PHILADELPHIA, February 5, 2013 (LifeSiteNews) – Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput on Monday condemned the Obama administration’s proposed ‘compromise’ on the HHS birth control mandate in his weekly column for his diocesan newspaper.
“The White House has made no concessions to the religious conscience claims of private businesses, and the whole spirit of the ‘compromise’ is minimalist,” the Archbishop wrote in the column, called Making Sense of Another Ambiguous ‘Compromise.’
At issue is the HHS mandate requiring private employers to provide health care plans that include contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortifacient drugs to female employees without copays. Churches are currently exempt from the mandate, but not religiously affiliated schools, charities or hospitals, nor Catholic business owners or individual employees.
A proposed ‘compromise’ offered by HHS on Friday expands the religious exemption to cover certain religious affiliated groups – mostly those that are tightly affiliated with a single religious congregation, such as parish-run elementary schools or St. Vincent de Paul groups. However, it does not offer any relief to religious business owners or employees, and would still require religiously affiliated non-profit groups to provide insurance coverage for sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have helped at least 43 plaintiffs to file a dozen different lawsuits over the mandate, challenging its constitutionality.
The USCCB previously called the mandate an “unprecedented attack on religious liberty” and an “unjust and illegal” rule that cannot be obeyed.
In a letter (PDF) inserted in church bulletins last June, the bishops wrote, “Some unjust laws impose such injustices on individuals and organizations that disobeying the laws may be justified. When fundamental human goods, such as the right of conscience, are at stake, we may need to witness to the truth by resisting the law and incurring its penalties.”
Archbishop Chaput expanded on those sentiments Friday, writing, “One of the issues America’s bishops now face is how best to respond to an HHS mandate that [even after the ‘compromise’] remains unnecessary, coercive and gravely flawed. In the weeks ahead the bishops of our country, myself included, will need both prudence and courage – the kind of courage that gives prudence spine and results in right action, whatever the cost.”
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Quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the archbishop wrote, “prudence should never be used as an alibi for ‘timidity or fear, duplicity or dissimulation.’ Real prudence has a spine called fortitude, the virtue we more commonly know as courage.”
The archbishop quoted scholar Yuval Levin, stating that the new HHS mandate proposal, “like the versions that have preceded it, betrays a complete lack of understanding of both religious liberty and religious conscience,” and that “the government has forced a needless and completely avoidable confrontation and has knowingly put many religious believers in an impossible situation.”
“Please pray that God guides our discussions,” said the archbishop.