Are Catholics Charities Standing In The Way Of Contraception Coverage?
Catholics believe that God is Love, and our two greatest commandments are to love God and to love our neighbor. In the United States, the Catholic Church manifests that love as the largest non-governmental provider of charity, health care, and education – much of it in inner cities.
One would think in today’s struggling economy, with its attendant cutbacks in government services, policymakers would welcome a private safety net filling the gaps from these cutbacks. But it doesn’t seem so, from the way Catholics are being portrayed these days by the Obama Administration and its allies. In the wake of the HHS mandate, there’s only one angle: Catholics are standing in the way of contraception coverage.
Is this true?
Anyone who wanders near the pharmacy counter at Walmart can see the pill is readily available for $9 a month, far less than most spend per month on their morning coffee. If that amount is burdensome to anyone, there are numerous government programs that already exist that provide free contraception, not to mention that 9 out of 10 health plans already cover it.
The problem is that the Administration has mandated that all employers, including Catholic institutions that object for reasons of conscience, must provide free contraception coverage to employees. And it’s not just contraception – but also abortifacient drugs and devices such as IUDs and the “week-after” pill Ella, (whose own website admits it can work after conception has occurred). Many Catholic institutions that wish to provide their charities while also exercising their religious freedom to practice their beliefs are now on the brink of facing crippling fines if they don’t violate their conscience and provide these products.
The government is effectively demanding that Catholic organizations violate the very same moral code – based upon love of God and neighbor – that gave rise to their charitable activity in the first place.
Many religious organizations sought exemption from the mandate, but they were denied and told they do not qualify as “religious” under the new mandate’s provisions, since they serve all those in need indiscriminately, not just Catholics. Now Catholic non-profits that for years have provided faith-based, loving service to our nation’s communities – organizations that follow Christ’s call to offer what Catholics know as corporal works of mercy – are saying they won’t comply.
Let’s take a look at a few of these organizations and how they fulfill Christ’s vision of love for the poorest among us. Each of the charities that follows is among the 43 Catholic plaintiffs who filed suit against the U.S. government and the HHS mandate – the largest legal action in history taken against the U.S. government in order to restore religious liberty and freedom of conscience.
They feed the hungry of Erie, Pennsylvania, through the St. Martin Center emergency food program, in-house food pantry, and bishop’s breakfast program.
They give drink to the thirsty, with the Archdiocese of Washington’s Global Village Program that puts “water in cups and hope in hearts.”
They clothe the naked of Farrell, Pennsylvania – the Prince of Peace Center thrift store provides clothing and other essential items to those in need at low cost or for free. If the thrift store makes any money it cycles it back into its other charitable endeavors.
They shelter the homeless of New York through Catholic Charities’ emergency shelters, temporary residences, and permanent affordable housing in the Archdiocese of New York.
They care for the sick in the Midwest, thanks to the Franciscan Alliance which donates hundreds of millions of dollars in charitable healthcare each year.
They visit the imprisoned through the Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre Prison Ministry in Long Island.
They bury the dead through the Catholic Cemeteries Association of the Diocese of Pittsburgh that “exists to perform the corporal work of mercy of burying the dead.”
If non-profits like these, which exist as an explicit expression of their faith’s call to love one’s neighbor, are not considered by the Obama Administration as exemption-worthy religious organizations, then the Administration might as well say that Jesus wasn’t religious.
Again, God created us with free will, so even as the Church offers a beautiful vision for life and love, she does not seek to impose morality on anyone. But she should be free to believe and propose her teachings to those who seek them. The Church does not seek to take away anyone’s contraception. The Church simply wishes not to be forced to provide it – and its freedom not to do so is protected by the First Amendment.
These charities serve the needy much more effectively than the government ever will. And they do so out of love. They should be seen as a force for the common good, rather than targeted with crippling fines and forced to sue for protection of their constitutional rights.
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