CNA Logo
October 21, 2017
Archive of October 11, 2017

Pope John XXIII a testimony to 'the strength of goodness'

Vatican City, Oct 11, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - The life of Pope John XXIII shows the saint's deep spiritual nature, as well as his great kindness towards others, said a cardinal who knew him well.

“If in John Paul II the key word is courage of the faith, in John XXIII the key word is the strength of goodness,” Cardinal Comastri told CNA.

Cardinal Comastri is the President of the Fabric of Saint Peter, Archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica, and Vicar General for the Vatican City State. He worked alongside both Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II for many years as a member of the Roman Curia.

Recounting the day when John XXIII was elected Pope, the cardinal recalled that when the new pontiff appeared on the main balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica to greet the crowds, he could hear their voices but could not see them due to the brightness of the lights.

The cardinal said that “He gave a blessing but when he returned to the doorway he said: ‘I heard the voices but I couldn't see anyone.’”

“It was a lesson for me, if I want to see the faces of my brothers, I have to turn off the lights of my pride.”

“Right away it was a wise reading of the fact of how John XXIII was,” Cardinal Comastri noted, emphasizing that the new Supreme Pontiff “immediately… communicated with acts of kindness.”

Giving an example to illustrate this point, the cardinal brought to mind a conversation that John XXIII had with his secretary, Msgr. Loris Capovilla, a few days before his first Christmas as Pope in 1958.

During the conversation, the cardinal continued, the Pope told Msgr. Capovilla “Listen, Fr. Loris, my mother taught me that for the holidays we must not only go to Mass, but we must also do works of mercy.”

When the secretary asked what he wanted to do, John XXIII replied that “The day of Christmas I will go to the children in Bambino Gesu hospital. And December 26, I'm going to visit the prisoners of the Regina Coeli prison.”

Noting that it was the first time a Pope had traveled to the hospital, Cardinal Comastri explained that there was “great excitement” and that when he arrived, “the children all jumped from their beds to go and meet the Pope and the Pope greeted them all good-naturedly as Jesus with the children.”

However, seeing that there was one child who remained in his bed, the cardinal revealed that the Pope “was the one to approach the child,” who, when he sensed someone close, stretched out and touched the pontiff, asking, “Are you the Pope?”

When John XXIII replied with a “yes,” Cardinal Comastri recalled that the child told him “I am happy but I can't see you because I am blind,” to which the Pope responded by “lowering his eyes” and calling the child by his name, saying “Carmine, we are all a little blind; we pray to the Lord to give us the sight of the heart to recognize ourselves as brothers.”

The cardinal continued the narrative, explaining that the next day when Pope John XXIII went to the Roman prison Regina Coeli, he discarded his prepared speech and spoke to the inmates “with the heart.”

Reflecting on how a member of his own family had been imprisoned when he was a child, the pontiff expressed that it had been a difficult and emotional situation, and that although he could keep the experience to himself, he shared it in order to put the prisoners “more at ease,” the cardinal explained.

Quoting the Pope’s words to the inmates, Cardinal Comastri remembered how he told them that “now you need to rebuild your lives and you need to do one thing: eliminate the word despair and prepare yourselves to spend your lives doing good because this is also the Father's house and you are also sons of God.”

Upon hearing this, the cardinal recounted that one of the prisoners broke through the security barrier, running and throwing himself on his knees at the Pope’s feet, asking, “Holy Father, I am a delinquent, is there also hope for me?”

Pope John XXIII replied by affirming that “there is hope for all, there is also hope for you,” and telling him “do not worry.”

On the way back to the Vatican, Cardinal Comastri said, the Pope once again turned to his secretary, Msgr. Capovilla, and said, “Fr. Loris, these are the true joys of being Pope, these are the joys of the believer.”

“That's the life of Pope John,” the cardinal observed, adding that “it’s full of these small flowers, strength and goodness.”

 

This article was originally published on CNA March 18, 2014.

back to top

 

Cardinal Bertone talks about the third secret of Fatima

Fatima, Portugal, Oct 11, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - The third secret of Fatima deals with past events, but at the same time, its call to conversion is always current, always up to date, said Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State emeritus.

