Catholic bishop decries
new health-insurance rules
Francis Malooly declared that the Catholic diocese will not
comply with a recent U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
ruling which he said "strikes at the fundamental right to
The bishop said rules promulgated in final form on Jan. 20
would, in effect, require the diocese to indirectly finance
abortion and contraception by requiring it to provide its
employees with a health insurance policy which covers those and
other procedures that violate Catholic morals teachng.
"Unless the ruling is overturned we Catholics will be compelled
to either violate our consciences or drop health-care coverage
for our employees and suffer the penalties for doing so," he
wrote in a message posted on the diocese's website and read at
weekend masses in some churches.
The rules, issued as a part of the implementation of the federal
health care law, have drawn considerable opposition from
politically conservative and religious organizations since they
were published in draft form last August.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is one of the
most influential groups opposing them. Its stance is based, in
part, on the premise that having insurance coverage would
provide an additional incentive to seek abortion.
According to the department, the new
rules "will require most
health insurance plans to cover
preventive services for women, including recommended
contraceptive services, without charging a co-pay, co-insurance
or a deductible." They go into effect next August.
The department "falsely characterizes there as preventive
services as if pregnancy were a disease," Malooly said.
The law requires everyone who does not have employer-provided
coverage to purchase a policy. That is one of the provisions
being challenged by several states in suits expected to be heard
soon by the Supreme Court.
"Never before in U.S. history has the federal government forced
citizens to directly purchase what violates their beliefs,"
He urged people to contact senators and Congress members to seek
support for pending legislation to amend the Patient Protection
and Affordable Care Act that would specify the right of
providers to acquire health coverage "that is consistent with
their religious beliefs and moral convictions without fear of
being penalized or discriminated against." Identical legislation
has been introduced into both chambers of Congress, but there
has been no indication of when, or if, they will be brought
before the bodies for consideration.
The Health & Human Services ruling provides an exemption for
non-profit religious organizations to provide insurance that
does not include contracption coverage. The exemption, however,
is limited to organizations which employ or primarily serve only
those of the same faith. Religios organizations that do not meet
that criteria -- hospitals, schools and, most likley, the
diocese itself -- were given an extra year to comply.
Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of
health & human services, said in a statement that the department
"will continue to work closely with religious groups during this
transitional period to discuss
their concerns." Malooly dismissed
that as an insignificant concession.
"We cannot -- we will not -- comply with this unjust law [sic].
People of faith cannot be made second-class citizens," the