The Bishops’ New Statement & Some Next Steps

Yesterday, the US Catholic Bishops issued another statement on the HHS mandate, clarifying that the Catholic Church is not backing down:

We will continue our vigorous efforts at education and public advocacy on the principles of religious liberty and their application in this case (and others). We will continue to accept any invitation to dialogue with the Executive Branch to protect the religious freedom that is rightly ours. We will continue to pursue legislation to restore the same level of religious freedom we have enjoyed until just recently. And we will continue to explore our options for relief from the courts, under the U.S. Constitution and other federal laws that protect religious freedom. All of these efforts will proceed concurrently, and in a manner that is mutually reinforcing.

The statement ends with a call to prayer. In essence, we will work like it all depends on us and pray like it all depends on God.

This morning in my regular segment on Teresa Tomeo’s “Catholic Connection”, we discussed the statement and the inevitable question arose of what to do. It’s great that the Bishops are unanimous on this issue. But we’ve seen a fair amount of Catholic leaders/intellectuals and organizations take exception. And the general Catholic public does not seem to be aware of the gravity of the matter. Many think this is just about contraception. On the contrary. As someone said to me, “The HHS Mandate has as much to do with contraception as the American Revolution had to do with tea.”

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  • Jeannie Scudieri

    This is still God’s world, and no matter how much you try to deny that fact, we will always be His! Why are we always trying to impose our will upon Him? Lord, thy will be done!

  • keith

    I’m with Beth. This isn’t a problem, and there’s widespread coverage for contraceptives both from Catholic institutions, businesses and at various governmental levels.

    The Catholic position on this isn’t practical.

    If Catholics don’t have to pay for women’s contraceptives, should Jehovah’s witnesses not have to pay for employees wanting blood transfusions or organ transplant? Should Hindus or Buddhists not pay for medicines that are animal based/produced, or Muslims for medicines that are alcohol or meat-based? Should Pentecostal or Christian Scientics employers not pay for any health insurance at all, instead opting instead to leave a vial of oil for anointing in the lunchroom? Should Christian evangelical employers not pay for employees benefitting from stem-cell transplants?

    Or is “conscience” only for Catholics?

    Besides the irrationality of employers deciding what is appropriate medical care for others not of their faith, what happens when a Catholic institution is sold to a Muslim? Does everybody’s health-care plan change, or are employees grandfathered in based on their choice of faith as of the time they first purchased insurance through their employer?

  • Tom H

    Let me see if I understand BethAnn’s argument. A university that self-identifies as Catholic voluntarily chose in the past to provide insurance that covers contraception. Therefore, the bishops of the United States have no right to oppose the Executive Branch’s mandate forcing all Catholic employers in the United States to pay for and provide insurance that will provide contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs. Uh…right. Can you say “non sequitur”?

    • BethAnn

      Imagine if the Obama EEOC told a Catholic University it must offer contraception coverage, in compliance with the 2000 mandate. You’re telling me the Bishops would say, eh, that’s OK? In fact, Thomas Peters wrote it about it himself on this very site when the EEOC FORCED Belmont Abbey to comply in 2009 (mind you, with Bush-era commissioners leading the charge!). So yes, I find it disingenuous and politicizing that the Bishops act like this is some huge new battlefront.

      • Joe M

        BethAnn. So, you agree with the Bishops that the mandate is wrong. You just disagree with the idea that it’s a new problem?

  • BethAnn

    “We will continue to pursue legislation to restore the same level of religious freedom we have enjoyed until just recently.” Seriously…how long will this falsehood continue? To quote Our Sunday Visitor, “DePaul University in Chicago covers birth control in both its fully insured HMO plan and its self-insured PPO plan and excludes ‘elective abortion,’ said spokesman John Holden, adding that the 1,800 employee-university responded to a complaint from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission several years ago and added artificial contraception as a benefit to its Blue Cross PPO.” Now, how is it possible that we were enjoying religious freedom with the 2000 EEOC mandate in place? If the bishops want to willfully look past the last 12 years of history, that’s their choice.

    • Kimberly from Ohio

      The fact that DePaul University (and many, many other Catholic agencies/organizations/institutions/diocese) included contraception coverage in their HMO and PPO plans is unfortunate and wrong… especially if Catholic leadership actually made a DECISION to include it. That issue should be dealt with immediately. But respectfully, Bethann, you (and so many other Americans) are missing the greater issue and the point of the ongoing fight against the HHS mandate that we are currently facing. For the government to MANDATE that all (greater majority) of the Catholic institutions/agencies/organizations MUST pay for and provide contracetion (and abortifacients and sterilizations) for all of their employees is a serious infraction against religious freedom. Contraception is the focus because the issue of contraception is the issue that this administration chose to mandate. Perhaps people would understand the gravity of the matter more clearly if this administration had declared that families are limited to only one child (as they did in China). It doesn’t matter what they mandate, if it hinders the Church from teaching and living out the truths of the Church, it’s unjust and unconstitutional in this country. Period. Don’t fail to see the forest for the trees.

      • bill johnson

        excellent reply kimberly! the bishops should hire you – and me – to lead their campaign.

        one thing for sure – they have been and are still, ineffective in political discourse. they need some pros!

        • Kimberly Brown

          Thank you, Bill… but I’m not a pro; I’m just a passionately Catholic mother of 9 souls and a defender of freedom! :) This whole thing seems so clear to me and it has from the beginning. No matter WHAT is going on around us with regard to the way the teachings of the Church are being lived out (by clergy and lay persons alike), NOTHING can be said that makes the HHS mandate any LESS WRONG for America.

    • Julie T.

      BethAnn, why do you and other members of the Catholyc Lite Brigade continue to visit Catholic Web sites that are clearly by and for FAITHFUL (those who embrace the 2,000-year-old teachings as found in the Catechism) Catholics? Seriously, why? You won’t find Catholics who actually love the Church hanging about Catholyc Lite Web sites. Perhaps your time would be better spent reading your copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the New Testament (and not just those portions you happen to like), and in humble prayer.



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