A 2013 Legatus Summit speaker, Baltimore’s Archbishop Lori engages the culture . . .
Imagine picking up your morning paper and reading these headlines: “Priest Fined for not Marrying Same-Sex Couple,” “Catholic Hospital Closed for Refusal to Perform Sterilizations,” and “Notre Dame University to Close, Refuses to Offer Employees Abortion Coverage.”
Though these headlines sound far-fetched, they’re not. Archbishop William Lori, Baltimore’s newly appointed archbishop, has been working day and night to make sure these headlines are never printed. He is the U.S. bishops’ point man on religious freedom — an issue that grows more pressing by the day, despite the fact that it’s all but ignored by the mainstream media.
Archbishop Lori has been the chairman of the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty since September 2011. He led last summer’s “Fortnight for Freedom” and speaks regularly to Catholics and the news media. He has testified before Congress several times.
“In the past, there was much more overtly anti-Catholic activity in this country,” he told Legatus magazine. “Today, things are more under the surface. The dangerous things happen behind the curtains. This is why it’s so important for us Catholics to reveal what’s going on and to hold officials accountable for making rules which are anti-Catholic and anti-religious.”
The issue of religious liberty affects an enormous array of human activity, which is why Archbishop Lori believes it’s so important to engage the culture.
“There are challenges to religious liberty in every state with same-sex ‘marriage,’” he said. “Catholic social services are being discriminated against because they don’t offer contraception. Student groups are being decertified because of their Christian principles. There is also the ever-present battle to take all religious symbols out of the public square. Individuals sometimes find their professional licenses revoked because of their Christianity.”
Archbishop Lori, who will be speaking on religious freedom at the Legatus Summit in February, said the threats to our first freedom take place on many levels, especially the judicial and legislative. But the biggest challenge is cultural.
“As secularism takes hold, more and more people marginalize the faith,” he said. “This is when religious liberty is imperiled.”
As the bishops’ leader on religious freedom, Archbishop Lori offers various solutions.
“First, like the pro-life movement, we need to pray,” he said. “This must be the engine that drives the protection of religious liberty. Right now we have a rosary novena going on, and there is a national prayer for religious liberty. I foresee that this fight is going to take a long, long time.”
He also believes that Catholics must continue to engage their elected officials. They must write to members of Congress and demand legislative relief.
“It’s good for bishops to testify before Congress, but it’s better for them to hear from the faithful,” he said.
Archbishop Lori believes that Catholics must also become better informed about the issues affecting the Church in the public square.
“It’s sadly apparent that many Catholics are not informed [of the government’s hostility to the Church] because schools and hospitals are still open. It’s not as if these buildings are being burned. But this is a fight which is below the surface through subtle instructions. When you analyze it, it’s a sea change. It’s a real alteration of the way in which the Church and state interact.”
In addition, Catholics must better understand Church teaching and then impart it to others. “The new evangelization takes stock of the new situation in which the Church finds herself, how people find happiness, how they communicate, what they regard as important, where there is brokenness. It’s helping to see how the Gospel responds to our questions, concerns and emptiness.”
Archbishop Lori recalls how Pope John Paul II said that we must show how Jesus is the answer to every person who comes into the world: Jesus is the answer to the needs of every heart.
There are a number of good books, he said, that explain limited government and religious freedom — such as Archbishop Chaput’s Render Unto Caesar. Catholics must equip themselves to speak knowledgeably on this issue.
Catholics can also join legislative networks — like their own state’s Catholic conference. And the U.S. bishops have a text message campaign for religious freedom. If you text the word “freedom” to 377377, you will receive regular texts directly from the USCCB.
Tackling the Issues
The Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate is enemy No. 1 for Catholics who value religious liberty. The mandate demands that all businesses offer employees health insurance that provides contraception, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs. Religious organizations are exempt if they serve only members of their faith and exist only to propagate their faith’s doctrine.
