Monday, January 30, 2012

The Violation of Consciences and The Bill of Rights

The Federal government, more specifically the Department of Health and Human Services and the Obama Administration, have mandated that every employer carry mandatory contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs in health care insurance plans - without a cost to the employee. The only exemption is for churches, synagogues, mosques, etc. This means Catholic hospitals, schools, universities, etc. will be forced to carry these items or drop insurance coverage and pay fines.

This is a clear violation of the consciences of believers, who will not have the option to opt-out. It will cause many to pay for things they oppose and find evil. Furthermore, it is a violation of the Bill of Rights, which lists the free exercise of religion as the FIRST right:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof
Catholics should not let this happen. This is why our bishops are strongly calling on all Catholics to pray and act. The following is from the Bishop of Austin and was read in all Masses this weekend:
January 26, 2012

Dear brother priests,

I ask that this letter be read aloud at all Saturday Vigil and Sunday Masses on this weekend, Jan. 28-29, 2012.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

I write to you concerning an alarming and serious matter that negatively impacts the Church in the United States directly, and that strikes at the fundamental right to religious liberty for all citizens of any faith.  The federal government, which claims to be “of, by, and for the people,” has just dealt a heavy blow to almost a quarter of those people—the Catholic population—and to the millions more who are served by the Catholic faithful.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that almost all employers, including Catholic employers, will be forced to offer their employees’ health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception.  Almost all health insurers will be forced to include those “services” in the health policies they write.  And almost all individuals will be forced to buy that coverage as a part of their policies.

In so ruling, the Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our Nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty.  And as a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled either to violate our consciences, or to drop health coverage for our employees (and suffer the penalties for doing so).  The Administration’s sole concession was to give our institutions one year to comply.

We cannot—we will not—comply with this unjust law.  People of faith cannot be made second-class citizens.  We are already joined by our brothers and sisters of all faiths and many others of good will in this important effort to regain our religious freedom.  Our parents and grandparents did not come to these shores to help build America’s cities and towns, its infrastructure and institutions, its enterprise and culture, only to have their posterity stripped of their God given rights.  In generations past, the Church has always been able to count on the faithful to stand up and protect her sacred rights and duties.  I hope and trust she can count on this generation of Catholics to do the same.  Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.

And therefore, I would ask of you two things.  First, as a community of faith we must commit ourselves to prayer and fasting that wisdom and justice may prevail, and religious liberty may be restored.  Without God, we can do nothing; with God, nothing is impossible.  Second, I would also recommend visiting the website,, in order to learn more about this severe assault on religious liberty, and how to contact Congress in support of legislation that would reverse the Administration’s decision.  You can also find a link to it from the website of the Diocese of Austin.

Thank you for your attention to this timely issue.  May the Lord guide our efforts to defend religious liberty in this country.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez
Bishop of Austin
Bishop Vann of Fort Worth and Bishop Farrell of Dallas had a good guest Op-Ed in the Star Telegram last week.

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