Editorial | The health insurance mandate, Catholic Charities and Catholic identity
The U.S. Constitution's establishment clause, often referred to as the "separation of church and state" clause, was intended to keep the government from intruding into a church's territory. Unfortunately, the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is attempting to circumvent this clause with its contraception coverage mandate.
Catholics and Catholic institutions will be forced to pay for products and provide services contrary to our beliefs and in violation of the consciences of many American citizens. This mandate denies the free exercise of religion. It is an attack on our shared Catholic identity, the heart of which is life.
Perhaps the most shocking element of this mandate is that any exemption to be made in regard to the current law is to be determined by HHS itself. Pope Benedict XVI has stated that the "decisive direction" of Christian life is the practice of charity, which, he says, is as fundamental to the Church as proclaiming the word of God or celebrating the sacraments. Under the law, any determination of which element of our Catholic Church is "sufficiently religious" would be left to HHS.
The government would, in effect, designate one aspect of our Church (worship) as "sufficiently religious," while declaring another aspect (charity) "insufficiently religious." In what way is the government responsible for determining what is and what is not "sufficiently religious" within our Church (or any church, for that matter)?
The core of Catholic identity is life. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we are saved, there is victory over death and eternal life has been won for mankind. In the same vein, the core of Catholic Charities of St. Louis, in its mission and in its services, is life. Throughout the eight agencies in its federation, life is at the heart of everything Catholic Charities does: Celebrating the dignity of life in its later stages is an everyday event at Cardinal Ritter Senior Services; nurturing young life is the norm at Child Center Marygrove and Good Shepherd Children & Family Services; providing the necessities of life is a hallmark of Catholic Charities Community Services; bettering one's own life is at the heart of the ministry provided by St. Patrick Center, Queen of Peace Center, St. Martha's Hall and Catholic Family Services.
Catholic Charities Archdiocese of St. Louis is one of the largest private providers of social services in Missouri. Organized as a federation, Catholic Charities federated agencies in a year's time have offered more than 100 programs to over 157,000 people in need. The majority, 76 percent, live below the poverty line, and approximately 90 percent of the people served were nonCatholic. In the past year, Catholic Charities has provided:
156,937 meals served to homeless people.
28,238 calls to the Homeless Hotline seeking emergency shelter.
29,479 seniors housed, fed, counseled or received other services.
1,217 people received legal assistance.
3,963 adults received assistance with job searches or training.
244 refugees were resettled.
Catholic Charities has spent more than $80 million annually on services to the communities of St. Louis, from affordable housing to homeless shelters, and programs for our senior neighbors and our children. Public money funds many of these ministries because the organization is trusted with excellent service. This relationship has allowed people in our community to receive quality care without compromising the integrity of either the government or the Catholic Church.
The HHS is willing to threaten a massive network of hospitals, schools and social services in order to impose its extreme views on sterilization, contraception and abortion-inducing drugs. The mandate would make it morally compromising for us to provide health care and hinder our ability to serve our communities. We hope that all Catholic institutions, including Catholic hospitals, universities and social service agencies,will join the Catholic bishops in their urgent and vigorous defense of conscience and the freedom of religion.
Catholic Charities is committed to serving the poor and those in need and providing compassionate care for everyone, regardless of religion, gender, economic situation or ethnic background. It helps people because the agency is Catholic, not because those who are served are Catholic. Under the HHS mandate and its narrow exception, the government punishes religious organizations for reaching out to serve those who have a different or no faith. Catholic Charities asks only, "Are you hungry?" or "Are you sick?" Under the HHS mandate and its narrow exception, it will now have to ask, "Are you Catholic?"
The mandate flies in the face of our Catholic identity and everything the Church stands for. It is a threat to our religious liberty. To follow it as law is to willfully concede our allegiance to the love of life instilled within us by the Father through our shared humanity with His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of St. Louis cannot, in good conscience, comply with an initiative that demands the compromise of direct or indirect participation in a health insurance program that provides medications and services that oppose the sanctity of life held at the core of Catholic identity.
- Editorial | Health care mandate: A violation of liberty, conscience
- Editorial | Protecting the Catholic identity of our schools
- Catholic health care for a broken arm: a cast and new shoes
- Bishops urge Catholics to speak out against health care mandate
- Daughter of Charity will head Catholic health group
- News »
- Papal News
- Religious Liberty
- Living Our Faith »
- Church Teaching »
- Opinion »
- Year of Faith
- Special Sections »