Richard Doerflinger on the HHS 'Accommodation'

Richard M. Doerflinger, associate director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has issued a clarification on the contraception "accommodation." The bishops' principal objection to the proposal is that the contraception mandate remains in place:

There has been some confusion as to what happened last weekend regarding the Obama administration’s nationwide mandate for contraception, sterilization and abortifacient drug coverage in private health plans.


A wide array of Catholic and other organizations—including the leaders of Catholic Charities USA, the University of Notre Dame, Catholic Medical Association, and over 400 other organizations—has publicly opposed the “interim final rule” the Administration issued in August 2011, which allowed only an incredibly narrow exemption for churches and religious orders. Religious organizations that contribute greatly to the common good, by serving the poorest and neediest people regardless of their faith, were defined as not being “religious enough” to qualify for the exemption.

On February 10, the Obama administration issued a final rule that locks this controversial policy into place without any change (except that some religious organizations not exempted from the mandate have an extra year to comply). Obviously the Catholic bishops reject this final rule, which is essentially identical to the interim final rule that we and so many others rejected months ago.

On the same day, in commentary that has no force of law, the administration added that in the coming year and a half it will propose an additional regulation governing how the mandate will be applied to nonprofit religious organizations that are not exempt. These organizations may voice an objection to the coverage that violates Catholic moral teaching, but insurers will ignore this objection and offer that coverage to the organization’s employees anyway, without a rider or extra payment. In short, the federal government will insert itself between the religious organization and its own employees to make sure that, in President Obama’s words, women’s health coverage “includes contraceptive services no matter where they work.” Obviously this proposal raises grave moral concerns for anyone who thinks religious organizations have a right to conduct their internal life consistent with the teachings of their faith. We hope this approach will ultimately be rejected by lawmakers in favor of a policy that truly respects the religious freedom of these organizations.

But the only action taken by the Administration this weekend that has the force of law is that it made permanent the rule that we and so many others have always opposed. Our position on this rule remains exactly the same as before.

If President Obama wishes to respect religious institutions that serve the poor, he will recognize them as authentically “religious” and give them an exemption. Then we can move on to discuss the religious freedom rights of insurers, other employers, and individuals who want a plan that does not violate their beliefs. As it is, the Administration has put us back to square one.

Tim Reidy


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Michael Barberi
6 years 10 months ago
The problem with Obama's solution is a much larger problem than religious freedom or the rights of employees.

 For more than 30 years, states have regulated insurance coverage as well as the federal government. Most of these laws require health plans to include certain coverages that were determined to be medically necessary and to avoid an organization from implementing discriminatory coverage (i.e, the lack of specific coverage or specific coverage for a certain class of employess such as the highly paid).

The problem is not the mandating of medically necessary coverage but the added mandate that it be free (no charge to employess and their plan sponsors). There is no free lunch and it is highly questionable if the government can mandate "free" coverage based on the foolish premise that such coverage reduces total healthcare costs. There are many medical products and services that reduce the total cost of health care far beyond the cost of the products and services. However, insurance companies, Blue Croos and Blue Shield Organizations, HMOs, etc, do not provide surch products and services for "free". If insurance companies are mandated to provide free contraceptive coverage to Cathlic Institutions, large self-funded plans will cry "me too". Why should employess and plan sponsors of one type of organization get "free contraceptive coverage" while employees and plan sponsors of another type of organization do not. If all plan sponors are subject to the law, then everyone will pay for it in higher adminsitration fees. Insurance plans will pass on such costs, end of discussion.

This policy is a shell game and it opens up a can of worms. I would expect many legal challanges.
Marie Rehbein
6 years 10 months ago
"In short, the federal government will insert itself between the religious organization and its own employees..."

I think the problem is that some people think the employer owns the employee if the employer has some connection to the Catholic Church.  The government inserts itself between the employee and employer all the time in order to protect the employee's rights.
ed gleason
6 years 10 months ago
'Then we can move on to discuss the religious freedom rights of insurers, other employers, and individuals who want a plan that does not violate their beliefs. As it is, the Administration has put us back to square one.'

