The Catholic church’s New Jersey hierarchy has weighed in on the controversy surrounding the federal requirement that religious schools and hospitals cover contraceptives as part of their health insurance plans.
Church leaders say the requirement violates the religious freedom of Catholics and others that oppose birth control and put employees of religious institutions at risk of losing their health coverage.
"It’s a very serious matter," Newark Archbishop John J. Myers told NJ.com. "The bishops and leadership of the church are very concerned about this, as are many people of the Catholic Church. It’s a real violation of the First Amendment."
Bishop Paul G. Bootoski, of the Diocese of Metuchen, which oversees churches throughout Middlesex County, echoed Myers’ opinion in a statement on the Diocese’s Web site. He said the ruling by the federal Department of Health and Human Services, “threatens to destroy our American and religious tradition of freedom of conscience.“
This decision chillingly takes the First Amendment’s guarantees of religious freedom, intended to prevent government compulsion in matters of conscience, and ironically turns them into weapons threatening to destroy that very freedom. Secretary Sebelius and the Obama Administration have promulgated new rules which will require either that all religious institutions pay for insurance coverage for employee abortions, sterilizations, and contraception, or serve only those of their own religious denominations. The Obama Administration’s plan would drive all institutions maintained by people of conscience out of the health care, social service, and educational arenas. Can this possibly be in the best interests of our nation? Is this really the way that you want your social services provided? Such a plan would require Catholic hospitals, schools, and the like either to violate their consciences or to hire only Catholics, admit only Catholic patients, educate only Catholic children, and so on. This unbridled assault on the freedom of conscience must be stopped.
This decision of the Obama Administration also once again threatens to impose upon all Americans the anti-life agenda which classifies pregnancy as a disease and abortion as a legitimate cure for that disease. If Catholic and other conscience based institutions and individuals are sidelined by this political maneuver, who will be left standing to herald the message that women and their unborn children are to be cherished and cared for? Who will be left to care for those undergoing difficult pregnancies, those seeking to provide the best possible health care to children in distress, both the born and the unborn? Who will be left to advocate for the rights of women and men seeking to love and care for their child as a precious blessing; the anti-life community considers the destruction of such a child as just another choice—do you really want to leave the fate of your children alone in their hands?
Bishop David McConnell of the Trenton Diocese, which covers Mercer and Monmouth County churches, called it “an alarming matter that negatively impacts the Catholic Church in the United States directly, and that strikes at the fundamental right to religious liberty for all citizens of any faith.”
We cannot—we will not—comply with this unjust law. People of faith cannot be made second class citizens. We are already joined by our brothers and sisters of all faiths and many others of good will in this important effort to regain our religious freedom. In generations past, the Church has always been able to count on the faithful to stand up and protect her sacred rights and duties. I hope and trust she can count on this generation of Catholics to do the same. Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.
This is not an attempt by the Church to interfere with anyone’s politics. It is, rather, an attempt to lift up and live our Catholic faith the way that our nation and our constitution have always guaranteed us the freedom and the right to do. Please join me and all of those harmed by this legislation in prayer and in an all-out effort to have our freedom restored. History cautions us repeatedly that once we walk down such a dangerous path, we will get lost in the process.
Surveys of practicing Catholics, according to NJ.com, show that “98 percent of all Catholic women who have been sexually active have used birth control” and “58 percent of American Catholics ‘believe that employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception.’"
"The loudest voices in the Catholic community are those of the priests and bishops who know they are being ignored when it comes to their teachings on family planning," John O’Brien of Catholics for Choice told NJ.com.
"They may be the loudest, but we know they also represent a tiny minority of Catholics.”
What do you think?