Catholic World News

US bishops urge Congress to act against HHS mandate

August 06, 2012

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is urging Congress to take action to rescind the “unprecedented and misguided” HHS mandate.

“One year ago, for the first time, the federal government announced that it would forbid Americans to provide or purchase health coverage unless it includes female surgical sterilizations, all FDA-approved prescription drugs and devices for preventing pregnancy – including drugs and devices which can destroy a human life at its earliest stages – and ‘counseling and education’ to promote these to all women and girls of childbearing age,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo in a letter to members of Congress.

“I am writing again on this subject because, despite widespread opposition to this coercive policy by religious organizations, lawmakers and the general public, Congress has still taken no action to counter it.”

Cardinal DiNardo, who serves as chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, added:

Through this mandate, the Administration is promoting an approach to religious freedom that is more grudging and arbitrary than any yet seen in federal law. A minority of religious employers – those which, among other things, engage primarily in prayer and preaching – are said to be exempt from the mandate, although few really know whether their request for exemption will be accepted by the government or not. By contrast, religious organizations which live out their faith by reaching out to all in need with health care and other humanitarian services are deemed “not religious enough” for the exemption. Many, though not all, of these organizations will qualify for a one-year delay in enforcement, after which partial control of their health plans will be handed over by the government to others willing to implement the mandate.

Note that this coverage will be imposed “automatically” on these organizations’ employees and their dependent teenage children, regardless of the moral or religious objections of the employer or employee (Fed. Register, March 21, 2012, at 16505). Yet some have cynically said this policy ensures female employees’ right to make their own choice on health coverage.

A third group of employers who may have moral or religious objections to some or all of the mandated “services” will have no conscience protection at all under this policy. These are devout individuals and families who own and operate businesses, who without any word of protest from employees have been offering health coverage that does not violate their moral convictions. Now their longtime practice will be contrary to federal law, punished by a tax of $100 a day per employee and other penalties …

In court, the Administration has insisted that these companies are entirely “secular” with no claim on religious freedom. In effect, if an organization is “for profit,” it is not allowed to be “for” anything else. The owners who have imbued their companies with faith-based commitments to employee well-being, community service and social responsibility strongly disagree. And at a time of grave concern over business and banking scandals, does anyone think that rewarding businesses obsessed solely with company profits is sound government policy?

“The validity of the religious freedom claim against the contraceptive mandate is clearer than ever – even for those supposedly ‘secular’ companies whose rights are completely ignored under that mandate,” Cardinal DiNardo concluded. “Yet timely and uniform protection of these rights cannot be expected from the current lengthy judicial process. Therefore the Catholic bishops of the United States and many others fervently hope Congress will address this urgent and fundamental issue before it completes its business this year.”

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  • Posted by: impossible - Aug. 08, 2012 11:37 AM ET USA

    Obviously, the US bishops are more enthused about Obama and his anti-Christian Czars and rubber-stamping members of Congress retaining their power than they are about freedom of religion or stamping out intrinsic evils. They are more concerned about tax exempt status than speaking and teaching the truth - a classic example of violation of the principle that evil means are not justified by perceived "good ends." St. Athanasius, we need your intervention and we need our good bishops to emulate u

  • Posted by: - Aug. 07, 2012 2:01 AM ET USA

    This USCCB appeal by letter to Congress is fine but it is weak and not nearly enough. Catholics need to SEE and HEAR their leaders directly on this issue, not just read about it. The Church is under direct attack and it is time for the Bishops to concede this fact and move to the front lines to more boldly defend their flock. One quick way that this can be accomplished is through an active pulpit which for too long has been dormant. It is time for the Bishops and local parishes to SPEAK OUT. Catholics need to know what the real issues are - a direct attack on religion and religious liberties by an out of control secular government bent on neutering the Church in the public arena. An attack that is CALCULATING and DEVIOUS. Finally Catholics need to clearly know what is required of them as Catholics – that the HHS mandate is gravely at odds with the moral teachings of the Church and therefore it can not in good conscience be supported. Catholics need to hear this loud and clear so that they will fully understand the stakes before making their own personal decision.