In December I was in Washington for the semi-annual meeting of the Bishops’ Committees on Domestic and International issues.  Two issues on the Domestic front are the growing number of poor in the United States.  42 million Americans are below the poverty line, the majority children.  The bishops are seeking to support initiatives to help the poor be able to move out of poverty to be able to live responsible lives with productive jobs.  This is a complex challenge with many interlocked issues.  But the future lives of real people and the future good of our society demand we work and pray together on this unacceptable reality.  Religious Freedom and the HHS mandate was also a part of our domestic issues.  We bishops do not seek to overthrow any law and we applaud medical coverage.  We cannot, however acquiesce to a mandate that imposes on Catholics and Catholic institutions like our hospitals and Catholic Charities the legal coercion to supply insurance for free artificial contraceptives, free abortifacients and free voluntary sterilizations.  Please join us in urging the Administration to re-write the mandate to allow a conscience clause and a definition of religious institutions like the IRS definition that will protect the faithful and the Church’s charitable and health care institutions from either violating conscience or defying the government.

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