Religious Freedom and Protecting Healthcare for Women and Children

“These are the ones most grateful to you for the new well . . .”

With that, the chieftain of this Islamic village in Ethiopia, not far from Meki, took me over to meet about twenty beaming young girls, all who looked to be about the age of my niece, Grace, seven or eight years old.

I was in the village with a delegation from Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the acclaimed international assistance agency supported by the Catholic community of the United States.  We had just been enthusiastically welcomed to this small village to bless and start-up their new well, dug and outfitted by CRS.

The hundred-or-so inhabitants were all ecstatic over the new well . . . but the happiest, the leader told me, through the translator, were the little girls.  Why? I inquired.

“Because up to now everyday was the same for them, as it has been for centuries of our women.  The girls are the ones designated to walk the daily two-hour trek to the river, to fill up the buckets with water- – enough for their hut and family – – and walk two hours back.  Each day,  the men go out to the fields; the boys go off to school; the women stay in the village to care for their families . . . and the young girls ‘take the walk.’  They’ll do it until they marry and have a baby.  The survival of the village depends on them.  But this means,” the chief wrapped-it-up, “that they can never go to school.  If they did, who would get the water? But now” he pointed radiantly to the jubilant girls, “they can go to school because we have good water right here because of our new well.”

Episodes like that occur all over Ethiopia, as well as other impoverished, thirsty countries throughout the third world, because of CRS “fresh water projects.”  Villagers benefit; crops flourish; livestock fatten; all the people drink; but the girls are the happiest because they’re free and can now improve their lives.

When it comes to the health of women, their babies, and their children, the Catholic Church is there, the most effective private provider of such care anywhere around.

Another example:

We bishops of New York sponsor an agency called Fidelis, which provides health insurance to low-income folks.  I’m told we’re the largest such private provider in our state.

A recent physician survey of Fidelis showed that we got the highest ratings of anybody else in the area of – – guess what? – – supporting healthcare for women and children.

Here’s another illustration:

A couple years ago, I visited India, and travelled to particularly poor areas.  At one stop my host-brother-bishop asked me to visit a convent nearby.  “The sisters will appreciate your stopping-by,” he told me.  “They’re scared, and they might be harmed, run-out-of-town, or even put in jail!”

“Whatever for?”  I asked.

 “A couple years ago, they opened a residence for young girls.  Nearly a hundred of the girls, all Delats (“untouchables”) from the surrounding villages, live there, and go to school, learn handicrafts and skills, and are loved and cared for by the sisters.

“And that’s earning them threats?” I wondered aloud.

“Yes it is,” the bishop explained.  “Seems as if the wealthy people depend upon these young girls to clean their houses, cook, and baby-sit their own infants.  Now they’re losing this cheap labor source.  They’re mad.  They don’t like this social upheaval.  As one of them yelled at the sisters, ‘You take these girls, who will prepare my tea!'”

You getting a pattern here?  I could go on and on:  if you want to see creative, daring, lifegiving healthcare for women and their children, look at what the Church is doing.

And now understand why Catholics rightly bristle when politicians and commentators characterize the Church as backwards and insensitive when it comes to women’s health.  Yes, the PR experts advise them that this tactic is a proven ploy to take the attention off the current urgent issue of religious freedom.  The marketers advise them that, if they can reduce the issue to one of contraception, stereotyping the Church as opposed to women’s rights, they have a chance of clouding the towering issue of the First Freedom.

But the Church should not be the ones on the defensive here.  We’re on the offensive when it comes to women’s health, education, and welfare, here at home, and throughout the world.  We hardly need lectures on this issue from senators.

We just want to be left alone to live out the imperatives of our faith to serve, teach, heal, feed, and care for others.  We cherish this, our earthly home, America, for its enshrined freedom to do so.  Those really concerned about women’s health would be better off defending the Church’s freedom to continue its work.

A couple of years ago I visited a woman’s prison. The warden asked me if I wanted to visit the expectant and new mothers’ healthcare center. It then dawned on me that, of course, some women would enter prison pregnant. I was so happy to see the expectant moms, getting good health care for themselves and their unborn babies, and to see the moms with babies under two getting classes in childrearing and parenting skills, with the babies receiving tender care right next to their moms. When I told the warden how grateful I was to see such excellent care for these women and children, he replied, “Thank yourself. Catholic Charities runs it.”

Case closed . . .

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327 Responses to “Religious Freedom and Protecting Healthcare for Women and Children”

  1. P. Guillaume Petit says:

    Thank you, Eminence !
    I am a French priest and proud to belong to this our Beloved Church you defend with strength !
    I keep you in my prayers.

    P. Guillaume+

  2. DaveM says:

    Thank you Cardinal Dolan for defending the liberty of the Church and of all religious believers. May God bless you and give you strength to carry on the battle. I will pray for you and for all our bishops.

