HHS “compromise” is Unacceptable, says former Vatican ambassador, Catholic University of America president, and others

(HT: Catholicvote.org)

The following public letter was issued today by Mary Anne Glendon (former United States Ambassador to the Vatican), John Garvey (President, Catholic University of America), Princeton scholar Robert P. George, Notre Dame law professor Carter Sneed, and Yuval Levin of the Ethics & Public Policy Center. Right now the letter is being circulated and in the process of acquiring many more signatories. I am proud to say that I signed it only moments ago when it was sent to me via email. It is a strong rebuttal to the HHS regulation “compromise” offered earlier today by President Obama.  The letter reads:

Today the Obama administration has offered what it has styled as an “accommodation” for religious institutions in the dispute over the HHS mandate for coverage (without cost sharing) of abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception. The administration will now require that all insurance plans cover (“cost free”) these same products and services.  Once a religiously-affiliated (or believing individual) employer purchases insurance (as it must, by law), the insurance company will then contact the insured employees to advise them that the terms of the policy include coverage for these objectionable things.

This so-called “accommodation” changes nothing of moral substance and fails to remove the assault on religious liberty and the rights of conscience which gave rise to the controversy.  It is certainly no compromise.  The reason for the original bipartisan uproar was the administration’s insistence that religious employers, be they institutions or individuals, provide insurance that covered services they regard as gravely immoral and unjust.  Under the new rule, the government still coerces religious institutions and individuals to purchase insurance policies that include the very same services.

It is no answer to respond that the religious employers are not “paying” for this aspect of the insurance coverage.  For one thing, it is unrealistic to suggest that insurance companies will not pass the costs of these additional services on to the purchasers.  More importantly, abortion-drugs, sterilizations, and contraceptives are a necessary feature of the policy purchased by the religious institution or believing individual.  They will only be made available to those who are insured under such policy, by virtue of the terms of the policy.

It is morally obtuse for the administration to suggest (as it does) that this is a meaningful accommodation of religious liberty because the insurance company will be the one to inform the employee that she is entitled to the embryo-destroying “five day after pill” pursuant to the insurance contract purchased by the religious employer.  It does not matter who explains the terms of the policy purchased by the religiously affiliated or observant employer.  What matters is what services the policy covers.

The simple fact is that the Obama administration is compelling religious people and institutions who are employers to purchase a health insurance contract that provides abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization.  This is a grave violation of religious freedom and cannot stand.  It is an insult to the intelligence of Catholics, Protestants, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslims, and other people of faith and conscience to imagine that they will accept as assault on their religious liberty if only it is covered up by a cheap accounting trick.

Finally, it bears noting that by sustaining the original narrow exemptions for churches, auxiliaries, and religious orders, the administration has effectively admitted that the new policy (like the old one) amounts to a grave infringement on religious liberty.  The administration still fails to understand that institutions that employ and serve others of different or no faith are still engaged in a religious mission and, as such, enjoy the protections of the First Amendment.


John Garvey, President, The Catholic University of America

Mary Ann Glendon, Learned Hand Professor of Law, Harvard University

Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University

O. Carter Snead, Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame

Yuval Levin, Hertog Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center


  • http://www.debatingobama.blogspot.com Gregmetzger

    THanks for this, Frank. I had not seen it yet. I wonder why Catholic Health Association accepted it so quickly if it is this bad. More to read and learn. Thanks again.

  • Rev. Joseph F. Geleney Jr.

    Thanks, Frank for ublishing this. People just don’t realize how much double talk the president is using.

  • http://www.rpconradio.com Dennis O’Donovan

    My appreciation to the composers and signers of the foregoing letter. My question is, why cannot the Bishops come to as quick an understanding of the problem and offer such a timely reply. The entire nation is waiting to hear what the Bishops will say. Nature abhors a vacuum. Until the Bishops speak, the vacuum created by their silence will be filled with the errors and/or intentional falsehoods being spread by the liberal media.

  • Doug Indeap

    I’m curious. How long do you suppose a dollar remains Catholic after the Church uses it to pay others and they use it to pay others, etc? At some point, some might rightfully regard that dollar as theirs to do with as they will–without regard to the religious views of others who once had it in their hands a transaction or two earlier.

    • francisbeckwith

      That’s an easy one to answer. Just replace “Catholic” with “Doug,” and you’ll find it: “How long do you suppose a dollar remains Doug’s after the Doug uses it to pay others and they use it to pay others, etc? At some point, some might rightfully regard that dollar as theirs to do with as they will–without regard to the religious views of others who once had it in their hands a transaction or two earlier.” I suspect that if the government made Doug pay for Suzie’s abortion (if he chooses to have an abortion), you would regard yourself as the one paying for Suzie’s abortion. On the other hand, if you paid Suzie to drive you to the dry cleaners and she subsequently used that money to buy a candy bar, you would not regard yourself as the one who purchased the candy bar.

      • Doug Indeap

        Okay, not sure substituting Doug for Catholic added anything, but as I understand your point if I pay money for something, freely or under government compulsion, I rightfully am regarded as the one paying for that something. Agreed. On the other hand, if I pay money to someone else for goods or services, and that person later uses that money to buy something, he or she rightfully is regarded the one paying for that something. Agreed.

        So, if an employer pays money to an insurer for an employee health plan and the insurer later uses that money to buy contraception services for the employee, the one buying those services is . . . the insurer, right?

  • Steve

    What troubles me the most is not that our religious liberty’s are being attacked (so what’s new about that.) What is really disturbing about Mr Obama’s actions is the the fact that the POTUS is exercising power that, under the Constitution he doesn’t have – and no one, and I mean no one is calling him on it. This was no backpedaling toward “compromise” on his part. This was all part of the narrative he seeks to promote – all the while achieving what he came to accomplish. Saul Alinski is alive and well – and his name is Barrack Obama.

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