In a Pastoral Statement released yesterday, the bishops of the Arizona Catholic Conference encouraged a deeper respect for people’s freedom of conscience, especially in regards to health care and human life. The bishops requested that state and national political leaders consider the implication of legislation that imposes requirements on people that are contrary to their religious beliefs.
The Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted, Bishop of Phoenix and Apostolic Administrator of Gallup, and the Most Rev. Gerald F. Kicanas, Bishop of Tucson, stated that the right to follow one’s religious beliefs and moral convictions is being compromised and even undermined at every level of society by those who seek to legally mandate certain professionals to take actions contrary to their beliefs and values.
Though progress has been made in the protection of civil rights, “there is a growing disregard especially for health-care workers striving to exercise their God-given freedom to follow their conscience,” the bishops said.
“Arizona, like many other states, mandates that all employers providing prescription coverage to their employees must include coverage for contraceptives. This law clearly forces Catholic organizations like Catholic Charities and Catholic Hospitals to act in a way that is contrary to our moral teaching.”
The bishops also pointed to recent legislative attempts in the state to force health-care professionals and hospitals to prescribe, refer, or provide “morning after pills” (i.e. emergency contraception) that some experts say can cause an abortion in a pregnant woman. Though the attempts have failed in Arizona, the bishops warn that the pressure to deny “rights of conscience” continues to mount.
“In response to these challenges, we remain committed to supporting legislation to protect the ‘rights of conscience’ for all health-care providers, including pharmacists, especially in matters of contraceptives and abortifacients,” the bishops emphasize. “We are committed as well to oppose any measures that take away those rights.”
Concluding their statement, the bishops recommend five steps of action to help secure the freedom of conscience: 1) engaging in prayer for all those who struggle for the ability to freely exercise their right of conscience; 2) educating ourselves about the issues; 3) becoming involved politically in matters of conscience protection; 4) supporting health-care providers in matters of conscience; and 5) joining with people of other faiths and those of goodwill to find solutions.
For the full text of the statement, visit the Diocese of Phoenix.