Brian R Corbin's Reflections on Religion and Life

Living Your Faith as Citizens and Leaders in Politics, Culture, Society and Business

BISHOPS PROMISE TO CONTINUE ‘VIGOROUS EFFORTS’ AGAINST HHS VIOLATIONS OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN HEALTH CARE REFORM MANDATE

Declare government has no place defining religion, religious ministry
Seek protection for conscience rights of institutions, individuals
Stress action with the public, White House, Congress, courts

WASHINGTON—The U.S. bishops are strongly united in their ongoing and determined efforts to protect religious freedom, the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) said in a March 14 statement.
The Administrative Committee, chaired by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the USCCB, is the highest authority of the bishops’ conference outside the semi-annual sessions of the full body of bishops. The Committee’s membership consists of the elected chairmen of all the USCCB permanent committees and an elected bishop representative from each of the geographic regions of the USCCB.
The full statement can be found at www. www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/Admin-Religious-Freedom.pdf
The Administrative Committee said it was “strongly unified and intensely focused in its opposition to the various threats to religious freedom in our day.” The bishops will continue their vigorous work of education on religious freedom, dialogue with the executive branch, legislative initiatives and efforts in the courts to defend religious freedom. They promised a longer statement on the principles at the heart of religious freedom, which will come later from the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty.
The bishops noted that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate that forces all private health plans to provide coverage of sterilization and contraceptives – including abortion-inducing drugs – called for an immediate response. Of particular concern, they said, are a religious exemption from the mandate that the bishops deem “arbitrarily narrow” and an “unspecified and dubious future ‘accommodation’’’ offered to other religious organizations that are denied the exemption.
The bishops thanked supporters from the Catholic community and beyond “who have stood firmly with us in our vigorous opposition to this unjust and illegal mandate.”
“It is your enthusiastic unity in defense of religious freedom that has made such a dramatic and positive impact in this historic public debate.”
The bishops said this dispute is not about access to contraceptives but about the government’s forcing the Church to provide them. Their concerns are not just for the Catholic Church but also for “those who recognize that their cherished beliefs may be next on the block.”
“Indeed, this is not about the Church wanting to force anybody to do anything; it is instead about the federal government forcing the Church – consisting of its faithful and all but a few of its institutions – to act against Church teachings,” they said.
The Church has worked for universal healthcare in the United States since 1919, they added, and said the current issue “is not a Republican or Democratic, a conservative or liberal issue; it is an American issue.”
The bishops called the HHS mandate “an unwarranted government definition of religion,” with government deciding who is a religious employer deserving exemption from the law.
“The introduction of this unprecedented defining of faith communities and their ministries has precipitated this struggle for religious freedom,” the bishops said.
“Government has no place defining religion and religious ministry,” they said.
“If this definition is allowed to stand, it will spread throughout federal law, weakening its healthy tradition of generous respect for religious freedom and diversity,” they said.
The bishops said the government’s foray into church governance “where government has no legal competence or authority” is beyond disturbing. Those deemed by HHS not to be “religious employers,” the bishops said, “will be forced by government to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions. This is not only an injustice in itself, but it also undermines the effective proclamation of those teachings to the faithful and to the world.”
The bishops also called the HHS mandate “a violation of personal civil rights.” The new mandate creates a class of people “with no conscience protection at all: individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to live in accordance with their faith and values,” the bishops said. “They too face a government mandate to aid in providing ‘services’ contrary to those values – whether in their sponsoring of, and payment for, insurance as employers; their payment of insurance premiums as employees, or as insurers themselves – without even the semblance of exemptions.”
The bishops called for the Catholic faithful, and all people of good will throughout the nation to join them in prayer and penance “for our leaders and for the complete protection of our First Freedom – religious liberty.”
“Prayer is the ultimate source of our strength,” the bishops said, “for without God we can do nothing. But with God all things are possible.”

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Filed under: Church-State, healthcare, Official Statements

Catholic Institutions petition HHS on conscience clause

 

 

Please consider signing on to the Church’s petition:

 

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Department of Health and Human Services

Attention: CMS-9992-IFC2

Room 445-G, Hubert H. Humphrey Building

200 Independence Avenue, SW

Washington, DC 20201

 

Re: Interim Final Rules defining Religious Employer Exception for Group Health Plans and Health Insurance Issuers Relating to Coverage of Preventive Services under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, RIN 0938-AQ07

 

Dear Sir or Madam:

 

On behalf of all Catholic facilities, I am writing to urge you to broaden the proposed definition of “religious employer” to ensure conscience protections that will allow us to continue our health ministry as Catholic employers.

