Obama--Sued by Catholic Church for Attacking Religious Freedom--Boasts of His 'Work Together' With Pope

By Fred Lucas | February 11, 2013 | 2:56 PM EST

FILE - In this Sunday, Sunday, April 24, 2005 file photo, Pope Benedict XVI waves as he rides on the Popemobile through St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, following his installment Mass. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File)

(CNSNews.com) – President Barack Obama--whose administration is being sued by multiple Roman Catholic dioceses and organizations for violating their free exercise of religion--issued a statement today about retiring Pope Benedict XVI, boasting of his "work together" with the pontiff.

“On behalf of Americans everywhere, Michelle and I wish to extend our appreciation and prayers to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. Michelle and I warmly remember our meeting with the Holy Father in 2009, and I have appreciated our work together over these last four years,” Obama said. “The Church plays a critical role in the United States and the world, and I wish the best to those who will soon gather to choose His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI’s successor.

Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday that he was retiring effective Feb. 28, citing his advanced age.

Last year, Obama's Department of Health and Human Services issued a regulation under the Obamacare law that requires virtually all health-care plans in the United States to cover sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs. The church considers each of these things is considered intrinsically immoral by the church, and last June the Catholic bishops of the United States unanimously adopted an statement declaring the regulation an unjust and illegal mandate.

After the regulation was promulgated, multiple Catholic diocese and archdioceses, colleges, universities and other institutions, as well as Catholic laypersons who own businesses filed suit against the Obama administration. They argue that the administration is violating their First-Amendment-guaranteed right to the free exercise of religion.

Among those suing the Obama administration are: the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., the Archdiocese of Atlanta, the Archdiocese of St. Louis, the Archdiocese of Miami, the Archdiocese of New York.

Earlier this month, HHS proposed a slight modification of the regulation. However, this modification would still force Catholic non-profits to provide health-care plans that, in turn, would set up additional theoretically cost-free side-by-side plans that would provide sterilizations, contraceptives and abortioninducing drugs to the employees of these Catholic organizations. Additionally, the new proposal made no accommodation at all for Catholic layperson who own private businesses or for individual Catholic laypersons, who would still be forced by the Obama administration to act against their faith.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a statement saying this was unacceptable.

“In obedience to our Judeo-Christian heritage, we have consistently taught our people to live their lives during the week to reflect the same beliefs that they proclaim on the Sabbath,” Dolan said. “We cannot now abandon them to be forced to violate their morally well-informed consciences.”