Abp. Joseph Kurtz on Faith, Family, and Francis | Jim Graves | CWR
The new President of the USCCB discusses the role of the Conference, its opposition to the HHS mandate, marriage, evangelization, and Pope Francis
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, 67, is the new president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The son of a Pennsylvania coal miner, he was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Allentown in 1972, and has served as archbishop of Louisville, Kentucky since 2007. Previously, he served as the USCCB’s vice president.
As he told CWR in 2011 Archbishop Kurtz sees the USCCB’s role as threefold: 1) to promote unity among the bishops and Holy Father, 2) to help the individual bishop in the care of his diocese, and 3) to provide a vehicle for the bishops to collectively address issues of the day.
In an interview with CWR on November 22, Archbishop Kurtz continued the discussion about the work of the USCCB, and shared his thoughts on the new pontiff, Pope Francis.
CWR: The Catholic bishops have opposed directives by the Obama administration that mandate Catholic institutions such as schools and hospitals provide their employees with health care coverage that includes contraceptives, abortions, and sterilizations. Where are you in your negotiations with the administration on this issue?
Abp. Kurtz: First off, in the larger context, the U.S. bishops remain firmly united in their opposition to the HHS [Health and Human Services] mandate. At the conclusion of our General Assembly in Baltimore on November 13, the USCCB issued a Special Message that was passed by a unanimous vote. It says, in part, “Pope Francis has reminded us that ‘In the context of society, there is only one thing which the Church quite clearly demands: the freedom to proclaim the Gospel in its entirety, even when it runs counter to the world, even when it goes against the tide.’”
This is an excellent statement by Pope Francis. Our belief, and the belief of most people, is that when you look back in history, people’s faith doesn’t detract from public life. Instead, it enriches and motivates us to serve others. This is certainly true in providing health care. The Church has been a major provider itself, and an advocate of providing access to health care for all. However, when we do so, we do so in a manner consistent with our Catholic principles. So, the HHS mandate continues to be burdensome to us, and we will continue to oppose it.
I was pleased to see that a federal judge just granted an injunction to the Diocese of Pittsburgh and the Diocese of Erie saying that they do not have to provide types of health insurance coverage which violate their consciences. We hope that the U.S. Supreme Court will understand and agree. If the decision goes against us, we will still remain united in our opposition to the HHS mandate, and look for other avenues to pursue that enable us to remain true to what we believe. We will never do something we believe to be immoral.
CWR: Since we last talked in 2011, nine states have legalized same-sex marriage, including three by a vote of the electorate (Maine, Maryland, and Washington). Does the trend seem to be going against those who believe in traditional marriage, and what is the best way Catholics can promote traditional marriage?