contraception,” said Cardinal Wuerl. “It is about religious freedom. Embedded in the mandate is a radically new definition of what institutes a religious community, what constitutes religious ministry--brand new and never fortified in the federal level. That's what we are arguing about.”

“The lawsuit said we have every right to serve in this community as we have served for decades and decades,” he continued. “The new definition says you are not really religious if you serve people other than your own and if you hire people other than your own. That wipes out all of the things that we have been doing, all the things that we contribute to the common good--our schools, our health care services, our Catholic charity and even parish soup kitchens and pantries.”

Criticizing the Obama administration’s “accommodation,” Cardinal Wuerl said that “so many of our institutions, certainly the archdiocese, is self insured. We are the insurer. So, when you say, don't worry, we changed this and only the insurer has to pay. And we are the insurer, there is no accommodation.”

Asked whether the bishops are divided on the issue, Cardinal Wuerl--referring to Bishop Stephen Blaire- replied:

I don't know where that is coming from. One bishop was quoted, issuing a statement that he is totally supportive of all of this, including the lawsuits. I don't know where the story is coming from. I know it's out there … I have yet to see any split at all. And again, the bishop who was quoted he was concerned issued a statement saying that what was said about him was not his position …

When you say there's a division in the Church because not every diocese that went to court, there are dioceses and institutions and universities, hospitals all over the country who went to court. The idea was to make this representative of the Church in the United States. It would be physically impossible to get every diocese into court at the same time.

Asked to comment on Mitt Romney’s proposal for school vouchers, the cardinal said that “we are all paying taxes for education. Why doesn't that money follow the parents of the kids? For example, here, if you live in the District of Columbia, if you are very wealthy or have a lot of support, you can send your child to a very exclusive private school. But if you live in this inner city, if you live in some of the poorest neighborhoods, you don't get an option.”

“That's why the Catholic Church is there, that's why we have our schools in the inner city saying we'll give you a chance to get a decent education and we'll pay for it,” he added. “But wouldn't it be fair, wouldn't be just, wouldn't be really honest if every child a chance at a real, true, academically excellent education. And one way to do that is to let the parents have a choice.”

Asked whether “Mormons are true Christians,” Cardinal Wuerl replied that “I never define other people. I define myself. That's why we are in court. I define myself. I don't want the president to define me.”

Finally, asked to comment on the arrest of the Pope’s valet on charges of possessing confidential documents, Cardinal Wuerl said that

I wouldn't worry about what I am reading in the newspapers about something that media has reported in Italy about something that someone said is going on. I'm not altogether certain that the butler's access to some documents is really the major concern of the Church or should be a major concern of the people United States of America today. We have so many other issues. One of them, for example, is we are going to be celebrating Memorial Day. We are going to be turning our attention to those brave women and men who died in the defense of this country, of its freedom, of its Constitution, and of the ability of all of us to carry on our way of life. I think that's where our focus should be this coming Memorial Day as we simply recognize who we are.

By the way, that's one of the reasons we are in court. We are saying, we're saying, we've been told the reason we buried in flags these brave men and women, is because they were defending our freedom and Constitution.


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  • Posted by: hartwood01 - Jun. 08, 2012 7:45 PM ET USA

    I thought the Cardinal avoided the inflammatory language that characterizes so much of the Tea Party Catholic Church.

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Jun. 03, 2012 11:40 AM ET USA

    “The lawsuit said we have every right to serve in this community as we have served for decades and decades,” he continued. Though this Cardinal would seem to be defective in the way that he serves the Church. How quickly we forget Gaithersville. President Obama can seem to get a Cardinal "to talk" but we as the Catholic laity to whom he is primarily responsible, "we" cannot.

  • Posted by: - May. 29, 2012 11:00 AM ET USA

    Weak and waffling appearance by Wuerl. Dodged on Bishop Blaire. Dodged on the question as to whether Mormons are Christians. This teaching opportunity could have been a moment of evangelization.

  • Posted by: FredC - May. 29, 2012 9:57 AM ET USA

    Cardinal Wuerl took a very narrow view of the objections to the HHS mandate: self-insured, self-proclaimed Catholic institutions. He should have included all businesses being conducted in conformance with Catholic morals as well as everyone who is practicing his faith. The government may override the First Amendment only if there is a compelling reason based on the common good. The ready availability of contraceptive devices obviates any compelling reason.