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Catholic Bishops Courageous Stand For Religious Freedom Continues: No to Recent HHS Accomodation

By Deacon Keith Fournier
February 9th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In a statement from Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York the Bishops weighed in on the recent alleged "accomodation" offered by the Obama Administration last Friday. The answer was clear, principled, uncompromising and courageous. I expected nothing less from this man who is such a great gift to the  Church in the United States during this critical hour in the history of both Church and Nation. 

WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - In a statement from Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Bishops weighed in on the recent alleged "accomodation" offered by the Obama Administration last Friday. The answer was clear, principled, uncompromising and courageous. I expected nothing less from this man who is such a great gift to the  Church in the United States during this critical hour in the history of both Church and Nation. 

Archbishop Timothy Dolan loves the Lord and the Church with an infectious enthusiasm borne of a sincere, living faith. He is what I call, dynamically orthodox. A strong defender of the truths which the Church must always defend, he defends them filled with the joy of the Lord. Even those who contend with him cannot help but like him. He is a man comfortable in his own skin, at ease with the use of the media, filled with the Holy Spirit, and eager to share the Gospel, as it is found in its fullness within the Catholic Church.

This dynamic Bishop began his challenging assignment of leading the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in June of 2002 by proclaiming those wonderful words of Blessed John Paul II, the words of the Angel to Our Lady, "Be Not Afraid" when he addressed the faithful. Any observer of the work of Bishops must attest that, given the state of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee when he was appointed, he demonstrated his full palate of gifts and led with the heart of a true shepherd.

Wherever he serves, he is dearly loved by his priests and deacons. That is because he has a pastor's heart and knows the importance of a Bishop's relationship with his clergy. He is also a dynamic and inspiring communicator and solid teacher of the truths as taught by the Magisterium of the Church.Finally, he is a true leader, both naturally and supernaturally.  He is just what we need as we face great threats to the freedom of the Church to engage in her mission at the very time when the nation so desperately needs her message and her ministry.

His pastoral and communications gifts - and full compliment of leadership skills - were applied immediately upon his appointment to the Archdiocese of New York, the second largest local Church in the United States. He leads the Archdiocese of New York - which the Holy See is purported to consider the "Capital of the World" - with a pastors heart, a teachers wisdom, and a courageous and faithful Bishops dedication to defending the fullness of truth found within the full communion of the Catholic Church. He has been willing to fight the enemies of the Church, but he does so with velvet gloves! He confounds his opponents with Truth and wins them with the Love of God, making them friends.

At this critical time in the history of the Catholic Church in the United States, Cardinal Dolan's election to the office of President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops was not only an historic turn of events, it was a sign of the Lord's continued guidance of the Catholic Church in the United States. The United States of America has become mission territory. The Church in the United States is in need of the New Evangelization and Cardinal Dolan is its instrument, a trumpet in the hands of the Lord.

But make no mistake, the smile on his jovial face, his gregarious manner and his genuine warmth dwell right within a leader with a backbone of steel. This is a true defender of the faith. He will not back down in the defense of the Church, her mission, her rights and her call to participate fully in the public square. We ask our readers to pray for Cardinal Dolan and for all of our Bishops as they once again take the lead in this epic struggle.

We are please to present his entire statement of response to the most recent proposal from the Federal Administration below, in its entirety.

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Statement of Cardinal Timothy Dolan Responding to Feb. 1 Proposal from HHS

For almost a century, the Catholic bishops of the United States have worked hard to support the right of every person to affordable, accessible, comprehensive, life-affirming healthcare.As we continue to do so, our changeless values remain the same.We promote the protection of the dignity of all human life and the innate rights that flow from it, including the right to life from conception to natural death; care for the poorest among us and the undocumented; the right of the Church to define itself, its ministries, and its ministers; and freedom of conscience.

Last Friday, the Administration issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding the HHS mandate that requires coverage for sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortions.The Administration indicates that it has heard some previously expressed concerns and that it is open to dialogue.With release of the NPRM, the Administration seeks to offer a response to serious matters which have been raised throughout the past year.We look forward to engaging with the Administration, and all branches and levels of government, to continue to address serious issues that remain. Our efforts will require additional, careful study.Only in this way can we best assure that healthcare for every woman, man and child is achieved without harm to our first, most cherished freedom.

In evaluating Friday's action regarding the HHS mandate, our reference remains the statement of our Administrative Committee made last March, United for Religious Freedom, and affirmed by the entire body of bishops in June 2012.

In that statement, we first expressed concern over the mandate's "exceedingly narrow" four-part definition of "religious employer," one that exempted our houses of worship, but left "our great ministries of service to our neighbors, namely, the poor, the homeless, the sick, the students in our schools and universities, and others in need" subject to the mandate.This created "a 'second class' of citizenship within our religious community," "weakening [federal law's] healthy tradition of generous respect for religious freedom and diversity."And the exemption effectuated this distinction by requiring "among other things, [that employers] must hire and serve primarily those of their own faith."

On Friday, the Administration proposed to drop the first three parts of the four-part test.This might address the last of the concerns above, but it seems not to address the rest.The Administration's proposal maintains its inaccurate distinction among religious ministries. It appears to offer second-class status to our first-class institutions in Catholic health care, Catholic education, and Catholic charities. HHS offers what it calls an "accommodation," rather than accepting the fact that these ministries are integral to our Church and worthy of the same exemption as our Catholic churches. And finally, it seems to take away something that we had previously-the ability of an exempt employer (such as a diocese) to extend its coverage to the employees of a ministry outside the exemption.

Second, United for Religious Freedom explained that the religious ministries not deemed "religious employers" would suffer the severe consequence of "be[ing] forced by government to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions."After Friday, it appears that the government would require all employees in our "accommodated" ministries to have the illicit coverage-they may not opt out, nor even opt out for their children-under a separate policy.In part because of gaps in the proposed regulations, it is still unclear how directly these separate policies would be funded by objecting ministries, and what precise role those ministries would have in arranging for these separate policies.Thus, there remains the possibility that ministries may yet be forced to fund and facilitate such morally illicit activities. Here, too, we will continue to analyze the proposal and to advocate for changes to the final rule that reflect these concerns.

Third, the bishops explained that the "HHS mandate creates still a third class, those with no conscience protection at all:individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to act in accordance with their faith and moral values."This includes employers sponsoring and subsidizing the coverage, insurers writing it, and beneficiaries paying individual premiums for it.Friday's action confirms that HHS has no intention to provide any exemption or accommodation at all to this "third class."In obedience to our Judeo-Christian heritage, we have consistently taught our people to live their lives during the week to reflect the same beliefs that they proclaim on the Sabbath.We cannot now abandon them to be forced to violate their morally well-informed consciences.

Because the stakes are so high, we will not cease from our effort to assure that healthcare for all does not mean freedom for few.Throughout the past year, we have been assured by the Administration that we will not have to refer, pay for, or negotiate for the mandated coverage.We remain eager for the Administration to fulfill that pledge and to find acceptable solutions-we will affirm any genuine progress that is made, and we will redouble our efforts to overcome obstacles or setbacks.Thus, we welcome and will take seriously the Administration's invitation to submit our concerns through formal comments, and we will do so in the hope that an acceptable solution can be found that respects the consciences of all.At the same time, we will continue to stand united with brother bishops, religious institutions, and individual citizens who seek redress in the courts for as long as this is necessary.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York
February 7, 2013

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