January 27, 2012
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On January 20, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reaffirmed a rule that virtually all private health care plans must cover sterilization, abortifacients, and contraception. The rule is set to take effect August 1, 2012. Non-profit religious employers including the Dioceses of Charlotte and Raleigh that do not now provide such coverage, and are not exempt under the rule’s extremely narrow definition of religious employer, will be given one year—until August 1, 2013—to comply.
Responding to the announcement, Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, stated: “In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences.”
Last August, the HHS issued a list of “preventive services for women” to be mandated in almost all private health plans under the new health care law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). The mandated services include sterilization, all FDA-approved birth control and “education and counseling” to promote these among all “women of reproductive capacity.”
HHS’s proposed rule allowed only a very narrow exemption for a “religious employer.” In September and December of 2011, CatholicVoiceNC.org issued action alerts on this matter at a time when HHS was seeking comment on the proposed rules. The January 20 announcement makes the proposed rule final.
To correct the threats to religious liberty and rights of conscience posed by PPACA, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act has been introduced in Congress (H.R. 1179, S. 1467). This measure will ensure that those who participate in the health care system “retain the right to provide, purchase, or enroll in health coverage that is consistent with their religious beliefs and moral convictions.”
ACTION: Contact your U.S. Representative by e-mail, phone, or FAX letter:
* Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at: 202-224-3121, or call your Members’ local offices.
* Send an e-mail through CVNC’s Grassroots Action Center.
Thank you for all you do in support of life.
The Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge, Bishop of Raleigh
The Most Reverend Peter J. Jugis, Bishop of Charlotte
I appreciate the bishops’ letter, but I have to admit, I have little sympathy for the reaction to this mandate by Sister Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association, who supported Obamacare and worked against the USCCB as those bishops pointed out the ramifications of the bill’s passage. That Keehan would expect anything less than complete government control shows she had no idea what she was supporting during the Obamacare debate. And, I have to say, her public statement on the HHS mandate is very weak:
The Catholic Health Association is disappointed that the definition of a religious employer was not broadened in today’s announcement by HHS regarding the final rule on preventive health services for women. This was a missed opportunity to be clear on appropriate conscience protection.
It was important to have clarified by the President and the Secretary of HHS that this decision will not undermine the current conscience protections in law and so very necessary for our ministries.
The challenge that these regulations posed for many groups remains unresolved. This indicates the need for an effective national conversation on the appropriate conscience protections in our pluralistic country, which has always respected the role of religions.
“Disappointed,” “missed opportunity,” “unresolved,” “national conversation”–ugh, how passive. And “a missed opportunity to be clear”? I think HHS and the Administration were extremely and completely clear–their agenda trumps all.
Give me Timothy Dolan and Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh any day. From Bishop Zubik:
Let’s be blunt. This whole process of mandating these guidelines undermines the democratic process itself. In this instance, the mandate declares pregnancy a disease, forces a culture of contraception and abortion on society, all while completely bypassing the legislative process.
This is government by fiat that attacks the rights of everyone — not only Catholics; not only people of all religions. At no other time in memory or history has there been such a governmental intrusion on freedom not only with regard to religion, but even across-the-board with all citizens. It forces every employer to subsidize an ideology or pay a penalty while searching for alternatives to health care coverage. It undermines the whole concept and hope for health care reform by inextricably linking it to the zealotry of pro-abortion bureaucrats….
Kathleen Sebelius, and through her the Obama administration, have said “To hell with you” to the Catholic faithful of the United States.
• To hell with your religious beliefs,
• To hell with your religious liberty,
• To hell with your freedom of conscience.
We’ll give you a year, they are saying, and then you have to knuckle under. As Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, responded, “in effect, the president is saying that we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences.”
As I wrote to you last September, with this mandate the democratic process is being ignored while we are being ordered to ignore our religious beliefs. And we are being told not only to violate our beliefs, but to pay directly for that violation; to subsidize the imposition of a contraceptive and abortion culture on every person in the United States….
The outcome is yet to be determined, but the Administration better be careful–even the politically liberal Catholics are upset with this one.