Bishop Zubik and HHS Mandate

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Checking the facts on HHS mandate

Myths are rampant about how Catholics will be affected


Catholic News Service

 WASHINGTON — Exaggerations and outright misrepresentations about the Department of Health and Human Services' contraceptive mandate have been appearing in White House "fact sheets" and mainstream media. Here are some of the more frequently cited claims and the facts to counter them:

 Myth: Self-insurance is a seldom-used method of providing health insurance to employers, used mainly by church organizations to avoid having to pay for abortions or birth control.

 Fact: A majority of Americans who have private health insurance are in self-insured plans, according to separate reports by the Congressional Research Service and the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research & Educational Trust. The percentage was 44 percent in 1999, 55 percent in 2008 and had increased to 60 percent by 2011.

 Employees in large companies (those with 200 or more employees) were even more likely to be covered by a self-insured plan. Eighty-two percent of workers at large firms — and 96 percent of those who work for a company with 5,000 or more workers — were in a self-insured health plan.

 There is no precise count of how many of the employees working for Catholic organizations or institutions are in self-insured plans, but the number is believed to mirror that of the general population.

 (All of the Latin-rite dioceses of Pennsylvania, except the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, are self-insured. Included in the Diocese of Pittsburgh's self-insured plan are employees in many church-related institutions, such as parishes and schools, Pittsburgh Catholic Publishing Associates Inc. and the Catholic Cemeteries Association.)  

 Myth: Twenty-eight states already require employers to cover contraceptives for their employees, so the situation in those states will not change.

 Fact: Self-insured plans are excluded from state contraceptive mandates, but not from federal requirements. In addition, all but three states — California, New York and Oregon — include a broader religious exemption than the HHS one, which sets four criteria for an exemption: that an employer's purpose is to inculcate religious values, that it primarily hires and serves people who share its religious tenets, and that it is a nonprofit organization under certain sections of the tax code.

 Twelve states do not require that the organization's purpose be the inculcation of religious values, 12 do not mention a requirement to hire people who share the organization's religious tenets and 13 states have no requirement that the exempt organization serve only those who share its religious tenets. Sixteen states do not mandate that the exempt organization meet the tax code criteria.

 Eight states exempt virtually any religious employer with moral objections to providing coverage of contraceptives to its employees. Illinois and Missouri extend that exemption to nonreligious employers who object.

 Other states have passed laws that do not define what constitutes a religious organization or have declined to enforce existing laws.

 Myth: Adding contraceptive coverage to health plans will be net cost-neutral because those covered by the mandate will have fewer unintended pregnancies.

 Fact: Pharmacy directors disagree. An online survey by New Jersey-based Reimbursement Intelligence of 15 pharmacy directors representing more than 100 million employees or their dependents found that nearly 50 percent thought the mandate would increase costs, 20 percent thought it would be cost-neutral and none predicted that it would save money. More than 30 percent said they didn't know what the effect would be.

 Several respondents also raised the question of whether the mandate to provide contraceptives free of charge would require them to give away brand-name medications, even when generics are available.

 In addition, the assumption that greater contraceptive use results in fewer pregnancies and fewer abortions has not been proved. A 2003 study in the journal International Family Planning Perspectives purported to show such a link, but found that levels of abortion and contraceptive use rose simultaneously in Cuba, Denmark, Netherlands, the United States, Singapore and South Korea. Abortions went down as contraceptive use increased in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Uzbekistan, Bulgaria, Turkey, Tunisia and Switzerland, the study found.

 Myth: Ninety-eight percent of Catholic women have used contraceptives.

 Fact: The figure comes from an April 2011 Guttmacher Institute report based on the 2006-2008 National Survey of Family Growth. Twenty-five percent of the respondents to the survey self-identified as Catholics, but 40 percent of those said they never attended Mass or attended less frequently than once a month.

 The survey looked at women between the ages of 15 and 44 and asked about contraceptive use only among those who had had sex in the three months prior to the survey and were not pregnant, postpartum or trying to get pregnant. Ninety percent of those women — and 98 percent of the Catholic respondents — said they had used some form of contraception at least once in their lives.

The survey did not ask the women about their current contraceptive usage.

