By Peter J. Smith

MADISON, Wisconsin, August 12, 2010 ( – The Catholic Diocese of Madison says they will abide by Wisconsin law requiring them to offer insurance coverage for artificial birth control – but they are making absolutely clear that they will fire any employee who willfully uses it in defiance of Catholic teaching against contraception.

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, the diocese, which is headed by Bishop Robert Morlino, made the decision after discovering that the financial costs to become self-insured were too high.

A new state provision that went into effect January 1 requires health insurance companies to include contraceptive services as a “mandated benefit.” Only self-insured groups are exempted, such as the La Crosse and Superior dioceses.

The Journal reports that the diocese made its decision final on August 1, when their previous health insurance contract expired. According to diocesan spokesman Brent King, employees will be expected not to use birth control coverage, since they sign a “morals clause” in their contracts agreeing to abide by Church teaching.

“If someone were to misuse that freedom in this regard, it could be grounds for termination,” King told the Journal. However, he said employees defying the diocesan directive would be counseled first, before termination would be invoked.

The Wisconsin Catholic Conference blasted the state in a 2009 statement for passing the new contraception mandate without an exemption for those with religious or conscience objections to contraception. They objected that Catholic dioceses, parishes, and other agencies that must purchase health insurance would have to provide coverage for services considered “gravely immoral” in Catholic teaching.

“Contraception prevents the full and reciprocal self-giving that is essential to Christian marriage and diminishes the role of God, the giver of life, within marriage,” stated the Wisconsin bishops.

“The constitutional right to religious freedom embraces more than just the right to hold private beliefs and affirm personal values. Such freedom also includes the ability to bear public witness to our values – by what we do and what we decline to do,” they continued. “It is such witness that changes hearts and transforms culture.”

The contraceptive insurance mandate has been the second setback for the religious liberty of the Catholic Church in Wisconsin, after losing a battle in 2008 to get a religious exemption for a state law requiring all hospitals to provide abortifacient “emergency contraception” within 72 hours to rape victims.

See previous coverage by

Wisconsin Catholic Conference Statement on Insurance Mandate for Contraceptive Services

Wisconsin Requires Catholic Hospitals to Provide Contraception