GREEN BAY — In solidarity with fellow bishops throughout the United States, Bishop David L. Ricken today released a letter to be read at all Masses this weekend that calls on Catholics to renew opposition to a recent Obama administration decision that, he said, "negatively impacts the church in the United State directly, and that strikes at the fundamental right to religious liberty for all citizens of any faith."
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced last week that almost all employers, including Catholic employers, will be forced to offer their employees health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception, all of which are in direct violation of Catholic teachings.
"This ruling sets a very dangerous precedent. We are no longer going down the slippery slope of invasion of individual conscience," said Bishop Ricken. "We are now falling off the cliff."
"This ruling sets a very dangerous precedent. We are no longer going
down the slippery slope of invasion of individual conscience. We are now falling off the cliff."
— Bishop David Ricken
"As staunch advocates for the poor and vulnerable in our society, and as adherents to the long-standing principles of Catholic social teaching, this country's bishops have been strong and vocal supporters of universal access to health care. This unconscionable decision by the HHS is a setback to nearly a half century of tireless advocacy in this arena," added Ricken.
In his letter to the more than 345,000 Catholics in the 16 counties of northeast Wisconsin, Bishop Ricken steadfastly reinforced his commitment to Catholic values and warned that if the rule is not overturned that Catholic health care organizations, schools, and other Catholic entities would be compelled either to violate their consciences, or to drop health coverage for their employees, and suffer the legal penalties for doing so.
"We cannot – and will not – comply with this unjust law," said Bishop Ricken. "People of faith cannot be made second class citizens. We are already joined by our brothers and sisters of all faiths and many others of good will in this important effort to regain our religious freedom. The church has always been able to count on the faithful to stand up and protect her sacred rights and duties. I hope and trust she can count on this generation of Catholics to do the same."
Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and former archbishop for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, sharply criticized the HHS decision. "Never before has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience. This shouldn't happen in a land where free exercise of religion ranks first in the Bill of Rights," he said.