TAMPA BAY, Florida, December 1, 2011 ( – The Diocese of St. Petersburg, Florida will be forced to end health insurance coverage for its 2,300 employees if the Obama administration presses forward with its plan to force Catholic employers to cover contraceptives and abortifacients, insisted Bishop Robert Lynch on Wednesday.

“For the first time in my adult life, I foresee the possibility of some form of civil disobedience and I am extremely uncomfortable at even the hint of such a thing,” the bishop told the lawyers and judges gathered for the annual Red Mass in Tampa Bay.

“If they fail to shift in their present positions, then 2300 employees of the Diocese of St. Petersburg will lose their health care coverage which they have come to treasure and rely upon,” he said.

The bishop explained that if they were forced to do so, the diocese would give its employees the funds that would have gone to the insurance plan to put towards their own private coverage.

He said the diocese’s health plan at present covers “almost everything,” but excludes contraceptives, abortifacients, and sexual enhancements like Viagra.

In a blog post Thursday commenting on his homily, the bishop explained that the HHS mandate is “violative of the religious liberty assured us by the first amendment to our Constitution and also of our personal moral consciences.”

He said that while the mandate currently has an exemption for Catholics employed by a Catholic organization, the employer would still be required to provide objectionable services to non-Catholic employees.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has argued that the religious exemption is so narrow that it excludes most Catholic social service agencies, healthcare providers, and other institutions.

Bishop Lynch noted also that because the diocese is self-insured, it is deemed an insurance company and so even it would not qualify for any exemptions.

He warned that the Obama administration mandates also threaten to require doctors and nurses to perform procedures they oppose in conscience.

“A Church cannot be forced to violate its teaching, do something which is possibly immoral, and stand idly by and watch our Catholic doctors, nurses and aids forced to perform procedures which are both against their conscience and previously protected,” he said.