(CNSNews.com) — All 181 Catholic bishops in the United States oppose and have publicly denounced a regulation issued by the Obama administration that would require every health insurer to offer contraceptives, including those that induce abortion, free of charge.
The bishops oppose the mandate because, they argue, it is a violation of religious liberty under the First Amendment – in this case, the federal government forcing individual Catholics to subsidize products and services that are contrary to their religious beliefs.
“Our Catholic hospitals, schools, and charities are under attack by a federal government which refuses to recognize their First Amendment right to religious freedom,” said Brian Burch, president of CatholicVote.org, which compiled the data and confirmed the position of the bishops. “These organizations are pillars in our communities, built over the centuries with love by generations of Catholics.”
“Our bishops recognize that they are stewards of this proud heritage,” said Burch. “That’s why every single bishop has come to the defense of our precious Catholic institutions. Lay Catholics of all backgrounds and viewpoints stand united with our bishops in defense of our right to the ‘free exercise’ of our religion.”
Burch also noted that a Rasmussen poll shows that 65 percent of Catholics oppose the Obama administration’s regulation.
The contraceptives mandate was finalized by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Jan. 20, which sparked opposition nationwide, not only by the Catholic bishops, but also the Orthodox bishops, prominent Evangelical leaders, as well as leaders from the Lutheran Church’s Missouri Synod and the Southern Baptist Convention, and at least 158 members of Congress.
To try to quell the controversy, President Barack Obama announced an alleged compromise on Feb. 10, stating that all health insurers would have to provide contraceptives and abortion drugs free of charge, and that people who objected for religious reasons would not be paying for those services directly; the burden would be on the insurance company.
In his remarks, Obama said, “Under the rule, women will still have access to free preventive care that includes contraceptive services — no matter where they work. So that core principle remains. But if a woman’s employer is a charity or a hospital that has a religious objection to providing contraceptive services as part of their health plan, the insurance company — not the hospital, not the charity — will be required to reach out and offer the woman contraceptive care free of charge, without co-pays and without hassles.”
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), headed by Cardinal-designate Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, rejected the president’s “solution,” stating that “the lack of clear protection for key stakeholders — for self-insured religious employers; for religious and secular for-profit employers; for secular non-profit employers; for religious insurers; and for individuals — is unacceptable and must be corrected.”
In an Associated Press interview on Feb. 14, Cardinal-designate Dolan said he wanted to “take him at his word,” in reference to Obama, but added, “’I do have to say it’s getting harder and harder,’ to believe Obama’s claim to prioritize religious freedom issues given the latest controversy.”
As for Obama’s revised solution to the regulation, Dolan said, “Was what was intended to be a concession, and what gave us a glimmer of hope at the beginning … really just amount to a hill of beans? And it seems as if it does.”
Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, on Feb. 12, said “the HHS mandate, including its latest variant, is belligerent, unnecessary, and deeply offensive to the content of Catholic belief. … Moreover, we cannot afford to be fooled – yet again – by evasive and misleading allusions to the administration’s alleged ‘flexibility’ on such issues. The HHS mandate needs to be rescinded.”
The Catholic bishops have called for the repeal of the regulation. There are an estimated 75 million Catholics in the United States.
Thomas Peters, who helped confirm the position of all 181 bishops for CatholicVote.org, said, “Grassroots Catholics came together from across the country and helped build this list, which reflects their desire to unite with their bishops and fight for our constitutional right to live out our Catholic faith in America. Catholics across the country have sent a clear message to their bishops: ‘When you lead in unison, we will stand with you.”