Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 16, 1978 when the first Mass was held at St. Monica Church, Northford.
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WASHINGTON (CNS) – U.S. church leaders pledged to redouble efforts to support religious freedom after the Senate voted to table the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act March 1.

Introduced as an amendment to a highway funding bill, the bill was tabled by a 51-48 vote, effectively killing it.

Known as the Blunt amendment, so-named because its chief sponsor was Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the bill was defeated largely along party lines. It drew the support of three Democratic senators, Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine was the lone Republican to vote against the measure.

Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, said in a statement after the vote that the bishops will continue their strong defense of conscience rights for all people.

"The need to defend citizens' rights of conscience is the most critical issue before our country right now," Bishop Lori said. "We will continue our defense of conscience rights through all available legal means. Religious freedom is at the heart of democracy and rooted in the dignity of every human person.

"We will not rest until the protection of conscience rights is restored and the First Amendment is returned to its place of respect in the Bill of Rights," the statement continued.

Bishop Lori also expressed his gratitude to Blunt and the other senators for their vote in favor of the amendment.

"We will build on this base of support as we pursue legislation in the House of Representatives, urge the administration to change its course on this issue, and explore our legal rights under the Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act."

Blunt proposed the bill Feb. 9 amid controversy surrounding rules from the Department of Health and Human Services under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that required all employers to provide coverage for contraception and sterilization services in any health insurance plan. After a three-week national debate, the White House Feb. 10 revised the rules to shift the payment of contraception and sterilization coverage from religious employers to health insurance companies for any women who sought such services.

The bishops and other religious leaders opposed the change as well, saying they still consider it an intrusion on religious liberty.

The bishops subsequently called for conscience protections to be enacted into law.

The Blunt amendment allowed church-affiliated organizations, including Catholic charities, hospitals, schools and universities, to opt out of such coverage and would have extended exemptions to any nonreligious employer with a moral objection to such coverage.

Under the amendment, any employer also would have been allowed to refuse to cover any other preventive health care procedures required under the rule if they held a moral or religious objection.



alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.