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Bishop Zubik's Letter Regarding HHS Accommodation

My dear Sisters and Brothers of the Church of Pittsburgh:

On Ash Wednesday, before receiving the ashes in the Sign of the Cross, the sign of our salvation, we hear from Jesus Himself in the Gospel of Matthew that we are called to be a people of prayer, fasting and good works. It is certainly my personal hope that I can be faithful to these three disciplines during the Season of Lent so that by the time the great feast of Easter is here, I might be holier. I know that you, too, have these same sacred hopes.

This season of Lent promises to be different than many others in more recent memory. As we wear the cross on our foreheads, we bear the cross in our hearts as we are coming to realize that the increased secularization of our culture is now creeping into the sphere of our own religious liberty: namely, the government assuming the right to tell religions what we can or cannot do, or what we must or must not do. The current threat, under the title of “preventive services mandate,” demands that all health insurance policies will cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-causing drugs, regardless of religious beliefs or teachings. On Friday, February 10, 2012, President Obama announced an “accommodation” to an earlier ruling on this matter. His “accommodation” says that no religion will be forced to pay directly for services that go against its teachings. Rather, insurance companies will be mandated to provide these services. Once again, regardless of who pays for the services, the “accommodation” still mandates that a religious organization that grants health benefits to employees must offer services which go against its basic teachings.

This “accommodation” is simply smoke and mirrors. It changes absolutely nothing from the original mandate issued by the Department of Health and Human Services this past August, perhaps even strengthening it.

Let me be perfectly clear. No matter what you have heard from or read in the secular media, as vital as these moral imperatives are, the issue at hand is not about contraception, sterilization or abortion-causing drugs. Nor is it as some suggest a matter of “a woman’s right  to choose” or “a man’s choice to dominate.” Nor is it a matter of surveys noting how many people do or don’t use contraception, sterilization or abortion-producing drugs. It is about the right to religious freedom. It is about protecting the right to religious liberty granted to us by the First Amendment of our Constitution. Once again, this mandate is about religious liberty.

This mandate is about the government forcing its beliefs over and above the beliefs of any religious organization.

In this instance, the issue appears most strikingly to be against Catholics.

  • Perhaps next year, it might be against our Jewish sisters and brothers.

  • Perhaps the year after that, the assault might be on our Muslim sisters and brothers.

  • Perhaps the year after that, on our Protestant sisters and brothers.

I hope you get the picture.

The overriding issue is that, under the guise of the “preventive services mandate,” the government is ignoring the First Amendment of the Constitution in our Bill of Rights, which not only protects worship but the free exercise of one’s religious convictions. The First Amendment of the Constitution highlights the proper role of any religious institution—not the government—to define its own identity, beliefs and ministry.

The current battle being played out on the public scene is not a matter of politics, ideology or the agenda of a president and his administration. To the contrary, it is an essential battle in defense of religious liberty. It is imperative that you and I defend that right to our religious beliefs and practices as we are entitled by our Constitution. This public battle also now is being waged by many in the legal profession and in the houses of Congress.

In addition to our pleas to the President and his administration, we need to continue to press our legislators to pass legislation that respects and recognizes religious freedom. Once again, I urge you to contact our federal legislators. Share with them that you, like myself, see through the intent of the recently announced “accommodation,” which is a continued attempt to violate and infringe on the religious rights of all.

As I began this letter with you, I highlighted the importance of fasting. The kind of threat to our religious liberty which we now face can only be defeated by the very power of God. Toward that end, I ask that you consider offering some particular form of fasting to end this threat to the religious liberty of all in our country—not only Catholics, but other Christians as well; not only Christians, but non-Christians as well. It is important for us to remember that real fasting, as uncomfortable as it may be for many of us, has as its direct intention the sharpening of our senses to both the very presence of God and His will for us. It is my firm belief that this spiritual exercise of fasting will become the most powerful protest against the current insult to religion and the current assault on religious liberty.

As I encourage you to do so, I also thank you for all that we can do together as a Church to defend, maintain and uphold our God-given right for religious freedom, up until now protected by our own government.

Grateful, especially at this dangerous juncture, for our belief that “Nothing is Impossible with God,” I am

                                                                   Your brother in Christ,




                                                                   Most Reverend David A. Zubik

                                                                   Bishop of Pittsburgh


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Bishop Zubik on 'don't ask, don't tell' for churches

The Obama administration's 'accommodation' on birth control is nothing more than Razzle Dazzle, says Bishop DAVID ZUBIK

Sunday, February 19, 2012 - Article appeared in Pittsburgh Post Gazette

In the musical "Chicago," the sleazy lawyer Billy Flynn is telling Roxie why she shouldn't be nervous about her murder trial. In the song "Razzle Dazzle" he explains his legal strategy for making the unbelievable believable:

Give 'em the old Razzle Dazzle,

Razzle Dazzle 'em.

