The recent federal mandate through the Department of Health and Human Services requiring religious entities/employers/institutions (that includes Catholic organizations such as hospitals, universities, charities, etc) to provide contraceptives, sterilization/abortifacients causing drugs to employees in the health insurance, no surprise created a lot of stir and caused huge backlash among Catholics and flooded the media outlets and blogosphere with sharp criticisms from across the Catholic spectrum.
Statement from Most Rev. Gerald F. Kicanas, Bishop of Tucson to all the parishes in the Diocese
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services decided recently not to exempt religious affiliated education and social services agencies and hospitals from requirements to provide contraception, abortifacients and sterilization in health insurance plans for employees. This decision has led to justifiable concern from within our Church and from many segments of our society.
In the time since that decision, I have communicated publicly why this decision is wrong and how it endangers our rights to act in accord with our consciences and our religious beliefs.
Allow me again to express my concern and why it is important that we, as people of faith, must respond.
Historically in our nation, we have recognized as rights that religions may freely teach, preach, and act on what is believed. Our Catholic Church has taught, has preached, and has acted on what we believe. As individual Catholics, we have been free to act on what our Church teaches and preaches.
Now, in an unprecedented intrusion into the rights of religion, an agency of our Federal Government, with the support of the present Administration, has mandated that while religions are free to teach and preach what they believe there is now a mandate that affects their freedom to act on what they believe in certain circumstances.
How does this affect our Church?
Our Church teaches and preaches care and compassion for the littlest and weakest among us. Catholic Charities throughout our nation – the largest network of social services in our nation – acts on what our Church teaches and preaches, serving millions of persons, regardless of race, creed, or religion.
Our Church teaches and preaches that medical care and health services are basic human rights and that it is a duty and a responsibility for our Church to provide those human rights. Our Catholic hospitals and Catholic affiliated hospitals act on what the Church teaches and preaches, serving millions of persons, regardless of race, creed, or religion.
Our Church teaches and preaches the responsibility to hand on the faith to our children and that education is essential to human development. Catholic colleges and universities act on what the Church teaches and preaches, providing a quality education based on the values of our faith to millions of students.
The Department of Health and Human Services, for reasons that are not clear, has decided that our Catholic Charities, our Catholic hospitals, and our Catholic institutions of higher education – essential ministries of our Church – may, in some circumstances, no longer uphold what the Church teaches regarding the sanctity and dignity of all human life from conception to natural death.
Furthermore, this decision would require the administrators and staff of those ministries to act against their consciences that are formed by what our Church teaches. This decision puts our Church in an impossible situation.
Being faithful to what our Church teaches and preaches is at the heart of our Church’s actions and at the heart of the Catholic identity of each of these ministries.
Our Church’s acts of care and compassion, of handing on the faith, and of human development through education are motivated by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that compels us to cherish, preserve, and uphold the sanctity and dignity of all human life.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is exploring how best to respond to this situation, including the possibility of litigation and advocacy for legislative action.
It would be important for the Church to continue to communicate with the Administration on the importance of this matter to us and that this mandate seriously jeopardizes the good work being done by the Church throughout our country and across the world.
What can you do about this situation?
You can be informed, you can speak out, and you can pray.
Please visit the Web site of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at http://www.usccb.org. There are many resources there that will explain why our Church is so concerned about this situation. You will see that it is not just our Church that is opposing this decision.
Also at that Web site, there is an opportunity for you to directly communicate to our elected representatives in Congress and to the Administration your concern about and your opposition to the decision.
Pray. Pray that this decision, which is an unprecedented aberration from the historic and traditional respect that our Federal government has had for religious liberty and the rights of conscience, will be rescinded.