Pope Benedict Speaks About Religious Liberty in the U.S.

Pope Benedict Speaks About Religious Liberty in the U.S. February 13, 2012

The Pope speaks out about “threat to religious liberty” in the U.S.


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  • Thales

    Your link is related to another aspect of the contraception mandate debate, an aspect that I only realized the significance of today when reading Krauthammer and an aspect that hasn’t gotten as much analysis as it deserves. It is this: Pres. Obama apparently recognizes the Free Exercise of Religion clause and recognizes that religious institutions have a right to religious liberty under this clause; thus, the HHS rule gives an exemption to religious institutions. But what’s disturbing is Pres. Obama’s definition of what he thinks is a religious institution that is entitled to religious liberty: only those institutions which have a purpose of inculcating religion and which primarily employ and serve those who share in the religion. Shouldn’t this definition of a religious institution deserving of religious liberty disturb us all? Shouldn’t we be bothered that serving the poor, the sick, the needy, and carrying out the rest of Jesus’s Gospel specifically disqualifies an institution from being religious?

    • Kurt

      Shouldn’t this definition of a religious institution deserving of religious liberty disturb us all?

      If it should disturb us all, it should have disturbed us all when it was used in the CIvil Rights Act of 1965.

      I propose that it is a non-negotiable principle that we need to repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1965 as well as the legalization of contraception and that our friends at ‘Catholic Vote’ and ‘The American Catholic’ lead us in this effort. Get to it guys.

    • bpeters1

      Megan McArdle had a nice piece a couple of weeks ago that touched on this subject (though more in terms of the practical effects of restricting the Church’s public activities). Money line: “it’s not obvious to me that we will be better off encouraging Catholic hospitals and other groups to provide services exclusively to their own flock, while exclusively employing members of their own flock.” http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/01/should-the-church-have-to-dispense-birth-control/252321/

  • Kurt

    Sofia,

    Your link is to a conservative agency which gives its spin to the Holy Father’s remarks and then there is a subsequent link to the actual text at the end. Did you do this to suggest your appreciation and endorsement of their commentary and opinions?

  • Ronald King

    What disturbs me about the pope speaking out as he did is that he has not reached out to Obama first and asked to speak to him face to face. Authorities need to learn how to speak to one another or they make decisions or make statements that do nothing except alienate the other side and model inappropriate destructive behaviors which are mirrored by their followers and produce more harm than good. Truth spoken without wisdom becomes the fuel which further inflames a fire that need not have started in the first place.
    If I remember correctly St. Francis travelled by himself to meet with the King of Persia in an attempt to stop the coming war. He was unsuccessful. I wonder what would have happened if the pope at the time had gone with him?

    • Thales

      Well, the Pope does have a number of representatives in the U.S. They’re called bishops. And even they’ve even reached out to the President, for some reason, he apparently has decided not to consult with them.

      • Ronald King

        Thales, you needn’t use sarcasm with the bishop line. It is in humility that God came to us as Christ. It is that same humility which our Pope must exhibit to Obama in which the one who is in a position of holiness reaches out to one who isn’t for the purpose of creating an environment which has the possibility of raising the soul of the president to a new understanding of the gift which God has given him for the protection and well-being of all life. It is the Pope who will draw the attention needed so the entire world will be able to observe how we are to humble ourselves with one another instead of speaking from a pedastal like the worldly powers do. If you knew about mirror neurons and how critical they are in developing social behavior then you would know what I mean.

      • Thales

        Ronald,
        It’s not sarcasm. I think it’s pretty clear that the bishops have reached out to Pres. Obama personally and have asked to speak to him face to face.

        • Ronald King

          Thales, I am sorry about misinterpreting your statement for sarcasm. I couldn’t hear your voice nor see your face and have spent too many years seeing angry faces and hearing angry voices. I am looking at this with a psychodynamic perspective. In brief, Pres. Obama with an absent father and the developmental problems associated with that, in particular, his relationship with authority figures who do not think the same as he. Research shows that our chemistry for bonding also enhances a bias against others who do not belong to the same group. The only way to overcome that bias is to form a relationship built on trust and mutual respect. The Pope being the Holy Father, in my opinion, can be associated with the absent father figure and trigger many different unconscious responses in the President many of which influence him to dismiss the significance of Catholic morality. With humility I believe the Pope could speak to that vulnerability in the President.

    • Kurt

      Ron,

      Read the Holy Father’s actual remarks and not the conservative spin on it that Sofia directed us to.