 

Catholic health care has long worked to ensure that everyone has access to the health care they need. For this reason, we welcome the Administration’s decision to require health plans to cover women’s preventive services, such as critical screenings that will make preventive care more widely available and affordable. However, the inclusion in that mandate of contraceptive services that the Catholic Church finds morally objectionable, including sterilization and drugs that could cause an abortion, makes it imperative that the Final Rule include broader conscience protections. While the Interim Final Rule acknowledges the need for conscience protections, we are deeply concerned that the proposed religious exception falls far short of the level of protection needed.

 

The proposed definition of “religious employer” determines whether a religious organization qualifies for conscience protections, thereby exempting it from providing coverage of contraceptive services that are against its religious teaching. The proposed definition as written is narrower than any conscience clause ever enacted in federal law. As currently written, the definition of religious employer would not consider Catholic health care institutions—including Catholic hospitals, Catholic Charities, and long-term care facilities—religious employers. This runs contrary to a 40-year history of federal conscience statutes have been in effect to protect individuals and organizations like ours from being required to participate in, pay for, or provide coverage for certain services that are contrary to our religious beliefs or moral convictions.

 

The proposed definition would require religious employers to “primarily serve persons who share its religious tenets.” For over 200 years, Catholic health care providers have served the common good of our nation and its citizens by caring for persons of all ages, races and religions, in a manner consistent with our religious and moral convictions.

 

These convictions are the source of both the work we do and the limits on what we will do. Our ethical standards in health care flow from the Catholic Church’s teachings about the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. These values form the basis for our steadfast commitment to the compelling moral implications of our ministry—from insisting on the right of all to accessible, affordable health care, to caring for persons at the end of life, to defending and preserving the conscience rights of all, including but not limited to Catholic organizations.

 

The definition that has been proposed is not drawn from current federal law and is instead lifted from the narrowest state definition of a religious employer—found only in three states in the nation. I request that the definition be rewritten using the principles behind the “church plan” exemption found in section 414(e) of the Internal Revenue Code, which was developed specifically to avoid church-state entanglements in religious governance relative to pension, health and welfare plans offered by religious entities. This is the statute that should be used as a guide for determining the definition of a religious employer. Section 414(e) of Title 26 considers whether an organization or institution “shares common religious bonds and convictions with a church” when determining if the organization qualifies as a “religious employer.” This definition more adequately defines religious employers to include all employers that work in ministries of the church.

 

Our country has acknowledged and respected the rights of conscience since its founding, and our society’s commitment to pluralism lies at the heart of our diverse and vibrant nation. I request that you broaden the definition of “religious employer” as described above and as specifically laid out in the comments of the Catholic Health Association of the United States.

 

 

 

Filed under: Church-State, healthcare, Official Statements

Legislative Priorities, US Catholic Bishops 2011

Dear Member of Congress,

As a new Congress begins, I write to congratulate you and to outline principles and priorities that guide the public policy efforts of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). As President of the Bishops’ Conference, I assure you of our prayers and hopes that this newly elected Congress will advance the common good and defend the life and dignity of all, especially vulnerable and poor persons whose needs are critical in this time of difficult economic and policy choices. We continue to seek ways to work constructively with the Administration and the new Congress and others of good will to pursue policies which respect the dignity of all human life and bring greater justice to our nation and peace to our world.

As bishops, of course we approach public policy not as politicians but as pastors and teachers. Our moral principles have always guided our everyday experience in caring for the hungry and homeless, offering health care and housing, educating children and reaching out to those in need. We lead the largest community of faith in the United States, one that serves every part of our nation and is present in almost every place on earth. From our experience and our tradition, we offer a distinctive, constructive and principled contribution to the national dialogue on how to defend human life and dignity, promote and protect marriage and family life, lift up those who experience economic turmoil and suffering, and promote peace in a world troubled by war and violence.

Most fundamentally, we will work to protect the lives of the most vulnerable and voiceless members of the human family, especially unborn children and those who are disabled or terminally ill. We will consistently defend the fundamental right to life from conception to natural death. Opposed to abortion as the direct killing of innocent human life, we will encourage one and all to seek common ground, reducing the number of abortions by providing compassionate and morally sound care for pregnant women and their unborn children. We will oppose legislative and other measures to expand abortion. We will work to retain essential, widely supported policies which show respect for unborn life, protect the conscience rights of health care providers and other Americans, and prevent government funding and promotion of abortion. The Hyde amendment and other provisions which for many years have prevented federal funding of abortion have a proven record of reducing abortions, and should be codified in permanent law. Efforts to force Americans to fund abortions with their tax dollars pose a serious moral challenge, and Congress should act to ensure that health care reform does not become a vehicle for such funding.

