Catholic cardinal says new birth-control rules aren't enough
Feb 16, 2013
Nice try, but not good enough.
That sums up the response of U.S. Catholic bishops to new rules proposed by the Obama administration for faith-based employers who object to covering contraception for their wokers.
Under the proposed new rules announced last week, churches would be exempt from the contraceptive mandate, meaning they don’t have to provide birth control to employees.
Faith-based groups such as hospitals, schools and other charities aren’t exempt from the mandate. Instead, they get an accommodation.
If those groups tell their insurance company that they object to providing birth control, the insurance company will then issue a separate policy, just for contraception, to the employee at no cost.
Catholic bishops have objected to the mandate since it was first proposed last year. A number of Catholic groups, including the Diocese of Nashville, have sued the goverment over the mandate.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Thursday in a statement that the new rules are a step in the right direction but don’t allay all of the church’s concerns.
“Throughout the past year, we have been assured by the Administration that we will not have to refer, pay for, or negotiate for the mandated coverage. We remain eager for the Administration to fulfill that pledge and to find acceptable solutions — we will affirm any genuine progress that is made, and we will redouble our efforts to overcome obstacles or setbacks,” said Dolan.
“Thus, we welcome and will take seriously the Administration’s invitation to submit our concerns through formal comments, and we will do so in the hope that an acceptable solution can be found that respects the consciences of all. At the same time, we will continue to stand united with brother bishops, religious institutions, and individual citizens who seek redress in the courts for as long as this is necessary.”
Bishops want all Catholic groups to be exempt from the mandate. But the proposed rules don’t do that.
“It appears to offer second-class status to our first-class institutions in Catholic health care, Catholic education and Catholic charities. HHS offers what it calls an ‘accommodation’ rather than accepting the fact that these ministries are integral to our church and worthy of the same exemption as our Catholic churches,” said Dolan.
Dolan said the questions about the mandate are a matter of religious liberty. The bishops will continue to stand with other believers, including private business owners, who object to the mandate.
“In obedience to our Judeo-Christian heritage, we have consistently taught our people to live their lives during the week to reflect the same beliefs that they proclaim on the Sabbath,” Cardinal Dolan said. “We cannot now abandon them to be forced to violate their morally well-informed consciences.”