Archbishop responds to HHS 'compromise'


Archbishop Thomas Wenski

  We can appreciate the efforts of the White House to quiet the furor over the President's HHS mandate that would violate the religious freedom of millions of Catholics and other American citizens. However, it is still not clear whether the proposed 'compromise' offered today is acceptable to the bishops and other Catholic leaders. The devil, as they say, is in the details - and we await more information as to the details. For example, it is not apparent that dioceses that are self-insured would be granted relief by this proposed compromise put forth without serious talk with the aggrieved parties.

Again, one must remember that hundreds of Catholic universities, colleges, hospitals and other entities offered comments to HHS before the mandate was announced. Our concerns then were given short shrift by the Administration. The administration continues to insist that the issue is about contraception; we disagree. It is about the first freedom of our Bill of Rights: the freedom of religion and respect for the rights of conscience. The president in thinking that somehow fertility is a disease and pregnancy a pathology insists on classifying access to contraception, sterilization and chemical abortions as "preventive care". In doing so, he is riding rough shod over Americans' first amendment rights.

We are gratified that most Americans of both parties and of all faiths or no faith do appreciate that this is about religious freedom. Despite the apparent willingness of the Administration to consider some changes to its announced HHS mandate, a legislative remedy to this overreaching and unprecedented incursion of state power into the domain of religious freedom and the rights of conscience is still necessary.