Catholic Association: We Must Answer Benedict’s Call ‘To Stand Up and Defend Religious Freedom’

By Patrick Burke | February 28, 2013 | 6:19 PM EST

Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned from the papacy on Feb. 28, 2013. (AP Photo)

( -- Maureen Ferguson, senior policy adviser for The Catholic Association, said Catholics must answer the call of outgoing Pope Benedict XVI to “stand up and defend religious freedom” here in the United States.

“Obviously, Benedict tried to address this issue worldwide because threats to religious freedom we’re seeing them here in America but worldwide even in a graver sense,” Ferguson told

“And Pope Benedict clearly was focused on that and he called on the laity when he was here in the United States -- he called on the laity to stand up and defend religious freedom and the laity needs to answer that call,” she said.

On Thursday, Pope Benedict XVI officially resigned from the papacy at 20:00 Rome, Italy time. He was ordained as Pope on April 19, 2005, succeeding Pope John Paul II.

Ferguson also said Benedict’s leadership focused on the threat of increased “secularization” of Western civilization and called on those in Western societies to return to faith and have a relationship with Jesus Christ.

“I think he really focused on the secularization of the West and the relativism that has overtaken our society and has challenged us to get back to the truth of the human person and to the truth of our faith,” Ferguson told

Maureen Ferguson, senior policy adviser for The Catholic Association.

Under Obamacare, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued a regulation that requires nearly all health insurance plans to offer contraceptives, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs without co-pays.

The U.S. Catholic bishops have described the rule as an “unjust and illegal mandate” that violates Catholic religious faith. Other Christian, Evangelical, Jewish, and Orthodox leaders have also said the mandate is a violation of religious liberty under the First Amendment and at least 48 lawsuits have been filed in federal courts challenging the rule.

When Pope Benedict XVI visited the United States in April 2008 – long before the mandate was introduced under Obamacare in 2011 --  he delivered a homily at Yankee Stadium in which he praised the religious freedom American Catholics have to practice their faith.

“In this land of religious liberty, Catholics found freedom not only to practice their faith, but also to participate fully in civic life, bringing their deepest moral convictions to the public square and cooperating with their neighbors in shaping a vibrant, democratic society,” Pope Benedict said at the stadium.

He continued, “Today’s celebration is more than an occasion of gratitude for graces received. It is also a summons to move forward with firm resolve to use wisely the blessings of freedom, in order to build a future of hope for coming generations.”