In an interview with CNA, Cardinal Bertone spoke about the third secret of Fatima, how the decision to release the secret was made, and his memories of his three meetings with Sr. Lucia, the longest-living of the three shepherd children who had been the custodian of the secret until it was released by the Vatican at the request of Pope John Paul II.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima’s appearance to three shepherd children in 1917. Pope Francis made a two-day pilgrimage to Fatima May 12-13 to celebrate the centenary and to canonize two of the children, Francisco and Jacinta Marta.

The “third secret of Fatima” refers to a message during the apparitions predicting suffering and persecution of the Pope and the Church. Unlike the first two secrets – a vision of hell and a prediction of World War II – the third secret was not initially revealed by Sr. Lucia. At first, she said that Mary had not yet permitted her to reveal it to the world. Later, the Vatican chose to keep it secret until 2000, when it was finally revealed.

The Fatima apparitions “confirm some encouraging news,” Cardinal Bertone said, “that the Mother of the Son of God Incarnated and Our Mother does not abandon humanity in the course of history. She is present, and watches over humanity as the spokesperson and guarantor of God’s Mercy. She is the mediator of salvation.”

On his way to Portugal for his 2010 apostolic trip, the cardinal noted, Pope Benedict XVI stressed that in addition to referencing the suffering of Pope John Paul II, the third secret points to realities involving the future of the Church, “which are gradually taking shape and becoming evident.”

That means, he added, that “the vision implies the need for a passion of the Church, which naturally is reflected in the person of the Pope, yet the Pope stands for the Church and thus it is sufferings of the Church that are announced. The Lord told us that the Church would constantly be suffering, in different ways, until the end of the world.”

Cardinal Bertone pointed to the theological commentary released by Cardinal Ratzinger at the time of the third secret’s release. Cardinal Ratzinger said: “In the vision we can recognize the last century as a century of martyrs, a century of suffering and persecution for the Church, a century of World Wars and the many local wars which filled the last fifty years and have inflicted unprecedented forms of cruelty.”

“In the ‘mirror’ of this vision we see passing before us the witnesses of the faith decade by decade,” he added.

“In one sense he (Cardinal Ratzinger) says that the events described in the third secret are now past,” Cardinal Bertone said. “At the same time, the heart of Fatima’s appeal deals with conversion. That is, the conversion of the faithful and the path of the Church towards fidelity. Sr. Lucia really cared about accomplishing what she calls the ‘mandamiento de Maria,’ the commandment of Mary. Just as there is the Lord Jesus’ commandment, ‘Love one another as I loved you,’ there is also Mary’s commandment, ‘Do whatever he tells you’.”

Cardinal Bertone said that the decision to release the third secret of Fatima was made in order to avoid the “apocalyptic interpretation” that was spreading more and more at the end of the millennium.

He said that the decision was made directly by St. John Paul II, after a meeting that gathered Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State; Carinal Bertone, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Msgr. Giovanni Battista Re, deputy to the Secretariat of State; and Msgr. Stanislaw Dziwisz, personal secretary of the Pope.

St. John Paul II then assigned Cardinal Bertone, in his capacity of Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to go and meet Sr. Lucia and ask whether the text of the secret secured in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was authentic.

During his time as secretary, he met her three times: Apr. 27, 2000, Nov. 17, 2001 and Dec. 9, 2003.

Cardinal Bertone shared with CNA that Sr. Lucia was “a bright, very nice, serene, peaceful and calm person. She was a confident person who had to keep a great secret and was called to communicate important messages to humanity.”

The cardinal also shared details about his last meeting with Sr. Lucia. He said that one of the main topics of their last conversation was about the meeting Sr. Lucia had on July 11, 1977 with Cardinal Albino Luciani, then-Patriarch of Venice.

Cardinal Luciani would be elected Pope John Paul I on Aug. 26, 1978, and his papacy would last only 33 days. Many reports said that Cardinal Luciani was shocked by the meeting he had with Sr. Lucia, since she would allegedly predict both his election as a pontiff and his very short pontificate.

In fact, Cardinal Luciani had drafted a report of his meeting, and Cardinal Bertone had brought this report with him, in a translation in Portuguese that Sr. Lucia had requested.

Cardinal Bertone recounted: “She carefully read the report, and then confirmed every word and signed it at the very end. I then asked a precise question: ‘Did you predict Cardinal Luciani’s election as Pope?’ She answered, with these very words: ‘I do not remember if I told him he was going to be elected Pope. I told my religious community that I had met a good cardinal, a holy cardinal, and that if he was elected Pope, he was going to be a good Pope’.”

