Washington D.C., May 21, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Forty-three Catholic dioceses and organizations across the country have announced religious liberty lawsuits against the federal government to challenge the Obama administration’s contraception mandate.
The announcement was applauded by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, who called it “a compelling display of the unity of the Church in defense of religious liberty.”
“We have tried negotiation with the Administration and legislation with the Congress – and we’ll keep at it – but there's still no fix,” said Cardinal Dolan, who is the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“Time is running out, and our valuable ministries and fundamental rights hang in the balance, so we have to resort to the courts now,” he explained in a May 21 statement.
The bishops’ conference is not a party to the lawsuits, although several individual dioceses across the country are.
Cardinal Dolan praised the “courageous action” as “a great show of the diversity of the Church's ministries that serve the common good and that are jeopardized by the mandate.”
The lawsuits argue that a federal mandate issued by the Obama administration violates their fundamental religious liberty. The controversial mandate will require employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences.
The mandate has drawn heavy criticism from bishops in every diocese in the U.S. They warned that the regulation could force Catholic schools, hospitals and charitable agencies around the nation to close down.
At least 11 previous lawsuits have already been filed against the mandate by states, colleges, private employers and organizations throughout the U.S.
Now, 12 new lawsuits are being filed by 43 dioceses, hospitals, schools and church agencies in a dozen different jurisdictions across the country.
The Archdioceses of New York, St. Louis and Washington, D.C, are part of separate lawsuits against the measure, as are Catholic Charities organizations in several dioceses and the Catholic publishing group Our Sunday Visitor. Other dioceses filing lawsuits include, Rockville Centre, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Fort Worth, Jackson, Biloxi, Fort Wayne-South Bend, Joliet, and Springfield, Ill. -- all in their respective districts of federal court.
An editorial in “OSV Newsweekly” explained that the organization “stands proudly with our fellow Catholic apostolates and with our bishops in resisting this challenge.”
It called on readers to support the effort, knowing that “whatever sacrifices we bear and whatever challenges we endure, we are only doing what is our responsibility as American citizens practicing our faith in the public square.”
The editorial recalled the spirit of Our Sunday Visitor’s founder, Fr. John Noll, “who resisted the power of the Ku Klux Klan when it was such a powerful political force.”
It explained that “it is in his courageous spirit that we invoke as we engage in this great struggle today.”
Several Catholic universities around the country also joined in the lawsuits, including The Catholic University of America, the University of Notre Dame and Franciscan University of Steubenville.
Notre Dame president Fr. John Jenkins, C.S.C., said the lawsuit was filed “neither lightly nor gladly, but with sober determination.”
“We do not seek to impose our religious beliefs on others,” he explained in an email to Notre Dame employees.
Rather, he explained, “we simply ask that the Government not impose its values on the University when those values conflict with our religious teachings.”
According to Fr. Jenkins, the lawsuit is about “the freedom of a religious organization to live its mission, and its significance goes well beyond any debate about contraceptives.”
He cautioned that when the government decides “which religious organizations are sufficiently religious to be awarded the freedom to follow the principles that define their mission,” the nation has started down a path that could lead to “the end of genuinely religious organizations in all but name.”
Updated at 4:14 p.m. MST. Includes expanded list of plaintiffs in paragraph 11.
Madrid, Spain, May 21, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Women who are smokers and use hormonal contraceptives – whether pills, patches or rings – are at greater risk for blood clots and heart attacks, according to the Spanish Heart Federation.
A study by the University of Copenhagen published in the British Medical Journal and carried out on 9.4 million women between the ages of 15 and 49, found that users of some method of hormonal contraception are at greater risk for blood clots than women who don’t use them.
The data from the study showed that these illnesses are eight times more common among users of contraceptive patches, 6.5 times more common among users of vaginal rings, and 3 times higher among those who take oral contraceptives.
Another study also published in the British Medical Journal and carried out by the UK General Practice Research Database on women between the ages of 15 and 44 showed that blood clots are more frequent among women who take contraceptives with Drospirenone – a synthetic form of progesterone – than among those who use contraceptives containing levonorgestrel, which is an older type of synthetic progesterone.
“These studies show that the use of hormonal contraceptives is not free of secondary effects, especially when it comes to cardiovascular health,” said Almudena Castro, president of Rehabilitation and Preventive Cardiology at the Spanish Cardiology Society.
“Consequently, women should be warned of their potential risks, especially women who are at increased risk of blood clots.”
“However,” Castro added, “each individual case should be analyzed when prescribing hormonal contraceptives, as a healthy 24-year-old smoker will be different that a 40-year-old overweight smoker.”
Hormonal contraceptives are known to have the potential to cause blood clots both in veins and in arteries. They also affect lipids in the blood and increase the concentration of cholesterol and triglycerides.
Vatican City, May 21, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican says it considers the continued leaking of confidential documents, including private correspondence belonging to Pope Benedict XVI, a “criminal act” that it will seek to bring to justice.
“The latest publication of documents of the Holy See and private documents of the Holy Father can no longer be considered a questionable – and objectively defamatory – journalistic initiative, but clearly assumes the character of a criminal act,” said Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, in a statement issued to the media May 19.
“The Holy Father, but also several of his collaborators and the senders of messages directed to him, have seen their rights to personal privacy and freedom of correspondence violated,” he stated.
The Vatican statement follows the publication of a new book containing a series of leaked letter addressed personally to Pope Benedict XVI. “Sua Santita” (His Holiness) is the work of the Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi.
Last month, Pope Benedict established a special commission of three cardinals, chaired by the Spanish Cardinal Julian Herranz, to investigate the source of the internal leaks.
