Fortnight for Freedom Issue #5: Archbishop William Lori responds to those who would like to restrict freedom of religion.

Some of the strongest critics of the bishops’ position maintain that the Catholic church wishes to curtail the freedom of others. Since Catholic institutions do not exclusively serve Catholics, not providing support for contraception limits the freedom of those who do not subscribe to Catholic teachings about human sexuality. Underlying some of these criticisms is the point that the Catholic Church, with its all-male clergy and hierarchical structure, is an organization that doesn’t appreciate the full freedom of its members.

A response to some of these points was made by Baltimore Archbishop William Lori during a recent address as chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.

Lori called attention to what he characterizes as “strange inversions” in the public debate about the HHS mandate. Against the claim that the Catholic Church is attempting to encode its doctrine in law, Lori observed that the Catholic Church does not want “to force anybody to do anything.” Instead, the issue is government demanding uniformity and coercing religious employers to violate their own values.

While Lori did not address those who criticize the very structure of the Catholic Church, he argued that in the name of diversity and choice the government is effectively doing away with diversity and choice in the public sphere. Indeed, one of Lori’s central concerns is that HHS mandate relies on a very restrictive understanding of what it means to be a religious person -after all, people do not leave their religiosity behind when they leave their mosque or synagogue, church or temple.

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In Mexico, the Catholic Church publicly speaking the truth is termed a “provocation”.

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s Roman Catholic Church drew fire Tuesday for releasing a set of voting “guidelines” for the faithful ahead of the July 1 presidential elections. All religious groups in Mexico are banned from engaging in electoral politics, or supporting or opposing any candidate or party. The guidelines published by the Archdiocese of Mexico on its web site appear to closely skirt the restriction.
Editor’s note: Many North Americans find the severe restrictions on religious freedom in Mexico to be rather disturbing. In light of this, it should come as no surprise that many Mexican citizens wish to come to the U.S. for reasons of religious, as well as economic freedom.

Warning: Freedom of religion and freedom of worship are two very DIFFERENT things!

Faced with what they see as dangerous trends in the Obama administration, the bishops recently announced the creation of their own Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. The goal is to address church-state trends that in recent decades have primarily been attacked by Protestant conservatives.

Anyone seeking the source of this development in American religion — including recent blasts at the White House by the archbishops of New York and Los Angeles — needs to study a 2009 Georgetown University speech by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. It received relatively little attention at the time.

“Our human-rights agenda for the 21st century is to make human rights a human reality and the first step is to see human rights in a broad context,” she said, speaking on a campus known for its leadership on the Catholic left. “To fulfill their potential, people must be free to choose laws and leaders; to share and access information, to speak, criticize and debate. They must be free to worship, associate and to love in the way that they choose.”

Conservatives cried foul, noting that the secretary of state had raised gay rights — the right for all to “love in the way that they choose” — to the same level as freedoms explicitly articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They also noticed that she mentioned a narrow right “to worship” instead of using more expansive terms such as religious “freedom” or “liberty.”

“Religious freedom, rightly understood, cannot be reduced to freedom of worship,” argued George Weigel, a Catholic conservative best known for his authorized biography of the late Pope John Paul II.

“Religious freedom includes the right to preach and evangelize, to make religiously informed moral arguments in the public square and to conduct the affairs of one’s religious community without undue interference from the state. If religious freedom only involves the freedom to worship, then … there is ‘religious freedom’ in Saudi Arabia, where Bibles and evangelism are forbidden but expatriate Filipino laborers can attend Mass in the U.S. Embassy compound in Riyadh.”

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Operation Rescue Supports Father Pavone of Priests for Life

Operation Rescue has released the following statement supporting Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, who is being prevented from exercising his duties as the national director of the pro-life organization:

Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life is one of the most respected and effective leaders in the Pro-Life movement today. We were saddened and confused by the order of Bishop Patrick Zurek to suddenly confine Fr. Frank’s priestly duties to Amarillo, Texas. It makes no good sense to remove him from the mission field while children continue to die at the hands of unscrupulous abortionists.

“I can think of nothing the abortion cartel would want more than to have Fr. Frank sidelined at this critical time when the pro-life movement is gaining ground and poised to finally end abortion,” said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman.

“The attack on the good name of Priests for Life and Fr. Frank Pavone in particular is shocking to say the least. Priests for Life’s books are a matter of public record. I would expect this kind of slanderous attack from someone at Planned Parenthood or NARAL, but not from a bishop in the Church. This is a very sad day for the innocent unborn.

“We have labored alongside Fr. Frank throughout the years and know him to be a humble yet determined and faithful man of the highest integrity. It is hard to understand why Bishop Zurek would make such outrageous public accusations against him, casting a shadow where none should be. I can’t help but think of the Scriptures that say we should do to others what we would want done to us. Certainly Bishop Zurek would not want his reputation besmirched with unfounded accusations as he has done to Fr. Frank. Perhaps he should have considered that before acting out with such a heavy hand.”

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