Cardinal Bertone added that the discussion between Cardinal Luciani and Sr. Lucia dealt with the decline of faith in the Church and other general problems of the Church.

The cardinal also recalled that Sr. Lucia said the Virgin was satisfied by the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

During the apparitions, Our Lady of Fatima asked that the Pope consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, with a special mention of Russia, in union with the bishops of the whole world.

Both Pius XII and St. John Paul II consecrated Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, although there was not an explicit mention to Russia itself – a detail that brought many to suggest that in fact the consecration had not fulfilled Our Lady’s request.

Cardinal Bertone underscored that the choice not to mention Russia directly was made “for ecumenical reasons” and out of “respect for the Russian Orthodox Church,” but he also stressed that the references to it are very clear. In particular, he recalled Pope Pius XII’s 1952 Apostolic Letter Sacro Vergente Anno, which clearly speaks about the “consecration of the people of Russia.”

 

This article was originally published on CNA May 12, 2017.

back to top

 

Pope: Christians are never bored – they persevere with love

Vatican City, Oct 11, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Wednesday Pope Francis said Christians are never bored or hopeless, but know how to wait patiently – even when life is hard, monotonous or unclear – with the knowledge that after the darkness, there is always light.

“The Christian was not made for boredom, but for patience,” the Pope said Oct. 11. This, he said, is because “they know that even in the monotony of days that are always the same a mysterious grace is hidden.”

There are people people “who with the perseverance of their love become like wells that irrigate the desert,” he said, adding that “nothing happens in vain, no situation in which a Christian finds themselves immersed is completely refractory to love.”

“No night is so long that the joy of dawn is forgotten. And the darker the night, the closer it is to dawn,” he said.

And if we stay united to Jesus, “the cold of difficult moments does not paralyze us; and if even the whole world preaches against hope, if it says that the future will only bring obscure clouds, the Christian knows that in that same future there is the return of Christ.”

In the end, “everything will be redeemed. Everything,” he said, noting that there will be suffering and times when “anger and indignation come out.” However, “the sweet and powerful memory of Christ will dispel the temptation to think that this life is wrong.”

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims during his Oct. 11 general audience in St. Peter's square, continuing his catechesis on Christian hope. In this week's speech, he focused on an aspect of hope he called “vigilant waiting.”

Vigilance “is one of the wires of the New Testament,” he said, and pointed to a passage in the Gospel of Luke, in which Jesus tells his disciples: “Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the marriage feast, so that they may open to him at once when he comes and knocks.”

After Jesus' resurrection, moments of serenity and anguish seemed to “continually alternate,” he said, but noted that despite times of confusion and uncertainty, “Christians never gave up.”

Today too, the world “demands our responsibility, and we take it all and with love,” Pope Francis said. “Jesus wants our existence to be laborious, that we never let our guard down, to welcome with gratitude and wonder every new day given to us by God.”

Every morning is like “a blank page,” he said, which Christians must write with “good works.”

When Jesus returns, “we need to be ready for salvation when it arrives, ready for the encounter” with the Lord, he said, and asked pilgrims in off-the-cuff remarks: “have you thought what that encounter with Jesus will be like, when he comes?”

This encounter, he said, “will be an embrace, an enormous joy, a great joy! We must live in anticipation of this encounter!”

And after having an encounter with Jesus, “we cannot do anything but scrutinize history with trust and hope,” he said.

Using the image of a house, Francis said Jesus is the structure of the house and we are inside, looking at the world from the windows. Because of this, “we do not close in on ourselves, we do not regret with melancholy a past presumed to be golden,” he said.

Instead, “we always look forward, to a future which is not only the work of our hands, but which above all is a constant concern of God's providence,” he said, adding that “everything that is opaque one day will become light.”

God does not go back on his word, and he “never disappoints,” the Pope said. Rather, the Lord's will for us “is never nebulous, but is a well-outlined project of salvation.”

“Because of this we do not abandon ourselves to the flow of events with pessimism, as if history were a train that has lost control,” he said, stressing that “resignation is not a Christian virtue.

Nor is it the task of Christians to shrug their shoulders or “bend their backs” in front of a future that seems “inevitable.”

