In the national dialogue precipitated by the decision by the Department of Health and Human Services perceptions of the basic issue have been largely misunderstood due to the various “spins” of the media and others. Several points need clarification:
First, the basic issue is religious freedom. The ruling as it was initially promulgated (and remains unchanged) requires Catholic hospitals and universities to provide services that Catholic moral teaching and tradition hold to be in conflict with moral precepts that flow from natural law.
Second, this is not the Catholic bishops attempting to impose their “opinion” on others. As pastors they are objecting to an attempt by the government to impose upon Catholic institutions a requirement to be a party to an act their long-standing teaching and tradition considers contrary to the moral law.
Third, the fact that individual Catholics have chosen not to follow the teaching of the Church on the use of artificial birth control or abortifacients is irrelevant to the basic issue of the imposition of a statute requiring the Catholics and the Catholic Church to violate what are considered sacred moral precepts.
Fourth, the suggested accommodation does not change the Health and Human Services rule, but is merely a proposal on how it will be interpreted for the time being and can be reneged upon at any time.
Fifth, nothing has been done to provide exemptions for Catholic businesses, insurers and other Catholic entities and individual Catholics who would still be forced to provide employees with services that violate their consciences.
Our position as Bishops is that we will continue—with no less vigor, no less sense of urgency—our efforts to correct this problem through the other two branches of government. For example, we renew our call on Congress to pass, and the Administration to sign, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act. And we renew our call to the Catholic faithful, and to all our fellow Americans, to join together in this effort to protect religious liberty and freedom of conscience for all.
It is possible to compromise situations but never moral principles
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