Catholic World News

Cardinal urges support for Respect for Rights of Conscience Act; USCCB plans nationwide campaign

February 16, 2012

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USSCB), is urging senators to pass the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (S. 1467). The bill is sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), a Baptist, and has gained 37 cosponsors.

The USCCB is also distributing bulletin inserts, to be handed out at parishes throughout the US, urging Catholics to contact their representatives in Congress and ask them to support the legislation.

The bulletin insert, prepared by the USCCB pro-life committee that Cardinal DiNardo heads, makes three key points about the "compromise" introduced by President Obama last week:

  • the mandate for coverage of contraception, sterilization, and abortifacient drugs was "not changed but finalized;"
  • an "accommodation" for religious institutions was not actually incorporated into the policy; the White House merely promised that an "accommodation" would be offered in the future, to be unveiled after the 2012 elections;
  • the policy still requires individuals and institutions to violate their beliefs; and
  • no exemption is available for individuals and secular institutions that have conscientious objections to the mandate.

“Days ago, on February 10 – despite many thousands of comments urging it to change course – the Administration issued a regulation in which the rule of last August is adopted as a final rule without change,’” the cardinal said in his February 15 letter. “Thus it made permanent the policy that an organization does not deserve full respect for its religious freedom if it cares for the poor and needy of other faiths.”

The cardinal added:

It is little or no comfort that, rather than being forced to propose such coverage, religious organizations will simply have it imposed on them. The argument that they will not really have to subsidize the coverage, because insurers will offer it “free of charge,” runs up against the reality that this coverage will be integrated into their overall health plan, and subsidized with the premiums paid by employer and employee for that plan.

The Administration’s rule makes no provision for the rights of insurers, even religiously affiliated insurers, but places responsibility for enforcing the mandate more squarely than ever on their shoulders. This is a radical departure from current law, under which a health plan that excludes contraception can be sold even to federal employees if the carrier has any religious objection to such coverage. Now, it seems, such an insurer will not be able to offer such a plan to almost anyone.

The National Committee for a Human Life Amendment (NCHLA), which works closely with the USCCB in matters of pro-life legislation, is urging supporters of the legislation to call or e-mail their senators. The NCHLA notes that in its February 15 action alert that

in the very near future, the Senate is expected to vote on the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act in the form of an amendment to Transportation Authorization Bill (S. 1813). For this purpose Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), the primary sponsor of S. 1467, has introduced Senate Amendment 1520. The suggested e-mail message to the Senate at the NCHLA Grassroots Action Center specifically urges Senators to vote for Senate Amendment 1520.


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