Implications of Obama Administration’s move to force Catholic hospitals to provide “contraception” and sterilizations

A few days ago in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune Fr. Peter Laird, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, had a good piece about the mandate from the Obama Administration (HHS) requiring that “contraception” and sterilizations be paid for by tax-payers.


The Star Tribune’s editorial “Benefits outweigh birth control costs” (Aug. 1) drew attention to an Institute of Medicine recommendation adopted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

It requires health care plans to cover contraceptives and sterilizations [Remember: some “contraceptives” are abortifacients.] under regulations for preventive care created in response to the health care reform legislation passed in 2010[Let us never forget that the USCCB warned against this, and that Sr. Carol Keehan, beloved of liberals, publicly supported Obamacare against the US bishops.]

This is a troubling mandate. It raises serious questions not only about the nature of health care and employment, but also about religious freedom and public charity.

For the church, one consequence is that the state seems to have begun to define who our neighbor is and the extent of our mission[Bingo.]

The position of the Catholic Church on artificial birth control is well-known, though not always well-understood. Our teaching is founded in a conviction that every human act is meant to witness to the truth about God and man.

Acknowledging that God, our creator, is love and has been revealed to the full in Christ means not only that there is right and wrong but also that we should testify to that truth so that all men and women might be free and come to have life to the full.

The church does not consider birth control a right of health care, much less a good for human flourishing, because pregnancy is not a disease.

Moreover, to suggest that one may, without consequence, use contraception in pursuit of human flourishing is manifestly contradicted by studies such as the one reported by the Guttmacher Institute showing that 54 percent of women who have had abortions have been using birth control.

Birth control promises a life without consequences, but every action has consequences, and often it is women and children who suffer most when we pretend otherwise.

Under the guidelines issued by the Obama administration, only a very narrow exemption from the contraceptive mandate would be permitted for “religious employers.”  [For how long?]

It would apply only to an organization that has as its purpose the “inculcation of religious values,” that primarily employs persons who share the religious tenets of the organization and that serves primarily persons who share those religious tenets. [But Catholic hospitals serve anyone.]

Thus, organizations such as Catholic universities and hospitals, social-services agencies and Catholic Charities, because they serve people without regard to religious affiliation, would be forced to provide contraceptive and sterilization services.

[Here it is….] In other words, we would have to stop being Catholic if we wanted to serve all men and women, as Jesus did. It would also require Catholic organizations to employ only Catholics, which may be at variance with both federal and state discrimination laws.

This extremely narrow exemption substantially differs from existing conscience-clause protections, which protect individual providers from being forced to perform any service that conflicts with their beliefs.

Absent sufficient regard for rights of conscience, the birth control mandate will force all men and women — and all employers — to carry health “benefits” that violate the sincerely held religious convictions of many.

If this is not rectified, the vast social-service network of the Catholic Church will be imperiled, and with it not only those who are employed and assist us in our works of mercy, but also those who are served: our neighbors.

* * *

The Rev. Peter A. Laird is vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

WDTPRS kudos to Fr. Laird for his succinct summary of the issues.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Mary Pat says:

    Outstanding! Thank God for shepherds like Fr. Laird!

  2. Dave Snyder says:

    Let’s hope that all Bishops stand up for the teachings of the Church on these matters and not give in to political and social pressures to compromise our principles. If we do stand up to these pressures, we will prevail as the downside of loosing Catholic Charities and hospitals work for society is too great a political lose for this or any other administration.

  3. Legisperitus says:

    A “law” of this nature is no law at all and should not be obeyed. Shutting down the Church’s charitable work for fear of that “law” is one form of obeying it. Phooey on it. Continue to do our Lord’s bidding and let the chips fall where they may.

  4. JP Borberg says:

    I’m torn between agreeing with Legisperitus and wanting to suggest the Church should suddenly withdraw all public services. If there is enough public outcry to get our works some protection then sweet. If no one cares enough to do anything about it, all the best to them.

  5. JP Borberg says:

    Actually, do both. Carry on as normal, if fines are incurred, go “oh dear, Public, it seems the administration has made it impossible for us to afford to both be Catholic AND run a hospital/homeless shelter/etc. Unless laws are changed and fines are waived, you’re city will have to be without a hospital/homeless shelter/etc.”

