TSD Memphis

Sun04202014

Religion

Catholic bishops, GOP backers hammer President over employee health rule

Page three of the bulletin distributed last Sunday (Feb. 5) at Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception at 1695 Central Ave. featured a letter from The Most Rev. J. Terry Steib, bishop of the Diocese of Memphis.

TSD Staff and wire reports

Page three of the bulletin distributed last Sunday (Feb. 5) at Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception at 1695 Central Ave. featured a letter from The Most Rev. J. Terry Steib, bishop of the Diocese of Memphis. It urged a reading and reflection and then a call to “take action as both Catholics and citizens.”

 
 President Barack Obama – now under fire by Catholic bishops and GOP supporters – delivers remarks during the National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C. last Thursday (Feb. 2). (White House photo by Pete Souza)

The letter signaled Memphis-area participation in an ongoing effort of Catholic bishops across the country. The bishops are out front in contesting a new rule that requires employers to provide birth control services, including contraception, in their employee insurance plans.

In his letter, Steib said the matter strikes at the “fundamental right to religious liberty for all citizens of any faith.” He said the ruling announced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services puts Catholics in difficult position, if it is not overturned.

“(We) 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,” wrote Steib.

Although it exempts churches, the rule does apply to Catholic hospitals and universities and other such institutions. This is the case even though Catholic teaching does not support contraception.

Acknowledging the pushback, aides for the administration of President Obama have indicated a willingness to talk about finding an agreed upon path to putting the rule into play in August 2013 after a phase-in period.

On Wednesday, GOP leaders and presidential candidates were increasing the pressure on the White House to reverse course on the rule.

Harkening to “generations past” that stood up and protected the Catholic Church’s “sacred rights and duties,” Steib wrote that he hoped and trusted that the present generation would do the same.

He asked for a commit to prayer and fasting that would allow wisdom and justice to prevail and restore religious liberty.

“Second, I would also recommend visiting www.usccb.org/conscience, 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,” wrote Steib.


 

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