Wow his new tactic ,, he signals that 'they' want to  move the goal posts again after they get more concessions. { Same dumb politics we see from the House GOP] I think he is talking about the USCCB attorney who wants no BC mandates  on Catholic Taco Bells.

The church thirst for exemption from federal law has no end. Church pensions are now exempt from the quasi-federal  Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp . More and more 'religious' institutions are moving toward exemption. so that the don't need to adequately fund their pensions and  can terminate/change  them at will etc.  
David Pasinski
6 years 10 months ago
Thank you, Michael. I couldn't conceive of how that could be mandted "free" and yet "cost" in other programs? I can't beleive the Administration would promote that without a similar question and the reaction of the USCCB wsas to be accepted as what David Brroks last Friday called a "polite fiction" was to be expected. 

Is there any Solomon out there?
Vince Killoran
6 years 10 months ago
What chutzpah the USCCB has- they try to deny women access to contraception and then claim that "religious organizations have a right to conduct their internal life consistent with the teachings of their faith."

Church employers don't have to offer coverage or have to pay for it, or offer referrals for contraception etc.  That's not enough for them because it never was about this issue: they want to purge contraception coverage out of all health insurance plans on the grounds that their money "touches" other money.

This is about disciplining Catholic women over their use of birth control. It's desparate, cynical politics. The damage they are doing to Church-civil society relations are just collateral damage.

If the arm of the government reaches into the Church too much perhaps the government's purse should be closed to Church institutions. 
Michael Barberi
6 years 10 months ago
I offer another side of the contraceptionl coverage debate. It was post # fifty something on another article about this subject, but it is worth repeating and deserves reflection. 

There is a significant gap between contraceptive doctrine and pastoral practices that cause a contradiction over this entire issue of contraceptive coverage and everyday life. Permit me some latitude while I make my case.

In the sacrament of reconciliation, there is a principle of graduation that is applied to habitual sinners. This principle was formulated primarily to resolve the moral and pastoral dilemma about contraception. Contraception is practiced by 97% of worldwide female married Catholics and it is an issue of conscience. Every parish priest knows that most married Catholics that line up each week to receive the Eurcharist practice contraception. These individuals also do not confess contraception as a sin in the sacrament of reconcilation because they don't believe it is a sin. Thus, the principle of graduation was introduced where the person over time was expected to reform his or her life through constant prayer, reflection, pastoral guidance and the frequent reception of the Eurcharist.

Since most Catholics do not confess contraception as a sin, those few that do have no real firm purpose of amendment. The problem was, after receiving absolution, why would a person go to confession everytime they contracepted, which is often every week. The answer: they did not. Conscious is the guide of every Catholic that practices contraception. Few, if any, priests and bishops have ever spoken from the pulpit or issued a bulletin that warned Catholics who contracept that they committ a sacriledge if they don't confess contraception as a sin before receiving the Holy Eurcharist. There are no fequent reminders from the pulpit or official communication because this would likely result in a significant reduction in Mass attendees, and their weekly contributions.

Now, consider the following: The principle of graduation is offered to Catholics who habitually contracept, but not to the divorsed and remarried, who are also habitual sinners in the eyes of the church. A contradiction? Now, the Hierarchy asserts that Catholic Institutions should not offer or pay for contraceptive coverage on the grounds that it is against their teachings. The Church believes that they have a moral right to deny Catholic employes of Catholic Institutions medical necessary contraceptive coverage. However, in the same breath they do not deny Catholics who practice contraception from receiving the Eurcharist. If 97% of worldwide Catholic married women practice a form of contraception that is considered intrinsically evil by the Vatican, then the majority of married Catholics, in child bearing years, who stand in line to receive the Eucharist each week pracitce contraception as well, and every priest knows this.

The church has yet to explain this contradiction between the Church's word and its deed.

Paul Wiget
6 years 10 months ago
@Michael Do you have the CCC (or other Church) references on the priciple of graduation or other Church material you're discussing? This is something I haven't heard of. I am genuinely curious. Thanks for your comments! Very interesting point of view!


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