“The Holy See will continue to explore the different implications of these acts of violation of the privacy and dignity of the Holy Father -- as a person and as the supreme authority of the Church and Vatican City State,” Fr. Lombardi said.
He promised that the Vatican will “take appropriate steps so that the authors of the theft, those who received stolen property and those who disclosed confidential information ... answer for their acts before the law.” If necessary, the Vatican said it will request "international collaboration."
The Vatican scored a victory in the courts last week when the Italian clothing firm Benetton backed down and apologized for using an image of Pope Benedict XVI in a 2011 advertising campaign. The company had doctored a photograph to depict the Pope kissing a Muslim imam.
Journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi is no stranger to run-ins with the Vatican.
Earlier this year he also revealed confidential correspondence sent to Pope Benedict by the current Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano. In those letters, Archbishop Vigano pleaded to remain in his previous post as Secretary of the Vatican City’s government. He also claimed to be the victim of a smear campaign by those aggrieved at his reforms of the Vatican’s purchasing procedures.
Other recent Vatican leaks have centered on the Holy See’s financial body, the Institute of Works of Religion, which is currently attempting to reform its procedures to comply with international regulatory norms.
South Bend, Ind., May 21, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The University of Notre Dame filed its own lawsuit against the HHS mandate on May 21, with its president warning that the mandate’s religious freedom violations could mean “the end of genuinely religious organizations” if they are allowed to stand.
“We do not seek to impose our religious beliefs on others; we simply ask that the government not impose its values on the university when those values conflict with our religious teachings,” University of Notre Dame President Fr. John Jenkins, C.S.C., said in a May 21 letter.
The lawsuit, filed against leaders of the Obama administration in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, denies that the government has the right to “force the University of Notre Dame to violate its own conscience by making it provide, pay for, and/or facilitate those services to others, contrary to its sincerely held religious beliefs.”
“This lawsuit is about one of America’s most cherished freedoms: the freedom to practice one’s religion without government interference,” it said.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction against Department of Health and Human Services rules requiring health plans to cover sterilization and contraception, including some abortion-causing drugs, as “preventive care” for women. The mandate also requires health plans to pay for education and counseling related to those procedures and drugs.
Although the mandate has a religious exemption, it would not apply to many Catholic universities, health systems, and charities even though Catholics consider the use of these procedures and drugs to be sinful.
The exemption applies only to organizations with a primarily religious purpose which serve and employ mainly people of its own religion.
The Obama administration has proposed an accommodation to require insurance companies, rather than employers, to provide this coverage but many religious leaders say this is still morally unacceptable.
Notre Dame’s lawsuit said the mandate applies to the university’s health plans for both its employees and its students.
At least 43 Catholic dioceses and organizations filed suit against the Obama administration May 21. Notre Dame filed its lawsuit separately from the others.
The university’s lawsuit charged that the mandate and its “narrow exemption” for religious employers, is “irreconcilable” with the First Amendment, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and other laws.
“The government has not shown any compelling need to force Notre Dame to provide, pay for, and/or facilitate access to these objectionable services, or for requiring Notre Dame to submit to an intrusive governmental examination of its religious missions,” it said.
The lawsuit charges that the federal regulations substantially burden religious freedom, cause “excessive entanglement” between religion and government, and discriminate between different types of religious entities based on their religious beliefs or practices.
It also characterizes the mandate as an example of unconstitutional “compelled speech” for forcing an organization to use its money to support a viewpoint that conflicts with its religious beliefs.
Fr. Jenkins said that the lawsuit is about “the freedom of a religious organization to live its mission.”
He also questioned the Obama administration’s use of the religious exemption. He warned that if the university concedes the government’s right to decide which organizations are sufficiently religious to have a religious freedom exemption “then we have begun to walk down a path that ultimately leads to the undermining of those institutions.”
Allowing one presidential administration to “override” the university’s religious purpose will allow another administration to do the same for another different set of policies, he predicted.
This process will result in religious organizations becoming “mere tools for the exercise of government power, morally subservient to the state, and not free from its infringement.”
“If that happens, it will be the end of genuinely religious organizations in all but name,” Fr. Jenkins said.
The lawsuit echoed Fr. Jenkins’ concerns.
“If the government can force religious institutions to violate their beliefs in such a manner, there is no apparent limit to the government’s power,” it said.
Fr. Jenkins maintained that the lawsuit is not about “preventing women from having access to contraception” or about preventing the government from providing such services. He said that many Notre Dame Catholic faculty, staff and students, Catholic and non-Catholic, have made “conscientious decisions” to use contraceptives.
“As we assert the right to follow our conscience, we respect their right to follow theirs,” he said.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 21, 2012 (CNA) - German Pablo Cardoso, a well-known abortion doctor in Argentina, said that every woman who undergoes an abortion is burdened with “sorrow” and guilt.
In an interview with MDZ Radio, the 54-year-old Cardoso, who markets himself online as “Doctor Abortion,” called the procedure “a burden, a sorrow in the soul, and there is no woman who does not live with guilt.”
Cardoso was detained by Argentinean authorities in June 2011 for performing illegal abortions, but was eventually released by a judge. The doctor has been performing abortions since 2000 at a cost of $786 U.S. dollars each.
During the radio program, Cardoso said he continues to carry out abortions despite seeing its negative affects on women and has joined an advocacy group in calling for the legalization of the practice in Argentina.
He said he uses the “surgical method” of dilation and aspiration to perform abortions and that some 500,000 abortions are performed each year in the country. “Not even half of these are carried out by doctors,” he claimed.
Cardoso said his family supports him as an abortion doctor. “If we were in Europe or the United States, we would not be talking about ethics or guilt. It’s a matter of passing laws that we need.”