Catholic Charities cautious over contraception 'accommodation'

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Catholic Charities USA issued a new statement voicing uncertainty over the Obama administration's “accommodation” for religious freedom within its contraception mandate.

A second press release from the charitable organization comes as several Democratic politicians used the group's original statement on Feb. 10 to defend President Obama's new rule as a compromise that satisfies Catholics and respects religious freedom. 

In an initial statement released shortly after the new policy was announced on Feb. 10, Catholic Charities USA said that it was “deeply appreciative that the Administration has recognized the importance” of allowing religious organizations to remain faithful to their deeply held beliefs.

The organization said that the “compromise” would allow it to continue its work of serving the needs of more than 10 million people across the country each year.

Under the new “accommodation,” religious employers will not be forced to directly purchase contraceptive coverage in their employees' health care plans. Instead, they will be required to buy plans from insurance companies that offer them without cost.

But numerous individuals, organizations and members of Congress have voiced objections to the new policy. They argue that insurance companies will raise their prices to account for the “free” contraceptives, and so employers will still be indirectly paying for the products that find morally objectionable.

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) touted the “support” of Catholic Charities as a justification for the new policy in a Feb. 11 Huffington Post article, as did White House chief of staff Jack Lew on Fox News Sunday.

On Feb. 11, however, Catholic Charities issued a revised statement that takes a more hesitant approach to the new rule.     

The organization said that it welcomes the Obama administration’s “attempt to meet the concerns of the religious community” and that it is looking forward to “reviewing the final language” of the new policy.

Catholic Charities said that it is “hopeful” that the new policy will be “a step in the right direction” and reaffirmed its commitment to “continuing our work to ensure that our religious institutions will continue to be granted the freedom to remain faithful to our beliefs.”
The charitable group joins the U.S. bishops and numerous other religious organizations that have been doubtful that the new policy is adequate to safeguard religious freedom and rights of conscience. 

Many have noted that the details of the new rule remain unclear and have suggested that legislation is still necessary to protect religious liberty.

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