02/07/12 Catholics all over the United States are vowing to fight a ruling handed down on January 20 from the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) concerning what HHS terms “preventative heath services”. In essence the ruling is intended to help ensure that women with health insurance coverage will have access to the full range of services, including all FDA approved forms of contraception.
On February 2, Bishop Kevin Rhoades issued a statement that he asked to be read during services throughout the Fort Wayne/South Bend Dioceses this past weekend. Included was the following: “We cannot and we will not comply with this unjust federal order. We cannot and we will not accept this egregious affront to our religious freedom.”
Bishop Rhoades said, “The mandate from HHS is an unprecedented attack on this liberty (religious) since it coerces religious institutions and citizens to pay for actions that violate our moral teachings and religious beliefs.” There is a religious exemption in the new mandate from HHS; however, to be eligible for the exemption, an organization would have to hire and serve primarily people of its own faith.
Locally, Father William Kummer of Saint Michael’s said he would convey Bishop Rhoades comments to his parishioners. He also shared his thoughts on the matter saying, “I assume that most of us have seen the press reports about the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ decision that all not for-profit and religious institutions must provide funding for “birth control” and abortifacient drugs, as well as, sterilization procedures through health insurance.” He continued, “This, of course, is an affront to us, and our long history of magnificent service to the people of our nation.” “I invite everyone to communicate with our legislators and ask that they may help us in preventing this heinous requirement from being imposed on Catholic hospitals and even on Saint Michael’s Parish.” Kummer said.
Frederick Everett, JD, assistant to the Bishop and director, Office of family Life of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, said, “First, we will do all that we can to change the law or to stop its enforcement through the courts. Of course, if we are unable to do this, we will still follow our conscience and see what legal avenues we have to pursue.” Everett added, “If it comes down to a choice between obeying an unjust law and obeying our conscience, we will not obey an unjust law.”
Religious based-organizations have been given a deadline of August 1, 2013 to comply. Cardinal-designate Timothy Dalton, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said, “In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure our how to violate out consciences.” He added, “The Obama administration has now drawn an unprecedented line in the sand.”
Carol Anders Correspondent