Bishops Discuss Religious Liberty at Annual Conference

Committee On Religious Liberty Meets for First Time at Annual Bishops's Conference

The maintenance of Catholic culture will be a center discussion at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which opened its meeting Monday in Baltimore.

In his opening speech to the 300 attendees, New York Arch-Bishop Timothy Dolan urged Catholic leaders to ignore the "chilling statistics" which show mass numbers leaving the church.

"Christ and his Church are one," Dolan told his fellow bishops in his first presidential address at the conference.

"Perhaps, brethren, our most pressing pastoral challenge today is to reclaim that truth," he said.

Similarly, last week Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia told attendees of Assumption College that there is a progressive intolerance towards Christian believers.

"It's not a question of when or if it might happen. It's happening today," he told students last week.

In light of progressively secular government and society, bishops are evidently taking a more hands-on approach to asserting their faith.

This 2011 year's state legislation, including legalizing same-sex partnerships as marriages, contrasts with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

The newly-formed Committee on Religious Liberty at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will meet for the first time this week to discuss issues such as human trafficking.

Bishop of Bridgeport William Lori, chairman of the new committee, urged Catholics to remain strong in their beliefs, in spite of a growingly secular government.

"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," Lori said Monday.

"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," he added.

President Barack Obama and Archbishop Dolan met last week to discuss issues inhibiting relations between the administration and the church.

One major fear of the Catholic Bishops's is that state legislature is becoming too pluralistic to fit the requirements of Catholic teaching.

The conference proves timely in light of such issues as the Mississippi Personhood Amendment, which failed to pass in the state on Nov. 8.

The amendment would have entailed life at fertilization, thus making Mississippi the first state to outlaw abortion.

In September, the church lost a battle to the Department of Health and Human Services when it was denied a grant to continue services for human trafficking victims.

The department denied the grant on the grounds that the services did not permit victims of human-trafficking to receive contraception or abortion.

Obama's administration also denied the Defense of Marriage Act, thus legalizing same-sex marriage.

Many argue that the church fears losing its support base due to the sexual misdoings of Catholic priests, which have come to light in the past years.

In his Nov. 14 conference address, Archbishop Dolan told his fellow bishops that sinfulness is not "a reason to dismiss the church or her eternal truths, but to embrace her all the more."

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