In close connection with our defense of all human life and particularly the most vulnerable among us, we stand firm in our support for marriage which is and can only be a faithful, exclusive, lifelong union of one man and one woman. There is good reason why the law has always recognized this, and why it should continue to do so. In a manner unlike any other relationship, marriage makes a unique and irreplaceable contribution to the common good of society, especially through the procreation and education of children. Children need, deserve and yearn for a mother and a father. All human societies in every era of history, differing greatly among themselves in many other ways, have understood this simple wisdom. No other kinds of personal relationships can be justly made equivalent or analogous to the commitment of a husband and a wife in marriage, because no other relationship can connect children to the two people who brought them into the world. For this reason, we will continue to vigorously support the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and strongly oppose legislative or executive measures that seek to redefine or erode the meaning of marriage. We suggest Congressional oversight of executive actions that have the effect of undermining DOMA, such as the expansion of spousal benefits to two persons of the same sex, and the weak defense of DOMA in court against constitutional challenge. We will seek to reflect respect for the family in every policy and program, to protect the rights of children, and to uphold the rights and responsibilities of mothers and fathers to care for their children. We will also continue to monitor legislation and federal regulations that protect our children and families from the destructive repercussions of pornography, which degrades human sexuality and marital commitment.

Our nation faces continuing economic challenges with serious human consequences and significant moral dimensions. We will work with the Administration and Congress for budget, tax and entitlement policies that reflect the moral imperative to protect poor and vulnerable people. We advocate a clear priority for poor families and vulnerable workers in the development and implementation of economic recovery measures, including appropriate new investments, finding ways to offer opportunity and strengthening the national safety net. Poor families and low-income and jobless workers have been hurt most of all in the economic crisis. The difficult choices ahead on how to balance needs and resources, and how to proportionately allocate the burdens and sacrifices need to take into account the vulnerability and capacity of all, especially those most affected by poverty, joblessness and economic injustice. We urge the Administration and Congress to seek the common good of our nation and people above partisan politics and the demands of powerful or narrow interests.

With regard to the education of children, we call for a return to the equitable participation of students and teachers in private schools in programs funded through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. When students in private schools are counted in order to determine the total amount of federal education funds a public school district receives, the funds generated by these students should benefit them and their teachers, not be used for programs in which only public school students and personnel can participate. We also continue to support initiatives, such as tax credits and scholarship programs, which provide resources for all parents, especially those of modest means, to choose education which best addresses the needs of their children.

We welcome continuing commitments to empower faith-based groups as effective partners in overcoming poverty and other threats to human dignity. We will continue to work with the Administration and Congress to strengthen these partnerships in ways that do not encourage government to abandon its responsibilities, and do not require religious groups to abandon their identity or mission.

As the Internet continues to grow in its influence and prominence in Americans’ lives, we support legislation and federal regulations that ensure equal access to the Internet for all, including religious and non-profit agencies, as well as those in more sparsely populated or economically distressed areas. True net neutrality is necessary for people to flourish in a democratic society.

The Catholic Bishops of the United States have worked for nearly a century to assure health care for all,insisting that access to health care is a basic human right and a requirement of human dignity. Basic health care for all is a moral imperative, not yet completely achieved. We remain committed to our three moral criteria: 1) Ensure access to quality, affordable, life-giving health care for all; 2) Retain longstanding requirements that federal funds not be used for elective abortions or plans that include them, and effectively protect conscience rights; and 3) Protect the access to health care that immigrants currently have and remove current barriers to access. We will continue to devote our efforts to improving and correcting serious moral problems in the current law, so health care reform can truly be universal and life-affirming.

We will work with the Administration and the new Congress to fix a broken immigration system which harms both immigrants and our entire nation. Comprehensive reform is needed to deal with the economic and human realities of millions of immigrants in our midst. We realize that reform must be based on respect for and implementation of the law and for the legitimate and timely question of national security. Equally, however, it must defend the rights and dignity of all peoples, recognizing that human dignity comes from God and does not depend on where people were born or how they came to our nation. Truly comprehensive immigration reform will include a path to earned citizenship, with attention to the fact that international trade and development policies influence economic opportunities in the countries from which immigrants come. It also must foster family reunification, the bedrock principle upon which our national immigration system has been based for decades. Immigration enforcement policies should honor basic human rights and uphold basic due process protections.

