(CNSNews.com) – Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, head of the Catholic archdiocese of Philadelphia, said the Obama administration’s proposal to slightly revise the health care mandate on contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortifacients was praised by liberal and pro-abortion groups but that Catholic bishops needed “both prudence and courage” to take the “right action” on the rule, “whatever the cost.”
As it stands, the mandate under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) requires nearly all health insurance plans to offer sterilizations, contraceptives, and abortion-inducing drugs, such as “ella,” without co-pays. Strictly religious entities, such as a church or seminary would be exempt from the mandate, but not religiously affiliated schools, charities or hospitals, or Catholic business owners or individual employees.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has denounced the mandate as an “unprecedented attack on religious liberty” and an “unjust and illegal” rule that cannot be obeyed.
A proposed new rule put out by HHS on Friday would do nothing to address the religious business owners or employees and would still require religiously affiliated non-profit groups to facilitate sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs by requiring any insurance plan they provide to provide, in turn, free sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs to all employees the religous non-profit insures. Catholic organizations cannot do that.
As Archbishop Chaput notes in his weekly column released today, entitled Making Sense of Another Ambiguous ‘Compromise,’ the “White House has made no concessions to the religious conscience claims of private businesses, and the whole spirit of the ‘compromise’ is minimalist.”
The archbishop also quotes scholar Yuval Levin as stating that the new HHS mandate proposal, “like the versions that have preceded it, betrays a complete lack of understanding of both religious liberty and religious conscience,” and that “the government has forced a needless and completely avoidable confrontation and has knowingly put many religious believers in an impossible situation.”
Archbishop Chaput continues, “One of the issues America’s bishops now face is how best to respond to an HHS mandate that remains unnecessary, coercive and gravely flawed. In the weeks ahead the bishops of our country, myself included, will need both prudence and courage – the kind of courage that gives prudence spine and results in right action, whatever the cost. Please pray that God guides our discussions.”
The Catholic bishops have helped organize at least 43 plaintiffs – including the archdioceses of New York and Washington and the University of Notre Dame – to file 12 different lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the Obamacare mandate.
As CNSNews.com reported in May 2012, the Catholic bishops in the United States are preparing Catholics for what may be the most massive campaign of civil disobedience in America since the civil rights movement of the 1950s and early 1960s.
In a letter inserted in church bulletins last June, the Catholic bishops said, “Some unjust laws impose such injustices on individuals and organizations that disobeying the laws may be justified. When fundamental human goods, such as the right of conscience, are at stake, we may need to witness to the truth by resisting the law and incurring its penalties.”
In the archdiocese of Philadelphia, there are an estimated 1.5 million Catholics and 267 parishes.