Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has applauded 43 dioceses, hospitals, schools and church agencies for filing 12 lawsuits alleging that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate violates religious freedom.
The Cardinal called the lawsuits “a compelling display of the unity of the Church in defense of religious liberty. It’s also a great show of the diversity of the Church’s ministries that serve the common good and that are jeopardized by the mandate – ministries to the poor, the sick, and the uneducated, to people of any faith or no faith at all.”
Jeopardized by the mandate? Hardly. The mandate that threatens to put those wonderful ministries in jeopardy is the one that has women religious speaking out and organizing to protect their religious freedom. Women religious play a huge role in all the ministries mentioned by Cardinal Dolan.
We remember the great debt we owe the nuns who taught us and cared for us as well as “the poor, the sick, the uneducated, the people of any faith or no faith at all,” in schools, hospitals and shelters across the country, at home and abroad.
Here’s how the Nun Justice Project, a grassroots movement, describes the recent mandate the Church is attempting to force on women religious:
On April 18, 2012, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), in close collaboration with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) launched a crackdown on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), an umbrella group that represents more than 80 percent of the 57,000 women religious in the United States.
We stand in solidarity with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). We are shocked by the Roman Catholic hierarchy’s recent crackdown on nuns in the United States. The mandate forced upon LCWR, which threatens their works of justice, is a prime example of how the hierarchy in the Roman Catholic Church misuses its power to diminish the voice of women. We value the prophetic witness of women religious and appreciate their commitment to social justice. We are asking that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith respectfully withdraw the mandate forced upon LCWR.
The Nun Justice Project is supported by the following organizations: American Catholic Council, Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church, Call To Action, Catholics for Choice, CORPUS, DignityUSA, FutureChurch, New Ways Ministry, Quixote Center, RAPPORT (Renewing a Priestly People, Ordination Reconsidered Today), Voice of the Faithful, WATER: Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual, Women’s Ordination Conference and thousands of lay Catholics.
Instead of pursuing this phony war against the Health and Human Services mandate, the Bishops and conservative Catholic organizations that have aligned themselves with the GOP’s anti-poor, pro-rich agenda should withdraw the mandate they are trying to force upon LCWR. There is something in the Gospels about this: that little story about getting the wooden beam out of your eye before going after the splinter in someone else’s?
Catholics have all the protection of religious liberty that they need in the form of their personal conscience. We are the church and our religious liberty is not under threat –at least not from the Department of Health and Human Services. In fact, we thank them and President Obama for all they continue to do to make healthcare affordable and accessible to all in the face of blatant misrepresentations and lies by politicians and media personalities. Those larger-than-life lies have so far failed to scandalize or draw reproach from those who see themselves as guardians of Church doctrine.