(CNSNews.com) - Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston and chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said on Tuesday that the regulation issued by the Obama Administration under the Affordable Care Act that requires health insurance plans to cover contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortion-inducing drugs “violates God’s law.”
“The regulations that impose abortion and sterilizations, this is a violation of God’s law," Cardinal O'Malley told CNSNews.com.
The cardinal also said that whether Americans should obey this “unjust” mandate and whether Catholic members of Congress could vote for a bill that funded its implementation were “complicated issues.”
On June 14, 2012, the Catholic bishops of the United States unanimously approved a statement declaring the contraception-sterilization-abortifacient regulation an "unjust and illegal mandate" and a "violation of personal civil rights."
The bishops’ unanimous statement said that because of the regulation “individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to act in accordance with their faith and moral values … face a government mandate to aid in providing ‘services’ contrary to those values—whether in their sponsoring of, and payment for, insurance as employers; their payment of insurance premiums as employees; or as insurers themselves—without even the semblance of an exemption.”
CNSNews.com spoke with Cardinal O’Malley following the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., where he was the keynote speaker
CNSNews.com asked Cardinal O’Malley: “Does the HHS regulation violate God’s law?”
Cardinal O'Malley said: “The regulations that impose abortion and sterilizations, this is a violation of God’s law.”
CNSNews.com also asked: “Is it an unjust law?”
Cardinal O’Malley said: “That aspect of the law is unjust, yes.”
In a Sept. 26, 2013 letter to members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Cardinal O’Malley and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, who is co-chairman of the USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, called on Congress to incorporate The Health Care Conscience Rights Act (H.R. 940) into "must-pass" legislation such as the continuing resolution needed to fund the government or the bill to increase the debt limit.
H.R. 940 would have prohibited the Affordable Care Act from being used to mandate that an individual, employer, or insurer buy or provide health insurance coverage for "abortion or other item or service" to which they had a religious or moral objection.
"As Congress considers a continuing resolution and debt ceiling bill in the days to come, we reaffirm the vital importance of incorporating the policy of this bill into such 'must-pass' legislation," Cardinal O’Malley and Archbishop Lori said in their letter to Congress.
“Those who help provide health care, and those who need such care for themselves and their families, should not be forced to choose between preserving their religious and moral integrity and participating in our health care system," the bishops told Congress. "Please act on this matter without delay.”
While Cardinal O’Malley told CNSNews.com that the administration's regulation mandating coverage for sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs "violates God's law" and is "unjust," he said the question of whether Americans should obey it was “complicated.”
CNSNews.com asked: “As an unjust law, should Americans obey it?”
Cardinal O'Malley said: “This is a very complicated issue and it’s something that the church is struggling with right now, and trying to come up with a moral analysis in order to be able to allow people to form their consciences and to go forward.”
He also said the question of whether Catholic politicians could vote for a bill that funded implementation of the regulation was "complicated."
CNSNews.com asked: “If Congress brings up a government-funding bill that funds implementation of the HHS regulation, and permits the administration to force people to buy coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, can a Catholic member of Congress vote for that bill?”
The cardinal said: “Well, Catholics must always take into account their own faith and their conscience. What we’re asking people to do is to look at the whole consequences of these. It’s a complicated issue because the Church does want people to have health insurance.
“We were one of the big promoters of universal health insurance,” Cardinal O’Malley continued, “but we wanted it to be with conscience rights and protection for human life which is the most basic right of all.”
CNSNews.com also asked: “If a member of Congress votes for a bill knowing it funds a government program that forces people into complicity with the taking of innocent life, does that make the congressman complicit in the taking of innocent life?”
Cardinal O’Malley said: “It’s a complicity but it’s not immediate, obviously. I mean, just as anyone who votes for an individual who votes for, in a very remote way -- but, you know, people’s motivation in all of these things can be very complicated and they can have different reasons for doing things, and sometimes they see what they’re doing is the lesser of two evils.
“But we’re trying to form consciences so that people will realize how important and how central the Gospel of Life is to the social teaching of the church,” he said.
Referencing the cardinal’s Sept. 26 letter to Congress, CNSNews.com asked: “Last fall, you asked Congress to include language in must-pass legislation to stop the administration from forcing people to act against their religious and moral beliefs in purchasing insurance that covers contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortion-inducing drugs. Should Congress include that conscience-protection language in the must-pass funding bill it needs to enact at the end of this fiscal year?”
The cardinal said: “Well we are hoping that conscience rights legislation will be passed. It’s so important and we see how conscience rights are constantly being eroded and that’s a very, very dangerous precedent in our country.”
“This is a country [that] has always honored religious pluralism where people’s faith and conscience was respected, and allowed us to work together for the common good, and so this is something that is very, very important,” he said.
“The churches and individuals need to have freedom of conscience to be able to practice their religion and that’s one of the most basic rights of the human being and guaranteed in our Constitution,” he said. “So we are hoping, yes, that if it’s not enacted in the legislation that there will be other legislation to embody conscience rights and protect them.”
CNSNews.com asked again if he would ask for conscience-protection language and the cardinal said: “Oh yes, we always ask.”
CNSNews.com later contacted the cardinal’s office in Boston to clarify if he meant he would once again request that Congress incorporate the conscience-protection language into “must pass” legislation such as the bill to fund the government in the next fiscal year. His office advised contacting the USCCB with the question. CNSNews.com did. As of the time this story was posted, the U.S.C.C.B had not directly responded as to whether it intended to ask Congress to include the conscience-protection language in must-pass legislation this year, such as a bill to fund the government into the next fiscal year.
However, the U.S.C.C.B sent a link to a unanimous statement that the U.S. Catholics bishops made in November that said that the regulation threatened some Catholic ministries in "their very ability to survive."
"Yet with its coercive HHS mandate, the government is refusing to uphold its obligation to respect the rights of religious believers," said this unanimous statement.
"Not only does the mandate undermine our ministries' ability to witness to our faith, which is their core mission, but the penalties it imposes also lay a great burden on those ministries, threatening their very ability to survive and to serve the many who rely on their care," said the bishops.
"As the government's implementation of the mandate against us approaches, we bishops stand united in our resolve to resist this heavy burden and to protect our religious freedom," they said. "Even as each bishop struggles to address the mandate, together we are striving to develop alternate avenues of response to this difficult situation."