Give 'em a show that's so splendiferous ...

Row after row will crow vociferous ...

How can they hear the truth above the roar?

Religion in the United States recently got the Razzle Dazzle treatment. On Friday afternoon of Feb. 10, the White House suddenly announced an "accommodation" on the Health and Human Services mandate regarding birth control that had just been reaffirmed in January.

The response to that January reaffirmation was a firestorm of criticism from not only the Catholic Church, but other faith communities, believers and non-believers alike. It crossed all religious, civil and political perspectives. This mandate was a violation of religious freedom and freedom of conscience as enshrined in the First Amendment.

Then came the Razzle Dazzle, what the song calls the "flim flam flummox": the "accommodation" announced Feb. 10. This "accommodation" dictates that the health insurance carrier of a non-exempt religious institution will provide these services directly to employees -- as though the religious institution wouldn't know that it is paying for them in its monthly insurance bill. We just play pretend. Kind of a government-enforced "Don't ask, don't tell" -- church style.

Well, here's the news about the alleged "accommodation": the mandate still does exactly what it intended and demands the exact same violation of conscience for Catholic and other religious institutions. The announcement -- despite the old Razzle Dazzle -- served only to confirm that the mandate applies to religious institutions exactly as initially proposed, except for extending the enforcement date by 12 months.

Bottom line: There is no exemption for religious institutions that either serve or employ people not of their faith persuasion.

For Catholics, add to that bottom line: The church's non-exempt institutions (hospitals, social service agencies, universities and perhaps many more) must provide access to "free" birth control, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs through their health insurance coverage for those employees who want it. Or is the church to opt out of providing any health insurance coverage whatsoever, since even self-insured church entities are required to meet the mandate?

I thought that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 was to insure that more citizens have health care, not fewer!

With the Razzle Dazzle in full-throat, it is becoming difficult to "hear the truth above the roar." We are buried under reams of irrelevant noise from the same old tired voices excoriating the church's views on birth control, inflated and conflated statistics on birth control use or silly inventions about what a priest allegedly said in the confessional 30, 40 or 50 years ago.

The issue at hand is not whether Catholic Church teaching on birth control and sterilization is right or wrong in the secular mind. The issue is a religious institution's right to its belief and the right not to have a contrary belief forced on it by government mandate.

In this instance, the issue appears most strikingly to be against Catholics.

Perhaps next year, it might be against our Jewish sisters and brothers.

Perhaps the year after that, the assault might be on our Muslim sisters and brothers.

Perhaps the year after that, on our Protestant sisters and brothers.

The issue at hand is not how many Catholics or non-Catholics embrace or reject that teaching. The issue is that, simply because a majority of the population rejects a perfectly legal religious belief, it does not mean that the government has the right to force that minority to conform to the majority. If it were true that a majority of U.S. citizens cheat on their income tax forms, would the government mandate that everyone do so? I doubt it!

The issue at hand is certainly not the Catholic Church imposing its will on the government or asking government aid in imposing its will. That Razzle Dazzle gets it exactly backwards. There is no imposition -- no government interference -- on those who want to use birth control. Instead, the government is imposing its beliefs about birth control on the church.

As vital as these moral imperatives are, the issue is not birth control, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs. All that Razzle Dazzle has nothing to do with one simple fact, one simple truth:

This mandate strikes at the very heart of who we are and who we are meant to serve as religious institutions. It strikes at the very heart of every reasonable American's concept of religious freedom and the separation of church and state.

This is not a political fight or political partisanship on my part. To the contrary, I didn't pick this fight. Religious leaders didn't pick this fight. The clergy and congregations did not pick this fight. We had this fight forced on us without cause last August. No law was passed; no court decision rendered. Was this really a dictate of one person in charge of the Department for Health and Human Services?

But no matter the source, we must protect our religious freedom, our religious rights, our religious liberty.

In addition to the intervention of the courts, another possible solution to the threat that this mandate poses for religious liberty is for Congress to pass legislation that respects and recognizes religious freedom. Such legislation is already before our Congress.

