The new federal health law has already begun to flex its tentacles, reaching into the consciences of Catholics nationwide with its new mandate requiring private health care plans to provide “preventive services” for women, which include contraception and sterilization. If Health and Human Services succeeds in passing this “interim final rule,” they will force Catholic institutions, including those in Connecticut, to reject Church teaching and their consciences to provide this coverage.
Engaging all Fairfield County Catholics through church bulletin announcements, action alerts and email blasts, Bishop William Lori, of the Diocese of Bridgeport, requests parishioners write, call or email Kathleen Sibelius, and the Department of Health and Human Services before the September 30 deadline, after which, all public commentary will be closed.
Bishop Lori states, “Through our schools, hospitals, and vast array of social service programs, the Catholic Church, serves all those who come to us in need, and welcomes people of all faiths to our employment. This new mandate…severely impede[s] our ability to freely practice our beliefs in service to our neighbor.”
In an ostensible gesture, the HHS has made a narrow exemption for Catholic institutions that exclusively hire and serve Catholics, which is a margin so slight, it is virtually non-existent. “Most Catholic charitable institutions that serve the public would be ineligible for the exemption,” says Lori, “in which case, they would either be forced to provide health coverage of drugs and procedures to which they have a moral objection, or decline to offer health benefits to their employees.”
While the issue of contraception and its validity is a sticking point for Catholics and non-Catholics alike, what is really at stake is the ability to practice one’s religious beliefs freely. As Pope Paul VI stated in 1965, “…the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly…” The U.S. Constitution upholds this right based on the First Amendment.
It seems that our President Barack Obama would also agree. In 2009, Obama said, “People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind and the heart and the soul.” Will the Obama administration, and the Department of Health and Human Services now afford that freedom to the Catholics and Catholic institutions of the United States?
Contact Health and Human Services click here.
Contact your congresspersons click here.
USCCB on conscience protection- http://usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/index.cfm
More on Catholics and LIFE issues:
Humanae Vitae (On Human Life) – http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae_en.html
Dignitatis Humanae (the Dignity of the Human Person) – http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651207_dignitatis-humanae_en.html