STEUBENVILLE - The president of the Franciscan University of Steubenville said Friday afternoon the Obama administration is offering a false compromise to a health care mandate that originally required all employers, including Catholic organizations, to offer birth control to employees.
The Rev. Terence Henry, TOR, said he will wait and defer to the U.S. Catholic bishops.
"But I feel this is a false compromise that does nothing to resolve Catholic concerns of cooperating with evil," Henry said.
DISCUSSES MANDATE — The Rev. Terence Henry, TOR, president of the Franciscan University of Steubenville, discussed a new health care mandate issued by the Obama administration regarding Catholic employers and health care for their workers during a Friday interview. - Dave Gossett
The White House issued a statement Friday afternoon noting the religious objections to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate and offered a compromise position.
"Under the new policy, women will have free preventive care that includes contraceptive services no matter where they work. The policy also ensures that if a woman works for religious employers with objections to providing contraceptive services as part of its health plan, the religious employer will not be required to provide contraception coverage, but her insurance company will be required to offer contraceptive care free of charge. The new policy ensures women can get contraception without paying a co-pay and addresses important concerns raised by religious groups by ensuring that objecting religious employers will not have to provide contraceptive coverage or refer women to organizations that provide contraception," the White House statement said.
Henry said Friday morning he was prepared to not comply with a new federal mandate requiring employers to provide birth control measures as part of employee health care coverage.
"We will not comply with this new law and will face whatever we have to face. We will cross that bridge when we come to it. But we are drawing a line in the sand that we will not cross. And if we are forced into a compromise there would be no sense for Franciscan University to exist," Terry said.
"First Amendment rights have always had a preferred position in the law. We cannot compromise with the mandate issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is a violation of our deepest held beliefs. If we are coerced by the federal government on this issue, then we could be coerced to violate other beliefs. We are facing signs of totalitarism," Henry continued.
"As Martin Luther King once said, 'An unjust law is out of harmony with the will of God.' This is an unjust mandate. This is not just a Catholic issue. It is an issue for all people. It attacks our basic religious freedom. Some say we should lobby for an amendment. But that would be acknowledging the federal government has the power to decide our religious freedoms. This is a do or die issue for Americans," said Henry.
"The Catholic Church has always been strongest when she is being persecuted. We must remain strong during this attack on the First Amendment and our religious freedom," said Henry.
"We can't compromise on life issues. It is important to know this is not affecting just our religion. It harms all religions in our country where religious freedom is guaranteed by our Constitution," Henry said.
"The so-called 'religious exemption' will likely not protect hundreds of Catholic colleges, schools and organizations, including Catholic hospitals, nursing homes, and social service agencies which serve people regardless of religious affiliation," Henry wrote in the latest edition of the campus newspaper.
Fred Brower, president and chief executive officer of Trinity Health System, said the health care mandate "was problematic for us as a Catholic education."
"We are affiliated with the ministries of Sylvanian Franciscan Health and the health care ministry of the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania. The statement by the Obama administration appears to recognize our concerns. And we have seen a statement issued by the president of the Catholic Health Association indicating issues of concern to the organization have been fixed," said Brower.
Monsignor Kurt Kemo, administrator of the Catholic Diocese of Steubenville, said the Catholic Church is under attack because "Catholic employers, will be forced to offer their employees health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs and contraception"
Kemo told parishioners on Sunday, "The administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our nation's first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty. And as a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics must be prepared either to violate our consciences, or to drop health coverage for our employees. The administration's sole concession was to give our institutions one year to comply.
"We cannot, we will not comply with this unjust law. People of faith cannot be made second class citizens. We are already joined by our brothers and sisters of all faiths and many others of good will in this important effort to regain our religious freedom. Our parents and grandparents did not come to these shores to help build America's cities and towns, its infrastructure and institutions, its enterprise and culture, only to have their posterity stripped of their God-given rights," Kemo stated in a letter read at parishes in the 13-county diocese.
"As a community of faith we must commit ourselves to prayer and fasting that wisdom and justice may prevail, and religious liberty may be restored. Without God, we can do nothing; with God, nothing is impossible. I would also recommend visiting www.usccb.org/conscience to learn more about this severe assault on religious liberty, and how to contact Congress in support of legislation that would reverse the administration's decision," Kemo wrote in his letter to parishioners throughout the diocese.
Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of the Wheeling-Charleston Catholic Diocese issued a statement in early February asking for prayers that wisdom and justice may prevail.
"This ruling confirmed that virtually all private health plans, including those of Catholic hospitals, charities and schools, will be required to include coverage for sterilizations and contraceptives, including abortion-inducing drugs, and almost all individuals will be forced to buy that coverage as a part of their policies," Bransfield said.
"Even those who are not in agreement with the Catholic Church's teaching on the sanctity of human life recognize that this is a radical break with the tradition of religious liberty and respect for conscience rights," Bransfield added.