“The HHS mandate goes too far,” said Chris Gunty, associate publisher of the Catholic Review, Baltimore’s archdiocesan newspaper. “Because Catholic Charities hires people who are not Catholic and serves people who are not Catholic, they are not exempt.”
In fact, every Catholic hospital, university, and charity could be fined excessively under the mandate, forcing them to close.
More than 100 plaintiffs in more than 35 lawsuits are fighting the mandate in court, said Kim Daniels, co-director of Catholic Voices USA. “Archbishop Lori has been a tremendous leader in defending religious freedom. He’s been involved in this issue for a long time, and he’s really engaged.”
Maureen Ferguson, senior policy advisor for the Catholic Association, agrees. “He has been everywhere on this issue. The bishops have called for lay people to get involved in this fight, but the flock needs a shepherd. And he has been an incredible shepherd. His leadership has been stellar and invaluable.”
Archbishop Lori also led the fight to defeat Maryland’s same-sex “marriage” ballot measure. However, it failed on Nov. 6, losing by a narrow margin (52-48%). “We will continue to witness to the values of marriage … the union of one man and one woman, as the most sound, secure and loving way to bring children into the world,” he said in a statement.
Though Maryland law allows religious organizations to opt out of renting property or performing services for gays, Archbishop Lori knows there are deeper problems. Once a state allows gay “marriage,” religious liberty begins to erode.
Gunty, a member of Legatus’ Baltimore Chapter, concurs. “There was a bed and breakfast in Vermont that refused to rent their location for a same-sex ‘marriage’ ceremony. They were sued. The ramification is that they can’t rent out their facility for anything anymore.
When same-sex ‘marriage’ becomes the law of the land, then to hold another opinion becomes politically incorrect, and people will take action against you.”
Archbishop Lori says the fight for religious liberty will be an ongoing battle — and it will require lay leadership, and Catholic business leaders will be invaluable.
“People are looking for leadership,” he said. “If a person is a leader in business, for example, and a totally committed Catholic, they can give a reason for their hope. The way we overcome indifference is by a burning love for Christ and by asserting that faith confidently.”
Sabrina Arena Ferrisi is Legatus magazine’s senior staff writer.
Your invitation to the 2013 Summit
The clock is ticking down to Legatus’ 2013 Summit — and excitement is building toward the Feb. 7-9 event at the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Ariz. Because a capacity crowd of more than 500 participants is anticipated, organizers suggest booking a room as early as possible.
“The schedule is full of speakers that will entertain, educate and enrich our spiritual lives,” said Laura Sacha, Legatus’ conference director. “Even though we will be in Arizona with the desert as our backdrop, we will be immersed in the Louisiana culture as our host, the Baton Rouge Chapter, brings their flavor to the Summit.”
The Summit’s theme, “The Door of Faith: A Summons to a Deeper Conversion,” takes its inspiration from Pope Benedict XVI’s apostolic letter Porta Fidei (The Door of Faith). The roster of speakers and special guests is impressive. Confirmed faculty include:
• Gov. Jeb Bush, former Florida governor and convert to the Catholic faith
• Baltimore Archbishop William Lori
• Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gómez, Legatus’ ecclesiastical advisor
• Legatus’ international chaplain Bishop Sam Jacobs, Houma-Thibodaux (La.) diocese
• Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted
• George Weigel, papal biographer and author of Witness to Hope and The End and the Beginning
• Catholic author and motivational speaker Matthew Kelly
• Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb), author of the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act
• Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia’s attorney general
• Tommy Lasorda, former L.A. Dodgers manager
• Mother Miriam of the Lamb of God, formerly Rosalind Moss, a convert form Judaism and foundress of the Daughters of Mary, mother of Israel’s Hope
• Mike Piazza, former Major League Baseball catcher with the New York Mets, L.A. Dodgers, Florida Marlins, San Diego Padres and Oakland A’s
• Fr. Frank “Rocky” Hoffman, executive director of Relevant Radio
• EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo, master of ceremonies