This year, the Catholic Church in the United States is being told she must “give up” her health care institutions, her universities and many of her social service organizations. This is not a voluntary sacrifice. It is the consequence of the already much discussed Department of Health and Human Services regulations now filed and promulgated for implementation beginning Aug. 1 of this year.
Why does a governmental administrative decision now mean the end of institutions that have been built up over several generations from small donations, often from immigrants, and through the services of religious women and men and others who wanted to be part of the church’s mission in healing and education? Catholic hospitals, universities and social services have an institutional conscience, a conscience shaped by Catholic moral and social teaching. The HHS regulations now before our society will make it impossible for Catholic institutions to follow their conscience.Msgr. Pope seems rather to agree, and upholds the mission of the Church to evangelize by word and by action:
Yes, frankly we do have vigorous disagreement with secret (and not so secret), shameful practices. And we will not, in order to be popular or conformed to these times, distort or misrepresent the Word of God. Abortion is wrong. Fornication, adultery, and homosexual acts are wrong. Divorce, and chosen single parenthood, and so called gay “marriage” are wrong. Contraception, sterilization, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, wrong, wrong wrong.
But I cannot force you to obey me. Rather I commend myself to your conscience. And even if Scripture will not be acceptable to you, I will have recourse to Natural Law. I, indeed the whole Church, will continue to commend myself to your conscience. And even though the gospel is currently “out of season” (cf 2 Tim 4:2) and you laugh at me and call me names like intolerant, bigoted etc., I will continue to commend myself to your conscience.As long as I live I will speak the truth in love. And however you choose to understand me I will continue to speak.
And not least, in Washington State, the conscience rights of pharmacists were recently upheld in court. Worth noting that this is not a religious decision per se, but a constitutional one.
Update (2/29) - Sebelius offers "dialogue" on the non-accommodating "accommodation" - but not with the bishops. Sr. Walsh of the USCCB has some cogent replies to this further deprivation of the most basic rights from the members of the Church, starting with this:
The current tensions over religious freedom come down to a simple fact: the First Amendment guarantees free exercise of religion. That includes the right of Catholic and other religious institutions to define and carry out their ministry.
...and continuing with this:
The Administration’s intrusive decision about what does and does not constitute religious ministry should make every American pause. What falls after freedom of religion? Freedom of the press? Will Caesar tell you what you have to print or air?
...and ending, with copious irony (to which, unfortunately, this Administration seems as insensitive as it does to the Constitution), with this:
Certainly our government, wise as it is, can’t be expected (and shouldn’t purport) to know everything. It might well ease its burdens by leaving some things to the Almighty and rendering unto God the things that are God’s.