On Friday, President Obama stated that his Administration will implement a Health and Human Services policy that "accommodates religious liberty while protecting the health of women" (cf. www.whitehouse.gov). At present, the rule in its revised written form has yet to be seen. This revised rule, as explained by the president, will still force nearly all employers, including Catholic institutions, to pay for birth control, abortion-inducing drugs and sterilizations. Make no mistake: this "accommodation," as described, is no accommodation at all, but rather remains a direct violation to our right to religious liberty, a right which is protected in the Constitution.
The president's new plan purports to transfer the burden from religious employers to their insurers. This is a distinction without a practical difference; the funds still come from the employer and the employees. Moreover, it fails to address the situation of self-insured health care plans such as those offered together by the Catholic Diocese of Arlington and Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington. Under a self-insured plan, the employer isthe insurance provider-there is no distinction between the two.
Up to now, we have been free to provide health care coverage that is consistent with our religious and moral principles. This freedom is being taken away. Under the proposed revision, our diocese, as well as other objecting individuals and employers, would be mandated to pay not only for birth control and sterilization, but also for abortion-inducing drugs-such as Ella-which end the life of the human person in the womb. This mandate must be rescinded or overturned.
It is not only Catholics who are being threatened. This mandate is a dangerous precedent for all those who seek to act according to their consciences. Therefore, I call on all Catholics and all people of good will to continue to stand up for our rights as free citizens by contacting members of Congress, urging them to support the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (H.R. 1179 and S. 1467), which protects Americans' "right to provide, purchase, or enroll in health coverage that is consistent with their religious beliefs."
We must not allow anyone or anything to divide us. Rather, we must be united in our prayer and penance as well as in our unwavering defense of this fundamental right.
The Diocese of Arlington includes 454,000 registered Catholics, 68 parishes and six missions, located in 21 counties and seven independent cities from Fredericksburg, Va., to the Washington, DC suburbs, from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay. www.arlingtondiocese.org.