Tag Archives: politics

Bishops have serious concerns over revised HHS contraception mandate

Washington D.C., Jul 8, 2013 — After an initial analysis of the finalized HHS mandate, the U.S. bishops are warning that despite changes, the regulation still threatens the Church’s ability “to carry out the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ.”

“Although the Conference has not completed its analysis of the final rule, some basic elements of the final rule have already come into focus,” said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In a July 3 statement, he explained that so far, the conference “has not discovered any new change that eliminates the need to continue defending our rights in Congress and the courts.”

The statement came in response to the release of the final rules regulating the federal HHS mandate, which requires employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can cause early abortions.

Issued under the Affordable Care Act, the mandate has become the subject of lawsuits from more than 200 plaintiffs who claim that it forces them to violate their deeply-held religious convictions.

Amid protests around the nation, the Obama administration has engaged in a multi-step process to modify the mandate in order to allow for religious freedom. The release of the final rule on June 28 completed that process.

The final rule allows some religious employers to have a full exemption from the mandate. To qualify, they must meet criteria laid out in February, which align with Internal Revenue Code, Section 6033(a)(3)(A)(i) or (iii), which “refers to churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches, as well as to the exclusively religious activities of any religious order.”

The administration has stated that this will cover primarily “churches, other houses of worship, and their affiliated organizations.”

Faith-based groups that are not affiliated with a specific house of worship, such as many religious hospitals, schools and charities, are not covered by the exemption. To address these groups, the administration is offering an “accommodation” instead.

The finalized accommodation will require insurance issuers to “provide payments for contraceptive services” directly to women working for religious employers who object to providing them. If a religious employer is self-insured, a third-party administrator will act in the place of an insurer to arrange the provision of employee’s contraceptives.

Earlier proposals for the accommodation had suggested that the objectionable services would be covered under a separate insurance plan. The change to direct payments ensures that insurance providers will bear the burden for funding the contraceptives.

Cardinal Dolan observed that this change “seems intended to strengthen the claim that objectionable items will not ultimately be paid for by the employer’s premium dollars,” but said that it remains “unclear whether the proposal succeeds in identifying a source of funds that is genuinely separate from the objecting employer, and if so, whether it is workable to draw from that separate source.”

The finalized mandate requires that the insurance issuer “must ensure that it does not use any premiums” from objecting organizations to fund the contraception and related products. The Obama administration has maintained that such products are “cost neutral” and can be paid for by insurance companies with no reimbursement because of the decreased pregnancy and birth costs and the other “health benefits” that contraception brings.

However, in a 2012 nationwide survey, pharmacy directors rejected the notion that contraceptives could be issued at no cost to insurance companies.

Another major concern raised by Cardinal Dolan is the administration’s attempt to create different categories of religious freedom, distinguishing among those employers that receive a full exemption, those that receive only an accommodation and those that are running for-profit businesses and receive no protection at all.

The administration has claimed that religious freedom does not extend to decisions made about the governance of for-profit companies. However, Cardinal Dolan explained that the bishops “are concerned as pastors with the freedom of the Church as a whole – not just for the full range of its institutional forms, but also for the faithful in their daily lives – to carry out the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ.”

Another possible area of concern is the unwilling facilitation of contraception under the accommodation, as the “objectionable items will still be paid for by virtue of the fact that an employee belongs to the Catholic employer’s plan,” he said.

Out of three possibilities proposed for self-insured groups, the cardinal added, the final mandate utilizes the one that the bishops had identified as “the most objectionable,” as it “treats the employer’s very act of objecting to coverage of sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients as the legal authorization for a third-party administrator to secure the objectionable coverage.”

Noting that many of the bishops’ original critiques remain unaddressed in the final mandate, Cardinal Dolan affirmed that the U.S. bishops will “continue to examine” the changes in the 110-page document and will have more to say on the mandate after determining whether it will undermine “the effective proclamation” of Church teaching by religious groups.

From EWTN News

Op-ed: Faith and Works

Faith and Works: Religious Liberty Essential for Both
by Joshua Mercer

The Bishops are using this year’s Fortnight for Freedom to remind Catholics that we cannot be just a service agency nor can we be a church focused only on worship and teaching.

