February 1, 2012
From its beginning the American system of government has been noted for its respect for rights of conscience and for religious liberty. The Jan. 20 decision of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding private health plans challenges this treasured tradition.
This ruling confirmed that virtually all private health plans, including those of Catholic hospitals, charities, and schools, will be required to include coverage for sterilizations and contraceptives, including abortion-inducing drugs, and almost all individuals will be forced to buy that coverage as a part of their policies.
You have perhaps read of the intense dismay of the Catholic Health Association, Catholic Charities USA, Catholic universities, and many commentators with this unnecessary intrusion upon the religious rights of Catholics. They recognize that this ruling of the United States Department of Health and Human Services unnecessarily intrudes upon rights of conscience. Even those who are not in agreement with the Catholic Church’s teaching on the sanctity of human life recognize that this is a radical break with the tradition of religious liberty and respect for conscience rights.
I ask for your prayers that wisdom and justice may prevail, and religious liberty may be restored. I would recommend visiting www.usccb.org/conscience, to learn more about this severe attack on religious liberty, and how to contact members of Congress, urging them to support legislation that would reverse the Administration’s decision.
Most Reverend Michael J. Bransfield
Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston