Ben Johnson

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Updated: 43 Catholic organizations, including Notre Dame, sue Obama administration over HHS mandate

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson

Updated at 8:24 p.m. to add quotations from Cardinal Dolan and Tony Perkins.

SOUTH BEND, INDIANA, May 21, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – In a coordinated defense of religious liberty, at 11 a.m. 43 Roman Catholic organizations filed a dozen lawsuits nationwide to strike down the HHS mandate.

The plaintiffs include some of the most significant organs of the U.S. church, including the Archdioceses of New York, Washington, D.C., and St. Louis; the Dioceses of Dallas, Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ft. Worth, the Michigan Catholic Conference, Pittsburgh, and Rockville Centre; the University of Notre Dame, Catholic University of America, and the Franciscan University of Steubenville; and Our Sunday Visitor.

Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, said the step was necessary “to protect our religious liberties from unwarranted and unprecedented government intrusion.”

The Archdiocese of Washington has created a website dedicated to the new lawsuit. Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., called the mandate a “government attempt to force the Church out of the public square.”

“The Catholic rebellion has begun,” said Catholic League President Bill Donohue in a statement e-mailed to LifeSiteNews.com.

The HHS mandate “amounts to nothing less than a grave threat to our constitutionally protected First Amendment right to freedom of religion,” said Franciscan University President Father Terence Henry, TOR. He added, although they never envisioned taking such a step, the board of trustees unanimously approved the lawsuit.

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Our Sunday Visitor linked its involvement to the legacy of its founder, Fr. John Noll, who fought the political clout of the Ku Klux Klan as that organization attempted to impose anti-Catholic policies at the turn of the 20th century. “Today, Our Sunday Visitor stands proudly with our fellow Catholic apostolates and with our bishops in resisting this challenge,” the publication announced in a press release.

The lawsuit has admirers well outside the Roman Catholic Church. These 43 Catholic institutions “are fighting back to protect the religious liberties of all Americans,” said Family Research Council president Tony Perkins this afternoon. “We stand with these Catholic organizations that have refused to give up their long held constitutional right to the free exercise of religion.”

Perhaps nothing so encapsulated President Obama’s fall from grace with American Catholics than the participation of the University of Notre Dame, where his invitation to deliver the 2009 commencement address stirred controversy. 

“We have filed this lawsuit neither lightly nor gladly, but with sober determination,” wrote Notre Dame President Fr. John Jenkins in a letter explaining his actions. “Let me say very clearly what this lawsuit is not about: it is not about preventing women from having access to contraception, nor even about preventing the [g]overnment from providing such services…We do not seek to impose our religious beliefs on others; we simply ask that the [g]overnment not impose its values on the University when those values conflict with our religious teachings.”

Notre Dame does not qualify for the administration’s religious exemption because, although it is “firmly grounded in the tenets of Catholicism,” it does not primarily employ or serve other Roman Catholics.

“Notre Dame cannot be forced to give up its beliefs on abortifacients, sterilization, or contraception, nor its devotion to serving all mankind, without violating its religious beliefs and compromising its religious purpose,” the university’s legal complaint states.

Fr. Jenkins writes that he had registered his objection to the administration’s overly narrow religious exemption numerous times without satisfaction.

The university’s legal complaint states that after Obama announced an “accommodation” that would require insurance companies to directly provide contraceptives to employees and students for “free,” college officials “informed the White House that such a policy would not help Notre Dame, which is self-insured, and would not protect its religious liberties.”

The lawsuit argues the government has no compelling interest in the mandate, that forcing a religious institution to finance abortifacient drugs is not the least restrictive means of providing them, that the rule burdens the university’s free exercise of religion, and that it favors those religions that either favor abortion or have no interest in serving members of other religions.

The university’s health care plan is not grandfathered, and officials maintain they are not certain if it qualifies for the one-year “safe harbor” that extends the implementation of the HHS mandate past the election, into August 2013. The uncertainty over future regulations makes it impossible for the university to plan for its future.

If religious institutions fail to comply with the regulations promulgated next year, they could face a penalty of $100 per day per individual covered. In an online video, Chancellor Jane Belford of the Archdiocese of Washington said that could cost that diocese $4.2 million a year.

