Catholic World News

US bishops pledge to resist ‘heavy burden’ of HHS mandate

November 14, 2013

At the conclusion of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ fall meeting, the bishops of the United States issued a special message strongly confirming their opposition to the HHS mandate.

“With its coercive HHS mandate, the government is refusing to uphold its obligation to respect the rights of religious believers,” the US bishops stated. “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.”

The USCCB statement signaled that despite a change in leadership, the bishops' conference would continue to resist imposition of the mandate. Some analysts had speculated that the bishops would adopt a less confrontational approach, in light of public statements by Pope Francis. But the USCCB statement indicated that the Catholic bishops had sought in vain to negotiate a reasonable compromise with the Obama administration.

The bishops' statement continued:

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.

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  • Posted by: chasann113163 - Nov. 16, 2013 8:02 AM ET USA

    I agree with Gregory108. Maybe its time for the Bishops to use the media to show the world what is happening to people of Faith. Put it out there for everyone to see, "seeing is believing".Sorry that the Bishop may have to go to jail but they need to be the Peter's & Pauls of our times, who sacrificed themselves for Christ and his Church.

  • Posted by: Gregory108 - Nov. 15, 2013 12:59 PM ET USA

    My view: Refuse fines and send a bishop or two or three to jail. Call out the media with big cameras. The sight of bishops being led to jail in handcuffs might wake some Catholics and even non-Catholics up. If you pay fines, Obama will just use them to pay for abortions. Besides, the predecessors of these bishops are partly to blame for this. They cozied up to the Democrats for ages because of their alleged "social justice" agenda. Instead their policies have given us more poor and no justice!

  • Posted by: jimr451 - Nov. 14, 2013 9:37 PM ET USA

    I'm encouraged by this statement. I wonder, though, by what means we can resist? Will some bishops dare the gov't to fine them? Will they shut down Catholic ministries to avoid the mandate? I don't see a lot of wiggle room, other than to take one of these serious actions. Am I missing something? If I had to vote, I'd say let's take the fines. We can have weekly 2nd collections to help pay for it. Who's in?