Live From the U.S. Bishops' General Assembly: Religious Freedom Surfaces as a Key Issue

Archbishop Dolan gives a bold opening address.

Washington has begun to take note of the U.S. bishops’ more assertive tone on religious-freedom issues. Last week, a group of Republican senators criticized in a letter the controversial decision by the Department of Health and Human Services to deny funding to the highly rated U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ program for trafficking victims’ assistance.

Yesterday, Nov. 13, a Washington Post story, “U.S. Bishops Prepare Fight For Religious Exceptions Over Gay Marriage,” signaled that partisan “Democrat Catholic” groups are stepping up to provide their own spin on the bishops’ more assertive response to actions they judge to pose a serious and growing threat to religious freedom at both the federal and state levels.

As the Post story reports, “Steve Krueger, national director of Catholic Democrats, pointed to the agenda released before this week’s meeting, which included no public discussion of poverty despite the state of the economy.” The implication is that “Church leaders are turning inward and away from promoting the Church’s teaching on social justice.” Go to the Catholic Democrats’ website, and you learn that, in the last presidential election battle, the nonprofit explained why Catholics could vote for Barack Obama in good conscience.

However, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, is not backing down, and makes no apologies for sticking with his priority issues, while maintaining an integrated approach to the full range of the Church’s social, moral and constitutional concerns.

In his opening address at the bishops’ meeting in Baltimore this morning, Nov. 14, Archbishop Dolan stated:

“Our world would often have us believe that culture is light years ahead of a languishing moribund Church.

“But, of course, we realize the opposite case: The Church invites the world to a fresh, original place, not a musty or outdated one. It is always a risk for the world to hear the Church, for she dares the world to ‘cast out to the deep,’ to foster and protect the inviolable dignity of the human person and human life; to acknowledge the truth about life ingrained in reason and nature; to protect marriage and family; to embrace those suffering and struggling; to prefer service to selfishness; and never to stifle the liberty to quench deep down for the divine that the poets, philosophers and peasants of the earth know to be what really makes us genuinely human.”



Register senior editor Joan Frawley Desmond is covering the general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Nov. 14-16 in Baltimore.