A Joint Letter from the Bishops of Virginia Regarding Religious Liberty


January 30, 2012

ear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

We write to you concerning an alarming and serious mater that negatively impacts the Church in the United States directly, and that strikes at the fundamental right to religious liberty for all citizens of any faith.  The federal government, which claims to be "of, by, and for the people," has just dealt a heavy blow to almost a quarter of those people - the Catholic population - and to the millions more who are served by the Catholic faithful.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced a little over a week ago that almost all employers, including Catholic employers, will be forced to offer their employees' health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception.  Almost all health insurers will be forced to include those "services" in the health policies they write.  And almost all individuals will be forced to buy that coverage as a part of their policies.

In so ruling, the Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our Nation's first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty.  And as a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled either to violate our consciences, or to drop health coverage for our employees (and suffer the penalties for doing so).  The Administration's sole concession was to give our institutions one year to comply.

We cannot - we will not - comply with this unjust law.  People of faith cannot be made second class citizens.  We are already joined by our brothers and sisters of all faiths and many others of good will in this important effort to regain our religious freedom.  Our parents and grandparents did not come to these shores to help build America's cities and towns, its infrastructure and institutions, its enterprise and culture, only to have their posterity stripped of their God given rights.  In generations past, the Church has always been able to count on the faithful to stand up and protect her sacred rights and duties.  We hope and trust she can count on this generation of Catholics to do the same.  Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.

And therefore, we would ask of you two things.  First, as a community of faith we must commit ourselves to prayer and fasting that wisdom and justice may prevail, and religious liberty may be restored.  Without God, we can do nothing, with God, nothing is impossible.  Second, we would also recommend visiting www.usccb.org/consciene to learn more about this severe assault on religious liberty, and how to contact Congress in support of legislation that would reverse the Administration's decision.

As the bishops of Virginia's two Catholic dioceses, we will also continue to speak with a unified voice whenever religious liberty issues surface in our Commonwealth.  The Virginia Catholic Conference, which represents us in the halls of state government, is currently working to ensure conscience protection for faith-based child-placing agencies and to safeguard religious liberty in other areas.  Please visit www/vacatholic.org, and sign up for the Conference's alerts and updates.

Together, we are the people - more than 700,000 of us - form our Commonwealth's vibrant Catholic community.  Standing together, we must defend our right to practice what we profess and express our concerns and convictions about religious freedom to our elected officials.

Faithfully yours in Christ,

Most Revered Paul S. Loverde
Bishop of Arlington

Most Reverend Francis X. DiLorenzo
Bishop of Richmond