In another nod to religious freedom – this time blatant – Pope Francis made a surprise visit to the Little Sisters of the Poor Wednesday, the very same group of nuns currently fighting against Obamacare's contraceptive mandate.
According to Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, the visit "was not in the program" and served as a sign of "support for them" in their battle against Obamacare. So, contrary to what many believe, Pope Francis' presumed leftism is more questionable than it seems.
The Little Sisters of the Poor have been in a heated legal battle with the Obama administration since the passing of the 2012 Obamacare mandate that dictated employers must provide "birth control, sterilizations, and drugs that can cause abortions" in their employee insurance plans. The Catholic Church for centuries, even under Pope Francis, has stood in emphatic opposition to all forms of contraception, sterilization, and abortion; to carry out the mandate, the sisters would have to violate their religious beliefs.
Unfortunately, the Little Sisters of the Poor took a major blow this last July when the majority of a three-judge panel for the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the mandate did not place a "substantial burden" on their religious freedoms and were ordered to abide by the mandate.
Many in the American Catholic hierarchy have greeted the news of Pope Francis' surprise visit with much enthusiasm. Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, president of the U.S. Bishops Conference, said that he was "so pleased" to hear of the Pope's visit.
"As you know the last thing the Little Sisters of the Poor want to do is sue somebody. They don’t want to sue in court," said the Archbishop. "They simply want to serve people who are poor and elderly, and they want to do it in a way that doesn’t conflict with their beliefs."