Although Fr. Jenkins does “not question the good intentions and sincerity” of administration officials, he warned if the HHS mandate were accepted, it “will be the end of genuinely religious organizations in all but name.”   

Even some liberal Catholics have greeted today’s lawsuit as a positive step. Michael Sean Winters writes at the dissenting National Catholic Reporter, “The lawsuit, and Jenkins’ commentary, are very good news.”

“First, I doubt there is anyone who could charge Notre Dame with being unreasonably hostile to the Ibama [sic] administration,” he wrote. Yet “the administration has still refused to back off the four-part test” to grant an institution a religious exemption “that was, and is, for many of us, the principal difficulty in finding a solution.”

 

 

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Lisa Bourne

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Pressure mounts as Catholic Relief Services fails to act on VP in gay ‘marriage’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne
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Rick Estridge, Catholic Relief Services' Vice President of Overseas Finance, is in a same-sex "marriage," public records show. Twitter

BALTIMORE, MD, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Nearly a week after news broke that a Catholic Relief Services vice president had contracted a homosexual “marriage” while also publicly promoting homosexuality on social media in conflict with Church teaching, the US Bishops international relief agency has taken no apparent steps to address the matter and is also not talking.

CRS Vice President of Overseas Finance Rick Estridge entered into a homosexual “marriage” in Maryland the same month in 2013 that he was promoted by CRS to vice president, public records show.

Despite repeated efforts at a response, CRS has not acknowledged LifeSiteNews’ inquiries during the week. And the agency told ChurchMilitant.com Thursday that no action had been taken beyond discussion of the situation and CRS would have no further comment.

"Nothing has changed,” CRS Senior Manager for Communications Tom said. “No further statement will be made."

LifeSiteNews first contacted CRS for a response prior to the April 20 release of the report and did not receive a reply, however Estridge’s Facebook and LinkeIn profiles were then removed just prior to the report’s release.

CRS also did not acknowledge LifeSiteNews’ follow-up inquiry later in the week.

“Having an executive who publicly celebrates a moral abomination shows the ineffectiveness of CRS' Catholic identity training,” Lepanto Institute President Michael Hichborn told LifeSiteNews. “How many others who hate Catholic moral teaching work at CRS?”

CRS did admit it was aware Estridge was in a “same-sex civil marriage” to Catholic News Agency (CNA) Monday afternoon, and confirmed he was VP of Overseas Finance and had been with CRS for 16 years.

“At this point we are in deliberations on this matter,” Price told CNA that day.

ChurchMilitant.com also reported that according to its sources, it was a well-known fact at CRS headquarters in Baltimore that Estridge was in a homosexual “marriage.” 

“There is no way CRS didn't know one of its executives entered into a mock-marriage until we broke the story,” Hichborn said. “The implication is clear; CRS top brass had no problem with having an executive so deliberately flouting Catholic moral teaching.”

“The big question is,” Hichborn continued, “what other morally repugnant matters is CRS comfortable with?”

While the wait continues for the Bishops’ relief organization to address the matter, those behind the report and other critics of prior instances of CRS involvement in programs and groups that violate Church principles continue to call for a thorough and independent review of the agency programs and personnel.

“How long should it take to call an employee into your office, tell him that his behavior is incompatible with the mission of the organization, and ask for his resignation?” asked Population Research Institute President Steven Mosher. “About thirty minutes, I would say.”

“The Catholic identity of CRS is at stake,” Hichborn stated. “If CRS does nothing, then there is no way faithful Catholics can trust the integrity of CRS's programs or desire to make its Catholicity preeminent.” 

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Thousands of marriage activists gathered in D.C. June 19, 2014 for the 2nd March for Marriage. Dustin Siggins / LifeSiteNews.com
The Editors

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Watch the March for Marriage online—only at LifeSiteNews

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WASHINGTON, D.C., April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- At noon on Saturday, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and dozens of cosponsors, coalition partners, and speakers will launch the third annual March for Marriage. Thousands of people are expected to take place in this important event to show the support real marriage has among the American people.

As the sole media sponsor of the March, LifeSiteNews is proud to exclusively livestream the March. Click here to see the rally at noon Eastern Time near the U.S. Capitol, and the March to the Supreme Court at 1:00 Eastern Time.

