Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Cardinal George of Chicago wrote two must-reads this week about the threats to Catholic identity and conscience rights under the HHS mandate.

In an open letter to all Catholics of the Archdiocese, he gives examples of how Catholic universities, schools, hospitals, charities and child-welfare institutions will lose their Catholic identity. "Under the HHS regulations, none of these institutions is Catholic," he writes. " The government has unilaterally decided that it has the right to determine what is Catholic (or Jewish or Muslim) and what is not. Religious ministries are reduced to public services, with their identity changed by government edict."

He further notes this government intrusion is a "First Amendment issue and will eventually be decided by the courts."

The mandate handed down in January by the federal Department of Health and Human Services requires all employers to offer insurance coverage of morally objectionable abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilization. The requirement is part of the "preventative services" offered in the federal health care reform law passed in March 2010.

Freedom of conscience had been written into the original health care reform law, but it was removed. Cardinal George notes this policy issue will "probably be decided by either legislative or executive action."

Cardinal George notes "it will take time to decide these issues, and the public debate will be acrimonious. In an election year, it will be hard to avoid partisanship; but religious liberty and freedom of conscience are issues that should be bigger than politics."

In his column published in the Catholic New World, Cardinal George writes about the deeper issue behind the current political debate — the secularization of our culture.

"For the first hundred and fifty years of our country’s history, religion was considered a positive good that contributes to the social cohesiveness and the moral education of citizens," Cardinal George writes. "In the past several decades, religion has come to be considered a danger that creates social divisions and that needs to be controlled."

Cardinal George has asked that all pastors in the Archdiocese distribute the letter as a bulletin insert in this weekend's upcoming Masses.