      • Ronald King

        ok, thanks Kurt

    • Devin

      I would imagine that the Pope’s displeasure and or concerns have been expressed through normal diplomatic channels. President’s and Popes can’t meet on every contentious issue. And besides the main face of Catholicism on this issue has been Cardinal-designate Dolan who has met and talked w/ President Obama, I believe in person.

      I don’t know the mind of President Obama, but I would venture that his only concern with Catholicism on this issue is the potential loss of votes. This mandate to him is a moral good. So I doubt that even a conversation with the Pope would make a difference. The only two things that matter are 1) will this mandate cost Obama any voters and/or political capital and if it does, 2) how much would he be willing to lose before compromising or compromising even further (depending on how you interpret his previous actions).

      As of right now, I am not sure that this issue will hurt President Obama, so I doubt we will find out the and answer to number 2.

  • “At the heart of every culture, whether perceived or not,” he said, “is a consensus about the nature of reality and the moral good, and thus about the conditions for human flourishing.”…well said Holy Father.

    And what are these ‘conditions for human flourishing’? I’ve heard the Church cry for peace as the indispensible soil where authentic human development takes place. Certainly a strong and faithful family uplifts the culture. A view of reality that sees the presence of Christ in human nature and particularly in the poor is highlty beneficial. But I’m truly wary of a consensus that mandates free contraception, sterilization and abortion as a condition for human flourishing.

  • Tim Leonard

    If you were an atheistic janitor in a Catholic school, or a Jewish x-ray techincian in a Catholic hospital, or a Methodist case worker in a Catholic Social Services office and were denied coverage available to your counterparts in non-Catholic schools, hospitals and social service agencies, would you not consider your religious liberty to be curtailed by your employer and a collaborating government? The pope has little understanding of the first right of every American — the right of conscience, the right to religious liberty.

    • Thales

      So one’s religious liberty includes the right to have someone pay for your abortion?

    • Thomas

      @Tim Leonard. You have little understanding of the U.S. Constitution. The constitution, save the “badges and incidences” of slavery clause to the 13th amendment, is meant to restrain the government from interfering with individuals. If a private institution wants to decide for itself what health coverage to provide for its employees, that private institution is allowed to do so.

      Moreover, comporting with one’s personal tenants, in this case refusing to pay for contraceptives and abortions, does not deprive a Jewish person of their Torah or the Methodist of her Bible. Being coerced to do what one cannot do by conscience is not equal to refusing a person to do what their conscience finds permissible.

      Those who support contraception find their protection under the 4th, 5th, 9th, and 14th amendments to the constitution as laid out in the cases of Griswold and Baird. If people who use contraception want contraception, look no further than the corner mini-mart or the neighborhood pharmacy.

      A disclaimer.

      I admit these are constitutional protections from state interference. A far cry from a true right, however. True rights are just and comporting with divine and natural law. In this regard the fore-mentioned constitutional protections are deficient as rights in a classical sense.

  • Anne

    <<Pres. Obama apparently recognizes the Free Exercise of Religion clause and recognizes that religious institutions have a right to religious liberty under this clause; thus, the HHS rule gives an exemption to religious institutions. But what’s disturbing is Pres. Obama’s definition of what he thinks is a religious institution that is entitled to religious liberty: only those institutions which have a purpose of inculcating religion and which primarily employ and serve those who share in the religion. Shouldn’t this definition of a religious institution deserving of religious liberty disturb us all? Shouldn’t we be bothered that serving the poor, the sick, the needy, and carrying out the rest of Jesus’s Gospel specifically disqualifies an institution from being religious?<<

    OM…This is beginning to seem like we've all adrift on some giant mobius strip, going round and round and coming out where we started! That religious liberty complaint is exactly what Pres. Obama was trying to respond to with his compromise. He extended the HHS defintion of a religious institution to INCLUDE religiously-affiliated employers such as hospitals, universities, Catholic Charities, etc. The religious objectors won that point. Unfortunately, they've moved on…and on.

    • Thales

      Anne, I’m not sure what you’re referring to. The religious exemption in the rule remains still so narrow as to exclude religiously-affiliated employers such as schools, etc. At least, that’s what the bishops, the Catholic employers, and everyone else objecting to the compromise are saying.

  • Anne

    “The religious objectors won that point. Unfortunately, they’ve moved on…and on.”

    Or wait, no, that’s not entirely true. Many if not most of those religious objectors directly affected….the heads of Catholic hospitals, universities, and social welfare agencies….accepted victory, some wholeheartedly, some with the caveat that they’re waiting to read all the fine print; it’s the many others who have moved on….and on and on. I’m not sure what the Pope was talking about.