Pope Francis quietly met Wednesday evening with the Little Sisters of the Poor, the order of Catholic nuns suing the Obama administration over its contraceptive mandate, Forbes reported.
The meeting was short and largely under the radar compared to other stops on the pope’s itinerary, but the Vatican signaled that the unscheduled meeting should be taken as an endorsement of the nuns’ lawsuit.
“This is a sign, obviously, of support for them,” Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican’s press secretary, said in a press conference on Wednesday night, according to Forbes.
In their legal challenge, the Little Sisters of the Poor are objecting to the fact that they have to fill out a form in order to receive an accommodation from Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate. They say even signing the form makes them complicit in providing birth control they oppose on religious grounds, even as it triggers a process for their employees to receive contraceptive coverage outside the nuns’ insurance plan.
The Supreme Court initially ordered a temporary injunction in the nuns’ favor while they challenged the rule, but in July a federal appeals court sided with the administration and said that filling out the form did not infringe on their religious rights. The Becket Fund, the religious advocacy law firm that is representing the nuns, has appealed their case to the Supreme Court.
Earlier this year, Pope Francis reiterated the Catholic Church’s opposition to artificial contraceptives.