Obama Administration: Catholic Conscience Not to be
On January 20, 2012, the Obama administration made an
unprecedented move to curtail the freedom of religion in the United States. It
mandated that all institutions providing health insurance to their employees
must also provide for sterilization, artificial contraception and abortifacients
(drugs that induce abortion), religious beliefs notwithstanding. Despite many
attempts to get the government to respect the conscience of Catholics and others
who hold contraception, abortifacients and sterlization as morally evil,
Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services,
confirmed that the present administration will allow no exemptions.
Church-affiliated hospitals, universities, dioceses, agencies and
charities are now being mandated to pay for services that clearly go against the
teaching of the Catholic Church. One concession. Nonprofit employers who do
not currently provide such coverage in their insurance plan because of religious
beliefs have a grace period of one year before they must comply with President
Obama’s healthcare bill, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Really? One year to be free before being forced to violate their conscience.
The U.S. bishops are not alone in opposing this new mandate. Other religious
leaders who find mandated contraception, abortifacients and sterilization
morally wrong are speaking out as well. These procedures are not preventative
medicine. Unless, of course, you consider the birth of a child a disease!
The final ruling of Department of Health and Human Resources is
insidious. Yes, it does touch on what should rightly be considered preventing a
disease. But deeper than that, it is the blatant, insensitive and unnecessary
undermining of our constitutionally protected freedom of religion. This is the
first instance in the history of our country that any administration is forcing
some of its citizens to purchase something that violates their conscience.
Thomas Farr, director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley
Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, also challenged this latest ruling
of Health and Human Resources. He said, “What we are seeing here is precisely
what the First Amendment was intended to prohibit: state action targeted against
the religious consciences of particular religious communities, and intended to
attack their conceptions of justice, equality and the common good. It is
tyranny, pure and simple. The stakes go beyond the questions of contraception
and abortion to the very meaning of American democracy” (Joan Frawley Desmond,
“HHS Secretary Sebelius: Church Groups Must Provide Contraception,”
National Catholic Register, January 21, 2012). Just one day
before the Obama Administration announced its final decision not to allow any
reasonable exemption to Obamacare on the basis of religious belief or
conscience, Pope Benedict XVI spoke to some U.S. bishops on their ad
limina visit. He warned them precisely about what we are witnessing in
The Pope said, “it is imperative that the entire
Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the
Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds
increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of
these threats needs to be appreciated…” What will be the results? Will Catholic
institutions, including schools, universities and Catholic Charities, no longer
be able in conscience to provide health insurance for their employees? Will we
see other rights soon denied by a government that refuses to respect conscience?
Will the government mandate other morally objectionable practices in the
future? Why not? Once the moral conscience of a substantial group of Americans
is simply swept aside by any government, no right remains safe.
most recent ruling on healthcare, a government that avidly promotes freedom of
choice has decided not to allow Catholics the freedom to choose. It need not be
this way. But, the line has been drawn in the sand. Can Catholics simply accept
the fact that the Catholic conscience is not to be tolerated in America?