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WASHINGTON—Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), issued the following statement:
President Obama’s comments today in support of the redefinition of marriage are deeply saddening. As I stated in my public letter to the President on September 20, 2011, the Catholic Bishops stand ready to affirm every positive measure taken by the President and the Administration to strengthen marriage and the family. However, we cannot be silent in the face of words or actions that would undermine the institution of marriage, the very cornerstone of our society. The people of this country, especially our children, deserve better. Unfortunately, President Obama’s words today are not surprising since they follow upon various actions already taken by his Administration that erode or ignore the unique meaning of marriage. I pray for the President every day, and will continue to pray that he and his Administration act justly to uphold and protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman. May we all work to promote and protect marriage and by so doing serve the true good of all persons.
A few days ago, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a mandate requiring all insurers to provide coverage for contraception, sterilization, and chemical abortions (abortifacients). Under the new rules, all employers, without consideration of their moral convictions, will be forced to pay for insurance whose provisions may violate their consciences. These arrangements apply to secular and religious institutions, including the apostolic works of the Catholic Church.
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.
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St. Theresa’s little Catholic School is getting recognition from around the interwebs. With several thousand hits, this 2-minute video has been a recent phenomenon on the popular Catholic blogs.
Listening to these children sing and then talk about what they are doing, might give you a sense of how we found a long term “new evangelization”. – Fr. John Zuhlsdorf of wdtprs.com