    It’ll be principled, honest AND obviously the fault of the Government if people miss out.

    And I love the irony that the result of enforced universal healthcare is hospitals shutting down.

    Can anyone say ‘leverage’?

  6. It is so sad that so called Christians are anti-Christian in their morals, political sympathies and the like and do a great dis service to us all. Frank;y I have greater respect for athiests and secular humanists; at least they are who they claim to be.

  7. Mundabor says:

    The intolerance of the so-called liberals toward every opinion or conviction different from their own never ceases to amaze.
    Obama & Co. want to re-shape the West eradicating every trace of Christianity.
    Pure evil.

    I am astonished at how so many Americans could drink the Kool-Aid of the “moderate” President who lets them look oh so good in the eyes of the world. The victory of feelings over reason.


  8. Gail F says:

    And let’s not forget that the Secretary of HHS — in charge of all this — is a Catholic. The daughter of a very prominent Catholic from my state and my city. Can we please ask the Catholic politicians to stop calling themselves Catholic when they do this stuff?

  9. Elizabeth D says:

    It is possible to send comments about this to HHS through Sept 17th, the info is here:

    I spent some time crafting an email which I sent to the address I found on that page, from my perspective as a young ordinary churchgoing Catholic woman who is a part of various organizations that would be affected, and disillusioned with the experiment of contraception initiated by my parents’ and grandparents’ generation but that has wreaked havoc. Among other things I said in a very clear way that adherence to the universal and perennial Catholic teaching against contraception and sterilization is absolutely integral to the practice of the Catholic faith therefore the proposed rule is truly a violation of free practice of that Faith. I conclude by mentioning that it is very frustrating and even insulting that some government agency thinks I want or need birth control or sterilization more than I want and need the free practice of my Catholic faith, personally and through the organizations I am a part of.

  10. rodin says:

    With all the insistence on the separation of church and state why is the state is intruding into Church matters by requiring the Church to abandon its tenets? Since when are matters of faith and morals the proper realm of mere politicians? Seems to me the Church would be justified in insisting that the state separate itself from Church matters. Furthermore, why must it be repeated, ad infinitum, that Amendment I of our Constitution was designed to protect churches from such intrusion?

  11. Mdepie says:

    This is just part of the plan of the hard left to marginalize and ultimately destroy the Church. The left will be happy if the Church must cease providing services as leftist would like to confine all religious belief and expression to a tiny sphere of personal life, to the extent it allows ti at all. Ths mandate is desined to force catholic institutions to close or abandon their allegiance to the magisterium and as such become less Catholic. An identical logic is behind the push to recongize gay marriage, and was behind the embryonic stem cell push. Looking at the ESC issue, imagine the scenario if any diseases are ever cured by ESC type based therapies, If the routine theapy for say juvenile diabetes involves the use of ESC, then no faithful Catholic could practice medicine and Catholic hospitals would need to close or formally cooperate in sin.

    Let no one mistake what is going on here. There is an evil afoot that is very reminiscent of what St Paul said about the real enemies being “principalities and powers”. Their goal is nothing short of the annihilation of the Church. Their political tools include the modern secular democrat left. We are ill prepared to deal with this. In an era when Bishops are still talking dialog, the enemy is at the gate

  12. Elizabeth D says:

    I think that today they may feel emboldened by the fact that so few Catholics actually follow the unambiguous teaching of the Church against contraception, to discount the idea that this is integral to the practice of our religion. Massive disobedience becomes a pretense for concluding that conscience rights in regards to contraception and sterilization are not important to Catholic religious freedom. After all, in fact most self identified Catholics use their “religious freedom” to contracept and only a minority of American Catholics cherish a thoroughgoing obedience to Catholic teaching.

    It needs to be unambiguous that Catholics who know what the teaching is, and do this anyway, are not acting in keeping with their religion and cannot licitly receive Communion in the Church. This seems to have been one of the most critical factors in the sexual revolution and the breakdown of family life and sexual morality. We must not have any more illusions about how evil contraception really is. It is popularly and regarded as useful or even essential for solving many different kinds of problems both in personal life and society, but an objective evil can never be used as a means to an end.

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