Freedom of Conscience
The Most Reverend William Edward Lori, S.T.D., was installed as the Fourth Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, CT, on March 19, 2001.
Born in Louisville, KY, in 1951, Bishop Lori obtained a Bachelor’s Degree from the Seminary of Saint Pius X in Erlanger, KY, in 1973, and a Master’s Degree from Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD, in 1977. In 1982, Bishop Lori received his Doctorate in Sacred Theology (S.T.D.) from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Bishop Lori was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Washington by His Eminence William Cardinal Baum in 1977 in Saint Matthew Cathedral in Washington, DC. His first assignment was as Associate Pastor of Saint Joseph Parish in Landover, MD. Thereafter, he served as Secretary to James Cardinal Hickey, Chancellor, Moderator of the Curia, and Vicar General.
In 1995, Bishop Lori was ordained to the episcopate as Auxiliary Bishop of Washington and Titular Bishop of Bulla. Bishop Lori is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT, and past Chairman of the Board of Trustees of The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. He is also a member of the Mt. St. Mary University Board. Bishop Lori is the former Chairman and current member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Doctrine, Chairman of the USCCB ad-hoc Committee on Universities and Colleges, a member of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and the USCCB ad-hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage.
Just months after being appointed Bishop of Bridgeport, Bishop Lori was confronted with two major crises; the 9/11 terrorist attacks that directly affected many Fairfield County families, and the revelation of sexual abuse within the Church. In each case, Bishop Lori provided the leadership and compassion necessary to bring healing. He responded immediately to the abuse crisis by removing offenders and creating Safe Environment policies to protect children. As a result, more than 70,00 adults and children have received training on Child Sexual Abuse Awareness and Prevention. The Diocese has also conducted over 25,000 criminal background checks, while also distributing more than 45,000 Stay Safe guides for parents in order to safeguard students in all environments.
In 2002, in recognition of his role as an emerging leader on the Church’s response to the sexual misconduct crisis, Bishop Lori was appointed to the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse. He was instrumental in drafting the landmark Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. As one of four U.S. bishops on a special Mixed Commission, Bishop Lori journeyed to the Vatican to seek approval for the “Essential Norms” of the Charter, which is now particular law for the Catholic Church in the United States to ensure that no one who works for the Catholic Church will ever pose a threat of any kind to any person, young or old.
In April, 2011, Bishop Lori was the keynote speaker at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D. C., where he paid tribute to John Paul II and urged Catholics to defend his legacy of defending religious liberty and human dignity. In a speech widely reported across the U.S., Bishop Lori told the gathering that religious freedom is not "a carve-out" granted by the state, but an inalienable right. He also called for the protection of "conscience rights" for health care providers.
In 2005, he was elected Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus, where he has the responsibility of overseeing the spiritual welfare of the Order's 1.8 million members and their families. In his extensive writing and speaking on behalf of the Knights, Bishop Lori has focused on the spiritual vision of the Venerable Father Michael J. McGivney, the Founder of the Knights of Columbus. Bishop Lori is also writing a series of monthly articles in Columbia Magazine on the compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Additionally, he has helped guide many spiritual initiatives of the Order, most notably the Order’s third Eucharistic Congress held in Chicago in 2005, and the International Marian Congress and Guadalupe Festival held in Phoenix in 2009. He has also worked closely with the Supreme Knight in highlighting the role of Knights of Columbus chaplains at every level of the Order. As a result, Bishop Lori was honored at the April 10, 2010 at the Supreme Board of Directors, meeting in Philadelphia in a resolution that expressing gratitude for Bishop Lori’s contributions to the Order and the Church.
In his writing, teaching and advocacy, Bishop Lori has been a courageous voice for religious liberty, having joined with the bishops of Connecticut in protecting the apostolic governance of the Catholic Church in averting the legalization of physician-assisted suicide; and in amending the state’s misguided same sex marriage law to respect the freedom of conscience of Catholic institutions. Most notably, joined by Archbishop Henry Mansell, he led a successful rally on the steps of the State Capitol in 2009 to oppose state interference in governance of the Church. His passion and eloquence that day led to national coverage of this important challenge to religious liberty. When the State of Connecticut Office of State Ethics then tried to penalize the Diocese for its role in the successful rally, Bishop Lori filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the state agency. The State Attorney General refused to defend the action of the state agency, which led to the state’s withdrawal of its threatened investigation of the Church. Bishop Lori later reflected on this experience in “Let Freedom Ring,” his widely praised and reprinted Pastoral Letter on the public role of religion and the rights of conscience, which was widely reprinted throughout the U.S.
On September 29 2011, New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) named Bishop William E. Lori, to chair a new Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty to address growing concerns over the erosion of freedom of religion in America. Support for the subcommittee work includes two full-time staff at the USCCB, a lawyer expert in the area of religious freedom law, and a lobbyist who will handle both religious liberty and marriage issues. Bishop Lori¹s appointment was made in recognition of his defense of religious liberty in his 2010 Pastoral Letter, "Let Freedom Ring," which earned national attention, and his successful leadership in the fight against Senate Bill 1098, which would have permitted state interference in the governance of Catholic Churches in Connecticut. Bishop Lori said he welcomed "the opportunity to work with fellow bishops and men and women of expertise in constitutional law so as to defend and promote the God-given gift of religious liberty recognized and guaranteed by the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States."