Dolan Says Latest HHS Proposal Falls Short

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops acknowleged some movement on latest revision to Department of Health and Human Services controversial contraception mandate, but say the language still falls short of addressing their concerns. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, promises that the conference "will affirm any genuine progress that is made, and we will redouble our efforts to overcome obstacles or setbacks."

Cardinal Dolan said, “Throughout the past year, we have been assured by the Administration that we will not have to refer, pay for, or negotiate for the mandated coverage. We remain eager for the Administration to fulfill that pledge and to find acceptable solutions."

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He listed three key areas of concern: the narrow understanding of a religious ministry; compelling church ministries to fund and facilitate services such as contraceptives, including abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization that violate Catholic teaching; and disregard of the conscience rights of for-profit business owners. These are the same concerns articulated by the USCCB Administrative Committee in its March 2012 statement,United for Religious Freedom.

Cardinal Dolan said the new proposal seemed to address one part of the church’s concern over the definition of a church ministry but stressed that “the Administration’s proposal maintains its inaccurate distinction among religious ministries.

“It appears to offer second-class status to our first-class institutions in Catholic health care, Catholic education and Catholic charities. HHS offers what it calls an ‘accommodation’ rather than accepting the fact that these ministries are integral to our church and worthy of the same exemption as our Catholic churches.”

Cardinal Dolan highlighted problems with the proposed “accommodation.”

“It appears that the government would require all employees in our ‘accommodated’ ministries to have the illicit coverage—they may not opt out, nor even opt out for their children—under a separate policy,” he said.

He also noted that “because of gaps in the proposed regulations, it is still unclear how directly these separate policies would be funded by objecting ministries, and what precise role those ministries would have in arranging for these separate policies. Thus, there remains the possibility that ministries may yet be forced to fund and facilitate such morally illicit activities.”

Cardinal Dolan also said the proposal refuses to acknowledge conscience rights of business owners who operate their businesses according to their faith and moral values. “In obedience to our Judeo-Christian heritage, we have consistently taught our people to live their lives during the week to reflect the same beliefs that they proclaim on the Sabbath,” Cardinal Dolan said. “We cannot now abandon them to be forced to violate their morally well-informed consciences.”

 

The complete statement follows:

Statement of Cardinal Timothy Dolan Responding to Feb. 1 Proposal from HHS

For almost a century, the Catholic bishops of the United States have worked hard to support the right of every person to affordable, accessible, comprehensive, life-affirming healthcare.  As we continue to do so, our changeless values remain the same.  We promote the protection of the dignity of all human life and the innate rights that flow from it, including the right to life from conception to natural death; care for the poorest among us and the undocumented; the right of the Church to define itself, its ministries, and its ministers; and freedom of conscience.

Last Friday, the Administration issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding the HHS mandate that requires coverage for sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortions.  The Administration indicates that it has heard some previously expressed concerns and that it is open to dialogue.  With release of the NPRM, the Administration seeks to offer a response to serious matters which have been raised throughout the past year.  We look forward to engaging with the Administration, and all branches and levels of government, to continue to address serious issues that remain. Our efforts will require additional, careful study.  Only in this way can we best assure that healthcare for every woman, man and child is achieved without harm to our first, most cherished freedom.

In evaluating Friday’s action regarding the HHS mandate, our reference remains the statement of our Administrative Committee made last March, United for Religious Freedom, and affirmed by the entire body of bishops in June 2012.

In that statement, we first expressed concern over the mandate’s “exceedingly narrow” four-part definition of “religious employer,” one that exempted our houses of worship, but left “our great ministries of service to our neighbors, namely, the poor, the homeless, the sick, the students in our schools and universities, and others in need” subject to the mandate.  This created “a ‘second class’ of citizenship within our religious community,” “weakening [federal law’s] healthy tradition of generous respect for religious freedom and diversity.”  And the exemption effectuated this distinction by requiring “among other things, [that employers] must hire and serve primarily those of their own faith.”

On Friday, the Administration proposed to drop the first three parts of the four-part test.  This might address the last of the concerns above, but it seems not to address the rest.  The Administration’s proposal maintains its inaccurate distinction among religious ministries. It appears to offer second-class status to our first-class institutions in Catholic health care, Catholic education, and Catholic charities. HHS offers what it calls an “accommodation,” rather than accepting the fact that these ministries are integral to our Church and worthy of the same exemption as our Catholic churches. And finally, it seems to take away something that we had previously—the ability of an exempt employer (such as a diocese) to extend its coverage to the employees of a ministry outside the exemption.

Second, United for Religious Freedom explained that the religious ministries not deemed “religious employers” would suffer the severe consequence of “be[ing] forced by government to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions.”  After Friday, it appears that the government would require all employees in our “accommodated” ministries to have the illicit coverage—they may not opt out, nor even opt out for their children—under a separate policy.  In part because of gaps in the proposed regulations, it is still unclear how directly these separate policies would be funded by objecting ministries, and what precise role those ministries would have in arranging for these separate policies.  Thus, there remains the possibility that ministries may yet be forced to fund and facilitate such morally illicit activities. Here, too, we will continue to analyze the proposal and to advocate for changes to the final rule that reflect these concerns.