I urge you to contact your federal legislators. Encourage them to see that this sham "accommodation" is nothing more than Razzle Dazzle, a "flim flam flummox," a continued attempt to marginalize religious freedom -- or eliminate it all together! 

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Decision unchanged on HHS exemptions 

Hed: Checking the Air Outside

By Bishop David A. Zubik

I have a friend who smokes. Like most smokers I know, he’s not very proud of it. Whenever he has to have a cigarette, he excuses himself by saying that he is going to be “checking the air outside” for a few minutes. I hope and pray that the day will come soon when he manages to quit. But in the meantime, I live with his euphemism about “checking the air outside.”

In last week’s “Bridging the Gap” column (“To Hell with You” 1/27/12), I wrote about the Obama Administration’s decision to require by August 2013 that all individual and group health insurance plans cover and subsidize contraception, sterilization procedures and pharmaceuticals that even result in abortion. Shortly after the column appeared on our diocesan website, I was inundated with e-mails, phone calls and requests for interviews. I read them all, talked to as many as I could, responded to every interview. It was my way of “checking the air outside” to find out what people had to say.

This mandate from the Department of Health and Human Services would apply to every employer—including non-profits; including the Catholic Church in its hospitals, universities, colleges, nursing homes, and social service agencies. My response was that, in attempting to force this through by mandate, the Obama Administration was essentially saying “to hell with you,” particularly to the Catholic community by dismissing our beliefs, our religious freedom and our freedom of conscience. We—and every employer and employee—are being told not only to violate our beliefs, but to pay directly for that violation and help to subsidize the imposition of a contraceptive and abortion culture on every person in the United States. I was gratified by so much support, not for me personally, but for the support of the Catholic position on the issue by Catholics and non-Catholics alike. I’d like to express my appreciation to all who wrote and to our local media that gave this, for the most part, very fair coverage. I thank them for allowing me time for “checking the air outside” on this vital issue.

I also had the opportunity for “checking the air outside” with those who disagreed with me. I found that their complaints essentially centered on the following few issues:

  • 1. “They didn’t like the language.” Some people thought I was saying “to hell with the president.” I was not! I never would do that! I have too much respect for the office of the president to ever make such a statement. What I was saying was that the decision to retain this mandate was a complete and total dismissal of people of faith, of our freedom as Catholics and the rights of all citizens of faith to practice their faith without imposing on them immoral conditions. You and I, who wrote so many letters to the Obama administration this past fall, made that position clear. The Obama Administration effectively responded, “to hell with you.” They dismissed us. They dismissed people of all faiths. If some thought that the very use of that phrase was not appropriate for a bishop, all I can say is that’s what it felt like—to me and to many others. The mandate was presented as a bureaucratic fiat without appeal for which we have a year to knuckle under. If that isn’t saying “to hell with you,” I don’t know what does.
  • 2. “Some Catholics use artificial birth control, so what’s the complaint?” The issue of artificial birth control use and abortion-causing drugs are a matter of serious concern to us as the Catholic Church. But what is also at stake is freedom of religion. The issue is the government imposing on the Church that which directly contradicts the teaching of the Church. The issue is the taking away from the citizens of our country our constitutional right to religious liberty. The issue is forcing every employer—those of religion and those of no religion—to pay for this mandated coverage of contraception, sterilization and abortion-causing drugs, no matter the dictates of their conscience. The issue is the right of the Church to be able to live its beliefs without contrary beliefs and practices being imposed by departments of the federal government.
  • 3. “The Church shouldn’t get involved in politics.” For as long as our government has existed, we as citizens have had the right—and responsibility—to speak out on the issues of the day, inclusive of churches, people of faith. Churches were never required by the Constitution to be irrelevant, required to be silent, required by government fiat to engage in activities they consider immoral. This isn’t “politics.” It is an issue of fundamental human freedom, fundamental religious freedom, guaranteed and protected by the First Amendment of our nation’s Constitution.
  • 4. “The Church doesn’t care about women’s health.” I think that is when my head nearly exploded. The truth be told, the Catholic Church throughout this country virtually created health care in the United States. In Pittsburgh, the first hospital, Mercy Hospital, was opened under Church auspices within a year of the founding of our diocese and long before the government responded. The Church’s health care ministry was built primarily by Catholic women and has served women of all faiths and no faith from its inception. What we don’t do, can’t do, won’t do is consider pregnancy a disease equivalent to the flu. Or to be “cured” by death.
  • 5. “This is what happens when Catholic institutions ‘take’ federal money.” This mandate has nothing to do with the Church “taking” federal money. Rather, this mandate is about Church money, the money of citizens, being used against their will, against their conscience, against their beliefs. This mandate is being imposed on everyone—on every employer, even if they have never taken a dime of government funds. Everyone—Catholics and non-Catholics, believers and nonbelievers alike—will be forced to pay for this as an employer or as an employee, and sometimes through their free-will contributions to the Church and Catholic social service agencies. In particular, this mandate will be imposed on us as Catholics and bought and paid for by us as Catholics.
  • 6. “This seems like the Church is just trying to impose its morality on everyone else.” No way! Rather, this is the president and his administration, the government trying to impose its morality, or lack thereof, on the Church and the rest of society through bureaucratic fiat and government intrusion on religious freedom. This action tramples on everybody’s rights!

