May 24, 2012
Clarification by Bishop Stephen Blaire in regard to comments on the HHS Mandate
I wish to clarify some misunderstandings related to my comments about the HHS Mandate.
First of all, I stand solidly with my brother bishops in our common resolve to overturn the unacceptable intrusion of government into the life of the Church by the HHS Mandate. In March, the Administrative Committee issued a statement of commitment to persuade the Administration to eliminate this interference, the Congress to overturn it or the courts to stop it. I contributed to and voted for this statement, and continue to support it, including its call for legal action as was announced on Monday.
The fundamental issue is the freedom of the Church to carry out her mission as given by Christ. Religious Freedom protects the right of the Church to define herself and her ministries. It is totally unacceptable to have the federal government decide that our religious ministries are not “religious.” The continuing effort of the government to intrude itself by re-defining Catholic ministries as somehow less religious or less Catholic because they employ or serve those without regard to their creed is unjust and a violation of religious liberty. The government should not intrude itself in forcing the Church and her institutions to violate her long standing teaching to provide essential health care to her employees.
From my perspective, the recent legal challenges by dioceses and Catholic entities throughout the United States, as well as discussions with the Administration, and the advocacy of Congress, all have one essential goal: to defend the right of the Church to define herself and to preserve the identity and integrity of the Catholic ministries exercised through her institutions.
I am convinced we need to continue to seek to persuade others to join us in this just cause through reasoned, civil and respectful discussion. Our defense of religious liberty is advanced when there is open discussion about the best strategies to promote our common goal.
I look forward to the discussions at the Bishops’ meeting in June which will offer us an opportunity to agree on next steps to achieve our common and essential goal of ending this violation of religious freedom.
“The freedom of the church is the fundamental principle governing relations between the church and public authorities and the whole civil order.” (The declaration on religious liberty, 13, Second Vatican Council)