WASHINGTON, D.C., SEPT. 11, 2012 (Zenit.org) — On Monday, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) delivered the Fall Lecture for the The John Carroll Society, an organization within the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., that “promotes the enhancement of spiritual, intellectual and social fellowship among its members."
Speaking on the theme of “Let Religious Freedom Ring”, Cardinal Dolan noted that “freedom of religion has been the driving force of almost every enlightened, un-shackling, noble cause in American history.”
“Thus, the defense of religious freedom is not some evangelical Christian polemic, or wiley strategy of discredited Catholic bishops, but the quintessential American cause, the first line in the defense of and protection of human rights,” he said.
The archbishop of New York went on to discuss various events of American history that underlined the value of religious freedom. He cited each event as “exhibits” in his case to prove that “religious freedom in American history has hardly been the cause of chilling, repressive, retrograde movements, but of the most liberating, ennobling ones.”
Drawing upon examples of heroism on the part of religious leaders during the American Revolution, as well as, several notable abolitionists whose stance against slavery came from a conscience formed by faith, Cardinal Dolan went onto explain how the religious convictions of notable persons within history supported, and directly caused progressive changes within the United States. Citing historical scholar Dan McKanan, the cardinal explained that as a result of women's role during the abolitionist movement, “the slow-but-steady advancement of women’s equality, was also a religiously animated reform movement.”
“This is good reminder, since, today, those who criticize the churches’ mobilization in defense of religious freedom often slyly muddy it with 'war on women’ slogans,” he said.
Other historical events the cardinal said were influenced by religious freedom were the Reform Movement of the 19th century, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Peace Movement of the '60s.
Cardinal Dolan went on to speak of the HHS mandate as a direct threat to religious freedom. The Health and Human Services (HHS) federal mandate in question would require employers of religious institutions to pay for insurance that provides abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization procedures to employees.
“Thus, to say it again, the wide ecumenical and inter-religious outrage over the HHS mandate is not about its coverage of chemical contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs -- in spite of the well-oiled mantra from our opponents -- but upon the raw presumption of a bureau of the federal government to define a church’s minister, ministry, message, and meaning,” he said.
The president of the USCCB also had strong words for Democratic minority leader, Nancy Pelosi. The former speaker of the House, who is also Catholic, stated last year that the Catholic Church needed “to get over their conscience thing” regarding abortion and contraception.
“No, we don’t; no, we can’t; as believers, as Americans,” he exclaimed.
Cardinal Dolan concluded his lecture, reiterating that the only freedom that the Church desires is “the freedom to carry the convictions of a faith-formed conscience into our public lives.”