Third, the bishops explained that the “HHS mandate creates still a third class, those with no conscience protection at all:  individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to act in accordance with their faith and moral values.”  This includes employers sponsoring and subsidizing the coverage, insurers writing it, and beneficiaries paying individual premiums for it.  Friday’s action confirms that HHS has no intention to provide any exemption or accommodation at all to this “third class.”  In obedience to our Judeo-Christian heritage, we have consistently taught our people to live their lives during the week to reflect the same beliefs that they proclaim on the Sabbath.  We cannot now abandon them to be forced to violate their morally well-informed consciences.

Because the stakes are so high, we will not cease from our effort to assure that healthcare for all does not mean freedom for few.  Throughout the past year, we have been assured by the Administration that we will not have to refer, pay for, or negotiate for the mandated coverage.  We remain eager for the Administration to fulfill that pledge and to find acceptable solutions—we will affirm any genuine progress that is made, and we will redouble our efforts to overcome obstacles or setbacks.  Thus, we welcome and will take seriously the Administration’s invitation to submit our concerns through formal comments, and we will do so in the hope that an acceptable solution can be found that respects the consciences of all.  At the same time, we will continue to stand united with brother bishops, religious institutions, and individual citizens who seek redress in the courts for as long as this is necessary. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York February 7, 2013

