N.C. bishops ask for action to protest contraception mandate
A rising tide of Catholic anger is being directed toward the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services over new health care guidelines forcing Catholic institutions to provide free contraception in their employees' health insurance plans. North Carolina's two bishops, the U.S. bishops and other religious organizations are urging a peaceful protest of the mandate.
In the guidelines, HHS is mandating that private health insurance plans must cover all FDA-approved prescription contraceptive drugs and devices, as well as surgical sterilization. These are listed among "preventive services for women" that all insurers will have to cover without co-pays or other cost to employees, and include abortifacient drugs such as "ella" and "Plan B."
Faith-based organizations, including Catholic hospitals, universities and charitable groups, object to the mandate because it would force them to provide health insurance coverage for services that violate Church teaching on artificial contraception.
Catholic Voice North Carolina, the non-partisan public policy arm of the state's two bishops, Peter Jugis of the Diocese of Charlotte and Michael Burbidge of the Diocese of Raleigh, issued an email alert to more than 4,000 subscribers on Jan. 27 asking them to write, call or fax their elected representatives.
North Carolina's bishops joined a chorus of religious leaders nationwide, including USCCB president Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, who are seeking an exemption to the mandate based on the long-standing principle of conscience protection in which an individual is not forced by law to violate his or her beliefs.
In the letter the North Carolina bishops asked the faithful to support the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act proposed last week in Congress.
"This measure will ensure that those who participate in the health care system retain the right to provide, purchase or enroll in health coverage that is consistent with their religious beliefs and moral convictions," the bishops' letter stated. North Carolina and a majority of other states already provide for a similar religious exemption.
Response to the bishops' call has been strong: within 48 hours more than 700 emails were sent to congressional representatives. Many, like Ken Davison of Gaston County, expressed outrage over the narrow religious exemption that HHS had set forth: religious employers may be exempted from the contraception insurance mandate only if they serve and employ people primarily of their own beliefs. Davison urged the bishops to "publicly fight back, unambiguously telling every Catholic that this is immoral and illegal."
The rules take effect in August for private insurers, while religious institutions have been granted a one-year extension to August 2013 before they must comply with the contraception mandate.
— David Hains, diocesan director of communication
Catholic Voice NC will be providing updates on the HHS mandate at www.catholicvoicenc.org. Membership in the organization is free.
View the video statement by Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, head of the USCCB, at www.usccb.org.
Read the full text of their letter below:
January 27, 2012
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On January 20, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reaffirmed a rule that virtually all private health care plans must cover sterilization, abortifacients, and contraception. The rule is set to take effect August 1,2012. Non-profit religious employers including the Dioceses of Charlotte and Raleigh that do not now provide such coverage, and are not exempt under the rule's extremely narrow definition of religious employer, will be given one year—until August 1, 2013—to comply.
Responding to the announcement, Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, stated: "In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences."
Last August, the HHS issued a list of "preventive services for women" to be mandated in almost all private health plans under the new health care law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). The mandated services include sterilization, all FDA-approved birth control and "education and counseling" to promote these among all "women of reproductive capacity."
HHS's proposed rule allowed only a very narrow exemption for a "religious employer." In September and December of 2011, CatholicVoiceNC.org issued action alerts on this matter at a time when HHS was seeking comment on the proposed rules. The January 20 announcement makes the proposed rule final.
To correct the threats to religious liberty and rights of conscience posed by PPACA, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act has been introduced in Congress (H.R. 1179, S. 1467). This measure will ensure that those who participate in the health care system "retain the right to provide, purchase, or enroll in health coverage that is consistent with their religious beliefs and moral convictions."
ACTION: Contact your U.S. Representative by e-mail, phone, or FAX letter:
* Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at: 202-224-3121, or call your Members' local offices.
* Send an e-mail through CVNC's Grassroots Action Center.
Thank you for all you do in support of life.
The Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge, Bishop of Raleigh
The Most Reverend Peter J. Jugis, Bishop of Charlotte
Patron saints of familiesThere's a saint for everyone, and families are no different. Here are a few noteworthy examples for your family to learn more about. There is the familiar and beloved St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus, and St. Francis of Assisi, who's on everyone's...
Reflections on St. PeterPeter the fishermanAfter Jesus, Peter is the figure best known and most frequently cited in the New Testament writings: he is mentioned 154 times with the nickname of Pétros, "rock," the Greek translation of the Aramaic name Jesus gave him directly;...
Pope Francis on the Year of FaithPope Francis spoke about the Year of Faith in his audience with representatives of the Churches and Ecclesial Communities, and other religions March 20: "I begin my apostolic ministry in this year that my venerated predecessor, Pope Benedict...
As pope, Benedict worked to promote understanding of Vatican IIVATICAN CITY — On Feb. 14, in one of the last public appearances of his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI spoke to the clergy of Rome about his experiences at the Second Vatican Council, which he had attended as an expert consultant half a century...
People around world pledge to say rosary daily during Year of FaithEASTON, Mass. — The Family Rosary division of Holy Cross Family Ministries in Easton has gathered more than 80,000 pledges from people around the globe who said they would pray the rosary daily during the 2012-13 Year of Faith. The pledges,...
A culture of lifeIn 2013 our country observes a shameful anniversary: marking 40 years of a "culture of death" that began when the U.S. Supreme Court, in Roe v. Wade, struck down all state laws restricting abortion. Since the advent of "legalized" abortion,...
The Fathers of the Church
Lives of the Saints
St. Mark the Evangelist's feast day celebrated on April 25St. Mark is the patron of St. Mark Church in Huntersville, which was dedicated in 2009. (File, Catholic News Herald)St. Mark, the Evangelist, is the author of the second Gospel and the patron saint of notaries. He wrote the Gospel in Greek for the Gentile...
St. Damien of Molokai's life of sacrifice remembered May 10The Church will remember St. Damien of Molokai May 10. The Belgian priest sacrificed his life and health to become a spiritual father to the victims of leprosy quarantined on a Hawaiian island. Joseph de Veuser, who later took the name Damien in religious...
'Oracle of Palestine' St. Epiphanius of Salamis celebrated May 12On May 12 the Church honors St. Epiphanius of Salamis, an early monk, bishop and Church Father known for his extensive learning and defense of Catholic teachings in the fourth century. During a 2007 visit with the Orthodox Archbishop of Cyprus, Pope...
St. Katharine Drexel has local connectionOn March 3, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Katharine Drexel, a Philadelphia heiress who abandoned her family's fortune to found an order of sisters dedicated to serving the impoverished African American and Native American populations...
St. Bede known for scholarship and holiness, honored May 25The Church will celebrate the feast of St. Bede May 25. The English priest, monk and scholar is sometimes known as "the Venerable Bede" for his combination of personal holiness and intellectual brilliance. Bede was born during 673 near the...
FROM THE PASTORS
Read and listen to homilies posted regularly by pastors at parishes within the Diocese of Charlotte:
- Fr. Frank Cancro at Queen of the Apostles
- Fr. Patrick Earl at St. Peter in Charlotte
- Fr. John Eckert at St. John the Baptist in Tryon
- Fr. Timothy Reid at St. Ann in Charlotte
- Fr. Benjamin Roberts at Our Lady of Lourdes in Monroe
- Fr. Patrick Winslow at St. Thomas Aquinas in Charlotte
- Watch full Masses live and on demand, listen to homilies and reflections from Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury
- Listen to homilies from St. William Catholic Church in Murphy