Summer may have come and gone but the HHS Mandate is still very much with us. In June, the government issued its final ruling with its “accommodations”. Despite our extensive critique and efforts to offer acceptable language, our grave concerns were given no real accommodation. We do have five months extra time to determine how to respond. Yet the basic flaws remain: the narrow definition of a “religious employer,” the limitation of religious freedom to freedom of worship, dividing our community of faith between houses of worship and ministries of service and the failure to give any relief to for-profit businesses run by Catholics and others for whom compliance would be a violation of their consciences.
At the Administrative Committee of the US Bishops last week, we discussed all these issues at great length. We continue our efforts in Congress and in the courts. The latter, in my judgment, shows promise with some successes already recorded. But the struggle goes on and we will continue to use every legitimate means at our disposal to defend our ministries as integral to our faith mission. We have confidence that the truth of our positions will ultimately prevail.
This Summer, the Catholic Health Association (CHA) responded quickly on July 8. Their President, Sister Carol Keehan, DC, announced “HHS has now established an accommodation that will allow our ministries to continue offering health insurance plans as they have always done.” Her statement was untimely and unhelpful to the Church and the Bishops who have the responsibility for teaching faith and morals for the Catholic faithful. The president of CHA, a friend of mine, is a registered nurse who is a leader in hospital administration. In that capacity she represents a professional trade organization of hospitals that identify themselves as Catholic. She does not speak for the Church nor can her opinion, however professional as a hospital administrator, replace the role and the responsibility we bishops have regarding the moral and ethical issues at stake.
May I assure all of you that we Bishops are resolved to continue to defend our right to live by our faith and our duty to serve the poor, heal the sick and keep our apostolic works strong and vibrant contributors to the good of society.