Faith and charity must go together, Bishop Jugis preaches
HHS mandate violates First Amendment, tenets of faith itself
CHARLOTTE — In a special homily about the threat to religious liberty posed by the federal contraception mandate, Bishop Peter Jugis emphasized that the witness of our faith necessarily must go beyond the pews at Mass.
"Our religious faith is shown in our care for the sick and the poor, in visiting the imprisoned, in helping refugees and immigrants, and many other ways," Bishop Jugis preached during Mass at St. Patrick Cathedral in Charlotte July 1. "Faith in Jesus blossoms into works of charity and mercy toward our neighbor."
This fact is why all people of faith must oppose the federal mandate that will force nearly every employer to provide free artificial contraception in their health insurance plans despite religious objections, he said.
Watch his homily here:
The mandate – part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 – is a new federal regulation written by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that sets up new preventative health care coverage specifically for women at no cost. Coverage includes services such as mammograms, prenatal care and cervical cancer screenings, but the HHS insists that employers must also provide free artificial birth control pills, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs – which are contrary to Catholic teaching.
For employers who object to covering free artificial contraception on religious grounds, the HHS provides a narrow way out: Only those who serve and hire people primarily of their own faith will be considered exempt as religious institutions. That is a much narrower definition of religious organizations than most states, including North Carolina, and the federal government have used before.
Most Catholic employers would not meet the requirements of this exemption, as they serve and hire anyone regardless of their faiths. So employers face the stark choice of either going against Church teaching by providing free artificial contraception, stop offering health insurance to their employees and students, or pay severe fines for noncompliance with the mandate.
Catholic hospitals, religious schools and colleges, Catholic Charities affiliates, diocesan ministries, charitable aid agencies and relief organizations, and Catholic-owned businesses that have more than 50 employees are all affected by this new HHS mandate. More than 40 federal lawsuits have been filed against the HHS challenging the mandate, including one by Belmont Abbey College.
"It's a very narrow definition of religion which the federal government has now enacted," Bishop Jugis explained. "They define religion to be only what takes place in the church building. But caring for the sick, educating children, serving the poor, sheltering the homeless, helping refugees and immigrants – these activities are not considered to be religion according to the new definition.
"I think you can see how wrong that reasoning is."
Bishop Jugis then quoted from the day's Mass readings:
"In our Gospel reading today (Mark 5: 21-43) we see the sick woman, because of her faith, reaching out to Jesus for healing, and Jesus says to her: 'Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.' And the synagogue official, because of his faith, reaches out to Jesus to heal his daughter, who is at the point of death. And St. Paul writes in his second Letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor 8:7): 'excel in faith. Let your faith grow and shine forth in your good works of charity and mercy.'
"We cannot separate the fruits of faith from faith itself. Faith is a response to God's grace and His love, and it involves the whole person, including our actions," Bishop Jugis said.
The Fortnight for Freedom campaign, which runs from June 21 to July 4, is a way for Catholics to learn more about the threat to religious liberty, to understand the vital societal role that the people of the Church have in helping anyone in need, and to pray for relief from the unjust mandate.
Why is this issue a threat to religious liberty, and not just a troublesome federal rule? Because it specifically defines what a religious institution is, and what its members can and cannot do. That violates the constitutional rights of all people of conscience, Bishop Jugis said.
"The government should not be intruding upon the free exercise of religion and our works of charity and service. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says: 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.' Forcing our Catholic institutions to offer health insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs, is intruding on the free exercise of religion," he said.
"My brothers and sisters, the Holy Eucharist, which we are here to celebrate this morning, is where our charity is constantly nourished. Jesus lays down His life for us, so great is His love, and He feeds us on the Eucharistic sacrifice of His Body and Blood from this altar," he said.
Evoking his episcopal motto, "The love of Christ impels us," Bishop Jugis continued, "This love of Christ, which we celebrate here today, impels us to serve the poor, to serve the sick, to serve the needy, to serve not just people of our own faith – which is what this mandate would likely restrict us to – but to serve all people, regardless of their religious affiliation. This is our faith. This is a faith in Jesus, which blossoms forth in charity and mercy" through the many Catholic institutions built up to serve others."
He prayed that Catholics and all people of faith would find the courage to speak out against the mandate and to pray for the protection of religious freedom in the U.S. He also encouraged people to attend an extra Mass, do a holy hour or pray a rosary for this intention.
— Patricia L. Guilfoyle, editor
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