On international affairs, we will work with our leaders to seek responsible transitions to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and promote religious freedom for all, acting against religious repression of our fellow Christians and others. The recent attacks against Christians in Egypt, Iraq and Nigeria and the assassination of a Pakistani governor who opposed blasphemy laws highlight an appalling trend of increased violence aimed at vulnerable minority communities. In all foreign policy deliberations, we urge a greater emphasis on human rights, especially religious freedom, which we view as an essential good so intricately tied to other human rights and to the promotion of peace. We especially urge continued and persistent leadership to bring a just peace to the Holy Land, to promote peaceful change in Sudan, and to rebuild Haiti. We will continue to support essential U.S. investments to overcome global poverty, hunger and disease through increased and reformed international assistance. Continued U.S. leadership in the fight against HIV-AIDS and other diseases in ways that are both effective and morally appropriate have our enthusiastic backing. Recognizing the complexity of climate change, we wish to be a voice for the poor and vulnerable in our country and around the world who will be the most adversely affected by threats to the environment.

This outline of USCCB policies and priorities is not complete. There are many other areas of concern and advocacy for the Church and the USCCB. For a more detailed description of our concerns please see Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (USCCB 2007), pages 19-30.

Nonetheless, we offer this outline as an agenda for dialogue and action. We hope to offer a constructive and principled contribution to national discussion about the values and policies that will shape our nation’s future. We seek to work together with our nation’s leaders to advance the common good of our society, while disagreeing respectfully and civilly where necessary in order to preserve that common good. I am enclosing a brochure from our Office of Government Relations, directed by Nancy Wisdo, for your future contacts with the Conference.

In closing, I thank you for responding to the noble call of public service and I renew our expression of hope and our offer of cooperation as you begin this new period of service to our nation in these challenging times. We promise our prayers for all of you, and in a special way for your colleague Gabrielle Giffords and all those killed or injured in the horrific attack in Tucson. We hope that the days ahead will be a time of renewal and progress for our nation as we defend human life and dignity, seek greater justice for all God’s children, and bring peace to a suffering world.

With prayerful best wishes, I am

Faithfully and respectfully yours,

Most Reverend Timothy M. Dolan
Archbishop of New York
President, USCCB

Filed under: Church-State, Economic Policy, healthcare, Official Statements, Politics, Social Doctrine

Faith and Politics

Not a Problem, Part of a Solution
By Father John Flynn, LC

ROME, OCT. 24, 2010 ( Zenit.org ).- With the American midterm elections looming close, issues such as Church-State relations and the religious beliefs of candidates are surfacing again.

Pundits have speculated about the way religious affiliations will affect voters, especially with controversies such as health care reform and changes to immigration laws still fresh.

Earlier this month the seven Catholic bishops of New York State published a statement offering guidelines to help people evaluate which candidates it would be suitable to vote for. Catholics, they said, should judge political matters through the lens of faith and not be guided by self interest or party loyalty alone.

The bishops mentioned a number of issues, ranging from life matters to war and peace and education. It’s rare, they admitted, to find a candidate who agrees with the Church on every matter, but not all have the same weight.

Following the recommendation of the 2008 document, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” issued by the U.S. bishops the New York prelates stated: “The inalienable right to life of every innocent human person outweighs other concerns where Catholics may use prudential judgment, such as how best to meet the needs of the poor or to increase access to health care for all.”

They urged Catholics to take time and care in studying the positions of candidates and concluded with a list of questions people should ask before deciding who to vote for.

The question of faith’s impact on politics has been a topic raised a number of times recently by Benedict XVI. In a message dated Oct. 12 to Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian episcopal conference, the Pope affirmed that politics and society needs to be guided by considerations of the common good.

Christian values are not just useful in determining this what comprises this common good, they make an indispensable contribution, he stated.

New generation

In the message, sent to mark the 46th Italian Catholic Social Week, Benedict XVI called for a new generation of Catholics to come forward and be active in politics. This participation should be grounded in a solid intellectual and moral formation that will enable the formation of ethical principles based on fundamental truths so that decisions will not be based on egoism, avarice or personal ambition.

