Daily Archives: February 1, 2013

Religious Liberty Groups Disappointed with HHS Mandate Rule

The Obama Administration today floated proposed rules to attempt to alleviate religious concerns about the Health and Human Services’ contraceptive mandate under the Affordable Care Act.

The administration tried to put a positive spin on the accommodation. The 80-page proposal attempts to simplify and expand the existing definition of a “religious employer” by creating accommodations for non-profit organizations who self-certify as religious organizations that have an objection to providing contraceptive coverage.

According to the proposal, employees of, or students at exempted organizations could still receive contraceptive services, such as sterilization, contraception, and drugs that cause abortion, through a separate, individual insurance provider. As described by Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, deputy director of policy and regulation with the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, costs would be paid by the issuer.

“No federal funds or employer dollars will be used to fund contraceptive coverage,” said Brooks-LaSure. “The services are paid for through a reduction in user fees from the federally-funded exchange.”

“Under the proposed rule, no non-profit organization will be force to pay for, or provide contraceptive services,” said Brooks-LaSure. “Universities, hospitals, and charities won’t have to arrange, contract, provide, or refer for contraceptives.”

Religious liberty, legal, and advocacy groups, however, were universally disappointed with the proposal.

“Religious institutions who are not primarily in the business of spreading the faith – likely hospitals, schools, etc. – can have the exemption after a complicated ‘self-certification’ procedure, but their employees and students will get free contraception without their employers’ input – under separate policies issued directly from the insurance company,” said Helen Alvare in a statement made through the organization Women Speak for Themselves.

“We are extremely dissatisfied with this inadequate proposal,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has filed numerous lawsuits on behalf of Catholic dioceses, universities, and family-owned businesses to protect their religious liberty.

“The proposal has nothing to do with the millions of family businesses or business owners who are having their rights violated,” said Duncan. “It does nothing to change the scope of, or broaden, the religious employer exemption, and it offers no concrete guidelines for how self-funded entities are to avoid the requirements of the mandate that violate their consciences. Even those who qualify for the accommodation will have concerns about remaining conduits for drugs and devices that raise the same kind of conscience-problems that have been there all along.”

“The document proposes three different proposals,” said Duncan. “The document provides no concrete guidance for self-insured entities, and the administration has made it clear that for-profit organizations, such as Hobby Lobby, have no religious claims to make with respect to the mandate.”

“In this proposed rule, it appears that Catholic schools and colleges may not be required to provide the mandatory insurance directly, but insurance companies will nevertheless provide the immoral coverage to employees and students,” said The Cardinal Newman Society in a press statement released today.  “This is an accounting gimmick that serves the Obama administration’s radical goal of forcing such coverage on all Americans, except those who are employed by houses of worship.  The Administration continues to violate Americans’ freedom with an absurdly narrow view of constitutionally protected religious activity.

“Religious freedom will not be protected until every organization, business and individual is exempted from purchasing or otherwise financially supporting insurance for sterilization, contraception or abortion.”

Statement of The Cardinal Newman Society on Proposed HHS Rule

The Cardinal Newman Society today released the following statement:

The Obama administration today proposed a rule responding to serious concerns that its policy mandating insurance coverage of sterilization and contraception (including drugs that cause abortion) violates religious freedom.  While the outcry of religious leaders, organizations, employers and faithful Americans has been clear and unambiguous, the Obama administration has barely made a move toward a more just policy.  The mandate is still unacceptable, and the newly proposed “accommodation” is inadequate.

Catholics are left no choice but to stand firmly opposed to the mandate.  We are grateful especially to the Catholic bishops, the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty for their leadership and for continuing the fight to defend the religious freedom of Catholics and all Americans.  We pray for them and stand with them in this fight.

It is important to note that the proposed rule is just that: a proposal.  The final rule could be dramatically different, and there will be powerful opposition from many parties.

In this proposed rule, it appears that Catholic schools and colleges may not be required to provide the mandatory insurance directly, but insurance companies will nevertheless provide the immoral coverage to employees and students.  This is an accounting gimmick that serves the Obama administration’s radical goal of forcing such coverage on all Americans, except those who are employed by houses of worship.  The Administration continues to violate Americans’ freedom with an absurdly narrow view of constitutionally protected religious activity.

Religious freedom will not be protected until every organization, business and individual is exempted from purchasing or otherwise financially supporting insurance for sterilization, contraception or abortion.

UST to Co-host Pontifical St. Thomas Aquinas Conference

Photo: St. Thomas AquinasThe University of St. Thomas Center for Thomistic Studies and the John Paul II Forum plan to co-host the first U.S. Conference of the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas, on Oct. 18-19, 2013 in Houston, Texas.

The theme of the conference, “Thomas Aquinas: Teacher of Humanity,” will explore the teachings of St. Thomas on what it means to be human and what he contributes to contemporary understandings of that concept.

Cardinals, bishops and scholars associated with the Pontifical Academy around the world have been invited to attend.  Among the confirmed guests are the Most Rev. Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, archbishop of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, who will be opening the conference, Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, the Chancellor of the Papal Academies and the Secretary of the Pontifical Academy, and Sister Prudence Allen, author of “The Concept of Woman.”

Dr. Mary Catherine Sommers, director of the Center for Thomistic Studies and an organizer of the event, said the conference will be a forum for exchanging ideas and research and tackling the problems associated with defining “humanity” in a world with many cultures, traditions and technologies.

Dr. John Hittinger, UST professor of philosophy and founder of the John Paul II Forum, said the conference will be an opportunity for the local Catholic community to hear from international scholars and Vatican officials.

“To the community-at-large, it’s the play of ideas involving these questions of human nature and humanism that is interesting,” Hittinger said. “The thought of Aquinas has things to teach us in the 21st century.”

Pope Leo XIII founded the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas in 1879 to encourage the study of St. Thomas’ philosophy in Catholic universities and seminaries. One of the Pontifical Academy’s new initiatives, the Thomistic Legacy of Blessed John Paul II, unites the mission of the Center for Thomistic Studies with that of the John Paul II Forum.

UST’s Center for Thomistic Studies is the only center in the nation that grants a doctorate in the thought of Thomas Aquinas. The John Paul II Forum was created to promote the understanding of the thought of Pope John Paul II.

A registration fee will be required, but UST students will receive a special discount. Cardinal DiNardo will celebrate a Mass for participants at 5 p.m. on Oct. 19 in the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, 1111 St. Joseph Parkway, followed by a banquet.

Those interested may find out about the call for papers on the CTS website or they can contact the Center at thomistic_center@stthom.edu.