St James Cathedral - Seattle, WA

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Our Sacred Duty and the HHS Mandate

Since the Supreme Court starting hearing arguments for/against Obamacare yesterday, I thought it fitting to post this now. 

Immediately after writing Why I Hate the HHS Mandate, I got thrown into a lot of heating discussions. Most of it on Facebook, but also by e-mail and individual discussion.  As I participated in these exchanges, I had some additional thoughts and observations which I've written below. 

I suppose you could consider this "Part 2" of the original blog post.  If you've talked to me about this, then I apologize since you'll find some of this repetitive.  Nevertheless, when it comes to religious liberty and moral objection, this is all worth saying again and again.

Have you spoken to any women about this? How do they feel?  
Of course. I'm employed as a hospital social worker. The majority of the population I serve is women. My coworkers are mostly nurses (and most of the nurses happen to be women). Overall, I found that women tend to be more sensitive to conscientious objection than men. Everybody wants more access to health care, and you can do it without having to violate the moral obligations of someone else. 

Just like it's wrong to force a physician, nurse, pharmacist, etc, to do something they conscientiously object to, it's wrong to coerce the Church to pay for things it conscientiously objects to.  The issue isn't women's health; this is an issue about religious liberty.

Does religious liberty really involved here? It's really only a few people that have this problem.
Religious liberty has been a part of our nation since the beginning.  Quakers can't be drafted into military service.  Amish cannot be forced to take social security.  (Relevant Radio's Fr.  Francis Hoffman gave those to examples.)  Archbishop-Designate William Lori of Baltimore gave the brilliant example: Kosher delis in New York can't be forced to sell pork.  It doesn't matter how many Jewish people no longer follow a kosher diet, just like it doesn't matter how many Quakers or Amish there are.  If 99% of students have cheated on a test at one time or another, does that mean academia should permit cheating?  No!

The mandate really doesn't impact you since you don't work for a Catholic organization.  
Yes it does! My parish (like most parishes) gets almost all of its revenue through the offertory collection which I contribute to.  It gets about $600k a year.  $250k of the collection goes to the parish school since tuition only covers 60% of the cost. So under the HHS mandate, the school will be forced to spend about $144k each year (57% of the Church's subsidy to the school) to purchase into a health plan that offers abortion, sterilization, and birth control which the Church morally objects to. I estimated the cost by assuming there are 30 employees, each with a monthly premium around $400, not including dependents.  As it stands now, the religious exemption does not apply since the school has always been open to both Catholics and non-Catholics.  So in order for the school to continue, it would have to restrict enrollment to only Catholic students, or pay a lot more to offer a more appropriate health plan due to the fines from the mandate.  None of those are in the best interest of the parish school or its students.

What will really happen to the Church if the HHS mandate isn't changed or rescinded? 
This question is best answered by Francis Cardinal George's column "What Are You Giving Up For Lent?" in the Chicago Archdiocese's newspaper Catholic New World:
What will happen if the HHS regulations are not rescinded? A Catholic institution, so far as I can see right now, will have one of four choices: 1) secularize itself, breaking its connection to the church, her moral and social teachings and the oversight of its ministry by the local bishop. This is a form of theft. It means the church will not be permitted to have an institutional voice in public life. 2) Pay exorbitant annual fines to avoid paying for insurance policies that cover abortifacient drugs, artificial contraception and sterilization. This is not economically sustainable. 3) Sell the institution to a non-Catholic group or to a local government. 4) Close down.
Cardinal George also paints a very sobering picture by writing:
If you haven’t already purchased the Archdiocesan Directory for 2012, I would suggest you get one as a souvenir. On page L-3, there is a complete list of Catholic hospitals and health care institutions in Cook and Lake counties. Each entry represents much sacrifice on the part of medical personnel, administrators and religious sponsors. Each name signifies the love of Christ to people of all classes and races and religions. Two Lents from now, unless something changes, that page will be blank.
I had the opportunity to meet Card George several times when I lived in Chicago.  He isn't exaggerating at all; he's the kind of person who says it like it really is. 

Lastly, I'd like to say that we Catholics need to stand up for what we believe in.  With a an exception or two like the annual Right to Life March, we tend to be a more silent or passive people.  Many of us opt out of making the Sign of the Cross in public, most likely because we don't want to call attention to the fact that we're Catholic.  When problems occur, we think "the pastor should take care of it," largely because we still tend to think the clergy is the Church, even though it's the laity that have the most opportunity to effect societal change.  Let's leave Church administration and sacraments to the clergy (that's why we ordain them), so that we the laity can do our part in society and speak up for the God given rights we should have within it.  Speaking out is our right as Americans, and our sacred duty as Catholics.

Tell anyone who will listen- the Obama administration can increase the availability of so called "preventive health services" without the Church taking part in supplying it.  Don't violate our religious freedom.  It's that simple. 

If you agree, write a comment below or share this with someone else. 

1 comment:

  1. Paul,

    Great post and great blog. I added your blog to my blogroll, too! Keep up the good work!

    Stephen Muff


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