Standing up for religious liberty

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Religious freedom, as explained by the Second Vatican Council, is rooted in the dignity of the human person. This founding principle has been protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution for the years. Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde has long sought to protect this religious freedom. He joined forces with Richmond Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo in 2005 to form the Virginia Catholic Conference. With the bishops' support, the conference has worked to protect the conscience rights of genetic counselors, adoption service providers and student groups in Virginia. This year the VCC advocated on behalf of Virginia National Guard chaplains, making sure they would be permitted by law to preach to the tenets of their faith.

"Bishop Loverde gives clear, effective teaching and always articulates with love and a pastoral heart," said Jeff Caruso, VCC director.

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services included a mandate in the Affordable Care Act that requires all employers -including religious entities- to provide medical insurance that covers abortions, contraception and sterilization.

Bishop Loverde responded with a statement shortly after the announcement saying, "I am absolutely convinced that an unprecedented and very dangerous line has been crossed that goes to the heart of the freedom of religion, and that this action does intolerable violence to our First Amendment rights."

In June 2012, he joined his brother bishops in promoting Fortnight for Freedom, a time of prayer, study and public action to protect religious liberty. He continued to speak out against restrictions on the freedom to exercise one's religion in his homilies, letters to the diocese and interviews with the press. In a column Bishop Loverde wrote for the Arlington Catholic Herald before the 2012 presidential elections, he wrote:

"My role in this and other columns is to teach; to proclaim, as your bishop, the teachings of the Church so that the truth becomes a lens through which we can evaluate the issues before us in this election, regardless of ideologies or political parties." He encouraged the faithful to vote according to their conscience, saying, "We must be strong, confident voices for truth and goodness in the public square, and this imperative includes the choices we make in electing our leaders."

His pastoral message was heard on the airways on WTOP this past June when he responded to questions about the Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage, a ruling requiring all states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. ¬

"We need to treat everyone with respect and human dignity and that includes those who have same sex attraction," said Bishop Loverde. "But distinction does not mean discrimination. ... We need to pray for the inner strength to bear witness and be rooted in our convictions."

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© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015