Religious Liberty Is Under Attack – Bishop Urges Laity to Respond to Unjust Law

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio addresses the annual dinner of The Cathedral Club of Brooklyn as emcee Jim Kerr listens at the New York Hilton Hotel in Manhattan.

by Ed Wilkinson

On two separate occasions last week, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio spoke out forcefully against provisions of the new ObamaCare health plan that is gradually going into effect in the United States.

In a letter that was read at all Masses on Sunday, Feb. 5, the bishop explained that “almost all employers, including Catholic employers, will be forced to offer their employees ‘health’ coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs and contraception.  Almost all health insurers will be forced to include those ‘services’ in the health policies they write.  And almost all individuals will be forced to buy that coverage as a part of their policies.”

As a result, Bishop DiMarzio pointed out that Catholic employers would be forced to violate their consciences or drop health care coverage for their employees and suffer the penalties for doing so.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that all institutions would have one year to comply with the new regulations.

The bishop called the new policy a violation of one of the country’s fundamental rights, freedom of religion.

“As citizens of a nation that prides herself on religious liberty, we should be outraged that the government would demand by means of regulatory action to coerce any institution to cooperate with what that institution deems to be evil and a violation of religious conscience,” wrote Bishop DiMarzio.

The bishop urged all parishioners to contact Sen. Charles Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand to ask their support for Senate Bill S.1467 that would reverse these provisions.

In separate phone conversations, Bishop DiMarzio spoke with the senators and urged their support for the bill.  The lawmakers did not indicate which way they would vote.

Only days before, Bishop DiMarzio addressed the annual dinner of The Cathedral Club of Brooklyn and urged that its members get involved in overturning the administration’s ruling.

The dinner, held at the New York Hilton in Manhattan, drew a large crowd of 700 people that included many lawmakers, judges and attorneys.

At the Cathedral Club dinner reception, were, from left, Michael Perrette, Jr.; Bishop DiMarzio; guest of honor Robert W. Mullen and his wife, Debbie; Mayor Michael Bloomberg; and Cathedral Club president Michael Perrette.

“We have come so far as Catholics and we have much to celebrate,” he told the Club which was formed 112 years ago to combat discrimination against Catholics.

“On the other hand, we can be disappointed even a bit frightened by what is seemingly an increase in attacks upon our religious liberty. Consider the recent decision of the Obama Administration to issue new HHS regulations that fail to respect the religious liberty of Catholic institutions.

“I am sure that many of you seated at this dinner this evening may disagree with the teaching of the Church on contraception, sterilization and perhaps even the use of abortifacents.  As a bishop this troubles me because it indicates that we have failed to teach the truths of the Catholic faith clearly and convincingly.  At the same time, as citizens of a nation that prides herself on religious liberty, we should be outraged that the government would demand by means of regulatory action to coerce any institution to cooperate with what they deem to be evil and a violation of religious conscience.”

He pointed out that outrage over these regulations has been expressed  in the Washington Post and the N.Y. Daily News as well as by many “liberal and conservative commentators.”
Difficult Decisions Ahead

The bishop noted that Catholic institutions will have to make “some difficult decisions that will have far reaching impact upon our employees as well as the people we serve.”

He pointed to Catholic schools, Catholic Charities, and the Catholic Migration Office as agencies that employ and serve thousands of people who would be adversely affected by the new law.

The bishops said that Pope Benedict XVI, in recent talks to American bishops making their ‘ad limina’ visits to the Vatican, reflected on the encroachments of religious freedom, not freedom of worship so much as freedom of conscience, which is antithetical to the thinking of America’s founding fathers.  The pope called upon the laity to take the lead in combatting “a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society.”

Bishop DiMarzio ended his talk by posing a challenge to members of the Cathedral Club, “Will you demand with me the right to not only worship freely but to also live according to the dictates of our conscience as we strive to be that healing presence of Christ in our world?”

Responding to the bishop’s address, State Sen. Martin Golden (R,C-Brooklyn), asked the Club to send a firm message to President Obama.

“There is a war of anti-Catholicism being waged against our churches,” Golden said. “We need to tell Obama to leave our churches alone.”