Statement of the USCCB on HHS Mandate

The following press release was issued today by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Mandate.

BISHOPS PROMISE TO CONTINUE ‘VIGOROUS EFFORTS’ AGAINST HHS VIOLATIONS OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN HEALTH CARE REFORM MANDATE

Declare government has no place defining religion, religious ministry
Seek protection for conscience rights of institutions, individuals
Stress action with the public, White House, Congress, courts

WASHINGTON—The U.S. bishops are strongly united in their ongoing and determined  efforts to protect religious freedom, the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) said in a March 14 statement.

The Administrative Committee, chaired by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the USCCB, is the highest authority of the bishops’ conference outside the semi-annual sessions of the full body of bishops. The Committee’s membership consists of the elected chairmen of all the USCCB permanent committees and an elected bishop representative from each of the geographic regions of the USCCB.

The full statement can be found at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/Admin-Religious-Freedom.pdf

The Administrative Committee said it was “strongly unified and intensely focused in its opposition to the various threats to religious freedom in our day.” The bishops will continue their vigorous work of education on religious freedom, dialogue with the executive branch, legislative initiatives and efforts in the courts to defend religious freedom. They promised a longer statement on the principles at the heart of religious freedom, which will come later from the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty.

The bishops noted that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate that forces all private health plans to provide coverage of sterilization and contraceptives – including abortion-inducing drugs – called for an immediate response. Of particular concern, they said, are a religious exemption from the mandate that the bishops deem “arbitrarily narrow” and an “unspecified and dubious future ‘accommodation’’’ offered to other religious organizations that are denied the exemption.

The bishops thanked supporters from the Catholic community and beyond “who have stood firmly with us in our vigorous opposition to this unjust and illegal mandate.”

“It is your enthusiastic unity in defense of religious freedom that has made such a dramatic and positive impact in this historic public debate.”

The bishops said this dispute is not about access to contraceptives but about the government’s forcing the Church to provide them. Their concerns are not just for the Catholic Church but also for “those who recognize that their cherished beliefs may be next on the block.”

“Indeed, this is not about the Church wanting to force anybody to do anything; it is instead about the federal government forcing the Church – consisting of its faithful and all but a few of its institutions – to act against Church teachings,” they said.

The Church has worked for universal healthcare in the United States since 1919, they added, and said the current issue “is not a Republican or Democratic, a conservative or liberal issue; it is an American issue.”

The bishops called the HHS mandate “an unwarranted government definition of religion,” with government deciding who is a religious employer deserving exemption from the law.

“The introduction of this unprecedented defining of faith communities and their ministries has precipitated this struggle for religious freedom,” the bishops said.

“Government has no place defining religion and religious ministry,” they said.

“If this definition is allowed to stand, it will spread throughout federal law, weakening its healthy tradition of generous respect for religious freedom and diversity,” they said.

The bishops said the government’s foray into church governance “where government has no legal competence or authority” is beyond disturbing. Those deemed by HHS not to be “religious employers,” the bishops said, “will be forced by government to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions. This is not only an injustice in itself, but it also undermines the effective proclamation of those teachings to the faithful and to the world.”

The bishops also called the HHS mandate “a violation of personal civil rights.”  The new mandate creates a class of people “with no conscience protection at all: individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to live in accordance with their faith and values,” the bishops said. “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 exemptions.”

The bishops called for the Catholic faithful, and all people of good will throughout the nation to join them in prayer and penance “for our leaders and for the complete protection of our First Freedom – religious liberty.”

“Prayer is the ultimate source of our strength,” the bishops said, “for without God we can do nothing. But with God all things are possible.”

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25 Responses to “Statement of the USCCB on HHS Mandate”

  1. Tom Kuipers says:

    I applaud you for leading the USCCB to stand up to this injustice. God’s law or Obama’s law? The choice is easy, and we will continue to strongly support you in prayer and in deed until this is fixed.

