LOPEZ: What are you finding as you discuss religious freedom from the pulpit? Is it welcome? Are there misunderstandings?
BISHOP CONLEY: Actually, I have found that people are very interested in the topic of religious freedom and are generally receptive to hearing about it from the pulpit. In some ways, it is new territory. But, at the same time, the topic has a long and venerated history in American culture. What are new are the particular threats to religious freedom and the protection of conscience rights we face today, like the HHS mandate. Another interesting distinction that has to be made is that religious freedom implies much more than merely freedom of worship. Many people are under the false impression that religious freedom begins and ends at the door of a church. This has not been our history in America. The fundamental values and truths upon which this great country was formed, were the fruit of the ideas of men and women of deep religious conviction.
LOPEZ: The HHS mandate requiring the coverage of abortion drugs, sterilization, and contraception is an issue of religious freedom, but what about the drive behind it: the treatment of fertility as a disease? Should we be addressing this in a deeper and more public way?
BISHOP CONLEY: This is, indeed, a sad irony. The aforementioned treatments and surgical procedures that are mandated to be covered by the new national health-care plan certainly seem to treat the beautiful gift of fertility as a disease. Noted population experts have been warning us for years now that we are on the verge of a demographic winter, a population implosion. If we don’t change our attitude about the gift of our fertility, I don’t know how we are going to survive into the future. I’m not being an alarmist here. Simply do the math.
LOPEZ: Do you worry we are just too foregone on all these related matters? That we don’t have a deep enough appreciation for religious liberty and that we are too immersed in the “culture of death”?
BISHOP CONLEY: There is always hope. This is why we need to turn to Mary now, more than ever. As I said, she is our life, our sweetness, and our hope. She has a great track record in history. Two miraculous interventions come to mind: the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico during a time when human sacrifice and pagan worship were the norm; and the intervention of Mary and her Holy Rosary at the battle of Lepanto when Christendom itself was on the brink of destruction at the hands of Turks. She stemmed the tide on both occasion, and she can do the same in our own day.