The nation’s Catholic bishops are adding to the president’s headaches over his signature legislative achievement. They have made it clear that they have no intention of complying with the HHS mandate in ObamaCare that compels groups to pay for birth control and drugs that may cause abortions.
Via Life News:
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops today issued a “Special Message” at the conclusion of their fall General Assembly, November 13, in Baltimore. They unanimously passed the special message, which can only be issued as such meetings and strongly condemned the HHS mandate.
They said that, with its “coercive mandate,” the Obama administration “is refusing to uphold its obligation to respect the rights of religious believers.”
“Beginning in March 2012, in United for Religious Freedom, we identified three basic problems with the HHS mandate: it establishes a false architecture of religious liberty that excludes our ministries and so reduces freedom of religion to freedom of worship; it compels our ministries to participate in providing employees with abortifacient drugs and devices, sterilization, and contraception, which violates our deeply-held beliefs; and it compels our faithful people in business to act against our teachings, failing to provide them any exemption at all,” they said.
“Despite our repeated efforts to work and dialogue toward a solution, those problems remain. Not only does the mandate undermine our ministries’ ability to witness to our faith, which is their core mission, but the penalties it imposes also lay a great burden on those ministries, threatening their very ability to survive and to serve the many who rely on their care,” the bishops added.
They continued: “The current impasse is all the more frustrating because the Catholic Church has long been a leading provider of, and advocate for, accessible, life-affirming health care. We would have preferred to spend these recent past years working toward this shared goal instead of resisting this intrusion into our religious liberty. We have been forced to devote time and resources to a conflict we did not start nor seek.”
Ultimately, they promised to resist the mandate if it is not corrected or rescinded.
On Tuesday, Bishop Zubik of Pittsburgh said that he will refuse to sign a document allowing its health plan to provide birth control and abortion coverage for employees of a diocese-related charity, even if it means paying fines.
The Pittsburgh diocese and its counterpart in Erie are challenging federal health care law changes that require contraceptive and abortion coverage in employee health plans. Tuesday’s hearing was focused on whether U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab should block the government from enforcing the mandate while the dioceses pursue their lawsuits claiming the requirements violate their First Amendment right of religious freedom.
A judge dismissed a previous lawsuit the Pittsburgh diocese filed, last year, ruling that it had not been harmed by the new health care legislation. In their current lawsuit, the diocese claims that the final regulations are even worse than the previous regulations that prompted the earlier lawsuit.
The Department of Justice argues that the HHS plan to have third parties provide and pay for contraception and abortion services wouldn’t infringe on religious freedom rights — as if it’s the government’s job to make that decision for churches.
Bishop David Zubik testified that he wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he signed a form that allowed the disputed services to be provided to employees. Zubik said the church is being asked to violate an important belief and a matter of conscience.
The Rev. Scott Jabo, president of Cathedral Preparatory School in Erie, testified that even allowing a third-party company to provide the services to employees would be facilitating “a moral evil.” Jabo said that if he were to help that to happen, “I’m committing a sin.”
The final HHS regulations are slated to take effect on January 1, 2014.