HHS Mandate News That Makes Me Go, “Hmmmmm”

Credit: CNS photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec

There was a time when a news story like this would invigorate me. Via the Catholic News Service, Cardinal Dolan is quoted as saying the Catholic Health Association’s decision earlier this year to agree to the final rule of the HHS Contraceptive Mandate, is “less than helpful.”

Take a look.

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said the Catholic Health Association’s acceptance of rules governing women’s access to contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act was “less than helpful” to the bishops’ effort to seek changes in the mandate.

“We have not, ourselves as bishops, been able to arrive at the same conclusion, that accommodation with HHS is that easy. There’s no way that we’re ready to say that yet,” said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York at a news conference Sept. 11 after a two-day meeting of the USCCB’s Administrative Committee.

While acknowledging CHA’s expertise in health care concerns, the cardinal told reporters that he appreciated the fact that the organization acknowledged that the bishops remain the authentic teachers of faith and morals within the church.

“We really listen to them in a lot of the input they give us. But when it comes to faith and morals that, of course is what this ultimately is all about, they do defer to us,” he said.

The contraceptive mandate remains a “high, high concern among the bishops,” he said.

The Department of Health and Human Services June 28 issued final rules for implementing the mandate, which is part of the Affordable Care Act. The USCCB maintains that the rules still conflict with church teaching. Cardinal Dolan said the conference continues to evaluate what next steps it will take in response.

In the final HHS rules, contraceptive coverage for accommodated religious organizations with health insurance plans will be provided separately through health insurance companies or third-party administrators who must ensure that payments for contraceptive services come from outside the objecting organization’s premiums. For self-insuring institutions, a third-party administrator would provide or arrange the services, paid for through reductions in federally facilitated-exchange user fees associated with their health insurance provider.

The mandate does not include a conscience clause for employers who object to such coverage on moral grounds.

Cardinal Dolan pledged to continue to educate and “rally our people,” challenge the rules in court, and seek changes in the law.

“We’re going to continue (to) keep giving this careful study, but I tell you we still worry about how, if where we can comply because the problems, the questions we have remain grave,” he said.

Read the rest.

I agree that CHA breaking solidarity with the USCCB is not a good thing. I believe that the HHS Mandate threatens religious liberty, not of just Catholics, but of all U.S. citizens. I came out against it, and in favor of the Catholic Church’s teachings, early and often.

But my morale doesn’t get bolstered by statements like this anymore because of the sneaking suspicion that when it comes right down to it, our “yes” doesn’t mean “yes,” and our “no” doesn’t mean “no” when it comes to the HHS Mandate. The ARCH NY health workers self-insured health plan clearly allows contraceptives, etc., to be provided to all it’s employees, you may recall. And their reply to criticism about this fact still leaves me underwhelmed.

I’m of the opinion that the numerous instances of dioceses all across the country bending on adhering to the teachings of the Church on this issue is what allowed the HHS Mandate to be crafted in the first place.

When I drafted the White House petition in response to the assault on religious liberty, and the teachings of our faith, I did so with the naïve notion that the Church actually adhered to these teachings in all of her dimensions and capacities throughout her ministries. Silly me.

Nowadays, words alone aren’t moving me very much. I’d like to see actions. Actions within our own ranks that both bolster our position and show the rest of the nation, and the entire world, that when it comes to our beliefs, which we claim to be true,  we talk the talk, and walk the walk. When we fall, we seek reconciliation, get it right, and continue along the Way.

I’m not sure we’re there yet, and as such, this probably is a disappointing post to read. But take heart. I’ll end this post with a prayer from today’s reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians,

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.


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  • Madzi

    You are speaking for me, as well. I am profoundly disappointed in the response of our bishops to these incidents.
    Either we mean what we say or we do not. And if we do not, we are lost and without shepherds in this country.
    Cardinal Dolan, it’s beyond time to straighten these “Catholic” institutions out once and for all.

  • Martial Artist

    Mr. Weathers, I share your misgivings, and I wonder when it will be time to ask our bishops to “lead, follow, or get out of the way,” or words to a similar effect?
    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  • Liz

    I’d be amazed(and overjoyed) to find a single Catholic hospital with a clean record on contraception, including OBGYNs that practice within their walls. Indeed, forgetting their Catholic identity has gotten us into this mess. We pray that this renews the orthodoxy of Catholic medical and charitable institutions – Catholic Social Services, take notice! – and that they stand as firm as Cardinal O’Connor in New York years ago.

  • Dan Kennedy

    Exactly. Actions speak louder than words. A cynical, secular culture doesn’t take very seriously what the bishops say when their actions don’t match their words – think “Catholic” pro-choice office holders. Tough to evangelize in that environment.

  • Janet

    I don’t know if this will help any or if things have changed, but fairly recently my Bishop was asked what will happen if things with the mandate remain as they are. He said the Bishops had met to discuss that, and they are willing to go to jail if necessary.

  • Elizabeth K.

    I don’t know if this will be helpful, but I am opposed to this in spite of the fact that I know how often Catholic institutions don’t adhere to the Church’s teachings. In fact, I work for a Catholic institution that has long covered elective abortions, not just contraception. So, yeah. My feeling on this is that regardless of how Catholic institutions choose to negotiate the culture, as citizens we can’t stand for unelected bureaucrats deciding what is and isn’t a religious institution. the problem, in my mind, has always been that they took it on themselves to tell us what is and isn’t a religious institution–not o.k., in my opinion, and not good for our country. For what it’s worth, I think even if we were all squeaky clean on this, the administration would still be doing what it’s doing; have we strengthened their argument? Maybe. Should it matter? I really don;t think it should. Because some Catholics fail to comply with our teaching doesn’t mean that all Catholics should be forced not to comply.

  • erin

    I am preparing myself for the personal implications of this. The ACA has the abortion premium mandate, which requires that all insurance plans offered on the state exchanges charge a premium, not to be less than $1 per month, that goes directly to fund elective abortion services (see this post for a good breakdown http://www.patheos.com/blogs/geneveith/2012/03/a-second-abortion-mandate-in-obamacare/). It is not yet clear from speaking to our insurance company whether this premium will be included in employer-provided insurance plans as well.
    If it is, this seems to me to be a place where individual Catholics can and should stand against the culture.
    But the answer of many of the Catholics with whom I’ve shared my concern has been, “But I have to have health insurance.”
    Pragmatic, yes, but what would be the cost to my soul, I keep wondering.

  • Brian Sullivan

    I saw an interview with Card. Dolan regarding this issue. I am satisfied, for now at least, that the Archdiocese is aware of the contradiction and is doing what it can to try to change it. FWIW, I was born in the Bronx and live in NY state I trust Card. Dolan, based on what I’ve seen and heard, to do his best to make changes to the policy.

  • michicatholic

    The bishops will not go to jail over this, guaranteed. This state of affairs has been in place for years, it’s just that no one thought the internet would ever reveal that when the easy road was taken long ago. This is a done deal. The damage happened in August and you see how quiet it was? I’m not saying that’s how it necessarily should be; I’m saying that’s how it is.

  • Donnie

    Here is my blog, promoting Catholic Action in response to the HHS Mandate http://www.sosuchouki.blogspot.com