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Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Connecticut Says No Deal On HHS “Compromise”

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HH: So pleased to welcome for the first time to the program Bishop William Lori of the Archdiocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Bishop, welcome, it’s great to have you on the Hugh Hewitt Show.

WL: Well, good to be with you. Thank you.

HH: Now I see you’re from Kentucky, so you don’t know much about basketball. But I assume you know a lot about the HHS. I’m from Ohio, Bishop, that’s why I’ve got to get my dig in.

WL: (laughing)

HH: You do, you are on the religious liberty list. You’re one of the people that’s spent a lot of time worrying about religious liberty. Would you tell people how you came by those credentials?

WL: I can. Being a bishop in Connecticut, we faced a big challenge a couple of years ago when a bill was raised in the legislature that would have reorganized Catholic parishes across the state of Connecticut according to a model imposed by the state, an incredible intrusion into the life of the Church. And so I joined with my brother bishops in Connecticut in fighting this off. We successfully did that, because our good people rallied to the cause. And then two weeks later, the office of state ethics came after me, because they saw a lot of buses from my neck of the woods, and they accused the diocese of breaking the lobbying laws. So the diocese sued the office of State Ethics in federal court under the Civil Rights Statute, and the attorney general promptly settled, and made the investigation of us go away. So I sort of cut my teeth on that. And then I wrote a letter to the people of the diocese of Bridgeport all about religious liberty. So I guess that’s part of the reason why I’m in this mix.

HH: Well, in this mix meaning the HHS regs mix, and I’ve been spending a lot of time writing and talking about these. My friend, Archbishop Chaput, is probably your pal as well, wrote a great piece in the Inquirer this weekend. But the bishops’ statement on Friday was misinterpreted, I think, by a lot of the media who wanted very much the President to be understood to be compromising. What is your assessment about what the President did on Friday, about the bishops’ statements, and about the clarity that needs to be expressed by you and your brother bishops on that so-called compromise?

WL: Well, I think the first statement was one made very, very quickly. But by the end of the day, after we had really had an opportunity to study what had been told us, until about now, there’s very little in writing, you know, by the end of the day, we realized there were a lot of problems, and so we put out a second and much more substantive statement. The reality is this. The President’s new rules are not a solution either at the level of principle or in practicalities. It’s not in principle, because the new rules still contain the mandate. They’re still reaching into the life of churches, and requiring us, indirectly, to provide morally objectionable services. They’re still imposing their definition of our mission upon us. So that’s at the level of principle a violation of religious liberty. And without religious liberty, there can be no compromise. Then at the level of practicality, you have questions like who pays for this, you have questions about what about self-insured religious entities. So maybe I can sit on one side of the desk and say gosh, I can’t give you those services, and then I go on the other side of the desk as the insurer, and say but I could give you those services. It’s a shell game.

HH: A shell game, and I also point out to people if you’re walking around and you’re unemployed, and you have no insurance, and the next day you go to work for a covered institutions, including a Catholic institution, and you do have a right to demand morning after pill, sterilization, it is clear on its face as we say in the law. Res gestae, that you have just entered into an insurance relationship with your employer, whereby the employer is providing you with these banned practices.

WL: Yes, and we’ve had more of a chance to subject all this to a moral analysis. And we don’t think it holds up at all from the point of view of moral principles. And you rightfully bring up how it would be structured in law and practice.

HH: Tell me, Bishop, what do you think…I was at Thomas Aquinas College on Friday. I broadcast all day. It was a coincidence. Each member, I probably talked to a dozen and a half students, faculty and staff, each one of whom said instantly, our school can’t do this. We cannot do this. And I’m quite certain that among many thoroughly Catholic schools that follow the magisterium and other institutions, that will be the same reaction. What are you thinking about as a bishop about what you’re going to have to advise those who are under your shepherding about how they comply with an unjust law?

WL: Well, before we get there, I think we have to work very, very hard to inform not only Catholic people but religious people across the board and the general public about this threat to religious liberty. We have to get behind the Rights of Conscience Act that Representative Fortenberry has introduced, and I think there’s 36 sponsors for that. We also have to consider other options like the possibility of litigating. And we have to continue putting pressure on the administration. At the end of the day, if all things fail, no, I don’t see how we can do this.

HH: Now I asked your colleague, Bishop Olmsted, and I try and ask this diplomatically. I’m not asking you for the answer about whether you’ll do it, I’m going to ask if you think you’re going to have to end up having to consider preaching on whom someone can vote for without cooperating with an intrinsic evil. Do you think you’re going to have to do that?

WL: You know, I think we have to lay it out very, very clearly what is at stake here. I think our Catholic people, and I think religious people generally, who are very conscientious can put things together. And again, let me just say, this is not a fight we went looking for. This was a fight that was imposed upon us. And so what we are doing here is defending religious liberty not just for this election cycle, but also for the long term. So I think we have to speak very forthrightly, and we have to indicate what we are up against, and I do believe that people of goodwill, and I think the Catholic people I’m privileged to serve, will understand the situation very clearly.

HH: I have a minute left, Bishop Lori. In every diocese, there are networks of influencers and information gatherers, and information conveyors. And so you’ve obviously been in touch with a lot of them since January 20th in Bridgeport, at least. Are they behind your rather visible stance? Are they encouraging you to continue, and indeed even to up the ante of what you’ve been doing?

WL: Sure. This is anecdotal, but yesterday, I preached to a congregation of about 1,600 people, and about this. When I was finished, people stood up and applauded. And lots of pastors have told me the same thing. I think there is a lot of support. It’s not everybody, but I think it’s substantial, and I think it will build.

HH: Bishop Lori, and by the way, I’ve linked your homily notes over at www.hughhewitt.com from yesterday. I recommend everyone go there. Thanks for spending time with us, Bishop. Bishop William Lori of the Archdiocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut.

End of interview.

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