On March 23, thousands of opponents to the Obama administration’s healthcare reform package - that includes a contraception mandate for all employers – are expected to descend upon Washington DC for the Nationwide Rally for Religious Freedom. Catholic bishops are expected to be in attendance at the rally, along with representatives from various other faith groupings. Catholics are being called upon to attend rallies in various cities across the country where Catholic bishops are expected to appear. Of the 194 bishops in the United States (not including Puerto Rico and other possessions) only 15 are expected to participate.
Speakers expected at the March 23 rally in Washington DC include political activist Star Parker.
A call to the Archdiocese of Washington DC, which is led by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, went unanswered. Spero sought to find out if the cardinal will attend, and whether any of his brother bishops of the Washington DC area will attend. There are reports that Auxiliary Bishop Barry Knestout may be present at the Washington DC rally. There are reports also that Father Marcel Guarnizo, a priest who serves in Maryland (which comes under the jurisdiction of Washington DC) was slated to speak at a rally in that state but has since dropped out. After calls to the archdiocese and some of the groups involved in the rallies, Spero could not determine whether Fr. Guarnizo dropped out of his own accord or whether it was his diocesan superiors who asked him to step aside.
Fr. Guarnizo and Bishop Knestout were in the center of controversy last week when local media reported that the priest had refused to give the Eucharist – which Catholics believe to be the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ and which is reserved only to those Catholics properly disposed – to a woman who has been identified as a Buddhist lesbian. The priest has had his faculties suspended temporarily in a dispute over whether he acted properly in declining to allow the woman to receive Holy Communion. According to a letter that the priest published, while he quietly declined to give Holy Communion at the funeral of the woman’s mother, the woman did receive Holy Communion at the funeral Mass.
March 23 is the one-year anniversary of the passing of legislation enabling so-called 'Obamacare'. Hearings on the constitutionality of the legislation are expected next week in the Supreme Court. Opponents of the bill argue that the Obama administration's requirement that all employers provide contraception coverage as part of the mandated healthcare reform package is an intromission into religious rights. Catholic institutions, including hospitals, may be required to provide contraception coverage to employees despite Catholic teachings prohibiting abortifacient contraception such as the so-called 'morning-after pill."
Here at the names of Catholic bishops who plan to attend some of the rallies planned for March 23, or who have sent greetings to participants.
Most Rev. Robert J. Baker, S.T.D., Bishop of the Diocese of Birmingham
Most Rev. Salvatore Cordileone, Bishop of the Diocese of Oakland
Most Rev. Cirilo Flores, Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese of San Diego
Most Rev. Thomas Doran, Bishop of the Diocese of Rockford
Most Rev. Kenneth Steiner, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of Portland
Most Rev. John Quinn, Bishop of the Diocese of Winona
Most Rev. John Kudrick, Bishop of the Eparchy of Parma
Most Rev. David Choby, Bishop of the Diocese of Nashville
Most Rev. John Yanta, Bishop Emeritus of Amarillo Diocese
Most Rev. Robert Morlino, Bishop of the Diocese of Madison
Most Rev. Leonard Blair, Bishop of the Diocese of Toledo
Most Rev. Joseph Latino, Bishop of the Diocese of Jackson
Most Rev. Peter Jugis, Bishop of the Diocese of Charlotte
Most Rev. Luis Zarama, Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Atlanta
Most Rev. Michael Byrnes, Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Detroit
Most Rev. Mitchell Rozanski, Auxiliary Bishop