New archbishop has become face of bishops' drive for religious freedom
Published: March 21, 2012
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- With meetings at the White House and testimony before Congress, Archbishop William E. Lori, appointed March 20 to be the next archbishop of Baltimore, has been one of the most visible faces of the U.S. Catholic Church in recent weeks. As chairman of the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, he has been leading their efforts to fight what the bishops see as encroachments on the religious freedom enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, especially from the Obama administration's requirement that most religious employers provide free contraceptives to their employees through their health insurance plans. "We will not violate our consciences," he told a House committee in mid-February, saying that the issue is about "forcing the church" to provide contraceptives against church teachings. "That's what we don't want to do. It's one thing when tax dollars pay for it. It's another when church dollars do." Following a March 14 meeting with White House officials about the contraceptive mandate, Archbishop Lori told Catholic News Service that the administration's definition of religious institutions that could be exempt appears "here to stay" and "non-negotiable. We find that to be distressing and it does not bode well for future discussions," he said. At a news conference March 20 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore, Archbishop Lori said religious freedom should be an issue that concerns all Americans. "As someone involved in the leadership of the church over the years," he said, "it was hard to miss that there's been an erosion of religious liberty over time -- sometimes through laws, sometimes through court decisions and sometimes through the increasing secularity of the culture."
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