Pope Francis had time in Washington Wednesday evening to meet with the Little Sisters of the Poor, a religious order that is suing over Obamacare’s contraception mandate.
According to Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, the pope made an unscheduled stop to meet with the Little Sisters. The order, which operates health care centers for the impoverished elderly, is fighting the Affordable Care Act’s requirement for employers to pay for their employees’ contraception despite the Catholic Church’s opposition to birth control. The case may go to the Supreme Court in the coming judicial term.
Both Francis and President Barack Obama alluded to the U.S.’ cherished value of religious freedom when they met at the White House Wednesday morning. But for the country’s Catholic leaders, the administration’s implementation of the health care law fails to recognize the Church’s right to follow its conscience. (RELATED: Pope Francis Meets Obama At White House, Both Stressing Religious Liberty)
Speaking at a Washington press conference Wednesday, Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz emphasized that “the last thing the Little Sisters want to do is sue somebody.” Rather, their desire is simply to serve the poor in accordance with their faith.
The Little Sisters of the Poor has a convent near the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Lombardi pointed out. It is likely that he visited the order just after celebrating an enormous canonization mass at the Basilica, attended by many thousands. (RELATED: Pope Francis: Preaching Jesus Means Fearlessly ‘Moving Forward’)
Francis’ remarks in the U.S. so far have been carefully calibrated to his audience.
When addressing American bishops midday Wednesday, he listed “the innocent victims of abortion” foremost among the victims of modern society. But at the White House, he instead focused on climate change and immigration — issues on which he is seen as in line with Obama — along with religious liberty.
The pope will address Congress Thursday morning. He will then travel to New York and Philadelphia, returning to Rome Sunday.
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