… Yet with its coercive HHS mandate, the government is refusing to uphold its obligation to respect the rights of religious believers. Beginning in March 2012, in United for Religious Freedom, we identified three basic problems with the HHS mandate: it establishes a false architecture of religious liberty that excludes our ministries and so reduces freedom of religion to freedom of worship; it compels our ministries to participate in providing employees with abortifacient drugs and devices, sterilization, and contraception, which violates our deeply-held beliefs; and it compels our faithful people in business to act against our teachings, failing to provide them any exemption at all.
Despite our repeated efforts to work and dialogue toward a solution, those problems remain. Not only does the mandate undermine our ministries’ ability to witness to our faith, which is their core mission, but the penalties it imposes also lay a great burden on those ministries, threatening their very ability to survive and to serve the many who rely on their care.
The current impasse is all the more frustrating because the Catholic Church has long been a leading provider of, and advocate for, accessible, life-affirming health care. We would have preferred to spend these recent past years working toward this shared goal instead of resisting this intrusion into our religious liberty. We have been forced to devote time and resources to a conflict we did not start nor seek.
As the government’s implementation of the mandate against us approaches, we bishops stand united in our resolve to resist this heavy burden and protect our religious freedom. Even as each bishop struggles to address the mandate, together we are striving to develop alternate avenues of response to this difficult situation. We seek to answer the Gospel call to serve our neighbors, meet our obligation to provide our people with just health insurance, protect our religious freedom, and not be coerced to violate our consciences. We remain grateful for the unity we share in this endeavor with Americans of all other faiths, and even with those of no faith at all. It is our hope that our ministries and lay faithful will be able to continue providing insurance in a manner consistent with the faith of our Church. We will continue our efforts in Congress and especially with the promising initiatives in the courts to protect the religious freedom that ensures our ability to fulfill the Gospel by serving the common good.
This resolve is particularly providential on this feast of the patroness of immigrants, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini. She was a brave woman who brought the full vigor of her deep religious faith to the service of the sick, the poor, children, the elderly, and the immigrant. We count on her intercession, as united we obey the command of Jesus to serve the least of our brothers and sisters.
Interesting and accurate choice of words “of the mandate against us”.
Via Rocco Palmo
From a story yesterday on Bishop David Zubik of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
PITTSBURGH — The Roman Catholic bishop of Pittsburgh said Tuesday that he will refuse to sign a document allowing its health plan to provide birth control and abortion coverage for employees of a diocese-related charity, even if it means paying fines.
The Pittsburgh diocese and its counterpart in Erie are challenging federal health care law changes that require contraceptive and abortion coverage in employee health plans. Tuesday’s hearing was focused on whether U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab should block the government from enforcing the mandate while the dioceses pursue their lawsuits claiming the requirements violate their First Amendment right of religious freedom.
The Justice Department contends the church is exempt and that its charitable affiliates can be accommodated so they don’t have to pay for the coverage they object to.
Last year a judge dismissed a previous lawsuit the Pittsburgh diocese filed over the same issues, saying it has not been harmed by the new health care legislation and that the government had promised to take steps to address religious objections. But the diocese sued again, saying the final regulations that take effect Jan. 1 are worse than the proposed regulations that prompted the earlier lawsuit.
Bishop David Zubik testified that he wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he signed a form that allowed the disputed services to be provided to employees. Zubik said the church is being asked to violate an important belief and a matter of conscience.
Many of the Bishops have been concentrating on the fallout from the employee mandate from the HHS effective next year. With no change in the law or really the artificial restrictions from HSS it is hard to see how we are going to effectively deal with this. The choice seems to be between knuckling under or paying the fines and going out of business. Really morally there is no choice but to resist so we will just have to see how the Bishops and Catholics institutions handle this.
Although I think others are in more immediate difficulties. While the employee mandate was delayed, that is not so for the individual mandate. So what happens with a Catholic whose insurance was cancelled and must buy insurance with all the HHS mandated coverages? Price increases will largely be used to subsidize all the new “free” coverage that includes intrinsically evil acts. Hopefully the bishops will speak on this and what level of material cooperation this is. Although I say hopefully in a sort of not-holding-my-breath way. This really is a all-hands-on-deck moment for the Church in America.