WASHINGTON D.C.- Roman Catholic officials are speaking out against a government mandate requiring most businesses, including dioceses and other faith-based institutions, to offer contraceptives and possible abortion-inducing drugs under their health insurance plans.
The Obama administration gave secular businesses until August to comply with the Health and Human Services mandate. Faith-based organizations, such as Catholic hospitals, as well as Protestant and Catholic universities and ministries, have a so-called “safe harbor,” but must find a way to comply by August 2013 or pay heavy fines.
“It’s very troubling that charities that feed the hungry, provide counseling and provide a tremendous good for society are faced with this question of violating their faith or shutting down,” said Emily Hardman, communications director for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a Washington D.C.-based legal group that is working on dozens of the cases. “It’s a position no one should have to be in.”
Bishop James Conley told the Omaha World-Herald that the Catholic Church “won’t back down” in opposing the mandate. “We are never going to compromise our principles.”
Employers refusing to comply with the mandate could face penalties of up to $100 per day for each of their uncovered employees.
“We will defy it and face the consequences,” said Conley, who will start as the new bishop of the Diocese of Lincoln in Nebraska on Nov. 20.
The Obama administration said it would provide accommodations for certain faith-based organizations. “But, there has been nothing presented that actually accommodates (these institutions),” Hardman said. “There has been no promise of what or when. We’re waiting” for an answer.
Deacon Tim McNeil, chancellor of the Omaha Archdiocese, told Omaha World-Herald that the worst-case scenario would be forced to make a decision to comply “or refuse to embrace something that’s against the teaching of our church.”
The Catholic Church is also standing firm in its support of marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
The church made headlines shortly after last week’s election when the Vatican spoke out regarding its support of marriage.
On Nov. 6, voters in three states — Maryland, Maine and Washington — approved same-sex marriage initiatives; Minnesotans voted down a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
Overseas, voters in France approved legislation legalizing same-sex marriage next year, and Spain upheld its same-sex marriage law.
“One might say the church, at least on this front, has been defeated,” said the leading Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano on Saturday. “But that’s not the case.”
The Catholic Church is not going to change its position on marriage any more than it’s going to change its position on slavery, racism or genocide, said Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League, a Catholic civil-rights organization in New York City.