WASHINGTON, D.C., November 14, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Bishop David Zubik, the Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, told a district judge this week he would not comply with the HHS mandate under any circumstance.
The decision was made because the mandate endangers “the integrity of our beliefs,” the bishop said.
Zubik’s statement comes as the General Assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a “Special Message” to the Obama administration opposing the mandate, which requires employers to pay for health insurance plans that cover contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilization at no co-pay.
In 2012, Zubik described the mandate as “'a slap in the face’ that says ‘To Hell with you!’ to Catholics and religious freedom.”
U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab is considering providing an injunction to numerous area Catholic organizations regarding the mandate.
The government requires that organizations either go along with the mandate directly or have insurance companies offer such coverage to individual employees for “free.” Zubik and other Catholic officials said they would do neither.
The refusal could shut down Catholic schools in the area. Fr. Scott Jabo, president of Cathedral Preparatory School in Erie, testified that the fines for violating the HHS mandate – $100 per employee per day – could come to $2.8 million a year, nearly one-third of its $10 million budget.
“In essence we'd have to shut our door completely,” he said.
But Erie Bishop Lawrence T. Persico said exposing employees to the mandate would have eternal ramifications.
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The mandate, which went into effect on August 1, 2012, for non-religiously affiliated organizations, has been delayed until January 1 for such groups.
Its narrow religious exemption would not cover religiously affiliated organizations like Catholic Charities, parochial schools, adoption centers, and homeless shelters.