Two top Catholic bishops said “acrimony and lies” undermined religious-freedom legislation in several states, including Indiana. Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia and William E. Lori of Baltimore did not mention the mainstream media or progressive activists in their statement, but the prelates implied that reporters and spokespeople misled the public into thinking that Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality are the equivalent of discrimination.
In the online journal Public Discourse, the two bishops defended the importance of religious liberty in the U.S. Constitution and sexual morality to Christianity:
As Americans commemorate their respective holy days, we urge all our fellow citizens to remember the moral roots of their constitutional system, and to engage in a sensible national conversation about religious liberty. Even those who are not religious have a stake in seeing that our “first freedom”—religious freedom; freedom of conscience—is protected in law.
In recent days we have heard claims that a belief central to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—that we are created male and female, and that marriage unites these two basic expressions of humanity in a unique covenant—amounts to a form of bigotry. Such arguments only increase public confusion on a vitally important issue. When basic moral convictions and historic religious wisdom rooted in experience are deemed “discrimination,” our ability to achieve civic harmony, or even to reason clearly, is impossible.
Chaput and Lori were leaders of the
"Fortnight for Freedom" campaign against a requirement in the Affordable Care Act that employees at religious schools and hospitals receive contraceptive and abortifacient services in their health plans. They wrote the joint statement with two prominent Southern Baptist leaders and Robert George of Princeton University. The statement was published Friday.
On a television talk show Sunday, two Catholic cardinals took a more diplomatic approach to the controversy over religious freedom and gay rights.
According to The Washington Post, the prelates sought to dispel the notion Church teaching on sexuality and marriage is little more than a cover for bigotry against gays:
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, said on "Fox News Sunday" that no one should be forced to follow or accept the actions of another person.
The word "discrimination" is being used in different ways, Wuerl said.
"I wonder if, across the board, we’re not seeing different measuring rods being used," he said. "Why would it be discrimination for a Catholic university to say, ‘We’re not going to allow a gay rights or an abortion rights group have their program on our campus,’ and it not be discrimination for that group to insist that the Catholic school change its teaching?"
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said there is a delicate balance between religious conviction and civil rights.
"I welcome the fact that the question about religious liberty is in the forefront. We need that. We didn’t put it there. We believers didn’t put it there. The founders of our nation did," Dolan said on NBC’s "Meet the Press."
"It’s tough to balance religious conviction. But it’s easier to ignore religious freedom than it is today the more popular issues," Dolan said. "I appreciate the fact that we have political leaders like Governor Pence who are saying, ‘Whoa. Wait a minute. Without questioning the rights of the gay community, we also have to make sure that the rights of the religious community are protected.’ I just wish we could do that in a temperate, civil way instead of screaming at each other."
Last month, one poll found that a strong majority of Americans oppose fining religious service providers for refusing to perform at gay weddings. The survey from Marist University and the Catholic News Agency asked respondents if they “strongly support, support, oppose, or strongly oppose imposing penalties or fines for individuals who refuse to provide wedding-related services to same-sex couples even if their refusal is based on their religious beliefs.” Thirty-four percent favored the penalties while 65 percent opposed fines. The poll did not have a margin of error.