Reaction to HHS mandate
The 60-day comment period for the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate came to a close on Monday.
But the Obama administration announced that the free contraception mandate will go into effect in August before the deadline! HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Monday, “As of Aug. 1, 2013, every employee who doesn’t work directly for a church or a diocese will be included in the benefit package.”
According to Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, “in our Catholic tradition, the right to religious freedom proceeds from the inherent dignity of each human person.” This is why Catholic Advocate has done so much over the past three years to alert people of faith to the Obama administration’s assault on religious liberty and lobby Congress to pass conscience protection legislation. So today I want to take a moment to highlight some of the formal comments issued by Catholic organizations. I believe you’ll not only find these comments interesting, but a source of hope that we haven’t lost this battle yet.
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Anthony R. Picarello, Jr., Associate General Secretary & General Counsel
Michael F. Moss, Associate General Counsel
|“…Under the current proposal, no exemption of accommodation is available at all for the vast majority of individual or institutional stakeholders with religious or moral objections contraceptive coverage. Virtually all Americans who enroll in a health plan will ultimately be required to have contraceptive coverage for themselves and their dependents, whether they want it or not. Likewise, unless it qualifies as a “religious employer,” every organization that offers a health plan to its employees (including many religious organizations) will be required to fund or facilitate contraceptive coverage, whether or not the employer or its employees object to such coverage. This requirement to fund or facilitate produces a serious moral problem for these stakeholders. We have raised all these issues previously…”
“…The Administration continues to exclude from the definition of “religious employer” a wide array of organizations that undeniably are “religious” and undeniably “employ” people. Just as before the NPRM, most Catholic ministries of service—such as Catholic hospitals, charities, and schools—are deemed not to be “religious employers” and therefore remain subject to the mandate. By its own admission, the NPRM’s change to the definition of “religious employer” will “not expand the universe of employer plans that would qualify for the exemption beyond that which was intended in the 2012 final rules.” 78 Fed. Reg. at 8461. The exemption was too narrow before the NPRM, and having changed only slightly in scope, it remains too narrow. Instead, the definition of “religious employer” should include all bona fide religious employers…”
Knights of Columbus
Carl A. Anderson, Supreme Knight
|“…The newest proposed rules change some minor details but the critical moral and Constitutional offense remains the same. Individuals and entities that object to paying for abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization must pay for these interventions either directly or indirectly, and they must initiate coverage for these interventions, either directly or indirectly. The Mandate specifically fails to exempt individuals, even though the First Amendment expressly protects individual religious belief and practice. The government places itself in the untenable position of deciding that some consciences are fit for protections, while others are not.
Our Church teaches that, “[n]obody may be forced to act against his convictions, nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience in religious matters in private or in public, alone or in association with others, within due limits.” This teaching on human freedom flows not from a hoped-for tolerance of religious belief by state, but rather from the dignity of each human being, who is bound to seek the truth and to hold it as he comes to know it. To require a person to violate his conscience, then, is to require him to surrender not only his rights, but also his dignity.”
Pennsylvania Catholic Health Association
Sister Clare Christi Schiefer, OSF, President
|“…PCHA urges that employers, charitable, health care and educational facilities, insurers and individuals with religious or moral objections be excluded from the mandate. The assault on religion mounted by this mandate is staggering. It is time for the mandate to be amended to shed the bias against the very ministries created to advance Christ’s gospel values. Finally, PCHA urges removal of the inclusion of prescription contraception including abortifacients, surgical sterilization and counseling from the list of preventive services…”|
While voicing our opinions formally during the comment period was good, there should be no illusions based on Secretary Sebelius’ comments that the Obama administration will take our concerns into account when releasing their final rule. This is just part of the on-going fight. Here at Catholic Advocate, we’ll continue doing everything in our power to speak out against the HHS mandate and defend religious liberty for all people of faith.