BALTIMORE (AP) - The leading voice of Roman Catholic bishops opposing a contraception mandate in the Obama administration's health care law was named Tuesday as the 16th archbishop of Baltimore, the nation's first diocese.
Bishop William E. Lori, 60, comes from the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., and has testified before Congress several times in the past few months on a proposed measure to make religious employers cover contraception for their employees. The White House later backed off the rule, making insurers pay for the coverage, though many critics are still not satisfied.
In one instance in February, Lori drew an extended analogy between the mandate to cover contraception and a hypothetical mandate forcing all restaurants nationwide to serve pork, saying it is "absurd for someone to come into a kosher deli and demand a ham sandwich."
When asked whether the Vatican was trying to move him closer to Washington, Lori joked about his frequent appearances before Congress.
"Yes, the Vatican decided that I was spending entirely too much time on the US Airways shuttle," he said. "So, they moved me to Baltimore so I'm a train ride away."
He said he didn't know what went into the decision but he was humbled by "the very thought of teaching the faith, promoting and defending religious liberty and serving the common good of society from a chair once held by Archbishop Carroll."
John Carroll is considered a founder of the Catholic church in the U.S. and was the first bishop and archbishop of the Baltimore diocese, established in 1789. The Archdiocese of Baltimore serves 510,000 Catholics in Baltimore and nine counties in central and western Maryland. As the first U.S. diocese, it's considered a prominent post. Four of its archbishops have gone on to become cardinals.