Roman Catholic bishops bridle at Obama's contraception compromise in health care mandate
By Michael Hasch
Published: Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, 11:52 p.m.
The Obama administration's latest compromise on birth control coverage falls short of addressing the concerns of U.S. bishops, Roman Catholic leaders said on Thursday.
“One of the things I think is really important to understand is that the church is really trying to work with the government to hammer out a solution that will be very respectful to our religious freedom,” Bishop David A. Zubik of the Diocese of Pittsburgh said after reading a statement that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued earlier in the day.
“I think we have made some progress, but we still have a way to go,” Zubik said. “We're going to continue to work hard ... (to) resolve this issue so that we don't violate our sense of religious liberties and our principles.”
The Conference of Catholic Bishops said a bigger buffer is needed between religious charities and any third party arranging contraceptive coverage. Bishops also want a clearer statement that faith-affiliated hospitals and other nonprofits are religious ministries.
“My concerns include the fact that the (Department of Health and Human Services) mandate maintains inaccurate distinctions among religious ministries and the fact that the mandate still does not offer conscience protections to individuals and employers who object to providing health insurance coverage for services they find morally objectionable,” said Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt of the Diocese of Greensburg.
“(The Obama administration) appears to offer second-class status to our first-class institutions in Catholic health care, Catholic education and Catholic charities,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The bishops continue to press for an exemption for owners of for-profit businesses who say the requirement forces them to violate their religious beliefs.
Brandt and Zubik said they are concerned that the government has given no indication it is considering a religious opt-out for business owners.
“It is important that the conscience rights and religious freedoms of all employers — Catholic Church-related and non-Church-related — as well as the rights and freedoms of all employees, be protected. Religious freedom must be broad and inclusive, not narrow and exclusive,” Brandt said.
The bishops made their comments nearly a week since HHS announced another revision on coverage for contraception. The regulation is part of President Obama's health care overhaul, known as the Affordable Care Act, and is meant to help space pregnancies and promote women's health.
The department had no reaction to the bishops' criticism, pointing only to an earlier pledge that the government wants to find a solution that would provide the coverage to women while respecting religious concerns.
The administration's initial plan, proposed a year ago, contained a religious exemption that many faith groups, including some who have been supportive of health care reform, said was too narrow.
Dozens of religious groups and for-profit business owners have sued over the regulation, saying it violates their religious rights. Advocates for the broadest coverage argued that employers are trying to impose their religious beliefs on workers. The issue is expected to reach the Supreme Court.
Bridget Fare, a spokeswoman for Duquesne University, had no immediate comment on the statements from the bishops. The Catholic school is one of the institutions that criticized the administration's initial plan.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Michael Hasch is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7820 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Peduto takes down Pittsburgh’s Redd Up crew
- At next turn, pothole repair
- Newsmaker: Christine Jordanoff
- Upper St. Clair woman’s death at Drexel probed as possible meningitis
- Washington County judge: Evidence against him illegally obtained
- Redistricting spurs faceoff for Democratic state Reps. Molchany, Readshaw