Our Catholic faith calls us to more. We must be united in faith and work: Our outreach and service to others must be motivated by our faith and must be conducted in keeping with our faith.

As Scripture reminds us:

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (Jas 2:14-17)

We are called, therefore, to integrate our Catholic faith into all the good that we do.

As Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore explained in his homily on June 21, the first Sunday of the Fortnight: “The Church does not have two wings: a ‘faith-and-worship’ division on the one hand, and a ‘service’ division on the other. Quite the contrary. We cannot claim to love God without loving our neighbor. What we believe and how we worship gives rise to a life of service.”

And yet, our federal government seems to be trying to drive a wedge between the faith aspects of a church and the services aspects of a church, as though the two can be separated.

Under the traditional definition of religious freedom, a church and its affiliated institutions all have religious-liberty protections. A church is free to act according to its teachings and its moral conscience, not only in how it worships but also in how it manages its ministries and institutions.

The Obama administration, however, has already argued in front of the U.S. Supreme Court for a new definition of religious freedom. It seeks to define religious freedom much more narrowly as a mere “freedom of worship” which, while still protecting the four walls of a church insofar as it conducts religious ceremonies, does not extend that religious freedom to its hospitals, schools, universities, adoption agencies, soup kitchens, and other such institutions.

The Supreme Court pushed back 9-0 against this extremely narrow definition in the Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC decision, but that didn’t stop the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from imposing its mandate, issued under the Affordable Care Act, requiring employers to offer health insurance plans covering sterilizations and contraceptive drugs, including some that can cause abortions. The mandate provided for an exemption for religious employers, but one so narrowly defined that “[o]nly those organizations that hire their own, serve their own, and exist primarily to inculcate their own doctrine qualify for this exemption,” as explained on the U.S. bishops’ website. Such a definition might exempt a local Catholic parish that employs an all-Catholic staff, but it would not exempt a faith-based Catholic ministry that hires and serves both Catholics and non-Catholics.

Particularly for the institutions of the Catholic Church, which teaches that artificial contraceptive, elective sterilizations, and abortifacient drugs are morally objectionable, it goes against our moral conscience to be forced to provide or facilitate such “services” through employee health-benefits programs. Many other faith groups that do not share the Catholic view on contraception nevertheless support the fight against the HHS mandate, either because they oppose the coverage for abortion-causing drugs or because they simply recognize the HHS mandate as a serious encroachment upon religious freedom.

Despite repeated public calls from the Catholic bishops and a record deluge of public comments to HHS, the Obama administration has continually refused to offer religious-liberty protections to the vast majority of religious-affiliated institutions. Its much-touted “accommodation” is a sleight-of-hand measure that does nothing to satisfy the objections of the Catholic dioceses and organizations that have filed suit against the government to block the mandate.

Such an intervention into a church’s internal affairs by the federal government flies in the face of some of the basic freedoms for which our Founding Fathers worked and so many of our men and women of the armed services have fought and died.

As Archbishop Lori said in his homily:

Let’s be clear. The efforts of the government to divide the Church into a worship wing and a service wing do not spring from a theoretical interest in how churches are organized. It is part of a broader movement to limit religious freedom to freedom of worship — to accord a fuller degree of religious liberty to houses of worship but a lesser degree of religious freedom to charities, hospitals, and universities.

As chair of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, Archbishop Lori knows exactly what is at stake in this fight. He and his brother bishops seem determined to fight this oppressive HHS mandate all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary, to win.

“If left unchecked,” said Archbishop Lori, “this tendency will continue to diminish the influence of religion in helping to shape the character of our country, not only by our words but above all by the way we conduct our ministries of service.”

If the federal government can succeed in taking away the right of a Catholic school or hospital to operate in accordance with our Church’s teachings, then we will have lost a cherished right.

If we want future generations to enjoy freedom on the Fourth of July, then let’s join in solidarity with our Bishops in prayer, education, and action — both during this Fortnight for Freedom and beyond. Find out how by visiting http://www.Fortnight4Freedom.org.

Joshua Mercer is Director of Communications and co-founder of CatholicVote.org, a grassroots organization that provides a voice in politics for hundreds of thousands of lay Catholics. Previously, he served as Chairman of Students for Life of America and also Washington Correspondent for the National Catholic Register.

From catholicpulse.com and the Knights of Columbus