“Those who bring hope to the world are never never remorseful people,” he said, explaining that no one can build peace with “our arms folded.”

'”There is no builder of peace who in the final count has not compromised their personal peace, taking on the problems of others,” he said, adding that “the remorseful person is not a builder of peace but is lazy, is one who wants to be comfortable.”

Christians, on the other hand, build peace “when it's risky, when they have the courage to take risks in order to bring good, the good that Jesus has given to us, has given to us as a treasure.”

Pope Francis closed his audience saying the “refrain” of every Christian existence is that “in our world we need nothing but the caress of Christ.”

“What a grace if, in prayer, in the hard days of this life, we hear his voice responding reassuring us: 'Behold, I will come soon.'”

back to top

 

Pope Francis: Death penalty is contrary to the Gospel

Vatican City, Oct 11, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - In an Oct. 11 speech to members of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, Pope Francis said the topic of the death penalty should have “a more adequate and coherent space” in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

This topic “cannot be reduced to a mere memory of a historic teaching” without taking into account the works and teachings of recent popes, he said, adding that it must also consider the “mutual awareness of the Christian people, who refuse a consensual attitude toward a penalty which seriously undermines human dignity.”

“It must be strongly confirmed that condemning a person to the death penalty is an inhumane measure that humiliates, in any way it is pursued, human dignity.”

The death penalty, he said, “is in itself contrary to the Gospel because it is voluntarily decided to suppress a human life, which is always sacred in the eyes of the Creator and of which God only in the final analysis is the true judge and guarantor.”

#PopeFrancis says the #DeathPenalty “is in itself contrary to the Gospel bc it is voluntarily decided to suppress a human life" pic.twitter.com/NAF4viqGH0

— Elise Harris (@eharris_it) October 11, 2017

Pope Francis spoke to participants in a special day-long conference marking the 25th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, promulgated by Saint John Paul II in 1992.

The Catechism currently explains that if “non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person."

The Catechism says that cases in which execution is neccessary, and therefore morally justified, are "very rare, if not practically nonexistent."

During their pontificates, Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI repeatedly called for the abolition of the death penalty. Both popes encouraged nations to work towards just means of punishment and public order without recourse to the death penalty.

In his speech, Pope Francis said that in past centuries, where defense measures were poor and the maturity of society “still had not met a positive development,” the death penalty seemed like a “logical consequence of the application of justice they had to follow.”

He noted that “unfortunately” even the papal state at times adopted this “extreme and inhumane means” of punishment, “neglecting the primacy of mercy and justice.”

Francis stressed that God is a Father “who always waits for the return of the son who, knowing he has erred, asks forgiveness and begins a new life.”

“No one, therefore, can have their life taken from them, nor the possibility of a moral and existential redemption that goes back in favor of the community.”

“Let us take responsibility for the past, and let us recognize that these means were dictated by a more legalistic mentality than Christian,” he said.

Concern for maintaining power “led to an overestimation of the value of the law, impeding it from a deeper understanding of the Gospel,” he said. “However, to stay neutral today in the face of the new demands for the reaffirmation of personal dignity, would make us more guilty.”  

Pope Francis said that “harmonious development of doctrine” requires that new treatments on the death penalty “leave out positions in defense of arguments which now appear decisively contrary to the new understanding of Christian truth...It is necessary to reiterate that, no matter how serious the crime committed, the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attempt against the inviolability and dignity of the person.”

 

back to top

 

Repeal of Clean Power Plan will hurt poor communities, Catholic leaders insist

Washington D.C., Oct 11, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - After the Trump administration announced a repeal of emissions standards, Catholic leaders warned it could hurt poor communities and thwart long-term efforts to fight climate change.

“Pope Francis' encyclical, Laudato si', calls us to action in caring for our common home. A national carbon standard is a critical step for the U.S. at this time,” Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, chair of the U.S. bishops’ domestic justice and human development committee, stated Oct. 10 after the Environmental Protection Agency announced a planned repeal of the Clean Power Plan.
Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, announced the repeal on Monday.

The Clean Power Plan, finalized in 2015 under the Obama administration, set goals for states to reduce carbon emissions from the utility sector, ultimately aiming to cut emissions by 32 percent by 2030.

President Obama announced the plan in August 2015, citing the need to curb pollution amid climate change and to reduce domestic health concerns such as asthma rates.

