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The HHS Mandate Begins…

August 3, 2012

Cardinal Dolan writes in his blog The Gospel in the Digital Age:

One part of the HHS mandate sadly goes into effect today.

You probably know all about the mandate by now.  It’s the decree from the Secretary of Health and Human Services that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires employer health care plans to include contraceptive services for women, including drugs called abortifacients. Although, in America’s finest tradition, the bill allows an exemption for religious reasons, it presumes to define just what a church’s ministry must be to qualify, a dramatic and unprecedented intrusion into the integrity of all faiths.  My brother bishops and I – in welcome collaboration with other religious leaders – think that this mandate is wrong and misguided and have tried to work with the Administration to correct it.

What’s most troubling about the HHS mandate is that it carves out a religious exemption that is so narrowly drawn that most Catholic agencies – including Catholic Charities, hospitals, nursing homes, universities, and potentially many others – would not qualify.

How does a Catholic or other religious entity qualify for this exemption?  It must be a non-profit organization under certain IRS guidelines, and must meet all of the following criteria:

  1.  The inculcation of religious values is the purpose of the organization;
  2. The organization primarily employs persons who share the religious tenets of the organization;
  3. The organization serves primarily persons who share the religious tenets of the organization.

Got that?  The federal government is graciously allowing your parish church to consider itself Catholic.  But, not much else would qualify.

Consider:

A Catholic hospital founded and still sponsored by nuns, striving to carry out our Savior’s command to care for the sick?  Sorry, not Catholic enough.  No religious freedom here!  After all, its purpose is not the inculcation of religious values, and it hardly asks for a person’s religion before admitting a patient.

A Catholic Charities homeless shelter, providing a bed, a shower, and a nutritious meal?  Sorry, not Catholic enough.  No religious freedom here!  After all, it serves all seeking help, regardless of their religious beliefs.  (Would the government prefer us to turn away anyone who can’t produce a baptismal certificate and recite the Nicene Creed?)

A Catholic high school founded and still run by a religious order, which has proudly educated young men, preparing them to succeed in college, in the work place, as husbands and fathers?   Sorry, not Catholic enough.   No religious freedom here!  After all, the student populations is more than 50% non-Catholic.

Yes, the Archdiocese of New York has joined dozens of others in filing a lawsuit against the administration and HHS, arguing that the mandate is unconstitutional.  And, yes, the administration has granted a one-year reprieve to religious agencies whose conscience would be violated by this mandate.  (That’s right – the government acknowledges that this will be a problem for many religious agencies.  But their response is, essentially, “too bad.”)

What will happen when the year is up?

Read the rest here.  

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