The following is Greensburg Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt’s statement about the
federal government’s decision Jan. 20 that requires all health plans to cover
services contrary to Catholic teaching and does not revise the narrow religious
exemption to the requirement.
My brother bishops
and I are extremely disappointed with the decision by the federal government
that requires the inclusion in virtually all health plans of sterilization,
abortifacients and contraception — which are against Catholic teaching. The
decision leaves intact an extremely narrow religious exemption that does not
respect the religious freedom and conscience rights of people opposed to those
Federal law has
always left Catholic organizations free to offer health coverage in accord with
our moral and religious convictions— whether that coverage is offered to
employees, students in Catholic colleges or the general public. The religious
exemption in this mandate is so narrow that it covers little more than houses of
worship and those places engaged primarily in the instruction of the faith.
Practically speaking, there will be no exemption for Catholic hospitals,
universities, colleges, nursing homes and social service agencies. To provide a
Catholic health plan even to its own
employees, a Catholic organization would have to focus almost exclusively on
teaching religious doctrine, fire its non-Catholic employees, and refuse to
provide health care and other life-affirming services to any but fellow
The U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services’ offer to give religious organizations one year to
comply with the new rules is basically giving them one year to figure out how to
violate their consciences.
I will work with the
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and many fellow Americans who are deeply
troubled by this assault on religious freedom to pass legislation that protects
conscience rights and to reform the health care law.