A brou-ha-ha erupted recently over the Obama administration’s move to require all health plans to offer coverage for contraceptives, including the “morning after pill”. The policy requires this of all health plans, including those offered by Catholic universities, hospitals, dioceses, and other Church-sponsored entities.
This puts those institutions in an untenable position: they either accede to the demands of the administration, even though it goes against Church doctrine, or face severe penalties that may ultimately make continuing their missions impossible. It is common knowledge that Church explicitly deems artificial contraception, abortion, in-vitro fertilization, and other similar procedures as intrinsically immoral.
This proscription results from the teaching that human life, from its earliest moment, e.g., the moment of conception, is inherently precious beyond telling. Anything done to end that life prior to its natural conclusion is per se evil.
So, given this teaching, the Obama administration is now seeking to force Church-related institutions to violate these teachings.
This is a red herring argument. They seek to advance their misguided opinions by confusing Holy Mother Church, guided by the Supreme Wisdom of the Holy Spirit, with the imperfection of her members. The laity of the Church is composed of fallen sinners who do not live up to the expectations and guidance of God. Business Insider came up with a pretty apt analogy:
To give an analogy, it would be like the government mandating that all delis, even Kosher delis, serve pork products and then justifying it by saying that protein is healthy, and many Jews who don’t follow Kosher laws and many non-Jews go to those delis. The law wouldn’t technically ban Jews from owning delis, but it would effectively ban their ability to run them according to their conscience.
That we are all imperfect does not mean that we should simply give up and give in to whatever the prevailing public opinion of right and wrong might presently be. What it means is that we should redouble our efforts to do what is right, just, and on the path toward Righteousness, perhaps in spite of what prevailing public opinion or our base desires might otherwise say.
Last Sunday, virtually all (if not actually all) Catholic churches in the US were read a statement from their local bishops regarding this infringement on religious liberty. Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and Chair, Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops published this statement:
As shepherd of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and chair of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, I am distressed to learn that the Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate that sterilization, abortifacients and contraception be included in virtually all health plans is being upheld. This mandate gravely compromises religious liberty.
The contraceptive/sterilization mandate imposed on health plans by HHS violates religious freedom, which is guaranteed by the First Amendment and several federal laws. Forcing all employers to buy coverage for sterilization and contraceptives, including drugs that induce abortion, is a radical incursion into religious liberty and freedom of conscience.
HHS’s mandate includes an incredibly narrow exemption for “religious employers” that protects almost no one. Those who sponsor, purchase and issue health plans should not be forced to violate their deeply held moral and religious convictions in order to take part in the health care system or provide for the needs of their families, their employees or those most in need.
Today’s announcement that the mandate and its very narrow exemption will not change is deeply disappointing to me. As Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said, “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.”
I join my brother bishops, fellow Catholics and all people of goodwill who prize religious liberty as a cornerstone of our common life in expressing strong opposition to the HHS mandate.