HHS Mandate an Affront to Truth: Catholics Must Defend Religious Freedom
Joseph Jablonski, Class of 2015
January 28, 2012
Filed under Quill
Less than a week ago, Health and Human Services mandated that all institutions that provide healthcare to employees must now include coverage for contraception, sterilization and abortifacients in the healthcare plans they offer. The exception to these institutions included only houses of worship or any religious institution that caters only to people of that specific religion. The services will be paid off their own dime to employees when requested. For institutions that are against this measure, the administration is giving them one year to figure out how to “adjust.” The administration is so confident in this decision that Obama personally called Cardinal-designate Archbishop Dolan, president of the USCCB, to tell him of the mandates. That Archbishop of New York commented: “Never before has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out in the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience.”
Church leaders as well as our own University president are still trying to make sense of the situation. “This was a missed opportunity to be clear on appropriate conscience protection,” stated Sister Carol Keehan, who heads the Catholic Health Association of the United States. Before the March for Life on Monday, President Garvey said, “Catholic University must subsidize out of its pocket drugs that induce abortion. I can’t believe we have gotten to this point.” Roger Cardinal Mahoney stated, “This decision must be fought against with all the energies the Catholic Community can muster.” Archbishop Dolan puts it best: “We can’t strike out on this one.”
Something has changed in the rhetoric; we have reached the “do or die” moment for religious liberty in America. The ridiculous and unbelievable is happening. This is the university of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The bishops’ university, and thus the bishops themselves, will have to fund what they preach against. I know that Franciscan University would close its doors before accepting this mandate, and Belmont Abbey, as a result of this, is currently in a lawsuit against the government. Can you foresee the Little Sisters of the Poor paying for such services? They, as a nursing home, fail the exception. The thoughts that we all are trying to hide keep whispering, “This just can’t be happening.”
Yet it is. If Catholics don’t wake up now, we shall fail the call of truth of St. Thomas Aquinas. There are many reasons why we are Catholics, but one reason forms the basis for all of them: we are Catholic because we believe the Church’s doctrines, beliefs, and that the sacrifice of love on the altar are all true. If we allow ourselves to bend to the will of the government to define our morals and freedoms, then preaching at the pulpit is merely extra wind and the sacred dogma of our Church from Rome is nothing more than sheets of paper. The Church will dig in her heels at this issue because this will be the moment when Catholics nationally must answer this question: how true is the Catholic faith? Will the freedom to preach and practice be defended? Will the martyrs shine on our struggles? That is up to you, for the Bishops establish doctrine, but do little themselves to confirm its veracity. It is we, the believers as the Body of Christ that radiate with the truth of that saving power in the world.
To show what I mean, let me tell the story of Bishop William Lori. As Bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut, he was shepherding his flock in 2009 when his state legislature proposed an overreaching bill which would remove control of a parish’s finances from the hands of a pastor. Religious liberty was threatened, and many Catholics simply gasped in horror with words now ringing today: “This can’t be happening.” Yet how was the bill stopped? Bishop Lori showed them the Church. Over 4,000 proud, vocal Catholics, professing the truth, were present at a demonstration in front of the Connecticut capital. That man now heads the USCCB’s subcommittee on – you guessed it – religious liberty.
The Health and Human Services headquarters is two blocks north of the Federal Center Metro stop. The truth of Catholic teaching has not simply been disagreed with, but violated and stifled. Religion requires the freedom to be able to practice it. We can continue asking the same questions, or continue repeating the same shocked statements I’ve heard from all my friends at this university. Or, we can take the step we all realize is next and act as Bishop Lori and Connecticut Catholics did, and show the offices of Health and Human Services, and the whole world, the vivacity of the Church and the truth of religious freedom.