ANAHEIM, California, August 9, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The U.S. Bishops lead man in the fight for religious liberty says Catholics cannot vote for any candidate who supports intrinsic evil, in a clear reference to President Obama’s HHS mandate.

“This is a big moment for Catholic voters to step back from their party affiliation,” said Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore in an interview with National Review’s Kathryn Jean Lopez at the Knights of Columbus’ 130th Convention in Anaheim, California.

For Catholics taking to the polls in November, the prelate said, “The question to ask is this: Are any of the candidates of either party, or independents, standing for something that is intrinsically evil, evil no matter what the circumstances?”

“If that’s the case, a Catholic, regardless of his party affiliation, shouldn’t be voting for such a person,” he added.

The archbishop, who chairs the US bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, said the defense of religious liberty is “fundamental, as people of faith” and “transcends party.”

“Many in the media have portrayed the HHS-mandate fight as a fight about contraception — as well as sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs . . . but this really is a fight about religious liberty,” he said.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has said Obama’s White House is “strangling” the Catholic Church.

In advance of this week’s Convention, the Pope warned that the U.S. is facing threats to religious liberty of “unprecedented gravity.” Writing on behalf of the Pope, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, lamented that “concerted efforts are being made to redefine and restrict the exercise of the right to religious freedom.”

Lopez notes that while the bishops’ role is not to explicitly state who Catholics ought not vote for, Obama would clearly qualify.

“Their role is not to explicitly say something like ‘you can’t vote for Candidate X’;  it is to offer moral guidance,” she explains. “Archbishop Lori points out that if a candidate is supporting an intrinsic evil, and it’s safe to say selling abortion as health care would qualify, I think it is safe to assume that if Candidate X is Barack Obama, a Catholic voter has a problem voting for him,” she writes. “And that is not making light of any other important issue that intimately affects lives and livelihoods.”