RELIGIOUS LIBERTY: FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE?

Posted by & filed under Conference of Catholic Bishops, Freedom of Conscience for Catholics, HHS Ruling. Abortion, Religious Liberty.

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Our Guest Post today is Our First, Most Cherished Liberty: A Statement on Religious Liberty, a Manifesto from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.

The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops are hoping to refocus the American conversation on what they perceive as threats to religious liberty with a “Fortnight for Freedom” program planned for July in which they hope to get people discussing the ways in which the government is seeking to infringe on all Americans’ right to Liberty of Conscience.
Their main concern, but not their only one, is the recent Health and Human Services ruling that under the new Health Care Act, Catholic institutions—including charities, hospitals and schools—will be required by law to provide and pay for insurance coverage (for their employees) that includes contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization procedures. (You can read my views on this subject in my February 7, 2012 post, Is There a War on Religion?)
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We are Catholics. We are Americans. We are proud to be both, grateful for the gift of faith which is ours as Christian disciples, and grateful for the gift of liberty which is ours as American citizens. To be Catholic and American should mean not having to choose one over the other. Our allegiances are distinct, but they need not be contradictory, and should instead be complementary. That is the teaching of our Catholic faith, which obliges us to work together with fellow citizens for the common good of all who live in this land. That is the vision of our founding and our Constitution, which guarantees citizens of all religious faiths the right to contribute to our common life together.

Freedom is not only for Americans, but we think of it as something of our special inheritance, fought for at a great price, and a heritage to be guarded now. We are stewards of this gift, not only for ourselves but for all nations and peoples who yearn to be free. Catholics in America have discharged this duty of guarding freedom admirably for many generations.

In 1887, when the archbishop of Baltimore, James Gibbons, was made the second American cardinal, he defended the American heritage of religious liberty during his visit to Rome to receive the red hat. Speaking of the great progress the Catholic Church had made in the United States, he attributed it to the “civil liberty we enjoy in our enlightened republic.” Indeed, he made a bolder claim, namely that “in the genial atmosphere of liberty [the Church] blossoms like a rose.” 

From well before Cardinal Gibbons, Catholics in America have been advocates for religious liberty, and the landmark teaching of the Second Vatican Council on religious liberty was influenced by the American experience. It is among the proudest boasts of the Church on these shores. We have been staunch defenders of religious liberty in the past. We have a solemn duty to discharge that duty today.

We need, therefore, to speak frankly with each other when our freedoms are threatened. Now is such a time. As Catholic bishops and American citizens, we address an urgent summons to our fellow Catholics and fellow Americans to be on guard, for religious liberty is under attack, both at home and abroad….

(You Can Read the Rest of the Manifesto on the Catholic Bishops website, Here)
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