From an excellent interview by Mary Frances Boyle of the NCRegister with Sister Constance Veit of Little Sisters of the Poor regarding the HHS Mandate.
How will the Little Sisters of the Poor be affected by the HHS mandate?
For the time being, we are not directly affected by the mandate. We have until the end of this year to provide certification that we meet the criteria for the one-year exemption currently in place. So, most likely, if nothing changes in the law, we will have to face this concretely Jan. 1, 2014.
Cardinal [Timothy] Dolan blogged about the HHS mandate and its impact on Catholic organizations and services. He is very clear about the costs of the mandate. For example, if we were to stop offering health insurance rather than comply with the mandate, we would have to pay a $2,000 penalty per employee. This penalty aside, it just does not seem right to us to stop providing health insurance to our employees.
If we chose to offer insurance without the objectionable services, we would honor our consciences, but we’d have to pay $100 per day per employee. As the cardinal figures it, for an organization with 50 employees, that would mean almost $2 million per year.
So if the mandate is still standing in 2014, all of our U.S. homes will be facing serious financial difficulties. To put this in perspective, we already have to make up at least half of our operating expenses through donations, because Medicaid reimbursements cover only about half of what it costs to care for the elderly in the way they deserve. So the potential fines or penalties we’re looking at just make it that much harder.
To put this in perspective the Little Sisters of the Poor with roughly 300 religious would need to pay 30,000 a day in fines. They could of course decide to only help the Catholic elderly so as to actually meet the requirements of the HHS mandate for a religious exemption. After all according to the HHS Mandate “For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to exemptions, and few are those who receive one (unless they are union donors).”
What actions have the Little Sisters of the Poor taken in order to combat the mandate?
At this point, we have not joined in any lawsuits. Our efforts have centered on praying and educating ourselves about the issue.
We issued our own statement back in March — which is highly unusual for us — because we felt that we wanted to support the bishops as much as possible.
As women religious who are grateful to be daughters of the Church, that is very important to us.
That’s why we issued a public statement and, later on, why we signed on to a joint letter sponsored by the bishops and the Lutheran Church.
During the Fortnight for Freedom, we had a lot of prayer initiatives in our homes, like daily Holy Hours with the elderly and speakers. And I was asked to speak about our mission and the need for religious liberty at a congressional reception sponsored by the bishops’ conference during the fortnight.
I have been a Little Sister for 25 years, and I have never seen our congregation so active on a public issue. So that is an indication of its importance. The only other time I have seen a response like this from our congregation was in the early 1990s, when euthanasia and assisted suicide were being debated in the European Parliament, and our superior general at that time took a public stand.
Normally, our lives are very hidden.
Funny how the media is full of stories of the Vatican cracking down on women religious who serve the poor and none about how the Obama Administration is cracking down on women religious who serve the poor. If the LCWR is reformed they will be more able to help the poor, if the President succeeds there will be less women religious able to help the poor.