Cardinal George Speaks About Religious Liberty

It affects whether Catholic hospitals must provide abortion-inducing drugs or sterilization, against their beliefs, he said at presentation in Niles.


When about 300 people came to St. John Brebeuf Church's ministry center Monday night to hear Cardinal Francis George speak, he joked it was amazing to see so many people who would rather hear about religious liberty than watch the Bears play.

The cardinal, who is undergoing treatment for cancer, also said he normally would stand in order to see the audience better, but that he was going to remain seated because he was tired. 

George spoke for about 35 minutes, saying that a mandate from the U.S. Health and Human Services Department threatens the ability of Catholic hospitals, schools, and social service agencies to maintain the values of their Catholic consciences as they do their jobs.

Earlier: Cardinal comes to Niles 

Earlier: Cardinal Will Lead Morton Grove Mass

The problem lies in the fact that HHS is setting forth a new definition of religious institutions, and it sets severe limitations on what qualifies, he said.

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"They're saying you can't qualify as a religious institution unless you are caring only for your own people, hiring only your own people....it's such a very narrow definition," he said.

Feeding people of other faiths disqualifies institutions

On a four and a half minute video the Cardinal made explaining the issue, he addressed this point in more depth.

"The HHS mandate is saying to be a religious institution, you have to first of all be concerned only with people of your faith. You must hire only people of your faith, you must be of service only to people of your faith, your primary objective must be to foster that faith, rather than just to help the poor, feed the hungry or instruct the ignorant--so you have a very narrow definition of religion, and that's new," he said on the video.

He noted Monday that Catholic schools do educate non-Catholics, Catholic hospitals treat non-Catholics and Catholic social service agencies assist non-Catholics.

In fact, Knights of Columbus members who were volunteering as ushers distributed fliers that said one in three Chicagoans, Catholic and non-Catholic, are served by Catholic Charities' social services.

The HHS mandate would require Catholic hospitals to, for example, give abortifacient pills or perform sterilization or other actions which would violate Catholic values, he said.

Pursuing a solution in the courts

The Catholic church has tried approaching the administration and legislators, he said, and is now pursuing the matter in the courts. If nothing changes, he said, Catholic institutions may be forced to pay heavy fines or withdraw from offering health care coverage.

Andrew Beierwaltes, a deacon at St. John Brebeuf Church who was in the audience, said it was inspiring that the cardinal came out to speak despite his health concerns.

"I'm always impressed when the cardinal speaks," Beierwaltes said. "He made a comment the freedom of religious faith comes together with the freedom to form your conscience. You can't separate the two."

Could affect other faiths?

Also in the audience was Joe Paolelli of Park Ridge, who said, "I worry that a lot of Catholics and citizens at large aren't aware of the magnitude of this issue. It could affect Muslims, Jews, Hindus--it's government entering the realm of religious identity.

"It's taking the form of healthcare and insurance coverage right now, but the principles in the HHS mandate could have different forms of religious oppression."

Judi Stephens of Niles, also in the audience, said, "He (the cardinal) laid out just what the problem is and what we have to be aware of to protect our faith and our faith institutions."

Most people in the audience, she thought, wanted President Obama to change the HHS policy.

"It's a little scary because this was brought to their (the administration's) attention and they said we'll change it, and nothing happened," she said.

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Procrustes' Foil October 02, 2012 at 10:51 AM
First, the vast majority of Catholics use some form of birth control, especially birth control pills. This is a world-wide trend, even in Italy. Non-Catholics should not be barred from access to birth control. Insurance companies simply offer birth control as one of many prescription drugs - you don't have to get them if you don't want them. Insurance companies also offer Viagra, but that doesn't mean that you have to get this drug! Second, this church wants to impose its views on everyone as it has done for many hundreds of years, as witnessed by the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition and its role in anti-semitism via Nazi Germany. This hypocrisy is nothing new. What the Catholic Church should do is aggressively deal with its priests who rape and molest children. But I guess that is not nearly as important as prescribing a few birth control pills to non-Catholics.
Pat Craig October 02, 2012 at 04:38 PM
The argument that lay Catholics use birth control so the church should subsidize birth control through employee insurace plans is faulty on its' face. It is not the lay Catholics who contract for the insurance, it is the Church. This law is clearly a violation of the 1st amendment free exercise of religion clause. It is the government dictating issues of faith. It is also not a matter of the R.C. Church looking to impose its' will on everyone, but a matter of the Church as an employer being forced by government directive to take actions contrary to it's beliefs. The previous posters' anti-Catholic bias is obvious enough without further comment on my part.
MJG October 02, 2012 at 06:14 PM
It's very sad that many decide to employ personal attacks of Christians (including Christians of other generations) and use their hatred as rationale to take away our Constitutional freedoms. The issue is often mischaracterized. Nobody is barred from purchasing any legal product, whether it's the pill, a condomn, a hairbrush, or a crayon. The question is not whether the federal governmant (or any government) can force a religious institution to purchase a good or service in violation of their religious convictions. Whether members of RC congregations use birth control or not is irrelevant. The RC Church believes that the Scriptures teach that abortion is a violation of the 5th Commandment (against murder) and that the use of contraception is against the Word of God. I differ with them on their interpretation of Scripture, but they have the Constitutional right to hold to their religious beliefs and live their lives according to them. We are all protected by the 1st Amendment against the government defining our religious beliefs or forcing us to act in violation of our religious beliefs. This applies equally to those with whom we agree and also to those with whom we disagree.
CK October 03, 2012 at 05:13 AM
Too bad more didnt come to hear this wonderful man.
McCloud October 06, 2012 at 10:45 AM
Einstein, why should Catholics, or anyone for that matter, be forced to pay for birth control? See, when you buy a policy, you pay the company so they can provide them to other people. Try stringing some coherent logic for once.


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