I write to you concerning an alarming and serious matter that strikes at the fundamental right to religious liberty for all citizens of any faith. The federal government, which claims to be “of, by, and for the people,” has just dealt a heavy blow to almost a quarter of those people—the Catholic population— and to the millions more who are served by the Catholic faithful.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced on January 20 that almost all employers, including Catholic hospitals, Catholic colleges and Catholic institutions, will be forced to offer their employees health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception. Almost all health insurers will be forced to include those “services” in the health policies they write. And almost all individuals will be forced to buy that coverage as a part of their policies.
In so ruling, 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, Catholic entities will be compelled either to violate conscience, or drop health coverage for employees (and suffer the penalties for doing so). 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. In generations past, the Church has always been able to count on the faithful to stand up and protect sacred rights and duties. For the sake of future generations, I hope and trust she can count on this generation of Catholics to do the same.
And therefore, I would ask of you two things. First, 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. Second, I would also ask you to visit www.usccb.org/conscience, to learn more about this severe assault on religious liberty, and how to contact Congress in support of legislation to reverse the Administration’s decision.
You are in my prayers; please keep me in yours.
Most Reverend Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell
Bishop of Springfield, MA