This issue cannot be ignored, shelved, put on the back burner, or lose our fervor. You and I, and people of all faiths, are not going to, nor can we, spend the next year figuring out how to violate our consciences. We must fight this together. The thought struck me since writing to you last week that, in addition to writing our leaders, our president and our federal representatives to protest this mandate, we should also place telephone calls to their respective offices. Their numbers are listed on this page. In so doing, you and I charge them, like the friend of my opening story, to “check the air outside.” We need to challenge them, our federal leaders, not to dismiss us but to listen to us, i.e., to “check the air outside” of their mindset, and to respect us—as Catholics and non-Catholics; as believers and nonbelievers; as citizens; as women and men—who have the right guaranteed by our ancestors in this country and by our Constitution to religious liberty. Thank you for all you are doing. And please remember with this issue—and every issue we face—to be grateful that “Nothing is impossible with God."

Contact your political leaders

President Barack Obama, 202-456-1111.

U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire, 202-225-2565.

U.S. Rep. Mark Critz, 202-225-2065.

U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, 202-225-2135.

U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, 202-225-5406.

U.S. Rep. Timothy Murphy, 202-225-2301.

U.S. Sen. Robert Casey Jr., 202-224-6324.

U.S. Sen. Patrick Toomey, 202-224-4254.

Sign up today for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference’s Legislative Advocacy Network at

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HHS Edict Will Force Catholics to Violate Conscience

‘To Hell With You’

By Bishop David A. Zubik

It is really hard to believe that it happened. It comes like a slap in the face. The Obama administration has just told the Catholics of the United States, “To Hell with you!” There is no other way to put it.

In early August, the Department for Health and Human Services in the Obama administration released guidelines as part of the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The guidelines mandated that by Summer 2012 all individual and group health insurance plans, including self-insured plans, cover all FDA-approved contraception, sterilization procedures and pharmaceuticals that even result in abortion.

 A million things are wrong with this: equating pregnancy with disease;  mandating that every employer pay for contraception procedures including alleged contraceptives that are actually abortion-inducing drugs; forcing American citizens to chose between violating their consciences or providing health care services; mandating such coverage on every individual woman without allowing her to even choose not to have it; forcing every person to pay for that coverage no matter the dictates of their conscience.

Let’s be blunt. This whole process of mandating these guidelines undermines the democratic process itself.  In this instance, the mandate declares pregnancy a disease, forces a culture of contraception and abortion on society, all while completely bypassing the legislative process.

This is government by fiat that attacks the rights of everyone – not only Catholics; not only people of all religion.  At no other time in memory or history has there been such a governmental intrusion on freedom not only with regard to religion, but even across-the-board with all citizens. It forces every employer to subsidize an ideology or pay a penalty while searching for alternatives to health care coverage. It undermines the whole concept and hope for health care reform by inextricably linking it to the zealotry of pro-abortion bureaucrats.        

For our Church this mandate would apply in virtually every instance where the Catholic Church serves as an employer. The mandate would require the Catholic Church as an employer to violate its fundamental beliefs concerning human life and human dignity by forcing Catholic entities to provide contraceptive, sterilization coverage and even pharmaceuticals that result in abortion.

