Archbishop’s Column
The Catholic Transcript – February Issue, 2012

Federal Edict on Health Care Insurance

            On Friday, January 20th, the Federal Department of Health and Human Services imposed a mandate on health insurance plans that is a serious violation of freedom of conscience.  It demands that all employers, with a few small exceptions, pay for health coverage that covers sterilization, pills that induce abortion, and contraception.

            This development runs clearly in the face of the Bill of Rights, providing in its First Amendment freedom of religion, going all the way back to December 15, 1791.  Never before in the history of the United States has the federal government forced citizens to purchase directly what violates their beliefs.

            Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services, issued the decree.  President Barack Obama called Archbishop Timothy Dolan to tell him the move was about to be made.  If the Administration will not rescind this violation of the First Amendment, Congress must do so.

            This directive would affect some 77,000 employees of Catholic Charities across the country, numerous Catholic colleges, universities, and schools, and large numbers of employees who work for Catholic Relief Services.  One sixth of all the hospitals in the United States are under Catholic sponsorship.  All of these programs accept people who come for the enormous benefits that are provided, regardless of their own religious background, but the Catholic institutions by this edict would be forced to pay for health insurance on matters that violate our deeply held religious principles.

            It is shocking that the Federal Government in the year 2012 would so egregiously attempt to violate the bedrock principle of freedom of religion in the United States.  It is a brazen attempt to force religious entities to spend their own money in ways that contradict the tenets of our faith (The Washington Post).  As has been said, it is a direct and frontal attack on freedom of conscience.

            The New York Daily News describes this directive as “Wrong, wrong, high handedly, obtrusively wrong.”  Archbishop Timothy Dolan has stated, “To force American citizens to choose between violating their conscience and forgoing their health care is literally unconscionable .  It is as much an attack on access to health care as on religious freedom.  Historically, this represents a challenge and a compromise of our religious liberty.”

            The Administration considers this matter to be final.  We are told that there is no openness to changing this rule, which is an outrageous affront to religious liberty.  The implications of this ruling for the Catholic Church in the United States and for charitable organizations that operate in our dioceses across the country and the people they serve are grave.  Leaders of various faiths have joined us in a chorus of protest.

            The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, chaired by Bishop William Lori of the Diocese of Bridgeport, is actively exploring options for litigation and legislation proposals to remedy this injustice.

            We cannot comply with this edict.  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.  We hope and trust that she can count on this generation of Catholics to do the same.  Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.

            The Dioceses of Bridgeport and Norwich, as well as the Ukrainian Diocese of Stamford, will be joining us in the Archdiocese of Hartford as we mount a campaign against this horrific development.  Prayer and fasting are, of course, supremely important, that wisdom and justice may prevail and religious liberty may be restored.  You may also wish to visit www.usccb.org/conscience to learn more about this severe assault on religious liberty, and how to contact our Senators and Representatives to support legislation that would reverse the Administration’s decision.

            We must act strongly against this edict.  It affects the lifeblood of Catholics and millions more who are not Catholic but whom we serve diligently.  The future of all of us and our country as well is at stake.

Archbishop's Annual Appeal 2011

The results of the 2011 Archbishop's Annual Appeal are final, and most encouraging.  The total of $9,791,564 is the highest ever, higher than last year by $527,688.  This is a tremendous tribute to your generosity and thoughtfulness.  In times of economic difficulties and tragedies, you respond with outstanding impact.

Please reflect in your prayers about the strong services you are enabling for people in need.  In this winter season your record is more than heartwarming.

The priests do not appreciate my saying this, but I should inform you that the average of the priests’ donations, from their personal monies, is $1,366.  The priests not only advocate for the Appeal, they support it with enthusiasm.

My deepest gratitude to you all for demonstrating the continuing wonder of our Church.