  2. Gail Finke says:

    Keep up the good fight, Cardinal Dolan!!

  3. Irwin says:

    Keep up the FIGHT!!! We are with you!!!

  4. Dan Driscoll says:

    Your Excellency,

    Give no quarter on this issue. We are on the side of truth and justice.

    Dan Driscoll

  5. Anne says:

    What a terrific letter! It was utterly logical and demolishes the arguments of the pro-abortion activists. The people in the pews are with you…God bless!

  6. Rachel says:

    Where you lead, we will follow. This must be stopped. I’ve heard that Satan finally always overplays his hand. This evil is so blatant, so based on lies, it must be from Satan. This must be the end. Thank you, Your Eminence, for leading this fight.

  7. Thomas says:

    It’s wonderful to see Catholic bishops upholding Catholic teaching at any time but especially in the midst of hostility. I hope you all continue to remain strong and unbending. But why is Sister Carol Keehan allowed to remain in charge of the hospitals? She, along with the priests at Notre Dame and the majority of todays Jesuits, to name a few, are a scandal. Why are “Catholic” nuns and priests who openly defy Cgurch teaching not dispilined and allowed to continue spreading their errors and causing scandal. If they don’t agree with Church teaching they should leave the convent and the priesthood. As a Roman Catholic I do not think it is too much to demand that priests and nuns obey Church teaching, but nothing is done when they don’t. Why? Everyone who works at a job for a living and was as divissive as Sr. Keehan of the Jesuits would have been fired long ago.

  8. K. Sundaram says:

    Excellent and strong statement. We can all have our opinions on how to make health care accessible (I don’t like the government approach) but this is the issue of religious freedom in America. This unified voice will help to reverse the harms such as what was done by the courts in California that forced mandates on Catholic Charities. Hopefully, that gets swept away with this.

  9. Pat Turner says:

    I appreciate what is being said in the Bishop’s statement. I am behind them and praying for their courage and faithfulness. i read another article that I find discouraging, which I will insert. Who is behind this interpretation?
    http://health.yahoo.net/news/s/nm/bishops-consider-focus-in-birth-control-fight#.T2FY3YColt8.email Please, please do not make any exceptions. Exceptions have been used in the past, with the best of intentions. That cannot work – probably because God’s laws do not make exceptions. Give it to us straight and I and many others will speak loudly as the voice of the people. Remember, it has been scientifically proven when “life begins!” Even the unchurched will understand. We cannot be a part of killing the unborn and we cannot be a part of denying God, who gave us His only begotten Son to lead us to Heaven.
    Respectfully for God and Life,
    Pat Turner
    Wichita, KS

    I read another article that upsets me.

  10. Mark Krajewski says:

    To Cardinal Dolan and all our Bishops – thank you for your continuing leadership.

    And I wish to offer, Easter will soon be here and at that time, many of the once and twice a year Catholics will attend Mass. This is a wonderful opportunity for the Church to engage Catholics not fully informed on the HHS mandate who primarily have received this information from the secular mass media. I encourage the Bishops to provide a quality informational pamphlet or CD which clearly explains this topic, and to place it in the hands of each adult that exits a Catholic Church after the Easter Masses.

    For the same reason I’ve stated above, it is also a wonderful opportunity to fulfill the New Evangelization also by distributing some quality Christian and Catholic products and/or Religious information following the Easter Masses. Again for the benefit of Catholics who do not regularly attend Mass.

  11. I fully support the stand taken by our Bishops in this attack on our liberty. When the 2,000 page Obamacare bill was rushed through, I suspected that those opposed to our precious freedom would take the opportunity to weaken it. Now we have a chance to fight to protect our beloved system. I will pay close attention to which politicians support us.

  12. AndyP/Doria2 says:

    I say again Your Eminence. This is a wonderful teaching moment. We can use the vast resources and experience of the USCCB to explain to our people WHY contraception is evil. We have a half century of history and many statistics that show the evil of contraception.

