Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore went home for Thanksgiving.
Invited to address more than 100 people at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, his childhood parish in New Albany, Ind., the archbishop spoke on a topic he has been quite familiar with in the last two years: religious freedom.
“As I reflected on the whole question of religious freedom, in light of Pope Francis, it occurred to me that we ought to see the relationship between defending religious freedom and serving the poor,” said Archbishop Lori, who also serves as the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad-Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.
Archbishop Lori told Our Sunday Visitor that he focused his talk on the HHS contraceptive mandate and how it tells Church institutions that serve the poor and vulnerable that they are “a little less than religious” and thus not deserving of their full First Amendment rights of religious freedom.
“What the HHS mandate is really saying to us is you have to behave more like a regular human services agency,” said Archbishop Lori, who also noted a talk that then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio gave in 2009 where he stressed what the magisterium has defined as integral human development.
“We are not just meeting immediate human needs, but we are also aiming to protect the transcendent dignity of the persons we are serving, and that means protecting their rights and dignity, including religious freedom,” Archbishop Lori said.
“Creating a society in which religion is privatized isn’t doing the poor and vulnerable who we are serving any favors if we want to really bring about integral human development,” the archbishop added, noting that Pope Benedict XVI said God is the guarantor of human dignity.
With Pope Francis’ “tremendous and rightful” stress on bringing the Gospel to the poor and marginalized, Archbishop Lori said there has been a tendency to bracket religious freedom and defense of life, and to rather concentrate on service.
“What I’m saying is it’s not ‘either-or,’ it’s ‘both-and,’” Archbishop Lori said. “If you serve while neglecting human freedom and transcendent dignity, you’re going to undermine your service.”
Archbishop Lori said he and the bishops will continue to fight the HHS mandate, which was authorized by the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
“We want to accomplish our mission with inward and outward integrity,” Archbishop Lori said. “Inward integrity in that we hold fast to the faith motives of our work, and that we hold fast to our moral and ethical standards so that the work we do externally is truly done with the greatest integrity.”