By Justin Petrisek
The Obama administration’s use of the HHS mandate to attack the religious freedom of Catholic educational institutions and other organizations is part of a “bloodless” persecution in the U.S. of those seeking to bring the “healing balm” of truth, love and mercy into our culture, Baltimore Archbishop William Lori recently stated.
“Just because this polite persecution is bloodless, we should not imagine that it is victimless,” Archbishop Lori said at the ceremonial opening of the newly-expanded Divine Mercy University in Arlington, Va., on May 19.
Archbishop Lori noted that what Pope Francis calls “polite persecution” in a free society arose due to the exclusion of faith from public schools, our laws, court decisions and government policies — such as the HHS mandate — that seek to impose limits on religion. The mandate forces employers to provide morally objectionable health insurance that covers contraceptives, abortifacients and sterilization despite their deeply held beliefs.
In his address, titled “Religious Freedom in the Year of Mercy,” Archbishop Lori, who is also the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, spoke on the connections between the Year of Mercy invoked by Pope Francis and the current struggles for religious freedom in the United States. The archbishop warned that the “polite persecution” eroding religious freedom in the U.S. is creating a “merciless society.”
Many were hoping this month’s U.S. Supreme Court decision on the HHS mandate would be a victory for religious freedom, but the legal challenges against the Obama administration are set to continue. On May 16, the Court unanimously vacated the appellate court decisions and remanded the cases challenging the mandate back to the lower courts. The case brought by the Little Sisters of the Poor received the most media attention, but a number of Catholic colleges and schools were also plaintiffs in the cases heard before the Supreme Court.
Alongside the family, faithful Catholic schools and universities act as “structures that stand between the power of the state and the individual conscience,” Archbishop Lori continued.
“Let’s be clear what religious freedom means. It does not mean the freedom merely to escape cooperation with evil by the skin of one’s teeth,” Archbishop Lori said. “Rather, it means the space necessary to create in our institutions a true culture of life [and] a culture that respects the teachings of the faith.”