The Catholic Church has begun to formally review the Obama administration and progressive state regulatory policies to identify and combat what it considers a steady increase in government encroachment on religious freedom.
“One of the things that our conference of bishops has done in response to some of the regulations and some of the difficulties that our Catholic institution are finding is to call all of us to reflect again on the importance that in a pluralistic society, the importance of respecting the religious traditions, the religious freedom, the freedom of conscious of everyone," Archdiocese of Washington D.C. Cardinal Donald Wuerl told FOX News in a Christmas interview.
Multiple Catholic entities have encountered increasing difficulties this year reconciling its faith-based policies with new state, local and federal regulations. The most visible is the Catholic Church battle with the Obama administration over a health care reform regulation that requires free contraceptives as part of all health plans, effectively constricting the ability of Catholic hospitals to offer health care coverage.
But Catholic officials say there are many more instances. For example, since the passage of The Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Liberties Act in Illinois this summer, the state Department of Children and Family Services State has refused to allow Catholic Charities to receive federal funds because it does not allow same-sex or cohabitating couples to adopt or foster Catholic Charities children.
After several failed court battles to assert the charity’s right to an exemption from the standard for sincerely held beliefs, the Illinois dioceses of Springfield, Belleville, and Jolie announced the end of its state partnership after 50 years of joint adoption and foster care services last month.
In September, the Obama administration denied federal funding that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops uses to help the victims of sex trafficking because it does not provide clients with access to abortion and birth control services. The conference has received federal contracts for its services since 2006.
Cardinal Wuerl, who baptized Newt Gingrich during his conversion to Catholicism, also tangled with the state of Maryland in early December over the state’s decision not to regulate abortion clinics as outpatient surgical centers, as the state of Virginia is planning to do. Wuerl claims that Maryland has 40 percent more abortions than the national average and is a home to late-term abortionists.
Cardinal Wuerl declined to label the difficult climate for its ministries as a “war on religion” as presidential candidate and evangelical Rick Perry has in campaign ads. However the Catholic Church in America has become acutely sensitive to issues of religious freedom.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ newly-formed Committee on Religious Liberty met last month to encourage bishops to remain strong in their faith and continue in their ministries.
"We rightfully envision the church as an actor in society, forming not only believers but citizens equipped to build a civilization of truth and love," committee chairman Bishop of Bridgeport William Lori said.
"Thus we seek protection by law and acceptance in our culture of intermediate institutions such as the family, churches and schools, which stand between the power of the government and the conscience of individuals, all while contributing immensely to the common good."
Wuerl echoed that call for legal protection and respect in his Sunday interview.
"We serve people all over this nation. What we don't do is violate the conscience of all of us involved there's some things we won't do but that should be respected because it's always been respected," he told viewers.