The Jesus mandate vs. Obama’s mandate

Recently the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a mandate: Virtually all employers, including Catholic schools, hospitals and … Continued

Recently the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a mandate: Virtually all employers, including Catholic schools, hospitals and social service agencies, must buy coverage for sterilization and contraceptives, including drugs that can induce an abortion, for their employees. Catholics and other people of faith are required to comply although in doing so they must violate their teaching and their conscience. If they do not comply, they face stiff financial penalties that will gravely impact their ability to fulfill the mission of service entrusted to them.

Yes, there is an exception to the HHS mandate. But for religious institutions to claim this exception, they must serve primarily members of their own church, synagogue or mosque, and so choose not to feed or clothe, heal or educate practically anyone of another faith or creed.   

A long time ago, the Catholic Church received a mandate from a higher authority: “Go out to all the world and spread the Good News.”  It is the mandate of Jesus Christ: “This is my command: Love one another.”

When people in need walk into a Catholic institution we serve them.  We serve our neighbor based on need, not creed. The HHS mandate would reverse that, telling us we must serve based on creed not need for the government to consider us an organization deserving religious liberty. Here the HHS mandate steps on, indeed tramples, the mandate of Jesus Christ.

The effect the HHS mandate will have on our neighbors and on society is alarming. In short, the administration is dictating that Catholic institutions and individual employers violate what America has always considered inviolable—their religious liberty and freedom of conscience.

Today,  due to the mandate of Jesus Christ, Catholic schools that choose to welcome non-Catholic students will be forced either to provide their employees coverage they consider morally offensive, or drop employee health coverage altogether and suffer a fine of $2,000 per employee per year.

The potential effect on institutions that serve the poor are horrific and ironically, stand as a roadblock, for example, to the very schools recently hailed at the White House for all they do for the U.S. For example, on January 25 at the White House ceremony, several schools drew high praise. The White House especially praised Annette Lentz of Indianapolis, who founded the Mother Theodore Catholic Academies. The White House noted that they are  “open to children of all religions, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds.” It hailed Jesuit Father John Foley who founded the Christo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago, that now serves as the model for 24 high schools serving 6,900 low-income youth. Not all of them are Catholic.

U.S. Catholic schools teach more than 300,000 non-Catholic students, 15 percent of them are not Catholic. In the  inner-city, the non-Catholic student body can reach as high as 90 percent. More than 40 percent of the 900,000 students in Catholic colleges and universities are not Catholic.  The University of Notre Dame would pay an especially heavy price—over $10 million annually—to avoid violating its own religious convictions.

Catholic hospitals will suffer a similar fate. They serve one of every six Americans who go through their front doors in search of  medical care every year.  None of them has ever been asked to produce a baptismal certificate.  The new mandate, and its bizarre exemption, invites hospitals to move in this direction—at the expense of the common good—in order to preserve their own religious freedom.
In Washington, Providence Hospital each year treats 40,000 people in its emergency room, admits 13,000 overnight and provides outpatient services to another 60,000 people.

 Not all of them are Catholic, and being a Catholic has never been a requirement to receive healing care.  Now, according to HHS, it will be.  Or else the hospital will receive punishing fines for refusing to violate its own moral teaching.

Last year alone, Catholic Charities served more than 10 million of the poor, the needy, and the suffering throughout our nation.  Catholic Charities doesn’t know how many of those served were not Catholic, because they simply never ask. Our faith compels us to serve, not the faith of those we help.

Catholic ministries for the needy are as blind to race, creed, class, and gender as Jesus Christ, their founder. That any one of them, much less all of them, should be forced to choose between the Gospel mandate and the U.S. government’s health care mandate strikes at the very heart of the right to religious liberty on which our country was founded.

William E. Lori is bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., and chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty.

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  • chosch

    If Catholic institutions provide insurance to employees, to not create a legal suit, they would have to provide coverage for non-Catholic employees. Since it is against the law to hire discriminately, it is necessary to protect the rights of non-Catholic employees that may hold to different views. The law is directed toward fairness by insurance providers to non-religious employees.

    No Catholic institutions will admit to hiring discrimination, thus the aforementioned scenario can be presumed to exist.

  • catatonicjones

    You serve them based on what the Pope tells you to do. You listen to a foreign despot before you listen to the Constitution of the United States of America. Freaken’ traitors, that’s what you are.

  • catatonicjones

    You serve them based on what the Pope tells you to do. You listen to a foreign despot before you listen to the Constitution of the United States of America. Freaken’ traitors, that’s what you are.

  • tony55398

    Allow the religious institutions to give their employees the money to buy their own insurance and the coverage they desire. Not all of their employees are Catholic.

  • amelia45

    Most polls say that something like 90%+ of women and families in this country use birth control to plan when they will have children and how many children they will have. That includes 90%+ of Catholic women.