There was a so-called “religious exemption” to the mandate, but it was so narrowly drawn that, as critics charged, Jesus Christ and his Apostles would not fit the exemption. The so-called exemption would only apply to the vast array of Catholic institutions where the following applied:

  • Only Catholics are employed;
  • The primary purpose of the institution or service provided is the direct instruction in Catholic belief;
  • The only persons served by the institution are those that share Catholic religious tenets. (Try to fit this in with our local Catholic Charities that serve 80,000 every year without discrimination according to faith. It would be impossible!)

Practically speaking under the proposed mandate there would be no “religious exemption” for Catholic hospitals universities, colleges, nursing homes and numerous Catholic social service agencies such as Catholic Charities. It could easily be determined that the “religious exemption” would not apply as well to Catholic high schools, elementary schools and Catholic parishes since many employ non-Catholics and serve both students and, through social outreach, many who do not share Catholic religious beliefs. Such a narrow “religious exemption” is simply unprecedented in federal law.

Last September I asked you to protest those guidelines to Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services, and contact your political leadership in the federal government. I asked that you request that this flawed mandate be withdrawn because of its unprecedented interference in the religious liberty and freedom of conscience of the Catholic community, and our basic democratic process.

You did. And you were joined by Catholics throughout the country (and many others as well) who raised their voices against the mandate, raised their voices against a meaningless religious exemption.

On January 20, 2012, the Obama administration answered you and me. The response was very simple: “To Hell with You.”

Kathleen Sebelius announced that the mandate would not be withdrawn and the religious exemption would not be expanded. Instead, she stated that nonprofit groups – which include the Catholic Church – will get a year “to adapt to this new rule.” She simply dismissed Catholic concerns as standing in the way of allegedly respecting the health concerns and choices of women.

Could Catholics be insulted any more, suggesting that we have no concern for women’s health issues? The Catholic Church and the Catholic people have erected health care facilities that are recognized worldwide for their compassionate care for everyone regardless of their creed, their economic circumstances and, most certainly, their gender. In so many parts of the globe – the United States included – the Church is health care.    

 Kathleen Sebelius and through her, the Obama administration, have said “To Hell with You” to the Catholic faithful of the United States.

  • To Hell with your religious beliefs,
  • To Hell with your religious liberty,
  • To Hell with your freedom of conscience.

We’ll give you a year, they are saying, and then you have to knuckle under. As Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops responded, “in effect, the president is saying that we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences.”

As I wrote to you last September, with this mandate the democratic process is being ignored while we are being ordered to ignore our religious beliefs. And we are being told not only to violate our beliefs, but to pay directly for that violation; to subsidize the imposition of a contraceptive and abortion culture on every person in the United States.

It is time to go back to work. They have given us a year to adapt to this rule.  We can’t! We simply cannot!

Write to the president.

Write to Secretary Sebelius.

Write to our Senators.

Write to those in Congress.

Use the PA Catholic Advocacy Network to send an email message, too.

I have included the addresses in a box accompanying this article. Here’s what you can write:

"Dear (Representative):

“In early August, the Department for Health and Human Services released guidelines that would force Catholic institutions to subsidize through their health care plans contraception, sterilization procedures and pharmaceuticals that even result in abortion.

“It was announced on January 20thby Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services, that this mandate is affirmed and that non-profit institutions, including the Catholic Church, have one year to adapt to the mandate.

“This is a direct threat to the religious liberty of Catholics, freedom of conscience and the social service ministry of the Catholic Church. The so-called ‘religious exemption’ in the mandate is no exemption at all as it would require any Catholic institution (that serves non-Catholics or employs non-Catholics) to violate Catholic belief, discontinue to provide health care, or close its doors.

“I ask that you do all possible to rescind the ‘Preventive Service Mandate’ as an unprecedented federal interference in the right of Catholics to serve their community without violating their fundamental moral beliefs.”  

This mandate can be changed by Congressional pressure. The only way that action will happen is if you and I take action.

Let them know that you and I will not allow ourselves to be pushed around (or worse yet) be dismissed because of our Catholic faith.

Let them know that you and I will not allow our religious freedom to be compromised.  

Let them know that you and I will not allow our religious liberty to be rescinded.           

Nobody, not even the president of the United States or anyone who represents him, has the right to say to you and to me as U.S. citizens, as Catholics, or as both: “To Hell with You.”

The president and our elected leaders need to hear from you and me and to listen to us NOW.

And if NOT now, HOW can we get the president to listen to us???  

Contact your political leaders

President Barack Obama, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20500 (202-456-1111).

