WASHINGTON, D.C., February 18, 2013, (LifeSiteNews.com) – If the U.S. Catholic bishops cannot rely on the president to protect religious liberty, they will instead lobby Congress. That's the message of a letter written to Congress by Archbishop William E. Lori lobbying for two legal provisions on behalf of the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Lori, the Archbishop of Baltimore, wrote members of Congress to support two measures, Sections 537 and 538 of the Labor/HHS appropriations bill. One would effectively gut the HHS mandate by saying those with religious objections may not be forced to provide for abortion, sterilization, or contraceptives in language similar to last year's Blunt amendment. The other exempts individuals or institutions from participating in abortion or abortion training on religious grounds.

The archbishop tracks the history of similar conscience exemptions reaching from Bill Clinton and Democratic U.S. Senator Pat Moynihan back to a 1973 amendment sponsored by ultra-liberal Democrat Frank Church, a supporter of abortion-on-demand.

“It can hardly be said that all these presidents and Congresses, of both parties, had been waging a war on women,” he wrote, skewering the Obama administration's narrative that conscience protections constituted the oppression of women.

He sees at work “a new, more grudging attitude in recent years toward citizens whose faith or moral principles are not in accord with the views of the current governing power.”

This is reflected in the HHS mandate, which “permits no free choice by a female employee to decline such coverage for herself or her minor children, even if it violates her moral and religious convictions.”

The Obama administration's newest accommodation, announced on February 1, “maintains the same unacceptable division between places of worship, and religious organizations that focus on putting faith into action by serving the needy.”

The HHS mandate is set to go into effect for religious non-profits on August 1.

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“In short, I fear that the federal government’s respect for believers and people of conscience no longer measures up to the treatment Americans have a right to expect from their elected representatives,” he wrote. “The new approach even threatens to undermine access to quality health care, by telling providers as well as those who offer or purchase insurance that they need to drop their participation in the health care system if they want to preserve their religious and moral integrity. A restoration of full respect for one of our nation’s founding values is urgently needed.”

Contacting Congressional leaders fulfilled a promise from Cardinal Timothy Dolan that the bishops would continue “engaging with the administration, and all branches and levels of government” to protect Catholics from the invasive measures of the HHS mandate.

Archbishop Lori's letter began by citing “The 112th Congress’s inability to enact appropriations bills for Fiscal Year 2013.” The Senate has not passed a budget resolution since April 29, 2009. In the ensuing years, the nation's credit rating has been downgraded for the first time in history from AAA to AA+ and faced a series of “fiscal cliffs.”

You may read the full letter here.