“By some estimates, a fully implemented Clean Power Plan could have prevented: 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths; 140,000 to 150,000 asthma attacks in children; and 2,700 to 2,800 hospital admissions,” the Catholic Climate Covenant, a national partnership that seeks to educate Catholics about Church teaching on the environment, said.

The plan was “an important step forward to protect the health of all people,” then-chair of the U.S. bishops’ domestic justice and human development committee, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, stated.

However, in February 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court halted the plan being put into effect. President Trump ordered a review of it with the possibility of rescinding the plan in his executive order on energy independence in March, and Bishop Dewane warned that the order “effectively dismantles the Clean Power Plan.”

Pruitt, in a March 30 letter to state governors, told them that in light of the Supreme Court’s stay on the plan, they did not have to abide by the goals and standards set by the plan.

“It is the policy of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that States have no obligation to spend resources to comply with a Rule that has been stayed by the Supreme Court of the United States,” Pruitt wrote. “The days of coercive federalism are over.”

On Monday, Pruitt announced the plan would be repealed, to the disappointment of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Climate Covenant.

The chief fault of Tuesday’s announcement was that there is no sufficient replacement plan, Catholic Climate Covenant said.

Furthermore, coming on the heels of the U.S. pulling out of the international Paris climate agreement, where participating countries pledged to cut pollution and contribute to the Green Climate Fund, the repeal “solidifies the already troubling approach of our nation in addressing climate change,” Bishop Dewane said.

Recent Popes along with bishops from all over the globe “have all accepted the reality of human-forced climate change,” Dan Misleh, executive director of the Catholic Climate Covenant, stated on Tuesday. “And we know that our burning of fossil fuels is among the biggest contributors to this moral dilemma.”

The Clean Power Plan offered “flexibility to allow states to meet carbon reduction targets in meaningful ways,” he said. “This repeal now throws all of these potential gains into question.”

Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical Laudato si', on care for our common home, specifically called for policies to reduce carbon emissions, he added.

In paragraph 26 of the encyclical, Pope Francis warned that “some of the negative impacts of climate change … will continue to worsen if we continue with current models of production and consumption.”

“There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy,” the encyclical stated.

back to top

 

Indonesian bishop resigns amid embezzlement, affair accusations

Ruteng, Indonesia, Oct 11, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - An Indonesian prelate resigned Wednesday as Bishop of Ruteng amid mounting concerns surrounding an alleged mistress and reportedly stolen funds.

Bishop Hubertus Leteng, 58, was accused of borrowing $94,000 from the Indonesian bishops’ conference, as well as $30,000 from the Diocese of Ruteng.

Leteng said the money was being used to fund a poor youth’s education, although he failed to give any further details or information, according to Ucanews. He was additionally criticized for reportedly taking a mistress – an allegation which Leteng called “slanderous.”

In June, more than 60 priests of the diocese resigned from their assignments in protest of Leteng’s administration of the diocese.

A year earlier, 112 of the diocese's 167 priests had signed a letter of no confidence in Leteng, citing their suspicions of financial mismanagement and incontinence.

The Vatican has been investigating the accusations brought against Leteng since April, and Pope Francis accepted Leteng’s resignation Oct. 11.

Following Leteng’s departure, Bishop Sylvester San of Denpasar will serve as apostolic administrator of Ruteng until a bishop is named.

Leteng was ordained a priest of the Ruteng diocese in 1988, and was appointed its bishop in 2009. He was consecrated a bishop April 14, 2010.

Though Indonesia is a heavily majority-Muslim country, the island of Flores, on which Ruteng is located, is largely Catholic. Flores was colonized by Portugal, and nearly 89 percent of the population of the Ruteng diocese is Catholic.

back to top

 

Six years ago, this Catholic college was the first to sue over the HHS mandate

Charlotte, N.C., Oct 11, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - It has been six years since Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic liberal arts school near Charlotte, North Carolina, filed the first lawsuit challenging the federal contraception mandate.

“It’s hard to believe it’s gone on for this long,” college president William Thierfelder told CNA Oct. 9.

Last week, the Trump administration announced revisions to the HHS mandate, a regulation introduced by the Obama administration that required employers to fund employee health care plans covering contraception, sterilization, and some drugs that can cause early abortions.

The revisions considerably expand exemptions for religious groups and others with moral or ethical objections to the demands of the mandate.