At a time when politicians are often held in contempt or ridicule the Pontiff stated that: “The socio-political endeavor, with the spiritual resources and the attitudes it requires, remains a lofty vocation, to which the Church invites to respond with humility and determination.”

As to the role of the Church, the Pope affirmed that: “the Catholic Church has a legacy of values that are not things of the past, but constitute a very living and timely reality, capable of offering a creative guideline for the future of a nation.”

His message came shortly after a major speech on Church-State relations during his recent visit to Scotland and England. Addressing politicians and leaders in London’s Westminister Hall the Pope maintained that religion is not a problem legislators need to solve, but rather it has a vital contribution to make to politics.

The Holy Father pointed out the inadequacy of basing a nation’s future on short-term considerations of a merely political nature and urged his listeners to consider the importance of an ethical dimension to policy-making.

This ethical dimension does not have to depend on a particular faith, but can be based on reason’s formulation of objective moral principles. So it is not as though religion is imposing its beliefs, but rather it helps lead reason to the discovery of ethical principles. Then, the Pope noted, religion is in need of reason’s assistance in order to guard against distorted forms of religion, such as sectarianism and fundamentalism.

Religion has a legitimate role in the public square, the Pontiff stated, and should not be marginalized.

“This is why I would suggest that the world of reason and the world of faith – the world of secular rationality and the world of religious belief – need one another and should not be afraid to enter into a profound and ongoing dialogue, for the good of our civilization,” he concluded.

Only a few days before, Benedict XVI had expressed similar views to the newly accredited German ambassador. In his Sept. 13 speech the Pope observed that if faith in a personal God is abandoned then the difference between good and evil becomes obscured. This then leads to actions being directed by considerations of personal interest or power politics.

Foundations

Convinced Christians give testimony to society that an order of values is something legitimate. In this sense Christianity has a fundamental role, “in laying the foundations and forming the structures of our culture,” the Pope explained.

He lamented the growing tendency to eliminate Christian concepts of marriage and the family from society’s conscience. The Church cannot, the Pope stated, approve legislative initiatives that propose alternative models to married and family life.

Referring to the area of biotechnology and medicine he affirmed that what is needed is a culture of the person founded on natural law that will protect humans and guard against violations of human dignity.

Such a solid foundation provides a defense against the tendency to relativism, a danger that Pope Benedict has frequently warned against. He spoke again about this in an address given Sept. 8 to members of the bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

It is imperative, he declared, to defend the universal validity of the right to religious freedom. If values, rights, and duties do not have an objective rational foundation then they cannot offer guidance for international institutions.

The Christian faith is a positive force in searching for the foundation of these rights in the natural dignity of the person, helping human reason to seek a basis for this dignity, the Pope commented.

Truth

In these recent statements on religion’s role in politics the Pope often refers back to his 2009 encyclical “Charity in Truth.” In that document he rejected the claim that the Church is interfering in politics: “She does, however, have a mission of truth to accomplish, in every time and circumstance, for a society that is attuned to man, to his dignity, to his vocation” (No. 9).

Referring to the development of nations Benedict XVI decried the promotion of religious indifference or atheism as something that obstructs our true development, as it precludes countries benefitting from vital spiritual and human resources. Economically developed countries sometimes export this reductive vision of the human person to poor countries, he noted.

If society prescinds itself of religion’s contribution it can fall into the error of giving too much attention to the “how” questions, and not enough to the many “why” questions underlying human activity, the Pope adverted. “When technology is allowed to take over, the result is confusion between ends and means, such that the sole criterion for action in business is thought to be the maximization of profit, in politics the consolidation of power, and in science the findings of research” (No. 71).

To avoid this Christianity needs to have a place in public affairs and reason and faith need be united, each purifying the other, the Pope explained (No. 56). If this dialogue does not take place then humanity will pay an enormous price. Something worth remembering the next time someone says that religion needs to keep out of politics.

ZE10102406 – 2010-10-24
Permalink: http://www.zenit.org/article-30747?l=english

Filed under: Church-State, Culture, morals, Politics

Holy See Considers the Good and the Bad at UN

Pledges Continued Support to Help Organization Serve Humanity


NEW YORK, OCT. 8, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See is praising the United Nations for its accomplishments in responding to humanitarian crises, nuclear disarmament, and an arms trade treaty, but deploring a lack of progress on climate change, the lagging economy and ongoing violence.

 
On the Net:

Full text: www.holyseemission.org/5Oct2010.html

Filed under: Church-State, Economic Policy, Official Statements