    Within the Catholic faith individual conscience is recognized as the supreme “authority” which a Catholic must follow in determining how he/she lives and what acts are of God. Tens of millions of Catholics, the overwhelming majority of Catholics, who know their faith, who know the Church’s teaching on contraceptives and sterilization, have made a decision of conscience that this teaching of the Church is not applicable for them, that other concerns of living override this tenet of faith. The overwhelming majority of Catholics in this country, in Europe, in the Philippines, and who knows where else, do not accept this teaching of the Catholic Church.

    Within Church philosophy concerning Canonical Law there is the concept of reception. This concept says, in essense: “The canonical doctrine of reception, broadly stated, asserts that for a law or rule to be an effective guide for the believing community it must be accepted by that community. ” In other words, as much as we Catholics have been trying to tell our hierarchy that this teaching does not help us live good and Godly lives, they just don’t get it. In good conscience, we can’t do other than to ignore the Church law, and that is uncomfortable. However, it is necessary that we make the decisions that our conscience, and the needs of our whole lives (not just our sex lives) requires.

    What I do hope is that Catholics who have made that decision to use contraceptives or have a sterlization procedure will support the idea that others who work for Catholic hospitals should also have the opportunity to make that same choice.

    We are not a bullying faith. Jesus was not a bully. He was a teacher. He did not seek the power of the law to empower him to require people to live as he specified. What the Chu

  • amelia45

    What the Church wants is a government power to enforce a tenet of faith on both their own believers and others.

  • cricket44

    “Catholic ministries for the needy are as blind to race, creed, class, and gender as Jesus Christ, their founder”

    Not gender. Don’t even try that on.

  • Chip_M

    When the Catholic Church runs a business, and that business fails to provide basic coverage to non-Catholic employees based on its own prejudices that the employee does not share, they can not claim to be meeting the needs of those employees. If respecting those employees by allowing them to exercise their own conscience when it comes to reproductive health is too much to ask then the best of all possible outcomes would be for the Catholic Church to get out of the hospital business. How can we as potential patients and non-Catholics trust the hospital to respect our wishes that may differ from their beliefs such as honoring a DNR order, or taking us off life support before our families are bankrupted? It seems the Catholic Church expects everyone to acquiesce to their conscience while they attempt to deny or impede their employees (and patients?) ability to easily exercise their own.

  • jsmith4

    If any health care provider wants to accept federal funds (and they can choose not to), they have to abide by federal laws and regulations. Federal laws and regulations say such providers must include birth control without co-pay. End of story. Should I as a Mormon cry out because the government doesn’t include my polygamous doctrine in its justice coverage?

  • jsmith4

    Great points, Chip. If the Catholic Church wants to get into the health care business that accepts federal funds, it must abide by federal rules. If I am a Jewish woman who works at a Catholic hospital, I should not be forced to pay $1200 per year out of pocket for my birth control.

  • jsmith4

    PS: Catholic institutions are NOT required to accept federal funds. But, if they do, they must follow federal rules.
    It is nonsensical to call this a Freedom of Religion issue.

  • jsmith4

    Has anyone noticed how Un-American the columnist’s title question is here? We are forbidden under the constituion to make laws in the US in order to follow Jesus, Muhammed, Moses, Krishna, Zeus, or the Tooth Fairy. We are to make laws independent of religious (or superstitious) strictures.
    So the answer to the title’s rhetorical question is obvious:
    Follow the law of the land, not the law of ANY religious leader – EVEN my friend Jesus.

  • david6

    The bishops really need to stop lying to us. Clearly Jesus never said anything about birth control, that is a doctrine invented by the bishops and ignored by almost every practicing Catholic. Would the Catholic Church shut down their hospitals and schools just to show us how spiteful the bishops can be? Go for it, bishops. We know you are petty, maybe you can show us how disgustingly petty you are.

    Too bad you have no respect for your employees or your parishioners. Clearly the bishops have betrayed what Jesus taught.

  • Chip_M

    As a self employed person I can empathize, j. I don’t think most people truly understand what it’s like to try and buy health insurance as an individual and not as part of a group. A good comprehensive plan is simply beyond the means of most people. And no, you should absolutely not be forced to pay that kind of money out of pocket because of your employer’s religious prohibitions. It’s not the Catholic Church’s rights that are being violated. It’s yours and people in your situation.

  • david6

    And anyone who has read the Bible has to conclude that William E. Lori has never read it or is flat-out misrepresenting Jesus to sell his widely-flouted religious doctrine.

    This has absolutely nothing to do with religious liberty and everything to do with the fact that the bishops are now ignoring what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount.

  • david6

    What would you expect of the bishop. He has an intolerant position that is indefensible. Notice all the falsehoods he had to put into the column to try to mislead people about their position. Sadly, women remain a strong lay presence in the Church, even though the bishops refuse to let women be treated fairly in anything in any way. Their bigotry against homosexuals who admit their homosexuality is even worse.

