I am inserting a copy of a commentary entitled: Birth-Control Mandate Puts Religion in a Bind
dated Monday, August 29, 2011-09-02
from the Very Rev. Peter A. Laird Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia.
"Benefits outweigh birth control costs" (Aug. 1) drew attention to an Institute of Medicine recommendation adopted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
It requires health care plans to cover contraceptives and sterilizations under regulations for preventive care created in response to the health care reform legislation passed in 2010.
This is a troubling mandate. It raises serious questions not only about the nature of health care and employment, but also about religious freedom and public charity.
For the church, one consequence is that the state seems to have begun to define who our neighbor is and the extent of our mission.
The position of the Catholic Church on artificial birth control is well-known, though not always well-understood. Our teaching is founded in a conviction that every human act is meant to witness to the truth about God and man. Acknowledging that God, our creator, is love and has been revealed to the full in Christ means not only that there is right and wrong but also that we should testify to that truth so that all men and women might be free and come to have life to the full.
The church does not consider unnatural and artificial (my words inserted) birth control a right of health care, much less a good for human flourishing, because pregnancy is not a disease.
Moreover, to suggest that one may, without consequence, use contraception in pursuit of human flourishing is manifestly contradicted by studies such as the one reported by the Guttmacher Institute showing that 54 percent of women who have had abortions have been using birth control.
Birth control promises a life without consequences, but every action has consequences, and often it is women and children who suffer most when we pretend otherwise.
Under the guidelines issued by the Obama administration, only a very narrow exemption from the contraceptive mandate would be permitted for "religious employers."
It would apply only to an organization that has as its purpose the "inculcation of religious values," that primarily employs persons who share the religious tenets of the organization and that serves primarily persons who share those religious tenets.
Thus, organizations such as Catholic universities and hospitals, social-services agencies and Catholic Charities, because they serve people without regard to religious affiliation, would be forced to provide contraceptive and sterilization services.
In other words, we would have to stop being Catholic if we wanted to serve all men and women, as Jesus did. It would also require Catholic organizations to employ only Catholics, which may be at variance with both federal and state discrimination laws.
This extremely narrow exemption substantially differs from existing conscience-clause protections, which protect individual providers from being forced to perform any service that conflicts with their beliefs.
Absent sufficient regard for rights of conscience, the birth control mandate will force all men and women -- and all employers -- to carry health "benefits" that violate the sincerely held religious convictions of many.
If this is not rectified, the vast social-service network of the Catholic Church will be imperiled, and with it not only those who are employed and assist us in our works of mercy, but also those who are served: our neighbors."
Even those who are not Catholic should - in good conscience - protest this mandate for several reasons other than the theological ones outlined by Fr. Laird. First, it's time to shore up everyone's respect for the freedom to practise any religion clause subscribed to by Americans when they pledge allegiance to the flag and the constitution. This means respecting all religions even those of Catholics. failing to come to the defense of Catholics will ultimately mean failing to come to the defense of any Christian religion. Protest by calling your congressmen.