(CNSNews.com) - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued a statement saying that Vice President Joe Biden’s assertion in Thursday night’s debate that Obamacare’s sterilization-contraception-abortifacient regulation does not apply to Catholic and other religious institutions is not true.
“This is not a fact,” the bishops said of Biden’s claim.
"With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear,” Biden said in the debate. “No religious institution—Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital—none has to either refer for contraception. None has to pay for contraception. None has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact."
Not so, said the bishops.
“This is not a fact,” said a statement issued by the U.S.C.C.B on Friday. “The HHS mandate contains a narrow, four-part exemption for certain ‘religious employers.’ That exemption was made final in February and does not extend to ‘Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital,’ or any other religious charity that offers its services to all, regardless of the faith of those served.
“HHS has proposed an additional ‘accommodation’ for religious organizations like these, which HHS itself describes as ‘non-exempt,’” said the U.S.C.C.B. “That proposal does not even potentially relieve these organizations from the obligation ‘to pay for contraception’ and ‘to be a vehicle to get contraception.’ They will have to serve as a vehicle, because they will still be forced to provide their employees with health coverage, and that coverage will still have to include sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients. They will have to pay for these things, because the premiums that the organizations (and their employees) are required to pay will still be applied, along with other funds, to cover the cost of these drugs and surgeries.”
In this unanimous statement, the bishops made clear that the Obamacare regulation not only violates the rights of Catholic institutions but also the rights of Catholic business owners and individual Catholic lay persons, whom the regulation would force to act against their consciences.
“The HHS mandate creates still a third class, those with no conscience protection at all: individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to act in accordance with their faith and moral values,” said the unanimous bishops. “They, too, 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. This, too, is unprecedented in federal law, which has long been generous in protecting the rights of individuals not to act against their religious beliefs or moral convictions. We have consistently supported these rights, particularly in the area of protecting the dignity of all human life, and we continue to do so.”
In August, the National Catholic Bioethics Center issued an analysis saying that Catholics who own private businesses cannot morally obey the regulation and should be prepared to drop all insurance coverage of their employees by no later than Jan. 1, 2014--when Obamacare comes into full force.
“Dropping all coverage appears to be the most morally sound approach,” said the analysis,
“The ethicists of The National Catholic Bioethics Center believe that temporary compliance with the mandate, coupled with active opposition by all reasonable and legal means available, is a morally tolerable option only as a last resort, provided that this compliance ends once the insurance exchanges are available to employees in 2014,” said the analysis.
Citing Pope John Paul II's encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae, the Catholic ethicists further said that Catholics have a moral duty to resist the Obamacare regulation.
“Most importantly, we are impelled to recall the distinct moral obligation of all persons of conscience, and especially Catholics, to resist unjust laws,” they said. “This duty was outlined explicitly by our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae: ‘There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection. ... In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, ... it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to ‘take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law, or vote for it.’”
In Thursday night’s debate, Vice President Biden called himself a practicing Catholic and said that his life had been defined by his Catholic faith.
“My religion defines who I am, and I have been a practicing Catholic my whole life,” said Biden. “And it has particularly informed my social doctrine. Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who can’t take care of themselves, people who need help.