Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Government Requests Comments on Contraception Services Mandated by HHS

The United States government has asked the public to weigh in on the five-year war it has waged against religious non-profit groups over the HHS mandate. As many of you may know, the regulations in the mandate decreed that all employers, including religious organizations such as the Little Sisters of the Poor, had to provide contraception coverage including abortifacients such as Plan B and RU 486. The Supreme Court has overturned the rulings made by the lower courts that were in favor of the government. The Supreme Court has now sent all cases (such as those of the Little Sisters) back to the federal appeals courts for rehearing.
The HHS is now inviting public comments on how an accommodation may be reached between the government and religious non-profit organizations. This is a little late, but please follow the link to leave your comment to the government that religious non-profit groups cannot be part of the chain of distribution of contraceptive materials that also act as abortifacients. Comments must be received by Tuesday night. Fr. Frank Pavone gives more insight here on his website. My comment, which had to be edited a bit for length before I submitted it, is below.

As a Catholic husband and father who takes his religious convictions very seriously, I feel the need to weigh in on this request for information regarding coverage for contraceptive services. Too often in our society, especially here in America, the notion that religious expression can only exist inside the confines of a church, synagogue, mosque, etc. is espoused. This is one of the most ridiculous things being said by a number of people in the United States today. If one has decided to live by the tenets of a religion, then it would follow that said person would continue living with that vision in mind outside of their place of worship. In other words, one doesn’t stop being a Catholic after going to Mass on Sunday morning. If that were the case, than the First Amendment of the Constitution means nothing. To suggest that one cannot live and act according to their religious beliefs outside of a one hour worship service each week is the height of absurdity. And yet, this is what the HHS Mandate and even the Supreme Court would wish religious employers to do.
The original regulation issued in August 2011 required group health insurance plans, including religious non-profit groups like Little Sister of the Poor, to cover all federally approved contraceptives, including abortion-inducing drugs. And just a few months ago, the Supreme Court thankfully sent all cases regarding this issue back to the federal appeals courts for rehearing. However, the Court made a somewhat disturbing statement in part saying the parties involved “should be afforded an opportunity to arrive at an approach going forward that accommodates [the objecting employers'] religious exercise while at the same time ensuring that women covered by [the employers'] health plans `receive full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage.’”
Again, this is ridiculous. The Catholic Church teaches that abortion and contraception is immoral and evil. To include contraception and abortifacients in Catholic organizations health plans would mean such organizations are formally cooperating with what they believe to be a legitimate evil. A better alternative than forcing such organizations to provide contraceptive coverage would be to mandate insurance companies to provide contraceptive-only plans and then offer them to all without religious organizations being involved in any capacity.
I have noticed in the comments, however, that many people are using a template from an organization called “Catholics for Choice” which is misrepresenting what Catholics who practice their religion believe. Those comments are numerous, so I’m sure whoever is reading the comments have seen quite a few of these, and a couple of them can be found at Comment ID: CMS-2016-0123-0222 and Comment ID: CMS-2016-0123-0223. I would like to respond to these comments. The comments (which are the same) in part, read:
“Like the majority of the 70 million Catholics in the United States, I support contraceptive coverage... The majority of Catholics agree with me.”
This is a falsehood and an exaggeration. No references are given for the numbers they’ve provided, nor do they note what a “majority” is. First off, it should be known that Catholics for Choice (CFC) has been denounced (since at least 2000) vehemently by the Catholic Church. As seen here: “CFC is not affiliated with the Catholic Church in any way. It has no membership, and clearly does not speak for the faithful. It is funded by powerful private foundations to promote abortion as a method of population control. The organization rejects and distorts Catholic social teaching -- and actually attacks its foundation.” (http://www.usccb.org/news/2016/16-118.cfm)
Such an organization should not be speaking for the 70 million Catholics who live in the United States. Organizations that have fought the HHS Mandate such as Little Sister of the Poor and Priests For Life have kept their fidelity to the teaching of the Catholic Church.
So secondly, I would therefore like to reiterate the definitive religious teaching of the Catholic Church on contraception in no uncertain terms from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), thus showing that the religious convictions of practicing Catholics who are faithful to the teachings of said Church must be lived out in all aspects of life, not just inside the confines of the Church. In the words of Pope John Paul II in his 1992 Apostolic Constitution “Fidei Depositum”, the CCC is “a statement of the Church's faith and of Catholic doctrine… I declare it to be a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion and a sure norm for teaching the faith. This catechism is given to [the Christian faithful] that it may be a sure and authentic reference text for teaching Catholic doctrine…”
This core teaching of the Catholic Church regarding contraception is stated thusly in the CCC: “every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible is intrinsically evil”(CCC 2370). 
Therefore, as faithful Catholics see such things as an evil, it follows that Catholics cannot in good conscience be cooperative in the distribution of contraceptive and abortifacient materials. To do so would put such Catholics (and other Christians with similar religious beliefs) in direct violation with the teaching of their Church. Religious organizations who espouse the beliefs I just detailed above must not be forced to run contrary to those beliefs. To do so violates their First Amendment rights. If employees at these organizations desire contraception coverage, they will have to receive it from somewhere completely unrelated to said religious organization. Please keep the religious liberties of Americans intact. Thank you for your time.

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