US bishops, Denver Archdiocese challenge Biden’s statements on HHS mandate
By Denver Catholic Register
On Oct. 12, the day after the vice presidential debate in Danville, Ky., the U.S. bishops and leaders of the Denver Archdiocese separately challenged erroneous remarks made by Vice President Joe Biden about the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) contraceptive mandate’s effects on Catholics.
“No religious institution—Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown Hospital, Mercy Hospital, any hospital—none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide,” Biden said at the Oct. 11 debate, adding, “That is a fact.”
“This is not a fact,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) said in a statement. “The HHS mandate contains a narrow, four-part exemption for certain ‘religious employers.’ That exemption was made final in February and does not extend to ‘Catholic social services, Georgetown Hospital, Mercy Hospital, any hospital,’ or any other religious charity that offers its services to all, regardless of the faith of those served.
“HHS has proposed an additional ‘accommodation’ for religious organizations like these, which HHS itself describes as ‘non-exempt,’” the bishops continued. “That proposal does not even potentially relieve these organizations from the obligation ‘to pay for contraception’ and ‘to be a vehicle to get contraception.’ They will have to serve as a vehicle, because they will still be forced to provide their employees with health coverage, and that coverage will still have to include sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients. They will have to pay for these things, because the premiums that the organizations (and their employees) are required to pay will still be applied, along with other funds, to cover the cost of these drugs and surgeries.”
In a statement from the Denver Archdiocese, Communications Director Karna Swanson described the mandate as “oppressively burdensome to the Catholic Church and its members and a mitigation of constitutionally protected religious liberty.
“It is a complete distortion of the truth,” she said, “to assert that the mandate does not impose a contraceptive imperative on Catholic organizations and business owners. Many Catholic institutions, and thousands of small businesses run by Catholics, face a crisis of conscience precisely because of the obligation to finance unfettered access to contraception for their employees.
“If the government erodes individual and institutional liberty to practice religion,” she added, “people of all faiths are threatened, and the strength of the Constitution is in peril.”
Jennifer Kraska, executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference, clarified that “as of Aug. 1, the (Obama) administration’s contraceptive mandate went into effect for most employers. This mandate requires most health plans to cover sterilization and contraceptives, including drugs that can cause an abortion, even when employers and employees have moral or religious objections.
“The mandate impinges upon the constitutional right of religious exercise,” Kraska said, “which is at the heart of our democratic society.”
For the USCCB’s full statement, visit http://usccb.org/news/2012/12-163.cfm.