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Cardinal George: no Catholic hospitals in 2 years unless HHS mandate is rescinded

February 27, 2012

Warning that the Church is being “despoiled of her institutions” as “freedom of conscience and of religion become a memory from a happier past,” Cardinal Francis George of Chicago observes that “the Catholic Church in the United States is being told she must ‘give up’ her health care institutions, her universities and many of her social service organizations.”

“So far in American history, our government has respected the freedom of individual conscience and of institutional integrity for all the many religious groups that shape our society,” he continues. “The government has not compelled them to perform or pay for what their faith tells them is immoral. That’s what we’ve meant by freedom of religion. That’s what we had believed was protected by the U.S. Constitution. Maybe we were foolish to believe so.”

Cardinal George adds:

What will happen if the HHS regulations are not rescinded? A Catholic institution, so far as I can see right now, will have one of four choices: 1) secularize itself, breaking its connection to the Church, her moral and social teachings and the oversight of its ministry by the local bishop. This is a form of theft. It means the Church will not be permitted to have an institutional voice in public life. 2) Pay exorbitant annual fines to avoid paying for insurance policies that cover abortifacient drugs, artificial contraception and sterilization. This is not economically sustainable. 3) Sell the institution to a non-Catholic group or to a local government. 4) Close down …

Freedom of worship was guaranteed in the Constitution of the former Soviet Union. You could go to church, if you could find one. The church, however, could do nothing except conduct religious rites in places of worship-no schools, religious publications, health care institutions, organized charity, ministry for justice and the works of mercy that flow naturally from a living faith. All of these were co-opted by the government. We fought a long cold war to defeat that vision of society.

The strangest accusation in this manipulated public discussion has the bishops not respecting the separation between church and state. The bishops would love to have the separation between church and state we thought we enjoyed just a few months ago, when we were free to run Catholic institutions in conformity with the demands of the Catholic faith, when the government couldn’t tell us which of our ministries are Catholic and which not, when the law protected rather than crushed conscience. The state is making itself into a church.

"If you haven't already purchased the Archdiocesan Directory for 2012, I would suggest you get one as a souvenir,” the cardinal continued, saying:

On page L-3, there is a complete list of Catholic hospitals and health care institutions in Cook and Lake counties. Each entry represents much sacrifice on the part of medical personnel, administrators and religious sponsors. Each name signifies the love of Christ to people of all classes and races and religions. Two Lents from now, unless something changes, that page will be blank.


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  • Posted by: Bernadette - Feb. 28, 2012 3:07 PM ET USA

    Obama is no dummy. He planned this all along and he is relishing the upset within the Church. He has managed to "out" the hypocrisy within the Church and to divide and probably he will conquer. He isn't at all bothered by the dither and it fits right into his re-election plans. The bishops should have known that by colluding with the govt. they asked for the bitter fruit to be eaten. The "Catholic" hospitals for the most part are not Catholic, same as the "Catholic" universities. Too late.

  • Posted by: frjpharrington3912 - Feb. 27, 2012 11:48 PM ET USA

    Cardinal George rightly points out the media's focus on the H&HS contraceptive mandate is a veneer for distracting public attention away from the real threat to religious liberty: the right to practice one's religion by bearing witness to one's beliefs in public through visible signs. In the former Soviet Union the communists allowed freedom of worship but they also perpetrated the atrocities of the Gulag where over 50 million human beings were brutalized, and where many millions perished.

  • Posted by: Frodo1945 - Feb. 27, 2012 10:23 PM ET USA

    The Health and Human Services mandate has done what no one could do for 44 years, put the church in a position where it must face the issue of artificial contraception. Many argue that the primary issue here is religious liberty not contraception. Consider this, so what if we fight and keep our religious freedom and at the same time the widespread use of artificial contraception continues among Catholics? What are the Bishops most concerned about, our freedoms or our souls?

  • Posted by: Frodo1945 - Feb. 27, 2012 10:12 PM ET USA

    He left off the real option in my opinion 5) Refuse to offer contraception coverage, refuse to pay the fines, be prepared to be prosecuted. This is called non violent civil disobedience and the bishops should be leading the charge.

  • Posted by: unum - Feb. 27, 2012 8:02 PM ET USA

    Cardinal George would already be half right if the bishops had done their due diligence before they permitted the hospitals to call themselves "Catholic" in the first place. If they use the same criteria that they do for universities, half of the "Catholic" hospitals don't follow Church teaching and have no intent of doing so in the future.

  • Posted by: FredC - Feb. 27, 2012 7:33 PM ET USA

    Obama will confiscate the Church properties. If the priests preach against homosexual acts, Obama will fine and eventually confiscate the churches. If Congress passes a law to protect freedom of conscience, Obama will veto it. Catholics, and people of other faiths, must unite against this religious persecution.

  • Posted by: bkmajer3729 - Feb. 27, 2012 6:13 PM ET USA

    Mr Obama must think the collective conscience of the American people no longer remember the Third Reich, Naziism, Kristallnacht, Marx, Stalin, or the American blood spilled in victory over the evil. We should not be surprised the concept of freedom is no longer respected by our governmental elite-let alone freedom of religion. Make no mistake-this is the same battle, the same fight-our ancestors gave their lives in overcoming. Please Lord cleanse us through your Blood and bring us back to you.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 27, 2012 1:49 PM ET USA

    No question that HHS is an attack on religious liberty in that it forces Catholics and Catholic Institutions to act contrary to their religious beliefs and conscience. It is amazing to have a sitting US president who is so bold as to overstep his constitutional bounds. We are finally seeing the true side of Mr. Obama and his administration’s secular anti- religious agenda. Mr. Obama is clearly out of touch both constitutionally and morally. He needs to be exposed for what he is, and for what he stands for. HHS has been a long overdue wakeup call for the Church leadership - to realize that their good faith attempts for dialogue and accommodation with Mr. Obama and his administration have not worked, and that it never will work. Why? Because in essence this all boils down to a clash of differing and irreconcilable compasses. A moral one based on God and a secular one based on government. Cardinal George (and the rest of the Bishops and Church hierarchy) must continue to hammer away. It is wonderful to see Church Leaders like Cardinal George who are publically speaking out and performing their sacred duty to protect the flock and to defend their Church. They are finally coming to the front lines to LEAD the troops. This is what Catholics have always wanted and NEEDED. This is an election year, so the time is at hand. May our Church leaders be up to the task. May God bless them and protect them!

  • Posted by: - Feb. 27, 2012 1:45 PM ET USA

    Welcome to the kulturkampf, Herr Cardinal.

  • Posted by: mdepietro - Feb. 27, 2012 1:22 PM ET USA

    I fully support the Bishops in their effort to turn back the evil HHS mandate. Sadly I fear it may be too little too late. Plenty of people including those at the CHA would have no problem having secularizing all the Catholic hospitals. That may be one of the goals of this rule. Catholic healthcare west has just gone this route already. The only hope for Church is that Obama and his Democrat allies be defeated. They will not repeal the ruling. It is part and parcel of their ideology.