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 â€œsafe harbor,â€ but must find a way to comply by August 2013 or pay heavy fines.
â€œItâ€™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,â€ 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. â€œItâ€™s a position no one should have to be in.â€
Bishop James Conley told the Omaha World-Herald that the Catholic Church â€œwonâ€™t back downâ€ in opposing the mandate. â€œWe are never going to compromise our principles.â€
Employers refusing to comply with the mandate could face penalties of up to $100 per day for each of their uncovered employees.
â€œWe will defy it and face the consequences,â€ 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. â€œBut, there has been nothing presented that actually accommodates (these institutions),â€ Hardman said. â€œThere has been no promise of what or when. Weâ€™re waitingâ€ 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 â€œor refuse to embrace something thatâ€™s against the teaching of our church.â€
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 weekâ€™s election when the Vatican spoke out regarding its support of marriage.
On Nov. 6, voters in three states â€” Maryland, Maine and Washington â€” 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.
â€œOne might say the church, at least on this front, has been defeated,â€ said the leading Vatican newspaper, Lâ€™Osservatore Romano on Saturday. â€œBut thatâ€™s not the case.â€
The Catholic Church is not going to change its position on marriage any more than itâ€™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.