Blog Post

Abp. Lori: It's Up to the Laity to Transform the Culture

While attending the Knights of Columbus annual convention in Anaheim, California, Baltimore archbishop William E. Lori warned Catholics not to vote for any candidate who stands for an intrinsic evil, to not allow themselves to get "distracted" by the brouhaha over President Obama speaking at a Catholic Charities fundraiser in October, and to be aware that if the culture is going to change, it will do so through the actions of the laity, not the bishops.

According to National Review Online (NRO),  Archbishop Lori told writer Kathryn Jean Lopez that the coming election "is a big moment for Catholic voters to step back from their party affiliation."

He advised: “The question to ask is this: Are any of the candidates of either party, or independents, standing for something that is intrinsically evil, evil no matter what the circumstances? If that’s the case, a Catholic, regardless of his party affiliation, shouldn’t be voting for such a person.”

Lori's wasn't the only voice calling upon Americans to beware of serious encroachments upon their religious liberties by the current administration. A letter conveying similar thoughts from Pope Benedict XVI was read at the convention.

“The challenges of the present moment are in fact yet another reminder of the decisive importance of the Catholic laity for the advancement of the Church’s mission in today’s rapidly changing social context,” said the letter, written on behalf of the Holy Father by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

“As he stated to the Bishops of the United States earlier this year, the demands of the new evangelization and the defense of the Church’s freedom in our day call for ‘an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity endowed with a strong critical sense vis-a-vis the dominant culture and with the courage to counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society’ (Ad Limina Address, 19 January 2012),” Bertone wrote.

“Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion,” the pope also said in that January address. “Many of you have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience.”

The fact that such a papal message would be sent to a lay organization at this time is "very significant," Archbishop Lori said. “If we are going to transform the culture from within, which we are called to do, and defend our basic freedoms,” it will be primarily the role of the laity.

“The bishops are teachers,” he said, but political leadership “really needs to come from the laity as citizens and mothers and fathers and voters.”

When it comes to election advice for Catholics, he said: “The reality is we are defending something that transcends party. The defense of religious liberty should not be a Democratic or Republican issue.”

He added:  “Many in the media have portrayed the HHS-mandate fight as a fight about contraception — as well as sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs . . . but this really is a fight about religious liberty,” Archbishop Lori says. “And you can see that as Evangelicals, Mormons, and Orthodox Jews have joined us in defense. They realize if the government can do this to the Catholic Church, they could be forced to violate their consciences too. . . ."

Also addressing the Knights was New York Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan who said the Church needed the group's courageous witness "now more than ever."

"Never before has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience. This shouldn’t happen in a land where free exercise of religion ranks first in the Bill of Rights,” Dolan said.

Cardinal Dolan is currently embroiled in a controversy over an invitation he extended to President Obama to speak at the Alfred E. Smith Foundation dinner. Inviting presidential candidates to speak at the affair is a long tradition, but many of the faithful believe that Obama's policies stripping citizens of their religious freedom are too serious at the present time to allow him to address a fundraiser hosted by Catholic Charities, an organization directly threatened by the actions of this administration.

However, Archbishop Lori urged Catholics to “keep our eyes on the ball,” stating that the invitation, and his presence, “do not constitute an endorsement.”

He went on to say: “I don’t think there is a clearer voice in the United States about the sanctity of life and religious liberty than Cardinal Dolan . . . [he's] a very clear, clarion voice. . . . Don’t get distracted.”

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