    We know what Jesus would say to the bishops, He said it already in Matthew 23. Here’s one of his complaints: 27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.”

    The bishops are rotting sepulchres.

  • david6

    The Court’s case was about people like priests, nuns and called teachers. It had nothing to do with colleges and hospitals and other businesses that the RCC runs while collecting money from the government.

  • RobertLimey49

    In my youth, a half-century ago, contraception was a hot topic, with the introduction of the primitive contraceptive pill. I as a catholic youth, spoke with our Parish Priest. He said that the Church was not against the control of a woman’s fecundity, but about the means used to impose that control. He conveyed that if boys knew that if a girl they were propositioning, could be 2on the Pill” It gave the boy an almost coersive force to him just “getting his end away” in the vernacular of that time. The Dignity of Woman, her power to give a man a share in God’s Creativity, would be diminished, as such a young woman’s dignity would be compared with relatively “easy” contemporaries of them both And so it has proved. While the act of abortion, committed on a woman, it’s innate inversion of her LifeBearer status, is repellant, to most individuals..The voluntary exercise of her reproductive power, is part of that dignity too! In the above article Bishop Lori, points out the disregard of religious standpoint, nationality, colour, financial satus or any other discriminatory hoop-to-jump-through, and the consequent reaching-out to your poorest, in health difficulty, that is doing as Jesus did, and left us to follow in His Footsteps. So, as the political Right, in your country, postures that it is doing God’s Will, by refusing abortion facilities to your poores, while making it freely accessible, through their pocket-books, the real reason is to save themselves the last cent of taxation! I hope President Obama wil revoke this Statute, as the concommittant costs in punitive fines, would reduce, radically their Outreach to your poores!. The statute is therefore of the Beast! And therefore contrary to the Inspired, almost Messianic Gift he had, as we watched him vanquish the merely greedy! .

  • jsmith4

    C’mon, Catholics (and supporters). Give us an f’in break!
    There is NO constitutional issue here. The Govt is entirely within its rights in enforcing this law, and there is NO violation of Freedom of Religion.
    Read/listen to David Bois is you actually CARE about the legal issues here.
    The bottom line is: if you accept Govt money for providing health care, you have o follow the law. If you are a church and don’t wan’t to participate, fine. Don’t take government money.

  • RobertLimey49

    Hello, jsmith4, In the Freedom of Religion Right, which you all share, any person can practice whatever religious belief he has, provided it does no harm to another citizen. It is my understanding that the three Great Middle-Eastern Faiths, all reject Abortion. This clause, part of a generally-necessary Statute, to give a National Health Service to millions of your People, as we have throughout Western Europe, is flawed. Because it imposes, for their adherence to the beneficent teachings of each of their Faiths, a punitive fine, which would necessarily diminish the great work they do in helping your poorest! A much increased sector, of late!
    That aspect of this Statute, doesn’t augment that service, because it would force them to waste finite resources on a secular piece of mischief, fines, because they insist on following God’s Guidance! So, I hope that you will see that Health-Care Bills, containing a component which curtails the power of pre-existing and functioning Altruistic Institutions, to reach-out to your now, long-suffering poor, are themselves self-contradictory! While recognising the unique importance, of these altruistic, outreach, Religious organisations, by mimicking them, the Obama Bill is the first successful effort to provide, what was an indefensibly-absent, National Health Service, for the People of the richest country in the Western World! If a clause, in an otherwise Good Statute, reduces the only altruistically-available Health and in-education support, then get rid of the clause, not the Bill!

  • chet_brewer

    I guess if your catholic hospitals, schools, and institutions didn’t take federal money it would be a non issue. You are welcome to be solely supported as a religious organization.
    Complaining about having to provide insurance coverage is dumb and you guys are continuing.
    to wade into culture wars that you have already lost
    In addition a quick look into Catholic Charities financials was eye opening with half the revenue going for administration and fundraising, makes SGK look like an exemplar compared to what this organization does.
    Your unwillingness to follow american law and custom is a little disheartening

  • csintala79

    Basically you want the freedom to deny your employees and patients their freedom. As you say you have an option: do not serve anyone or hire anyone that is not a member of your faith. Doing that would prevent you from acting against your conscience.

  • Sara121

    This is about contraception, not abortion.

    Young women are often on the pill for more than just contraceptive reasons. Furthermore, if a teenage boy looks at a girl on the pill as a license to behave inappropriately, then I suspect some absentee parents might want to be more involved in their son’s life. Don’t foist bad parenting off on other people’s desire to use contraception.

    Sex between consenting adults is healthy for mental, psychological, and emotional reasons that have nothing to do with baby making, something the religious right seems to prefer to ignore. Consenting adults should be able to engage in healthy activity without bringing a new life into the world.

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