    These statistics are recorded and indisputably show how Pope Paul VI was prophetic in his prognostications of the future. Everything he said came true.

    I’m sure we have some bean counters on the rolls who can enumerate these truths and present them to the faithful. This would be huge. Catholics can be made to see the results of the contraceptive menatality that has overtaken this nation.

    Imagine this information being spoken in every pulpit in America and the world for that matter, where America is now exporting this plague.

  13. Eric Pinola says:

    AMEN!! Our government shall step back from this mistake, apologize for such a critical error of judgement, and implement a full reversal of this injustice. The crooked buggers in the White House need to be replaced along with both sides of the House and Senate.

  14. Garrett A. Martin says:

    My humble suggestion to Cardinal Dolan and the Bishops:

    Government solutions to personal and social problems are very transient over time. Man and his governments will always betray Jesus and His Church. This is, after all, the reason Jesus came down from Heaven as the perfect sacrifice for the salvation of souls. Clearly, it is better for us to focus on God, advocate adherence to His commandments and work tirelessly for the salvation of souls. You see, it is only through Him that you can obtain eternal happiness. Trust in God, not man, in all things.

    My suggestion to the Cardinal is to consider the use of prayer, including Benediction, at the parish level nationwide to petition Jesus for His intervention to protect us from the attacks of secularism and their design for our religious eradication. This will focus the parishioners on the problem, get them directly involved and teach them the power of prayer. Clearly this is vitally important for the Church. It is the right thing to do!

    Also, a national campaign to pray the Rosary daily, particularly to Our Lady of Fatima, will greatly help too. I am sure of that!

  15. terry hagy says:

    WE NEEDED A MAN LIKE YOU! GOD BLESS!
    Now it must be said: Time for our Abortion President to:
    WALK THE PLANK! NO EXCUSES! JUST WALK IT!

  16. I fully support the Bishops in their Defense of Religious Freedom. I am disappointed that they don’t have the same regard for the individual citizen’s personal liberty, regardless of religious beliefs. This mandate that the USCCB supports, if a “Conscience Clause Exemption” is included, still violates our individual liberty. It supports a totalitarian imposition on all citizens. To seek affordable health care access is a good thing. To do so at the cost of individual freedom is not a good thing. The Good Samaritan didn’t delegate or impose on anyone. He acted of his own free will. Let us follow his good example, and do the same freely.

  17. Mary Y. Dilworth says:

    It irks me no end when some say we are thrusting our beliefs on society by challenging the imposition of this mandate. Look at whose MANDATE it is…the government’s, not the Church’s!
    The smokescreen of “women’s health” is odious. The totally secular society wants employers and/or insurance companies to provide the free exercise of sexual activities without the consequence of participating in the procreation of a child.
    The church in NOT attempting to ban contraceptives which are readily available. The church is standing up for the proper enforcement of the First Amendment which guarantees the free exercise of religion. But this Administration is violating that by requiring employers to violate their long-held beliefs and pay a heavy penalty if they resist.
    It appears the alternative is to rely on the Supreme Court and to pray they do not make so grievous mistake as they have in the past.
    Also we must pray for those misguided supporters of the mandate whose evident gain is the almighty dollar but at the terrible expense of the citizens of the U.S.

  18. Don Barnett says:

    If this goes to court, the Bishops will win. Just two weeks before the HHS mandate, the Supreme Court overturned a federal lawsuit against a religious school on First Amendment grounds. The decision was unanimous. Associate Justices Alito and Kagen opined:

    “To safeguard this crucial autonomy, we have long recognized that the Religion Clauses protect a private sphere within which religious bodies are free to govern themselves in accordance with their own beliefs. The Constitution guarantees religious bodies “independence from secular control or manipulation—in short, power to decide for themselves, free from state interference, mat¬ters of church government as well as those of faith and doctrine.”

