On October 18th our friends at the Connecticut Catholic Public Affairs Conference emailed this statement from Hartford Archbishop Henry Mansell in response to Vice-President Biden’s erroneous statements about the HHS Mandate:
In this month’s issue of The Catholic Transcript I wrote about how in these days in our country, we are coming to realize how our communion with God is facing critical challenges. For the first time in the history of the United States, the federal government is forcing religious institutions to fund and make possible practices that are opposed to our teachings: surgical sterilizations, pills that induce abortion, and contraception. Who knows where it will end?
We are compelled to speak up to issues at stake, to candidates running for office and others who are remaining in office. The fundamental principles which have guided our country from its beginning are in danger. Religious liberty is the first freedom in the Bill of Rights. The threats to it today are outrageous. Our communion with God calls us to act.
Last week at the Vice Presidential debate, a question was asked of the candidates regarding the decision of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to force virtually all employers to include sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortion, in the health insurance coverage they provide their employees. Vice President Joseph Biden responded:
“With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear. No religious institution—Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital—none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact.”
My friends, this is not a fact. The HHS mandate contains a narrow, four-part exemption for certain “religious employers.” That exemption, contrary to what has been indicated by the Administration, was made final in February and does not extend to “Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital,” or any other religious charity including our own schools, hospitals, or Catholic Charities here in the Archdiocese of Hartford who offer our services to all, regardless of the faith of those served.
The so-called accommodation offered by the Administration does not even come close to relieving our organizations from the obligation to pay for contraception or to be a vehicle for people to get contraception. According to the HHS mandate and the so-called accommodation, we will still be required to serve as a vehicle of health coverage that includes sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients. We will be forced to pay for these things, because the premiums that our organizations (and thus we the Church) are required to pay will still be applied, along with other funds, to cover the cost of these drugs and surgeries.
I and all the bishops in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops continue to urge HHS and the Administration, in the strongest possible terms, actually to eliminate the various infringements on religious freedom imposed by the mandate; and we encourage you all to make your voices heard.
FIC is making your voice heard. Check this post regularly for updates on our religious liberty speaking tour.