January 27, 2012 – In Defense of Our Conscience

I’ve never worked in a nuclear facility but I know that when things start overheating and there is danger of a meltdown that all of the alarms start going off and all of the emergency procedures go into place.  This past week I felt like my brain was in danger of meltdown and I could hear all of the alarms start going off.  Between trying to follow the news of the past week, trying to absorb all of the church-related information, doing my reading for “Fanning the Flame”, trying to sort out the political races, and on and on, I think I went into “information overload”.  Hopefully I can relieve some of the pressure by blurting out another blog and let my brain cool off a little bit.

Over the several years I’ve been doing this, I’ve taken many twists and turns as to what I write about.  I’ve talked about happenings around the parish and diocese, sports, food, theology, and other things.  I’ve tried to stay away from real “heavy-duty” issues like politics and federal policies.  But there is a federal mandate out there right now that we as Catholics need to make ourselves aware of and that we need to make our voice heard on.

I’m not a journalist or a policy expert, but I’ll try to explain this in a nutshell.  This past August the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a mandate requiring almost all private health insurance plans to cover contraceptives and sterilization procedures (including some drugs that can induce abortion).  This mandate was challenged by many organizations.  However, this past Friday, HHS decided not to make any major changes in this rule, and they are giving religious employers one year to comply with the mandate.  Religious employers would only be exempt if they hire and serve mainly people of their own faith and if they qualify as a church or religious order.  So for example, Catholic hospitals would not be exempt.  Schools would not be exempt.  Families who purchase their own health insurance would be required to purchase a plan that includes coverage for these procedures, even though it may violate their religious beliefs and consciences.

Catholic leaders believe that this is a direct attack on our First Amendment rights, which says that we are free to live by our religious beliefs.  This would be the first time in our history in which citizens would be forced to directly purchase something that violates their beliefs.  This mandate was created after Congress asked the HHS to develop a list of services all health plans should provide without co-pay.  Instead of strictly focusing on prevention of diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes, HHS took it upon itself to include methods to prevent and end pregnancy, which is not a disease.

Some states have similar mandates – however they have a wider conscience exemption, or at least allow employers to choose a plan without prescription drug coverage if they object to having to pay for anti-pregnancy procedures.  The HHS mandate forces virtually all insurance plans to offer such services.

There are some documents out there that explain what is going on much better than I can.  Below are the links to these documents.  Please read them and share them with others:

www.diobelle.org/documents/BishopBraxton-Backgrounder-12017C.pdf

www.diobelle.org/documents/BISHOPBRAXTON-QuiestionandAnswserFactSheet-12017D.pdf

www.diobelle.org/documents/BISHOPBRAXTON-DesignateCardinalDolan-12017E.pdf

As you know we are in the midst of another election season.  I know it can be a frustrating process.  I watched much of the Republican debate last night and was annoyed that the focus seemed to continue to stray away from the issues back to what they have revealed or not revealed about taxes, if they knew what content was in their commercials, what they were investing in, etc.  However, with issues such as this that continue to eat away at our ability to practice our religion in the way we see fit, it is important for us to stay informed and to let our elected leaders know the urgency in preventing this mandate from forcing us to violate our moral and religious beliefs.

Again, the idea here was not to turn this into a political forum.  I personally do not hold any affiliation to any political party, and with each election I study the candidates and try to make a decision based on my beliefs and whom I feel will uphold their office in the best way.  I also do not begrudge anyone who does affiliate themselves with a particular party.  We have that right, after all.  However, we also have not only the right, but duty as Catholic Christians, to stand up for the principles Jesus taught us and to preserve the rights that we who worship the one true God have been given in our Constitution.  There are several websites out there that can help us stay informed on issues related to our Catholic faith and guides as to how to vote our conscience.  Here are those links:

Just a couple of other notes to wrap things up.  We had another large group in attendance this past week at our Fanning the Flame discussion group.  There are also now about 65 people who have the U.S. adult catechism in their hands.  We have a few extras left.  If you would like one contact myself or the parish office.  This coming week I will be leading the discussion group, so I hope I don’t single-handedly put out the “flame”.  Also, remember you can do individual prayer/reflection by going to the links on the homepage of our website, www.maryhoc.org.

Finally, this coming week we mark Catholic Schools Week across the nation, including in our parish school.  Our school continues to be an outstanding point of pride for our parish and community thanks to all of the dedicated teachers, staff, volunteers, parents, grandparents, benefactors and school board.  You can again go to our homepage and find a link to all of the special activities taking place this coming week.

Have a great week.  3 weeks until spring training!  Peace.

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