Thierfelder said he is grateful that the current administration has acknowledged the original mandate as violating the right to religious freedom and is taking action to correct it.

Founded by Benedictine monks, Belmont Abbey College adheres to Catholic teaching on the sanctity of human life and sexuality.

When the HHS mandate was unveiled in 2011, Thierfelder knew the college could not in good conscience comply.

“We actually filed in November 2011, and it’s kind of interesting how we became the first ones to sue the federal government, because you would think it’s the most unlikely of all places – this little Benedictine monastery and college in the south,” he said.

“We had some issues with other governmental agencies prior to the mandate coming out,” he explained. “And so when this mandate did come out, we were particularly sensitive to what it was saying…I think we knew where this was going to go, and we just said, ‘We’ve got to do something about this now, before it’s imposed on us’.”

Thierfelder knew several people at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and they discussed the possibility of filing a lawsuit. He had expected to be joined in his initial filing by numerous other plaintiffs, particularly Catholic employers. But for various reasons, other organizations were not ready to take legal action yet, so Belmont Abbey decided to move forward as the lone plaintiff.

Over the next year, however, additional lawsuits would start to pour in.

“When people saw this little Catholic college in the south with no resources suing the federal government, I think it sort of woke people up to say, ‘I guess we should do something too.’ And from that point, a couple of Protestant colleges were next…and then little by little it started, and then there was kind of an avalanche.”

Ultimately, more than 300 plaintiffs from across the country would file lawsuits challenging the mandate. These included dozens of religious charities, universities, and Catholic dioceses, as well as individuals, U.S. states, and for-profit companies whose owners opposed the mandate on religious grounds.

Thierfelder described the months that followed as a “legal chess game” with various lawsuits receiving different initial rulings based on whether they were in favorable or unfavorable court districts, and the varying strength of individual cases.

With re-filings due to legal technicalities, and several cases combining as they worked their way through the courts, the years that followed were filled with waiting and uncertainty.

“It’s been a wild ride,” Thierfelder said, “and I’m very, very happy about what just came out, although it’s not over yet.”

Belmont Abbey’s case, like many others, will now need to be considered by a court with the newly announced possibility for an exemption taken into account.

While the mandate revisions offer strong reason to believe that Belmont Abbey will receive a favorable resolution, Thierfelder said that in his mind, the big-picture battle is not over.

“I still see us at the beginning of this, because this was still a very narrow exemption, the way it was structured. So although this may be good for us, there may be other businesses and individuals who still have issues with this.”

He also noted that the Oct. 6 revision is an “interim rule” rather than a final rule. Additionally, several states and organizations have threatened legal action against the modifications to the mandate, and a future administration could always attempt to change the rules back.

“I think we’ve got to be pretty resolute. I’ve said this from the beginning…I really do believe you’ve got to have the complete resolution that you are willing to die for what you believe,” he said.

“In our country, I don’t think it’s going to come to that,” he said, “but having dealt with this for so long, and having seen the arguments on the other side … it really almost seems all or none. Either you get what you want or they get what they want, and there’s no in-between ground at this point. So it’s unfortunate, but that’s where we are.”

In general, the Belmont Abbey community has been very supportive of the college’s decision to take legal action against the mandate over the last six years, Thierfelder said.

“I think it’s been an education for everybody, in a lot of ways: how our government works, what religious liberty is. I think at the beginning, people thought, ‘Is the HHS mandate an important issue, and what it is really about?’ and I think what people started to see is that this is a detail, but it was really infringing on our religious liberty.”

Thierfelder also hopes that the general public recognizes religious liberty as a right inherent to every human being.

“Because organizations were continually discussed – be it a religious organization like Belmont Abbey College or Hobby Lobby or something else – it could seem like this was more about organizations somehow fighting for religious liberty, when in fact this is a right that every human being has,” he said.

Moving forward, the Belmont Abbey College president said he will continue to pay careful attention to religious freedom issues.

“I’ve really pushed for religious liberty. Not that from a Catholic perspective we can’t very readily defend our beliefs on contraception or abortion or any other important issue related to the human person and relationships. But I think the way to approach this is based on religious liberty, because it is an inalienable right that everybody has been given,” he said.

“We certainly could argue the individual detailed cases or facts that comes to us, but religious liberty is an issue we need to say focused on.”

 

back to top