Last Thursday in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI delivered a remarkable address to a group of visiting American bishops. He praised America’s founders for their commitment to religious liberty and their belief that Judeo-Christian moral teachings are essential to shaping citizens and democratic institutions. The Holy Father warned that our heritage of religious freedom faces “grave threats” from the “radical secularism” of political and cultural opinion leaders who are “increasingly hostile to Christianity.”
Last Friday, the day after the Pope’s address, our federal government issued a ruling that confirmed his worst fears about our country’s anti-religious and anti-Christian drift. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced a final decision to mandate that every U.S. employer must provide health insurance coverage that makes birth control, sterilization, and even abortion-causing drugs available to its employees free of charge.
The government rejected the U.S. bishops’ efforts to negotiate an exemption for faith-based employers—including Catholic hospitals, charities and colleges—that are morally opposed to abortion and contraception. Instead, the government is giving us until August 2013 to obey or suffer the consequences—fines so large they could drive some Catholic employers out of business. It is hard not to see this new mandate as a direct attack on Catholic consciences and the freedom of our Catholic institutions....
The Health Department justifies denying exemptions to Catholic charities, hospitals, and colleges because it says they are not really “religious” institutions. This may be the most troubling part of this new mandate. In effect, the government is presuming it has the competence and authority to define what religious faith is and how believers should express their faith commitments and relationship to God in society. These are powers our government has never before assumed itself to have.As they say, read the whole thing. The Regular Guy plans to focus on this issue, as it represents the clearest possible example of how liberal elites are simple bigots in their treatment of American Catholics.