  3. kerry says:

    “IHS” not hhs. “We will not comply!”. Arrived from Father Z’s.

  4. Kevin Egger says:

    Your Eminence,

    May God bless you and all your efforts to lead and defend the Church and Her Faithful!

    Thank you!

    Kevin (Sent here by Father Z “What does the prayer really say”)
    San Diego

  5. David says:

    Thank you Cardinal Dolan for your courageous leadership. God bless you.

  6. Christine says:

    It is so inspiring and refreshing to have a leader with a backbone defending Mother Church!! Father Z sent me over to tell you how much I support you, the teaching of the Catholic Church, and our freedom to practice our faith! Please- stand strong and may the Holy Spirit help you in any debates or in defense of our beliefs. May I suggest some preaching and teaching from the pulpit on contraception, sterilization, abortifacients,etc? Or workshops, inserts in the bulletin, lectures. So many Catholics don’t know their own faith because they haven’t heard it explained. This is a teachable moment. Our culture allows anything and no longer defines or defends any moral parameters. It’s a very frightening time for our faith, our country, our families, and especially, our children. We need your guidance and leadership so much!!

  7. Paulo says:

    Thank you, Cardinal Dolan, for your leadership! Count on prayers from the Great White North. “May the Holy Spirit, we beseech you, oh Lord, inflame us with the fire which our Lord Jesus Christ came to cast upon the earth, and which he ardently desired should be enkindled.”

  8. Charlotte Allen says:

    Way to go, Cardinal Dolan! Keep fighting the good fight!

  9. Suzy says:

    You are assured of my prayers and support, Cardinal Dolan! God bless you!

  10. Josh says:

    Thank you, Your Emminence, for these edifying words! I will pray that many will read them and I will pray for you as well!

  11. catherine says:

    Thank you, Cardinal Dolan! Not just for your strong and just message, but also the way you lovingly and humorously deliver it. I am going to offer up my adoration hour for you tonight.

  12. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you, Cardinal Dolan. And God bless you for your firmness. The battle has begun in earnest. Please remain strong. The Lord will bless you. I say all Catholics should be willing to be arrested in maintaining our Faith!

  13. Angela says:

    Excellent! We just carry on working without making a fuss. Now is the time to start making a fuss. People believe what they think of the Church without actually knowing anything much of what she actually teaches/does.

  14. Dillon says:

    Thank you so much, Your Eminence, for supporting orthodox Catholic teaching and being such a bastion of hope to faithful American Catholics. Please know of my prayers for you.

  15. J says:

    Your Eminence,

    May St. Joseph, protector of the Holy Family, pray for you on his feast day as you work to protect life and liberty.

    We ARE behind you on this.

  16. Mrs. G. says:

    God keep you and bless you abundantly, Your Eminence!
    We will stand with you, do not worry and do not back down.
    Father Z mentioned your blog – glad he did.

  17. WJS says:

    Cardinal Dolan:

    We support you 110% Don’t ever give up the fight; for the Light will always triumph over darkness. We will always pray for you and all your U.S. Bishops. God Bless.


  18. Beth says:

    Keep standing up for what is right. Please do not retreat from this battle. You are being prayed for. Call upon the Holy Spirit to embolden you and your brother bishops to proceed with fortitude and wisdom.

  19. Karen says:

    Thank you, Cardial Dolan for your perseverance and leadership in working to protect religious freedom. As you state, it IS about religious freedom, which I feel is eroding in many sectors as we Catholics and other Christians are becoming increasingly marginalized and mocked for our belief in God and practice of our faith. Contraception and abortifacients now, abortion fund premiums tomorrow, gay church weddings officiated by pastors and other ‘good as evil and evil as good’ shortly thereafter is beyond painful to witness. Please continue to fight beyond Obama’s current offerings of compromises so that ALL Catholics in every sector of work and society are free to follow God according to His will and OUR consciences, not Obama’s whims. I pray for you and our other shepherds continued strength, wisdom, prudence, courage and humility in this epic battle.

  20. joan ellen says:

    Your Eminence Cardinal Dolan,
    Coming from Fr. Z’s blog to say thanks to you Cardinal Dolan and the Bishops for your Catholic leadership. I pray God continues to give you all sufficient grace for your steadfast leadership.

  21. Tom Timmons says:

    Your Eminence,
    God Bless you and the valuable work you perform. You’re in my prayers.
    Tom Timmons

  22. Don L says:

    Cardinal Dolan, I am deeply grateful for your leadership and defense of our religious freedom. You are in my prayers as I ask the Lord to give you courage and strength to sustain you in the difficult days ahead.

  23. Andrea says:

    Thank you, Cardinal Dolan!!!

  24. John says:

    Greetings Cardinal Dolan from another Fr. Z reader.

    I promise to pray more for you and your brother bishops. Please know that as you take on this challenge that there are many of us behind you, praying for you and for the Church. Just look over your shoulder and see us. Know that we are with you.

