Next Battle: Catholic Bishops Unanimous ‘In Our Vigorous Opposition to This Unjust and Illegal Mandate’
by TERRANCE JEFFREY
June 28, 2012
The U.S. Supreme Court's decision to uphold most of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act-AKA Obamacare-sets the stage for an historically unprecedented confrontation between Roman Catholics and the federal government over whether Catholics remain free to exercise their religion in the United States of America.
The court's decision leaves untouched the "preventive services" provision in the legislation under which the Department of Health and Human Services issued a regulation that will require virtually all health-care plans in the United States to cover sterilizations, artificial contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs.
On June 14, the Catholic bishops of the United States-representing dioceses from Los Angeles to New York, from New Orleans to Chicago, from Miami to Seattle, and from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco-unanimously adopted a document that cited their "vigorous opposition to this unjust and illegal mandate."
Because the Catholic Church holds that sterilization, artificial contraception and abortion are morally wrong, and because the individual mandate in Obamacare will force virtually all individuals in the United States to purchase government approved health-care plans, Obamacare-as upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday-will require all Catholic laypersons in the United States to buy health insurance plans that violate the teachings of their faith.
The HHS regulation will also require Catholic hospitals, universities and charitable organizations to purchase health insurance plans that violate the Catholic faith.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius-a Catholic who has been ordered by her archbishop not to take Holy Communion until she recants her position in favor of legal abortion and goes to confession-has given most employers until Aug. 1 to comply with this regulation. She has allowed religiously affiliated non-profit organizations (such as Catholic hospitals, schools, and charities) that do not currently cover sterilizations, artificial contraceptives, or abortifacients an additional year--until Aug. 1, 2013--to comply with the mandate and then violate the teachings of their faith.
Forty-three Catholic dioceses and institutions-including the archdiocese of Washington, D.C., St. Louis and New York, the University of Notre Dame and Catholic University-have filed lawsuits against the sterilzation-contraception-abortifacient mandate arguing that it violates the First Amendment right to free exercise of religion.
Since the Catholics filed their lawsuits, President Obama has boasted about the contraception mandate in public speeches.
In their unanimous declaration against the HHS regulation, the Catholic bishops said Obama's sterilization-contraception-abortifacient mandate not only falsely defines Catholic institutions such as hospitals, schools and charitable organizations as not "religious," but also violates the "personal civil rights" of individual lay Catholics and members of other denominations who share the same moral convictions.
"The HHS mandate creates still a third class, those with no conscience protection at all: individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to act in accordance with their faith and moral values," said the unanimous Catholic bishops. "They, too, face a government mandate to aid in providing ‘services' contrary to those values-whether in their sponsoring of, and payment for, insurance as employers; their payment of insurance premiums as employees; or as insurers themselves-without even the semblance of an exemption.
"This, too," said the unanimous bishops, "is unprecedented in federal law, which has long been generous in protecting the rights of individuals not to act against their religious beliefs or moral convictions. We have consistently supported these rights, particularly in the area of protecting the dignity of all human life, and we continue to do so."
The unanimous Catholic bishops expressed their "thanks to all who have stood firmly with us in our vigorous opposition to this unjust and illegal mandate: to our brother bishops; to our clergy and religious; to our Catholic faithful; to the wonderful array of Catholic groups and institutions that enliven our civil society; to our ecumenical and interfaith allies; to women and men of all religions (or none at all); to legal scholars; and to civic leaders."
"With your continued help, we will not be divided, and we will continue forward as one," the bishops said.