The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops elected a new president who has a strong commitment to the sanctity of life on Tuesday.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, leader of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston in Texas, was elected to a three-year term as president of the bishops’ organization, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The bishops also elected Cardinal Jose Gomez of Los Angeles as vice president, the report states.
DiNardo previously served as the vice president and as the chair of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the USCCB. One of his duties as the new president will be to guide U.S. Catholic bishops’ “relationship with the new Trump administration,” the Associated Press reports.
The Catholic Church teaches that human lives are sacred and should be protected from the moment of conception, but some of its leaders emphasize the plight of those targeted for abortion and assisted suicide more than others. DiNardo’s appointment is a signal that the bishops’ conference will continue its strong advocacy for the right to life and religious freedom in the U.S.
Under the Obama administration, the U.S. Catholic bishops’ organization has expressed increasing concern about the erosion of the right to life through abortion and assisted suicide, conscience protections and other religious freedoms.
The cardinal echoed these concerns in an interview with Crux this week:
“I think it’s important for the church going forward to be understanding of how important our tradition and practice is,” DiNardo told Crux. “We have to walk with people in difficult situations, but there’s a difference between accompanying people and approving everything they do. I think that’s what Pope Francis is trying to tell us.”
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DiNardo told Crux he views society as growing increasingly intolerant toward religion and has found the U.S. government “coercive” in what he called its attempt to restrict religious liberty. Dozens of dioceses and Catholic charities sued President Barack Obama over the Affordable Care Act requirement that employers provide coverage for birth control.
DiNardo has been an outspoken advocate for life in the past, too. In 2011, he wrote two letters to Congress urging lawmakers to support legislation to prohibit taxpayer funding of abortion and protect medical workers’ conscience rights under Obamacare.
DiNardo complained the HHS rule has an “incredibly narrow” exemption for religious employers which “protects almost no one,” since organizations that employ or serve people of another religion would not qualify.
“Those who sponsor, purchase and issue health plans should not be forced to violate their deeply held moral and religious convictions in order to take part in the health care system or provide for the needs of their families, their employees or those most in need,” DiNardo continued. “To force such an unacceptable choice would be as much a threat to universal access to health care as it is to freedom of conscience.”
Back in 2009 during a special Red Mass for top government officials, DiNardo charged the leaders to be a voice for all people, including those who have not been born yet. Six Supreme Court justices, Vice President Joe Biden, and two members of pro-abortion President Barack Obama’s administration were present for the event.
“They are poor and wealthy, confused and lucid, polite and impolited,” DiNardo told the government leaders. “In some cases, the clients are voiceless, for they lack influence; in others they are literally voiceless, not yet with tongues and even without names, and require our most careful attention and radical support.”