WASHINGTON, D.C., September 29, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Jesus himself would not qualify for the Department of Health and Human Services “religious employer exemption” from its abortifacient contraceptive mandate, according to the chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

The HHS’s “religious employer exemption” is “so extremely narrow that it protects almost no one,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo. “Jesus himself, or the Good Samaritan of his famous parable, would not qualify as ‘religious enough’ for the exemption, since they insisted on helping people who did not share their view of God.”

DiNardo was objecting to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requirement, which will go into effect in 2012, that all insurance programs nationwide cover all forms of contraception - including abortifacient drugs such as Plan B and Ella - and sterilization as “preventive services for women.” Under the mandate only faith-based institutions that serve members of the same faith would be able to claim an exemption - thereby excluding the large number of religious organizations that offer their services to people of any or no faith.

The remarks, in which the cardinal accused the HHS of “a distorted view of sexuality and a disdain for the role of religion,” were made as part of the USCCB’s 40th annual October observance of Respect Life Month.

“The decision [by HHS] is wrong on many levels,” the cardinal said. “Preventive services are aimed at preventing diseases (e.g., by vaccinations) or detecting them early to aid prompt treatment (e.g., screening for diabetes or cancer). But pregnancy is not a disease…. Mandating such coverage shows neither respect for women’s health or freedom, nor respect for the consciences of those who do not want to take part in such problematic initiatives,” he said.

The cardinal blasted the Obama administration for their “misguided efforts to foster false values among our youth, to silence the voice of moral truth in the public domain, and to deprive believers of their constitutionally-protected right to live according to their religious convictions.”

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In his statement, DiNardo reflected on the Respect Life Program’s theme for 2011-12: “I came that all might have life and have it to the full.” “Jesus’ promise of ‘life to the full’ is especially poignant today,” he said, “when our culture and sometimes our government promote values inimical to the happiness and true good of individuals and society.”

DiNardo specifically countered claims that contraception is necessary for women’s health, and that it reduces the abortion rate. “Far from preventing disease, contraceptives can have serious health consequences of their own, for example, increasing the risk of acquiring a sexually transmitted disease, such as AIDS…,” he said. “Studies report that most women seeking abortions were using contraception in the month they became pregnant. Again and again, studies show that increasing access to contraception fails to reduce rates of unplanned pregnancies and abortions.”

DiNardo said that Catholics face increasing pressure “to violate their moral and religious convictions or stop serving the needy.”

Echoing Pope Benedict XVI, DiNardo invited Catholics to “pray and reflect on how each of us might renew our commitment and witness to ‘respecting, promoting and teaching the transcendent nature of the human person.’”

“Catholics must not shrink from the obligation to assert the values and principles we hold essential to the common good, beginning with the right to life of every human being and the right of every woman and man to express and live by his or her religious beliefs and well-formed conscience,” he said.

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