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Bishop Lennon 's brave letter against the HHS mandate for Catholic institutions.

I haven't always been a big fan of Bishop Lennon, but my esteem for him swelled immensely after hearing his letter read at mass today.

The bishop is absolutely right. What is more, this is tyranny and a persecution of Catholics in this country.

On January 20, 2012, the Department of the Health and Human Services issued this statement:

In August 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services issued an interim final rule that will require most health insurance plans to cover preventive services for women including recommended contraceptive services without charging a co-pay, co-insurance or a deductible.  The rule allows certain non-profit religious employers that offer insurance to their employees the choice of whether or not to cover contraceptive services. Today the department is announcing that the final rule on preventive health services will ensure that women with health insurance coverage will have access to the full range of the Institute of Medicine’s recommended preventive services, including all FDA -approved forms of contraception.  Women will not have to forego these services because of expensive co-pays or deductibles, or because an insurance plan doesn’t include contraceptive services. This rule is consistent with the laws in a majority of states which already require contraception coverage in health plans, and includes the exemption in the interim final rule allowing certain religious organizations not to provide contraception coverage.

Beginning August 1, 2012, most new and renewed health plans will be required to cover these services without cost sharing for women across the country. 
After evaluating comments, we have decided to add an additional element to the final rule. Nonprofit employers who, based on religious beliefs, do not currently provide contraceptive coverage in their insurance plan, will be provided an additional year, until August 1, 2013, to comply with the new law. Employers wishing to take advantage of the additional year must certify that they qualify for the delayed implementation. This additional year will allow these organizations more time and flexibility to adapt to this new rule.  We intend to require employers that do not offer coverage of contraceptive services to provide notice to employees, which will also state that contraceptive services are available at sites such as community health centers, public clinics, and hospitals with income-based support.  We will continue to work closely with religious groups during this transitional period to discuss their concerns.

Scientists have abundant evidence that birth control has significant health benefits for women and their families, it is documented to significantly reduce health costs, and is the most commonly taken drug in America by young and middle-aged women. This rule will provide women with greater access to contraception by requiring coverage and by prohibiting cost sharing.

This decision was made after very careful consideration, including the important concerns some have raised about religious liberty. I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services. The administration remains fully committed to its partnerships with faith-based organizations, which promote healthy communities and serve the common good.  And this final rule will have no impact on the protections that existing conscience laws and regulations give to health care providers.

So in case you didn't catch that, the Obama administration is basically telling Catholics and the Catholic Bishops what they can do with their religious exemptions.  If you're a Catholic, even a nominal one, that should really tick you off.  And if you're a Catholic that voted for Obama, it should motivate you to do better in the next election!

Here is Bishop Lennon's response: - Bishop Lennon - 2012-01-26.pdf

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
I write to you concerning a serious matter that will negatively impact the Catholic Church in the United States if it is allowed to take effect as planned by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The proposed action of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services strikes at the fundamental right to religious liberty for all citizens of any faith.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that almost all employers, including Catholic employers, 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 this rule is overturned, Catholics will be compelled either to violate our consciences, or to drop health coverage for our 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 of America 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, all the faithful have witnessed to the importance of the fundamental rights guaranteed by our country's founding documents. I trust that at this moment all of us will stand up for and work for the protection of those rights, especially the right to religious liberty for all America's citizens. Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.

Therefore, I ask of you two things. First, as a community of faith we must commit ourselves to prayer and fasting that wisdom and justice prevail, and that religious liberty remain a fundamental right for all Americans! Without God, we can do nothing; with God, nothing is impossible.
Second, I recommend visiting 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.
Thanking you for your understanding and cooperation on this very important request, I am

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Bishop of Cleveland

And I am reminded of this quote by Father Hardon:
  “Ordinary Catholic families cannot survive. They must be extraordinary families. They must be, what I do not hesitate to call, heroic Catholic families. Ordinary Catholic families are no match for the devil as he uses the media of communication to secularize and de-sacralize modern society. No less than ordinary individual Catholics can survive, so ordinary Catholic families cannot survive. ”They have no choice. They must either be holy—which means sanctified—or they will disappear. The only Catholic families that will remain alive and thriving in the 21st century are the families of martyrs. Father, mother and children must be willing to die for their God-given convictions…” !
 ~Father John Hardon SJ

It seems that we really are going to be put to the test.