    God bless you, Eminence.

  25. Paul Finch says:

    Thank you Cardinal Dolan! Praying for you.

  26. Sondra says:

    Thank you Cardinal Dolan!
    I pray for you and all Bishops of Mother Holy Church daily.
    Oh yeah, Fr. Z sent me!

  27. MilitantCatholic says:

    Coming in from Father Z’s blog. Prayers are being said for your intentions. DO NOT YIELD ONE MORE INCH to this Marxist, evil administration.

  28. Michelle Snyder says:

    Thank you, Cardinal Dolan, for being such a strong defender of the Church at this time. We appreciate so much your leadership, and keep you in our prayers.

  29. Bryan Kennedy says:

    Thank you Cardinal Dolan for being another brave voice in this turbulent world. Fr. Z has helped put my faith into perspective and I thank him and you for another enlightening blog!

  30. Monica says:

    thank you for speaking truth clearly. stay the course!

  31. Dennis says:

    Thank you, your Eminence, for your words. You have the support of many of us. May the Holy Spirit continue to guide you so that you may guide us well, as I am sure is your wish.

  32. Mishka says:

    Your moral leadership is a great encouragement for us all, even on the other side of the world in Australia. Be assured of our prayers for you and your work. May God bless Your Eminence!

  33. KC says:

    God bless you, Cardinal Dolan!
    Thank you for your strong and courageous stand for religious freedom. You and the USCCB remain in our prayers.

  34. Mike says:

    Thank you, Cardinal Dolan. Please know that so many of us are behind you and willing to help in any way we can.

  35. Rachel says:

    Cardinal Dolan,

    God bless you and thank you! I am praying for you! It is a wonderful time to be a Catholic now, and I am so grateful for your leadership! May our Holy Mother watch over you always.

  36. Gina Marie says:

    Thank you, Cardinal Dolan. As an adopted baby girl through Catholic Charities baptized on January 21, 1973 by the most wonderful Catholic parents, who is now a grown woman and mother, too…I appreciate your Salt and Light for women, children and all of the faithful. Many prayers for You and for all of our Priests! God Bless You!

  37. CPT Tom says:

    May The Good Lord watch over you and continue to give you the strengthe strength tothe continue to be a true priest and shepherd in the face of the evil before us. I am so thankful for your candor and example of being Catholic in and out of season. Yours in Christ,

  38. Jane says:

    Thank you Cardinal Dolan! God bless you!

  39. DB Hamilton says:

    Your Eminence,

    Thank you for your stand for religious freedom in the United States. Thank you for your clear teaching of our faith. It gives hope to those who follow the Church’s teachings, as well as giving light to those who have drifted from those teachings for whatever reason. Thank you again.

  40. Bill L says:

    Thank you Cardinal Dolan. We love you and pray for you. Keep fighting the good fight of our blessed Lord!

  41. Marty says:

    Mat God bless you every day for your courage and leadership!

  42. JamesGB says:

    Your Eminence, please know that you have the full support of the faithful Catnolics in the U.S. Please continue to be a strong yet compassionate voice in the public square and do not waiver in your defense of Catholic teaching.

  43. Catherine Ruschke says:

    Thank you, Cardinal Dolan, for standing strong against the Obama Administration and standing firm in our faith. My prayers are with you.

  44. Janice says:

    Thank you, Cardinal Dolan, for courageously fighting to take care of us and helping all our priests to do the same. We need you all! May God reward you!

  45. Sara says:

    Cardinal Dolan, I am so grateful that you are not backing down on this issue. Perhaps you might wonder whether the people in the pews are behind you. Please know that they are. We are so thankful for your leadership and the intelligence and grace with which you speak your mind. May God continue to bless you and your brother Bishops!

  46. Kathy says:

    Thank you for your leadership during these trying times. Praying for you and all the bishops.

  47. Susan says:

    Cardinal Dolan,
    I pray a rosary for you every month.
    Thank you so much for taking a strong stand against our current secular culture.
    May God keep you in His care & bless you always.

  48. Kenneth Jones says:

    Cardinal Dolan, I had the opportunity to listen to your Is and Ought address recently; coupled with this recent post (Father Z highlighted it on his blog) I am renewed and inspired, hopeful about the Church in America. I reside currently in China, near Shanghai, where I see a different Catholic Church — comprising the very old and the younger generation as well. It is good to see Faith blooming. While these faithful are indeed more concerned with affairs of their own State’s relationship with them and with Catholicism, know that we are here watching and praying for you and for all the Church around the world. Please pray for the Church in China.

  49. Marc M says:

    Cardinal Dolan, thank you for your courage in the proclamation of the Truth in these trying times. You are most certainly storing up great troves of treasure in Heaven.

  50. Lynn says:

    Thank you, Cardinal Dolan, for being such a clear voice in the public square!