  19. Rene says:

    Bravo for the US Catholic Bishops! Finally, they show they are willing to confront the secular culture! The Catholic Church in the US, however, faces a big problem, it is a house divided, and we know what Jesus said about a house divided. The progressives, who have used the hermeneutics of rupture to interpret Vatican II (the Spirit of Vatican II), oppose the bishops. The CHA, the Jesuit Colleges, the LCWR and others oppose the bishops. Sadly, they are not a minor and powerless segment within the Church. Distressfully, they have been tolerated for far too long. Now we see the US Church reaping what it sowed by tolerating dissent for too long. Let’s pray that the bishops succeed.

  20. Chris says:

    It has become clear that the Bishops and the Cardinal care more about saving face the political power than the healthcare of their employees. This statement and others from the do not show leadership, it only shows that the Catholic Church rather dig in its heels in a political fight against the right of workers and women. The Bishops are for the most part standing alone, the American Catholics are leaving and other Catholic leaders from hospitals and universities are openingly ignoring your pig head stance. The Bishops need to understand that the laity are not mindless sheep. The Bishops are going to either learn that that they must also listen to their flocks or their flocks will abandon these old men.

  21. David Tommy says:

    If the Catholic Church is serious about this matter, it should excommunicate Pelosi and Sebelius immediately.

  22. Jody Geoghegan says:

    Dear Cardinal Tim, This issue has nothing to do with religious freedom. Decent practising and long contributing Catholic women have been appalled by the abuse and cover up scandals by your clergy against our Catholic children, and so badly handled by you and your episcopal fraternity. Statistics show that over ninenty percent of Catholic families use contraception to control the nonsensical expansion of families to an unmanagable and unsupportable degree. In today’s modern and enlightened society of families in order that they may do the necessary for the children they have already parented. The harsh policy defined by the Roman Curia in 1968 was a grave mistake. Catholics worldwide have been using birth control for two generations since then.

    Bringing this issue up in an election year is meddlesome to say the least, and political interferance by your hierarchy hypocritical. You want the government to give church privilage by exempting it from providing healthcare except on your terms while you while you criticise the universal care plan over which an election is being fought. How about you ” render unto Caesar the things that are Caesars and render unto God the things that are Gods”, and let our President get on with his good work. The church has been given a compromise. Surely you have enough on your hands to clean up the corruption within your abuse riven institution before you go fingerwagging at the nation (see Huffington Post Fri Mar 16). Besides, the contraception issue was decided by practising Catholic women in this country two generations ago.

    Have a very happy St. Patrick’s Day, Cardinal Tim

  23. Cindy Brown says:

    Thank you Cardinal Dolan for your wisdom, strength, and courage in the face of this great evil and attack by the federal govt on religious freedom and the Catholic Church. We love you and are praying for you and all the bishops, down here in NC! God bless and keep you! :)

  24. CatholicMom says:

    @ Chris,

    That is not how it works…the sheep do not direct the Shepherd. We know who were are and we know Who our leader is…Jesus Christ…and His anointed leaders here on earth.

    You are the one oinking up the wrong path.

  25. Ralph Bak says:

    Like so many other Catholics, I have been closely following the HHS-USCCB controversy almost since its inceptiion. Emphasizing the Religious Freedom aspect of this issue is obscuring the fundamental moral issues involved: the mandate “Thou shalt not kill” and its corollary “Thou shalt not use a hired assasin”, the Insurance Companies, to do the same in your name or on your behalf!
    An additional issue, in the health field, is becoming clearer: contraceptives are not conducive to women’s health! But, as recent research is demonstrating, are contributing to an increasee in breast cancer rates among women! (cf. article in LA toimes Thursday March 15, 2012 A9 ‘C admium etc.)
    Hoping the courts will favorably settle this “religious liberty” controversy may be illusory. It disregards a graver cocern lay catholics have about the Hierarchy looking the other way when Catholic politicians look the other way and vote contrary to the Church’s teachings!