And don't forget to pray that God's Will is done on Tuesday, when the Supreme Court hears arguments about marriage!

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Hillary Clinton: ‘Religious beliefs’ against abortion ‘have to be changed’

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By Ben Johnson

NEW YORK CITY, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Speaking to an influential gathering in New York City on Thursday, Hillary Clinton declared that “religious beliefs” that condemn "reproductive rights," “have to be changed.”

“Yes, we've cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health,” Hillary told the Women in the World Summit yesterday.

Liberal politicians use “reproductive health” as a blanket term that includes abortion. However, Hillary's reference echoes National Organization for Women (NOW) president Terry O’Neill's op-ed from last May that called abortion “an essential measure to prevent the heartbreak of infant mortality.”

The Democratic presidential hopeful added that governments should throw the power of state coercion behind the effort to redefine traditional religious dogmas.

“Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources, and political will,” she said. “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.”

The line received rousing applause at the feminist conference, hosted in Manhattan's Lincoln Center by Tina Brown.

She also cited religious-based objections to the HHS mandate, funding Planned Parenthood, and the homosexual and transgender agenda as obstacles that the government must defeat.

“America moves ahead when all women are guaranteed the right to make their own health care choices, not when those choices are taken away by an employer like Hobby Lobby,” she said. The Supreme Court ruled last year that closely held corporations had the right to opt out of the provision of ObamaCare requiring them to provide abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization to employees with no co-pay – a mandate that violates the teachings of the Catholic Church and other Christian bodies.

Clinton lamented that “there are those who offer themselves as leaders...who would defund the country's leading provider of family planning,” Planned Parenthood, “and want to let health insurance companies once again charge women just because of our gender.”

“We move forward when gay and transgender women are embraced...not fired from good jobs because of who they love or who they are,” she added.

It is not the first time the former first lady had said that liberal social policies should displace religious views. In a December 2011 speech in Geneva, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said perhaps the “most challenging issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens.” These objections, she said, are “not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation.”

While opinions on homosexuality are “still evolving,” in time “we came to learn that no [religious] practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us.”

Her views, if outside the American political mainstream, have been supported by the United Nations. The UN Population Fund stated in its 2012 annual report that religious objections to abortion-inducing drugs had to be overcome. According to the UNFPA report, “‘duty-bearers’ (governments and others)” have a responsibility to assure that all forms of contraception – including sterilization and abortion-inducing ‘emergency contraception’ – are viewed as acceptable – “But if they are not acceptable for cultural, religious or other reasons, they will not be used.”

Two years later, the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of the Child instructed the Vatican last February that the Catholic Church should amend canon law “relating to abortion with a view to identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services may be permitted.”

At Thursday's speech, Hillary called the legal, state-enforced implementation of feminist politics “the great unfinished business of the 21st century,” which must be accomplished “not just for women but for everyone — and not just in far away countries but right here in the United States.”

“These are not just women's fights. These have to be America's fights and the world's fights,” she said. “There's still much to be done in our own country, much more to be done around the world, but I'm confident and optimistic that if we get to work, we will get it done together.”

American critics called Clinton's suggestion that a nation founded upon freedom of religion begin using state force to change religious practices unprecedented.

“Never before have we seen a presidential candidate be this bold about directly confronting the Catholic Church's teachings on abortion,” said Bill Donohue of the Catholic League.

“In one sense, this shows just how extreme the pro-abortion caucus actually is,” Ed Morrissey writes at HotAir.com. “Running for president on the basis of promising to use the power of government to change 'deep seated cultural codes [and] religious beliefs' might be the most honest progressive slogan in history.”

He hoped that, now that she had called for governments to change religious doctrines, “voters will now see the real Hillary Clinton, the one who dismisses their faith just the same as Obama did, and this time publicly rather than in a private fundraiser.”

Donohue asked Hillary “to take the next step and tell us exactly what she plans to do about delivering on her pledge. Not only would practicing Catholics like to know, so would Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and all those who value life from conception to natural death.”

You may watch Hillary's speech below.

Her comments on religion begin at approximately 9:00. 

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