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Bill Freeman
5 years 3 months ago
Leave it to the UCCB. Won't take "yes" for an answer. The Administration has bent over backwards for the bishops. It's time to move on and fully implement that Affordable Care Act. Last night I watched Alex Gibney’s “Mea Maxima Culpa” on HBO. While we all know much of the sorted details of the Roman Church’s worldwide sex abuse scandal and the Mafia-like coverup by the hierarchy (all the way to B16), it was horrible to watch. And the commentator make a point that there will be future waves of disclosures in Africa, South America, and Asia on the level of what we have seen in the U.S. and Europe. The insistence by the bishops on their exact policies regarding healthcare reform and US immigration reform is mind boggling against the larger and ongoing problem of sex abuse in the church. If I were the bishops, I’d definitely want to change the subject as well.
Joshua DeCuir
5 years 3 months ago
"If I were the bishops, I’d definitely want to change the subject as well." Just as with some pro-lifers who resort to analogies of the Holocaust over every issue, resorts to objections based on the sex abuse crisis every time there is objection to something "the bishops" do only serves to cheapen that terrible crisis.
Mary Keane
5 years 3 months ago
Well stated.
Tim O'Leary
5 years 3 months ago
Bill. The conspiracy claims in the HBO propaganda don't add up. Blaming the Pope for American abusers is like blaming Obama for the Sandusky abuse, since he is top of the public institution food chain. Or at least the Attorney General. Or the PA Governor... In any case, even if a Bishop or Pope did a great evil, why would that justify taking away every Catholic individual's right not to be coerced to go against their conscience?
Bill Freeman
5 years 3 months ago
Tim - Sounds like you didn't see the HBO special or understand that Ratzinger by decree of JP2 ALL cases of alleged priest sex abuse were to be reported directly to Ratzinger at the CDF. He was directly responsible.
John Hayes
5 years 3 months ago
This section from the statement posted on the USCCB website seems to be Cardinal Dolan's list of issues (passing over his earlier grumbling about putting hospitals, etc in a different category from churches) ""It appears that the government would require all employees in our 'accommodated' ministries to have the illicit coverage—they may not opt out, nor even opt out for their children—under a separate policy," he said. He also noted that "because of gaps in the proposed regulations, it is still unclear how directly these separate policies would be funded by objecting ministries, and what precise role those ministries would have in arranging for these separate policies. Thus, there remains the possibility that ministries may yet be forced to fund and facilitate such morally illicit activities." Cardinal Dolan also said the proposal refuses to acknowledge conscience rights of business owners who operate their businesses according to their faith and moral values." My guess is that the first issue is mostly about parents being able to block their children (who may be covered until they are 26 years old) from getting free contraceptives. Otherwise, the employee could just not use contraceptives her/himself even if she/he automatically received a policy. They may have a chance of getting this change. The second issue doesn't object to anything that has been proposed - just says we need to see all the details before we endorse this. The third point is the Taco Bell/Hobby Lobby proposition. I suppose they felt they had to express solidarity with them but I think there is about zero chance that they will get this. It will be reolved by the Supreme Court , someday.
ed gleason
5 years 3 months ago
Because Taco Bell does NOT offer their employees health insurance, wouldn't be nice if Cardinal Dolan showed us the letter he wrote to Taco Bell asking them to cover employees last year, Or this year, or maybe next week he'll write one.
James Murrray
5 years 3 months ago
Dolan, like all bishops, ignores one fact: most priests affirm artificial birth control. So, yes, the Church should cover it. Period.
Vince Killoran
5 years 3 months ago
Many Catholics--including me--have dismissed the USCCB et al. as engaging in crude politics and faulty thinking a while back. The Cardinal notes that "the stakes are high" and he's right: having lost the laity about contraception a long time ago, their moral prestige over the failure to take responsibility over the abuse scandal, and a thinning of the ranks on Sunday this is "going for broke" in the worst way.
Tim O'Leary
5 years 3 months ago
Vince. the phrase "going for broke" might more aptly refer to the present government's cavilier attitude to the national debt. But, on this issue, how could it possibly be politically beneficial for the bishops to stand firm on an issue where you believe only a minority of Catholics follow them. Wouldn't sticking with an unpopular position be more a sign of principled courage than crude politics? But, you always take an anti-clerical stand. Why is it I can't distinguish your comments from the rabid anti-Catholics on the secular websites?
Vince Killoran
5 years 3 months ago
"Why is it I can't distinguish your comments from the rabid anti-Catholics on the secular websites?" Because you spend way too much time defending the indefensible.
Tim O'Leary
5 years 3 months ago
So, now the religious freedom not to be coerced to pay for things that one believes are immoral and against one's conscience is in your view "indefensible." Very extreme.
Vince Killoran
5 years 3 months ago
If your conscience tells you that it is immoral than don't pay for it--but be prepared to pay the penalty. There is a long and storied list of great people that have followed this route. Their example has inspired others and often led to legal and political change. But that is not your argument. You are asserting that we should set our laws and policies so that anyone, anytime, and for any reason--as long as it is based on religious belief--should be exempted from legal measures. Throughout American history there have been religious exemptions and accommodations but they have never been given carte blanche.
Tim O'Leary
5 years 3 months ago
Our laws have been strongly protective of religious freedom. But, it is the new "democratic" regime, with its willing foot soldiers like yourself, that now want to draft committed religious people, to pay for their new schemes (free contraception now, abortion next), or pay penalties for not doing so. Catholics and Evangelical Christians and Mormons and others may indeed have to pay these penalties - but not without a political fight. You are just on the wrong side of oppression on this one.
Vince Killoran
5 years 3 months ago
I'm sorry Tim but your understanding of the history of church-state relations in American history is flawed. Sure, it serves a political purpose to argue that, until the Obama Administration, religious groups could opt out of anything they asserted violated their moral principles but that just ain't so. A wide range of generally applicable laws (e.g., murder, rape, theft) must be applicable to religious objectors. Even as to more controversial cases such as bans on race discrimination in education, marriage age laws, or generally applicable taxes, the Court has found that religious objectors claims must yield.
Tim O'Leary
5 years 3 months ago
Vince. This last post is very revealing. You and I disagree on who is teaching who on moral issues. You seem to believe that it is the State that must teach the Church on moral issues (such as murder, rape, theft, race discriminaiton, marriage laws, etc.) whereas I believe that the Church (and Synagogue) was and is the teacher of the State. So, when the State comes to believe that abortion is no longer killing a human being, then the Church, in your opinion, must bow to the State. When the State comes to treat homosexual sex as to be codified by marriage laws, then the Church must obey, even under penalty of fines, which you deem right and reasonable. And if (when) the State believes that some elderly lives would be better off ended, then the logic of your stance is that the Church must, under penalty of fines, or worse, get out of the way. I think this is our disagreement. Your primary devotion is to the State. That is your highest power. That is your devotion.
Vince Killoran
5 years 3 months ago
Of course not Tim--get real and, while you're at it, stop questioning my faith and calling me a totalitarian. We are discussing the relationship between church & state. I was laying out the actual history of how the U.S. government has dealt with pleas for religious exemptions in the past and pointing to your incorrect understanding of this history. Nothing more. There's nothing cleaver about twisting this into a claim that my "primary devotion is to the State." We are both Catholic & citizens. We live in a multicultural & secular society. The Church doesn't have to perform marriage ceremonies for gay couples. It just can't take government monies when it is discriminating against them. These points have been made many, many times on this website. Unless you have a new point to make I think I'll move on.
Tim O'Leary
5 years 3 months ago
Vince. To use your own phrase, "stop whining". You called me a "right-winger" before I said you had a totalitarian streak. The latter is a stance where people with a different view of coming to the truth are told they have "no place in civil society." Once more, the HHS mandate is not about taking tax money. It is about being coerced into providing for immoral services, judged so by the Church, but judged a good by the State. You have avoided this issue all along.
Vince Killoran
5 years 3 months ago
http://americamagazine.org/issue/5147/editorial/after-fortnight http://americamagazine.org/content/all-things/notre-dame-files-suit-against-hhs-mandate http://americamagazine.org/content/all-things/bishop-blaire-issues-clarification http://americamagazine.org/content/all-things/contraceptive-mandate-and-employees-catholic-institutions
Michael Barberi
5 years 3 months ago
Tim, I don't view Vince Killoran's comments as you do. The HHS contraceptive mandate has been beaten to death on earlier America Magazine blogs and those not familiar with your views, and others like Vince or me, can read them thanks to Vince's posts.

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