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Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore on the HHS regs

Wednesday, August 8, 2012
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HH: Talking now with the Archbishop of Baltimore, Bishop William Lori. Archbishop, welcome, it’s great to have you back on the program. Last time we spoke, you were the bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut.

WL: That’s correct, there’s been a little change subsequently.

HH: How are you enjoying Baltimore?

WL: I am. It’s a beautiful city, it’s the oldest archdiocese in the United States, and it’s a beautiful city and state.

HH: But you know that city took my Cleveland Browns hostage a few years ago. At some point, you’re going to have to do an exorcism for them, because they’ve got that hanging over their head, and now they’re the Ravens. But neither here nor there.

WL: Well, those kinds of things I have found are unforgivable sins.

HH: They are, actually. They are, and so I don’t know what you’re going to do about that. Archbishop, the Knights of Columbus are actually meeting very close to my studios down in Anaheim, California, and they got a letter from the secretary of state of the Vatican saying hey, pay attention, the Pope wants you to pay attention to politics here. How do you interpret that? What’s going on there?

WL: Oh, it’s an unprecedented letter, and I think it points to the unprecedented gravity of the threat that we are facing. The Holy Father has really appealed to the largest lay group in the Church, the Knights of Columbus, and asked that they stand with the bishops in opposing the Health & Human Services mandate, and other threats to religious freedom. And of course, the Knights are right on that same page, so I think the Vatican, the U.S. bishops, the Knights of Columbus, we’re singing off the same sheet of music here.

HH: Just last half hour, I had Governor Romney on the program, and I want to play for you an excerpt about the HHS regs. There are two HHS regs out there, the welfare work regs, which we were not, we’d already talked about, and then the birth control/contraceptive/sterilization/abortifacients regulations. And then I asked Governor Romney about them. Here’s what he said.

HH: I’m talking with Bishop Lori of Baltimore a little bit later about these HHS regulations which attacked Roman Catholics’ ability to practice their faith. If you’re president, will you withdraw those regulations?

MR: Absolutely. One of the, I mean, the first right in America is the right to religious freedom. And religious tolerance has been part of America’s culture from our Constitution and Declaration of Independence days. And the idea that the President would impose on the Catholic Church actions which are contrary to the teachings of the Church is simply wrong, and it’s a violation of Constitutional principles, in my view. It’s the wrong course to take. I will defend religious liberty. And religious tolerance, religious liberty, they are part of the grounding of America, and I will defend them.

HH: Archbishop Lori, what do you make of that?

WL: Well, I tell you this, Governor Romney is correct. Until now, the federal government has accommodated religious beliefs very well in federal law. It’s the Frank Church amendment that’s enabled Catholic Churches and other churches, and church-affiliated organizations, and individuals, conscientious individuals to go about their business in a way that respects their religious beliefs. Now that’s changing. Now, they’re saying if you’re a religious organization, and you go beyond hiring your own, serving your own, and just preaching the Gospel, and you run schools or hospitals or social service agencies, then the government can define you and can tell you what to do, and it doesn’t matter what you teach, it doesn’t matter what you believe. And that’s just not the kind of country we’ve been until now.

HH: Now obviously, there are 89 days until the election, so things can change. The President can order these rules withdrawn, a court can throw them out. Already, one did in Denver, Colorado in the Hercules case, and that was a great thing. The district court rules these HHS regulations were contrary to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. But if it doesn’t change, and you’ve got Romney on one side saying he’ll pull those regulations back, and President Obama on the other side, as he is right now, standing by these regulations, do you expect that you and your brother bishops will take a stand on how the election ought to go?

WL: Well, it’s never our job to enter directly into partisan politics, but we are teachers, and teachers of the faith, and we teach also from a stance of reason. And I think the worthy supreme knight, Carl Anderson, made it very clear yesterday that Catholics ought not to be voting for any candidate who stands for things that are intrinsically evil, things that are wrong all the time, no matter what the intention. I think our country deserves better than that. And certainly forcing a church to violate its teaching can never be good under any circumstance.

HH: Now Archbishop, I understand your reluctance, and I always run into this when I talk to someone of your station and significance in the Roman Catholic hierarchy, very reluctant to say it’s obvious, isn’t it. But I ask it anyway. It is obvious, isn’t it, that a Catholic in good faith can’t support anyone who supports these rules, if they’re still supporting these rules, on election day?

WL: I think it is important for us, first of all, to raise our voice against these rules. I don’t know how much chance there is of actually getting them changed unless we prevail in the courts. I think that not only Catholic voters but Evangelical voters and Mormons and people of conscience generally are smart enough and good enough to draw the right conclusions. And it’s not a good idea for religious leaders like me to draw those conclusions for them, but I have great confidence in people. I think when they know what the score is, they’re going to raise their voices, and that’s what we bishops are about. We’re teaching, we’re standing with the Knights of Columbus, and we got a great assist, a great support from the letter that we received from our Holy Father.

HH: Now how about questions that come at you that say okay, don’t tell people how to vote, but will you tell people how you, Archbishop, vote? You know, people know I’m going to vote for Romney. That’s not going to surprise them. Will bishops step forward and say I’m going to vote for either Obama or Romney, and here’s why I’m doing it? Does that cross the line you’re afraid of crossing?

WL: Traditionally, bishops do not say how they’re going to vote. I think it’s often widely assumed how we vote, but I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to do that, either. Primarily, I think we have to look at it this way. The Catholic flock is a pretty big one, over 70 million people. Obviously, there’s going to be people of varying party affiliations. For us to enter into partisan politics directly can impede our real business, our real mission, which is to teach the Gospel.

HH: Archbishop, stand by for one second. Let me come right back with Archbishop William Lori on the Hugh Hewitt Show.

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HH: Bishop, when we went to break, we were talking about reticence on the part of the bishops. Let me just switch very quickly in the last couple of minutes we have to what happens to the institutions over which you have authority if these regulations are not withdrawn, speaking about parochial schools, talking about Catholic hospitals, what will you tell them to do vis-à-vis these rules if they are in place and require, and the courts don’t give you the help that the court in Denver gave the Catholic employer in Denver?

WL: Well, let me say a couple of things. First of all, unlike private conscientious employers, Church institutions have, I hate to put it this way, a year of grace. We have, this does not kick in for our institutions for another year. So we’re going to use that year not only to pursue legal avenues, but also legislative avenues. There is a renewed interest in Congress in returning to the status quo and protecting our liberties legislatively. And so we’re going to try to do everything that we can. If all of that should fail, we’ll obviously have to regroup and cross that bridge when we come to it. But I don’t think in any circumstances will we cooperate directly and willingly with providing abortion-inducing drugs and sterilizations, and things of that sort. The other thing to be recognized is that if the government gets away with this, then that’s not a hard and fast line. Pretty soon, it’ll be abortion itself. And before long, we’ll be seeing physician-assisted suicide being forced on us.

HH: Archbishop William Lori, thanks for taking time with us today and drawing attention to the letter the Pope had sent to the Knights of Columbus, and for your commentary. I hope to have you back soon, and congratulations on the appointment to Baltimore. Don’t know what you’re going to do about those Ravens, though, Archbishop.

WL: (laughing) I’ll pray. Thanks for having me on.

HH: Pray for the Browns. That might help. I think that would, in fact, do a novena for the Browns, and that might settle the score. Thank you, Archbishop.

End of interview.

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