The USCCB has sent out a bulletin insert to be included in parish bulletins. Please include this in next weekend's bulletin, as its timeliness is dependent upon Congressional action. If you have other methods of distributing this content (websites, Facebook pages, etc), that would be wonderful. More information regarding the HHS Mandate is likely forthcoming. Thank you for your support in this effort to restore religious liberty and freedom of conscience!
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 Fourth Street NE - Washington DC 20017-1194 - Fax 202-541-3166
Sweeping HHS Mandate Stands, Violating Conscience Rights and Religious Liberty
Congress Must Act to Fix the Problem
On January 20, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reaffirmed a rule that virtually all private health care plans must cover sterilization, abortifacients, and contraception. The exemption provided for "religious employers" was so narrow that it failed to cover the vast majority of faith-based organizations-including Catholic hospitals, universities, and charities-that help millions every year. Ironically, not even Jesus and his disciples would have qualified for the exemption, because it excludes those who mainly serve people of another faith. On February 10, the Obama Administration made this rule final "without change"; delayed enforcement for a year against religious nonprofits that were still not exempted (our charities, hospitals, and colleges); and promised to develop more regulations to "accommodate" them by the end of that additional year. But, as explained below, that promised "accommodation" still forces them to pay for "services" that violate their religious convictions. The original rule that violated our religious liberty so severely has not been changed, but finalized. After touting meaningful changes in the mandate, HHS instead finalized the original rule that was first issued in August 2011 "without change." So the offensive definition of "religious employer"-which excludes our charities, hospitals, and colleges because they serve people of other faiths-is still in place, and those institutions are still subject to the mandate. HHS has promised some kind of "accommodation," but only after the election. HHS said it would take an additional year to develop more regulations to "accommodate" religiously-affiliated charities, schools, and hospitals that still fall outside the "religious employer" exemption. The impact of these additional rules will not be felt until after the election, the only point of public accountability for the Executive Branch. This eliminates an important incentive for HHS to provide the best protection for religious liberty The promised "accommodation"-even at its best-would still force our institutions to violate their beliefs. Under the proposed "accommodation," if an employee of these religious institutions wants coverage of contraception or sterilization directly from the insurer, the objecting employer is still forced to pay for it as a part of the employer's insurance plan. Since there is no other source, the funds to pay for that coverage must come from the premiums of the employer and fellow employees, even those who object in conscience.
There is no exemption for objecting insurers, secular employers, for-profit religious employers, or individuals.
The U.S. bishops defend religious liberty for all, and so have repeatedly identified all the stakeholders in the process whose religious freedom is threatened by the mandate-all employers, insurers, and individuals, not just religious employers. Now, all insurers, including self-insurers, must provide the coverage to any employee who wants it. In turn, all individuals who pay premiums have no escape from subsidizing that coverage. And only employers that are both non-profit and religious may qualify for the limited "accommodation." We urgently need legislation to correct the mandate's threats to religious liberty and conscience rights. The Respect for Rights of Conscience Act has been introduced in Congress (H.R. 1179, S. 1467) to ensure that those who participate in the market for health insurance "retain the right to provide, purchase, or enroll in health coverage that is consistent with their religious beliefs and moral convictions."
ACTION: Contact your U.S. Representative by e-mail, phone, or FAX letter:
Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at: 202-224-3121, or call your Members' local offices. Send your email to Congress through http://www.flacathconf.org/religiousfreedom Additional contact info can be found on Members' web sites at: www.house.gov and www.senate.gov.
MESSAGE: "Please co-sponsor and support the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (H.R. 1179, S. 1467). The Obama administration's decision to mandate coverage of sterilization and contraceptives, including drugs that can cause an abortion, makes passage of this measure especially urgent. Please ensure that the religious liberty and conscience rights of all participants in our nation's health care system are respected."
Director of Communications
Diocese of Venice in Florida
941-484-1121 (fax) www.dioceseofvenice.org
Bridget Mary's Reflection;
Contact your congressional representatives to oppose the bishops campaign and provide cover for women's health and reproductive family planning as a matter of their conscience and freedom of religion. The U.S. bishops do not represent the majority of Catholics. Tell Congress and the White House that the health of women including contraceptive coverage is what you support as a Catholic and a citizen of the United States. This is an issue of human rights and justice for women as equal images of God who can and should make their own moral decisions on family planning including use of contraceptives.
Jesus had no policy on contraceptives so the bishops should not act as if this is an issue for him. Jesus treated all with compassion and non-judgment. One could argue that Jesus would be angry with the bishops as he was with the religous leaders of his time for placing heavy burdens on the people. Now the bishops are imposing their ethics on women, specifically women who cannot afford children and do not want to became pregnant. They are denying women their rights to be free moral agents who make these decisions according to conscience.
What ever happend to the bishops pro-life stance that aimed to prevent abortions? Contaceptives prevent unwanted pregnancies and abortions.
Yes, indeed, get in touch with your congressional representative as the bishops advise, but tell him to support women's health, freedom of conscience and religious liberty to chose when to bring children into this world. 98% of Catholic women have used contraceptives, the bishops do not represent them in this campaign. The bishops cannot continue to discrimnate against women and blame Obama for it. (as in Obama health care that mandates insurance coverage for contraceptives.)
Bridget Mary Meehan
Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests