The U.S. Catholic bishops’ chairman for religious liberty says the Obama administration’s contraception mandate tramples “the mandate of Jesus Christ” by requiring Catholic employers to choose between violating their consciences and denying services to non-Catholics.
Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., who chairs the U.S. Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, denounced the mandate in a Jan. 27 guest article in the Washington Post.
Bishop Lori warned of the “horrific” and “alarming” consequences that would come from forcing Catholic organizations to limit their services to members of their own faith in order to protect their religious liberty.
“In short, the administration is dictating that Catholic institutions and individual employers violate what America has always considered inviolable - their religious liberty and freedom of conscience,” he said.
On Jan. 20, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a finalized “preventative services” mandate requiring virtually all employers to purchase health insurance plans that cover sterilization and contraception, including drugs that cause early abortions.
Although a religious exemption to the mandate exists, religious organizations must restrict their services to primarily members of their own faith in order to qualify for it.
Therefore, Catholic hospitals, schools and social services agencies would not be exempt from the mandate, even though complying with it violates Catholic teaching.
In his guest article, Bishop Lori explained that by their nature, Catholic institutions follow their founder, Jesus Christ, by serving people “based on need, not creed.”
He noted that Catholic school educators were honored for their contributions to America at a Jan. 25 White House ceremony. In part, he said, these educators were able to make a difference because their schools are open to students of all faiths or no faith at all.
Catholic schools in the United States teach more than 300,000 non-Catholic students, he said, including up to 90 percent of students in inner-city Catholic schools and over 40 percent of students in Catholic colleges and universities around the country.
The bishop also pointed out that Catholic hospitals serve one out of six people who seek hospital care annually.
“Not all of them are Catholic, and being a Catholic has never been a requirement to receive healing care,” he said.
Bishop Lori also pointed out that Catholic Charities served the needs of more than 10 million people in America last year without distinguishing between Catholics and non-Catholics.
In order to continue their ministry without violating the tenets of their faith, these Catholic organizations and other across the country may be forced “not to feed or clothe, heal or educate practically anyone of another faith or creed,” he said.
To force this decision would be detrimental to the common good and particularly to the poor and needy of society, he warned.
Bishop Lori finished by saying that forcing Catholic organizations to choose between following Obama’s mandate and Jesus’ mandate “strikes at the very heart of the right to religious liberty on which our country was founded.”