BY JOAN FRAWLEY DESMONDTuesday, December 31, 2013 2:55 PM
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued his letter to President Obama, requesting "temporary" relief from the massive penalties that will be imposed on Catholic non-profits that refuse to comply with the mandate.
Here is Archbishop Kurtz's letter:
Dear Mr. President:
On behalf of the Catholic bishops of the United States, I wish you and your family every blessing in this New Year. The bishops pray regularly that you and our other public officials will have renewed strength to fulfill the duties of your office with integrity, justice and compassion.
In this regard, your Administration recently relaxed the rules governing individual health plans under the Affordable Care Act, so Americans whose current plans have been canceled may claim a “hardship exemption” from some requirements. This is the latest in a series of actions to advance the ACA’s goal of maximizing health coverage, while minimizing hardships to Americans as the Act is implemented. For example, the ACA exempts small employers from the mandate to offer health coverage, and you have suspended this mandate for all employers through 2014.
One category of Americans, however, has been left out in the cold: Those who, due to moral and religious conviction, cannot in good conscience comply with the HHS regulation requiring coverage of sterilization and contraceptives. This mandate includes drugs and devices that can interfere with the survival of a human being in the earliest stage of development, burdening religious convictions on abortion as well as contraception. To date, at least 90 lawsuits representing almost 300 plaintiffs have been filed to challenge this mandate, and the Supreme Court has agreed to hear two of these cases in its current Term. Most lower courts addressing the issue have found merit in the plaintiffs’ claims and granted at least temporary relief, while some courts have denied relief or have yet to act
A Time-Machine Back to 1581: the Death of an Enlightenment Democratic Monarchy
In this day and age of relativism, camps of opinion arise like midges on a hike in Alaska. One brushes away
one set of "arguments", only to find dozens flying into one's face. The media frenzy over the events
f the past three weeks is not going to subside. On the contrary, we Catholics are entering into a
new era of Church-bashing which will not go away.
The days of toleration for differing religious opinions, or at least, Catholic teaching, is over.
I watched two days of the Parliament hearings of witnesses regarding the civil union or rather
same-sex-marriage act. I usually do not watch television, but I was visiting a friend who wanted
to watch this swarm of opinions based on sola fide, sola scriptura; each man and woman on the panel
proved to be his or her own pope.
The Church of England witnesses, as they were called, had eloquent and keen questions and answers.
So did Archbishop Peter Smith and his legal team. I was impressed by the firm and clear positions
given by these two groups.
Not so other groups, like the Church of Wales representatives, who waffled.
What did astound me was the out and out rudeness of some of the questioners, all of them MPs,
not to be named here. One can look at my blog for names. I merely want to point out the lack of respect towards those representatives of organized religion. At several places in the presentation of answers by
Archbishop Peter Smith, some members laughed out loud in derision for the Catholic position on
marriage, pre-marital sex, and our anti-contraception, anti-abortion positions.
What came to my mind was that I could have been in a time-machine, taken back to the i
nterrogations of Edmund Campion, Ralph Sherwin, or Robert Southwell et al.
The entire meeting of this Parliament panel on both days was a sham. The smug hypocritical statements
of the members of Parliament shone out like words of old transcripts in a history of Recusant trials.
Parliament determines moral and religious policy in Britain, not the churches.
Parliament in 2013 mirrors Parliament in 1581, or 1585 or 1681, this last the year of the martyrdom
of St. Oliver Plunkett. I have seen his head in St. Peter's Church, Drogheda. His face is peaceful, but reveals pain.
We honour martyrs in the Catholic Church almost daily. We of this Guild honour Titus Brandsma,
who was martyred and is a Blessed. But, do we really want martyrs in 2013? Do we feel uncomfortable
watching Peter Smith being derided? Do we want our leaders to stand firm on the ancient
eachings of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church?
I hope we feel proud and strengthened by the witness of Truth.
I hope we stand with our leaders.
I hope we can see clearly that the actions of Parliament will lead to the type of society created under
Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, where those who kept the Faith were fined, suffered financial loss, ruin,
disgrace, if not martyrdom. Catholics will not be able to be registrars or superintendents of registrars.
Catholics may not be able to be teachers in some schools. The Catholic priests may be in a position
of disobedience to certain laws after judicial decisions.
Parliament acts just as it has since the Protestant Revolt. Parliament was given powers over the
private consciences of the people of Britain and it will take those powers and use those again and
again and again. Five hundred years of practice makes this pattern of oppression all too easy. There are precedences.
We are witnessing the death of the modern Enlightenment democracy as a philosophy of governance.
We are witnessing the sliding back to a time when religions were not allowed to stand in the marketplace
and speak Truth.
The powers that be have not changed their philosophies. They have renewed an older pattern of intolerance
which is wedded to the very power of Parliament.
The Catholic Church has not changed Her Truths, Revelation and Tradition.
We are, again, Non-Conformists, and as in the past, consequences will follow strongly held beliefs.
I hope those who belong to the Guild of the martyr Titus Brandsma know how to stand firm in the storms
that will blow across Great Britain. We have an excellent example. Brandsma upheld the bishops' decisions
and the clarity of teaching that Catholicism and Nazism clashed. Catholicism will always clash with falsehood.
As Catholic journalists, we of this Guild can follow our patron to whatever consequences may follow.
I, for one, will write as long as I can for Christ and His Church.