Friday, 02 November 2012 10:44
Editor’s note: The following questions have been asked by individuals from across the diocese these last months. Below the questions are responses from the Diocese of Wichita to the most commonly asked questions relating to the Health and Human Services mandate.
What is the Health and Human Services mandate and how does it violate religious freedom?
In January 2012, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a mandate under the Affordable Care Act, which requires all employer health plans to provide free contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs, regardless of any moral or religious objections. This requirement to provide such coverage for medical procedures that are inconsistent with Church Teaching violates our practice of freedom of religion.
What do we mean by freedom of religion?
Religious freedom is the first liberty granted to us by God and protected in the First Amendment to our Constitution. It includes more than our ability to go to Mass on Sunday or pray the Rosary at home. It also encompasses our ability to contribute freely to the common good of all Americans.
The common good is “the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily” (CCC, n. 1906).
There is an ongoing attempt by some in our federal government to redefine “freedom of religion” as merely “freedom of worship” divorced from what we do out in the public square. But for Catholics, religion is a way of life that pertains to our whole person and everything we do, and it empowers us, obligates us, to bring into the public square truths and values that flow from faith and reason, often expressed in works of education, health care, social services, charity and advocacy.
I do not understand why our priests are preaching about this issue. It is a political issue and should not be addressed in our churches.
As Catholics, we believe our religious liberty is an “endowment” or gift from God, making this a moral and religious issue. The church seeks to have the First Amendment respected which recognizes the right of the individual and religious groups to practice their faith without interference by the government or others.
The government’s attempt to force employers and individuals to violate their conscience is an infringement of their First Amendment rights. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. “He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters.” (CCC, n. 1782).
Is the Catholic Church, in opposing the HHS Mandate, attempting to impose its morality on people who disagree with its beliefs?
The opposition to the HHS Mandate by the Catholic Church seeks to prevent the government from forcing the Church and others who morally oppose these drugs and procedures from having to offer and pay for them as part of their health insurance plans and to prevent the government from forcing members of such plans from having to pay for them, even indirectly.
As Catholics, what can we do?
• We must pray unceasingly.
• We should be an informed citizen.
We should communicate with our congressmen and state representatives of the importance of their commitment to maintain our religious freedom and freedom of conscience.
• Vote with a well formed conscience. “Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator.
The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings.” (CCC, n. 1783)
How can I become more informed of this issue?
There are a number of resources available to assist you in becoming knowledgeable and to help inform others.
• The Catholic Diocese of Wichita website – www.catholicdioceseofwichita.org
• The website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops – www.usccb.org
• The website of the Kansas Catholic Conference of Bishops www.kscathconf.org