The HHS mandate requires all employee health plans — including those covering employees of Catholic hospitals, charitable agencies and schools — to cover, without cost, sterilizations and contraceptives, even some that can cause abortions. These practices are considered immoral by the church and violate its beliefs.
Following the Jan. 20 HHS announcement, U.S. Catholic leaders began mounting protests, noting that the mandate not only required Catholics to go against their conscience, but breach their free exercise of religion.
In his letter, Archbishop Broglio called on his flock, made up of approximately 1.5 million U.S. Catholic military personnel and their families around the world, to “resist the policy initiative … because it represents a violation of the freedom of religion recognized by the U.S. Constitution.” He asked that all Catholic chaplains read it from the pulpit at weekend Masses Jan. 28 and 29.
His request was denied after the Army’s Office of the Chief of Chaplains sent an email to all senior chaplains. It said that the archbishop’s letter did not have prior approval and was not to be read. Instead, chaplains were told they could mention the letter at the end of Mass and have copies available.
The irony of ironies here is that the very men and women who put their lives on the line to defend our constitutional freedoms were denied an opportunity to experience one of those rights, the freedom of speech. A speech, in the form of a letter, that defended another right: the freedom of religion.
After learning that chaplains were banned from reading his letter, Archbishop Broglio met with the Secretary of the Army John McHugh. The Army secretary admitted that the chief of chaplains had been wrong to deny chaplains the right to read the text.
The Department of Health and Human Services’ regulations on mandatory coverage of contraceptives, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs have crossed the line from part of a supposed national health care plan to a political nightmare that challenges the rights of religious institutions to practice their beliefs.
A movement has started to ask Congress to support the “Respect for Rights of Conscience Act.” Several readers who do not have Internet access contacted The Compass, asking for telephone numbers of congressional leaders. Here are those numbers:
• Sen. Ron Johnson, (202) 224-5323
• Sen. Herb Kohl, (202) 224-5653
• Rep. Thomas Petri, (202) 225-2476, whose sixth district includes Calumet, Manitowoc, Outagamie, Waushara and Winnebago counties.
• Rep. Sean Duffy, (202) 225-3365, whose seventh district includes the western edge of Langlade County.
• Rep. Reid Ribble, (202) 225-5665, whose eighth district includes Brown, Calumet, Door, Florence, Forest, Kewaunee, Langlade, Marinette, Menominee, Oconto, Outagamie, Shawano and Waupaca counties.