The White House announced this afternoon that there would be no change in the regulations issued previously by the Department of Health and Human Services which would require the Diocese of St. Petersburg to change its existing health care plan that presently covers all employees (including priests and religious) to include provision for contraceptives and contraceptive and aborti-facient procedures. These prescriptions violate our institutional and personal consciences and I have warned before that this bishop and this diocese will not accept nor provide them. The callous disregard for long held personal and ecclesial beliefs augurs a chilling moment for believing and practicing Catholics in these United States. It is my hope that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will immediately challenge these regulations in court and right up to the highest court and that a stay of their implementation will await final judicial disposition. Our forbearers left Europe because of religious intolerance such as this and founded this nation promising religious tolerance and freedom.
I will write a letter to be read and/or distributed in every parish in the diocese next week-end and I hope that no Catholic voting adult will soon forget this egregious and insensitive intrusion by our government into our rights of conscience.