Bishop Brandt's statement on HHS decision


Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt

  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 services.



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 Catholics.



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.