U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire, 332 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515 (202-225-2565), D-PA District 4.

U.S. Rep. Mark Critz, 1022 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515 (202-225-2065), D-PA District 12.

U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, 401 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515 (202-225-2135), D-PA District 14.

U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, 515 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515 (202-225-5406), R-PA District 3.

U.S. Rep. Timothy Murphy, 322 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515 (202-225-2301), R-PA District 18.

U.S. Sen. Robert Casey Jr., 393 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (202-224-6324), D-PA.

U.S. Sen. Patrick Toomey, 502 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (202-224-4254), R-PA. 

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HHS delays rule on contraceptive coverage

But decision unchanged on exemptions

Nancy Frazier O’Brien

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON— Although Catholic leaders vowed to fight on, the Obama administration has turned down repeated requests from Catholic bishops, hospitals, schools and charitable organizations to revise its religious exemption to the requirement that all health plans cover contraceptives and sterilization free of charge.

Instead, Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, announced Jan. 20 that nonprofit groups that do not provide contraceptive coverage because of their religious beliefs will get an additional year “to adapt to this new rule.”

“This decision was made after very careful consideration, including the important concerns some have raised about religious liberty,” Sebelius said. “I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services.”

But Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the Obama administration had “drawn an unprecedented line in the sand” with the decision.

“The Catholic bishops are committed to working with our fellow Americans to reform the law and change this unjust regulation,” he added. “We will continue to study all the implications of this troubling decision.”

U.S. Cardinal-designate Edwin O’Brien, pro-grand master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher and apostolic administrator of the Baltimore Archdiocese, called the decision “shocking and disturbing” in a Jan. 20 statement from Rome.

Saying it would force individuals and religious organizations “to surrender their beliefs — rooted in long-held Judeo-Christian tradition and practice — for the sake of political and financial expediency,” he called on Catholics “to pray for our elected officials and to work to reform this unjust regulation.”

Sebelius announced the mandate and a narrow religious exemption to it Aug. 1, 2011. Under the plan, after Aug. 1 of this year, new or significantly altered health plans will be required to provide all FDA-approved contraceptives, including some that can cause abortions, without co-pays or deductibles as part of preventive health care for women.

The only religious organizations exempt from the requirement would be those meeting four specific criteria — “(1) has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose; (2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets; (3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets; and (4) is a nonprofit organization” under specific sections of the Internal Revenue Code.

Those sections “refer to churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches, as well as to the exclusively religious activities of any religious orders,” according to a footnote to the interim final rule.

Catholic groups, including the USCCB, the Catholic Health Association and Catholic Charities USA, called that exemption too narrow, saying it would require Catholic groups to stop all services to those who were not Catholic and would inappropriately involve the government in decisions about whether an organization is “religious enough” to be exempted.

“As it stands, it is unlikely that any Catholic college or university will be exempt,” said Michael Galligan-Stierle, president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.

Sebelius’ announcement brought an outcry from Catholic leaders and a sigh of relief from groups such as Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America, which had opposed any moves to weaken the contraceptive mandate or strengthen the religious exemption.

In a video posted on the USCCB website, Cardinal-designate Dolan said the decision put the Obama administration “on the wrong side of the Constitution” and should be rescinded.

“In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences,” the cardinal-designate said in a separate statement. “To force American citizens to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their health care is literally unconscionable. It is as much an attack on access to health care as on religious freedom. Historically this represents a challenge and a compromise of our religious liberty.”

Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity who is president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, said the announcement was a “missed opportunity to be clear on appropriate conscience protection.”

“The challenge that these regulations posed for many groups remains unresolved,” she added. “This indicates the need for an effective national conversation on the appropriate conscience protections in our pluralistic country, which has always respected the role of religions.”

Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, said he was “extremely disappointed” that the administration chose to ignore calls from religious institutions to broaden the exemption.

“With the existing restrictive definition in this mandate, the ministry of Jesus Christ himself would not be considered a religious entity,” he said.

“Just as the identity of Catholic Charities is firmly rooted in the teaching of its church, the identity of this nation includes a mandated respect of religious beliefs,” Father Snyder added. “It is this long-standing history that gave us hope that as a religious institution we would be granted the freedom to remain faithful to our beliefs while also being committed to providing access to quality health care for our 70,000 employees and their families across the country.” 

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