ST. FRANCIS – Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki was “very surprised” when he learned that the South Wisconsin District of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod had passed a resolution at its 53rd convention commending the Catholic Church for “its stance on religious freedoms and defense of the rights of the unborn.” The archbishop termed it “a courageous stand.”
“I knew that Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison (president of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod) had testified in Congress in support of it (the Catholic bishops’ stand), but little did I know that there would be a resolution in support of it,” the archbishop said. “That really takes it to a different level when not only is a member of a religious denomination willing to stand with you, but to support you with a resolution from the members.”
The resolution read, in part, “Both the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and the Roman Catholic Church have publicly expressed their opposition to the mandates of the HHS concerning these contraceptive benefits, including the latter’s willingness to help defend this common religious right in civil court…”
In noting that it “publicly express its gratitude to the Roman Catholic Church for defending religious freedoms and the rights of the unborn,” the resolution called for inviting the archbishop of Milwaukee to its convention “to receive thanks for standing with the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod on these issues of religious freedoms and human rights…”
The archbishop was in Atlanta at the spring meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and was unable to personally accept the thanks of the convention. However, at the suggestion of Rev. Peter C. Bender, pastor of Peace Lutheran Church, Sussex, and director of the Concordia Catechetical Academy, the archbishop was invited to receive the resolution at the academy’s catechetical symposium on Thursday, June 21, at the Country Spring Convention Center, Waukesha.
“I thanked them for their courageous stance in defense of religious freedom, and I also thanked them for their willingness to take their faith outside the walls of the church. Faith drives us to do that,” the archbishop said of his acceptance of the resolution. “I reminded them that when the government was not educating children, they were. When there weren’t welfare programs or hospitals, they were there to take care of the needs of people.”
Rev. Dr. John C. Wille, president of the South Wisconsin District of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, reading from a letter written by Rev. Dr. Harrison to the archbishop, stated, “We stand with you against government intrusion into the principled practices of religious institutions. We stand with you in asserting the rights of religious people to determine what is a violation of a religious conscience …”
Archbishop Listecki said that he told the the more than 200 people gathered, “The government is defining church. It wants you to stay inside your walls or only minister to those who are members of your church. That’s not what the Gospel asks of us.”