02 August 2011

HHS exalts ideology over conscience and common sense

Writing yesterday on the blog of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Sister Mary Ann Walsh comments on the "in-your-face" efforts of the Department of Health and Human Services, led by Kathleen Sibelius (a Catholic) to "undermine religious freedom."

The text of her excellent post follows, with my emphases and comments:
Health and Human Services must think Catholics and other religious groups are fools [they aren't the only ones in the government who think so; remember that comment about people "clinging to their guns and religion"?].

That’s all you can think when you read HHS’s recent announcement that it may exempt the church from having to pay for contraceptive services, counseling to use them and sterilizations under the new health reform in certain circumstances. As planned now, HHS would limit the right of the church not to pay for such services in limited instances, such as when the employees involved are teaching religion and in cases where the people served are primarily Catholic [which would take away the right for the free exercise of religion guaranteed by the first amendment].

HHS’s reg conveniently ignores the underlying principle of Catholic charitable actions: we help people because we are Catholic, not because our clients are [here in Illinois, we've seen a lot of people ignoring this underlying principle with respect to adoptions and foster care]. There’s no need to show your baptismal certificate in the hospital emergency room, the parish food pantry, or the diocesan drug rehab program. Or any place else the church offers help, either.

With its new regulation, HHS seeks to force church institutions to buy contraceptives, including drugs that can disrupt an existing pregnancy, through insurance they offer their own employees. This is part of HHS’s anticipated list of preventive services for women that private insurance programs must provide under the new health reform law [if contraception is "preventive," then that must mean that pregnancy is now seen as a disease, and that means the nation is in a very disturbing frame of mind].

The exemption is limited, to say the least. The pastor in the Catholic parish doesn’t have to buy the Pill for his employees, but the religious order that runs a Catholic hospital has to foot the bill for surgical sterilizations. And diocesan Catholic Charities agencies have to use money that would be better spent on feeding the poor to underwrite services that violate church teachings.

Whatever you think of artificial birth control, HHS’s command that everyone, including churches, must pay for it exalts ideology over conscience and common sense.

Perhaps HHS is unduly influenced by lobbyists. No surprise there. Certainly a major lobbyist is Planned Parenthood, the nation’s chief proponent of contraceptive services. Contraceptive services make a lot of money for Planned Parenthood clinics, which (again no surprise) provide the “services” HHS has mandated.

HHS and Planned Parenthood are narrow in focus. Respect for religious rights isn’t likely a key concern for them. However, it ought to be a key concern for President Obama, who last year promised to respect religious rights as he garnered support from the church community to pass the health care reform act [some of us didn't think him genuine in his promise]. To assuage concerns, President Obama went so far as to issue an executive order promising that the health care reform act would not fund abortion or force people and institutions to violate their consciences [that we say wouldn't offer the protections he promised]. HHS is on its way to violating that promise [no surprise there]. For the sake of basic integrity – the President’s keeping his word and for the protection of the right to religious freedom – President Obama needs to speak up now [he hasn't done so well keeping his word until now; this would fine opportunity to show he intends to become a man of his word].

No comments:

Post a Comment