by Chris Banescu –
Orthodox Christians are thankful and grateful for the vocal and passionate public stance of Catholic Bishops and Catholic leaders who categorically oppose Obama’s HHS healthcare mandate. Your courage in defending our constitutionally protected religious liberty is making us stronger. Your public and uncompromising witness to Christian principles and your passionate advocacy in protecting the life of the unborn is giving us hope.
We embrace and support you as brothers in Christ and co-workers for righteousness. As Orthodox Metropolitan Jonah stood side-by-side with Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan in praying together at this year’s March for Life , we stand in solidarity with you in demanding the repeal of the HHS mandate and in defense of the religious liberty of all Americans.
It’s impressive and inspiring to witness the speed and conviction with which Catholic Bishops and other Catholic organizations responded to the new HHS rule and denounced it as unconstitutional and immoral from the start. On the same day the Obama administration made the announcement, January 20, 2012, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a press release declaring it unconscionable and a blatant violation of religious liberty.
“To force American citizens to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their healthcare is literally unconscionable. It is as much an attack on access to health care as on religious freedom. Historically this represents a challenge and a compromise of our religious liberty,” powerfully stated then cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the USCCB. In a video message recorded by the archbishop he sharply criticized the White House: “Never before has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience. This shouldn’t happen in a land where free exercise of religion ranks first in the Bill of Rights.”
Cardinal Dolan was not alone in the immediate and unequivocal public condemnation of the HHS mandate. Other Catholic leaders also spoke out against it. “This is nothing less than a direct attack on religion and First Amendment rights,” said Franciscan Sister Jane Marie Klein , chairperson of the board at Franciscan Alliance, Inc., a system of 13 Catholic hospitals. “I have hundreds of employees who will be upset and confused by this edict.” Patrick J. Reilly, President of The Cardinal Newman Society, a Catholic university watchdog group, denounced the “cult of choice” agenda of the Obama administration. “The White House has sold the First Amendment for a few pennies of political support from the ACLU and the abortion lobby,” he said.
More Catholic Bishops joined the chorus of opposition very quickly. Addressing the opening Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on the evening of January 22, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, excoriated the HHS rule. “Never before in our US History has the Federal Government forced citizens to directly purchase what violates our beliefs. At issue here as our President of the Conference stated it this past Friday, is the survival of a cornerstone constitutionally protected freedom that ensures respect for conscience and religious liberty,” proclaimed Cardinal DiNardo.
By January 25, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, Arizona, publicly denounced the “severe assault on religious liberty” and bravely asked Christians in his dioceses to consider civil disobedience rather than violate the Church’s teachings. In his open letter, read aloud in Catholic parishes across the Phoenix diocese, Bishop Olmstead criticized the Obama administration for casting “aside the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our Nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty,” and called on the faithful to refuse to comply with the unjust law.
“We cannot – we will not – comply with this unjust law. People of faith cannot be made second class citizens. … Our parents and grandparents did not come to these shores to help build America’s cities and towns, its infrastructure and institutions, its enterprise and culture, only to have their posterity stripped of their God given rights.”
Similar public statements containing the same calls for civil disobedience and uncompromising stance for Christian moral teaching were also issued by Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati and Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay within days of each other. More Catholic Bishops soon followed with their own individual letters denouncing the oppressive HHS edict.
The tide of Catholic opposition and criticism has grown and intensified since January. To date all 181 Catholic Bishops who head diocese in America (100% of them) have spoken out and denounced Obama’s HHS mandate. These bishops not only issued public statements condemning the mandate, but many of them read their statements at diocesan Masses or included them in parish bulletins on Sunday. What an amazing public witness for Christ and righteousness!
Especially encouraging and inspiring is Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s fearless and consistent moral leadership in this crisis. He continues to speak clearly and with authority on the HHS mandate: “This is not just about contraception, abortion-causing drugs, and sterilization-although all should recognize the injustices involved in making them part of a universal mandated health care program. It is not about Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals. It is about people of faith. This is first and foremost a matter of religious liberty for all.”
His unwavering defense of the Christian faith and the religious liberties of all Americans shines forth in his latest letter, co-signed by Bishop William Lori, addressed to his brother Bishops. “We cannot rest when faced with so grave a threat to the religious liberty for which our parents and grandparents fought. In this moment in history we must work diligently to preserve religious liberty and to remove all threats to the practice of our faith in the public square. . President Obama should rescind the mandate, or at the very least, provide full and effective measures to protect religious liberty and conscience,” writes Cardinal Dolan. This is indeed legitimate Christian authority and faithful servant leadership as reflected in the lives of the Apostles and Disciples of Christ and embodied in the Scriptures!
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Orthodox Christians recognize the importance and significance of the battle before us. We support your steadfast defense of the sanctity of life and the moral teaching of the Christian faith. We continue to pray for all the faithful and courageous Catholic Bishops fighting to protect all our religious liberties. May our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ continue to bless, protect, and guide them in the holy and worthy work they’re doing on behalf of all Americans, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Originally published on: Catholic Online