Bishops’ letter to Kathleen Sebelius
To read the entire letter from the bishops, go to this link.
“Such a mandate undermines our teaching that human fertility is not a disease. It is a gift, which exercised responsibly, allows humanity to prosper,” the bishops wrote. “Further, in its current form the rule employs a much too narrow definition of religious employer. Its effect is to so constrain religious activity as to diminish the religious liberty of Catholics in Wisconsin and the United States.”
The mandate contains a very narrow conscience exemption that will not apply to Catholic universities, hospitals and charitable organizations that serve the general public. The bishops note this fails to respect the church’s ability to function in society.
“[F]or Catholics, religion is a matter of personal conviction with social consequences,” the bishops note. “Ministry in the Catholic tradition is not limited to houses of worship. It finds full expression in service to others. The faith we profess and celebrate in the parish is taken into the world through our public ministries.”
The letter continues, “As written, the mandate compels our institutions to either act in ways inconsistent with our values or forces them to retreat from serving the most vulnerable. Further, the mandate is also contrary to the very natural law to which our nation’s founders appealed in declaring our nation’s independence. That declaration recognized that our inalienable human rights come from our Creator, not the state. This includes the freedom to worship and to live according to one’s religious convictions.”
The bishops pointed out that the mandate nullifies a 40-year bipartisan consensus of respect for rights of religious liberty and conscience in matters of health care. These rights, recognized in the Church Amendment of 1973, the law governing Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, and federal legislation for combating AIDS in developing nations, are denied in this mandate.
The bishops acknowledged that many do not share Catholic beliefs regarding contraception, sterilization and abortion, but said that is not relevant to a claim a religious exemption.
The department is accepting public comments on the exemption from the mandate for religious employers until Oct. 1. The bishops urge Catholics and others to join them in asking for federal health care reform that protects the religious liberty of individuals and institutions and does not force them to act in a manner contrary to their values.
Interested citizens may direct comments on the issue to the U.S. Department of Health and Humans Services one of four ways:
• Electronically at this link.
• By mailing written comments to: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Department of Health and Human Services, Attention: CMS-9992-IFC2, P.O. Box 8010, Baltimore, MD 21244-8010. (Please allow sufficient time for mailed comments to be received before the close of the comment period.)
• By express or overnight mail to: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Department of Health and Human Services, Attention: CMS-9992-IFC2, Mail Stop C4-26-05, 7500 Security Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 21244-1850.
• By hand or courier.