This letter, or one very similar to it, was to be read at every Roman Catholic Mass in the United States last weekend:
LETTER FROM THE BISHOP (TO BE READ AT ALL MASSES)
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ in the Diocese of Trenton:
As your Bishop, I write to you concerning an alarming matter that negatively impacts the Catholic 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.
As a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled to violate our consciences or to drop health coverage for our employees (and suffer the penalties for doing so.)
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. 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.
This is not an attempt by the Church to interfere with anyone's politics. It is, rather, an attempt to lift up and live our Catholic faith the way that our nation and our constitution have always guaranteed us the freedom and the right to do. Please join me and all of those harmed by this legislation in prayer and in an all-out effort to have our freedom restored. History cautions us repeatedly that once we walk down such a dangerous path, we will get lost in the process.
Respectfully yours in Christ,
Most Reverend David M. O'Connell C.M.
Bishop of Trenton
The controversy centers on the Obama administration's mandate that employers must include contraception and abortion-inducing drugs in health care coverage. Recently, the administration made one small concession surrounding the mandate. They decided to give church-affiliated hospitals and organizations another year before they will be forced to comply. “In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences,” Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, recently said.
No one should make the mistake of thinking this is merely a Catholic issue. It is about the government using the new health care mandates to violate the consciences and first amendment rights of anyone it chooses. Right now that just happens to be the Roman Catholics and, beyond them, anyone who opposes abortion.
The whole problem began with letting the government take over health care in the first place. Prior to this, individuals who needed a certain type of coverage were free to purchase it. Some policies covered maternity care, some didn't. Some covered psychological counseling, some didn't. Some covered chiropractic care, some didn't. Some policies covered eyeglasses, some didn't. If I wanted a policy that covered abortion services, there were policies that covered that too. The point is I could choose a policy that met my needs and leave off types of care I don’t want, or need, or feel conscience bound not to have to pay for. It’s called freedom.
Now the government is empowered to dictate what kinds of health insurance policies all companies must provide, and to dictate what kinds of policies we all must pay for. Of course the same power enables the government to dictate what will not be covered. And, in a few years, when the cost of health care becomes even more difficult to manage, the government will dictate, for example: no organ transplants if you’re over 75; no dialysis if you’re over 80, etc. Choices will have to be made "in the interest of keeping health care available and affordable to all." So, yes, there will be panels that decide who lives and who dies.
Government run health care is a dictatorship; and this conflict with the Roman Catholics is just the first taste of what this kind of dictatorship means for all of us.
The only way to stop this dictatorship is to get the federal government out of the health care business altogether. We have one chance to do that next November, and we had better make it count!