Skip to main content


Catholic Colleges Unite to Defend Religious Liberty, Oppose Illegal Contraceptive Mandate

Catholic Colleges Unite to Oppose Administrations violation of Religious Liberty

Catholic institutions will not compromise on the question of the immorality of contraception and sterilization or the grave injustice of abortion.  The administration seems to be telling Catholic institutions that the only way we can operate in their America is to abandon our core ethical beliefs.  This law and its outrageously narrow religious exemption cannot stand.


MANASSAS, Va. (Cardinal Newman Society) - Eighteen Catholic colleges and universities, all marked by their commitment to Catholic identity and fidelity to Catholic teaching, joined today with The Cardinal Newman Society in an appeal to the Obama administration to exempt all religious objectors from a mandate requiring health insurance plans to cover sterilization and contraceptives, including some that cause abortion.

The appeal was organized by The Center for the Advancement of Catholic Higher Education, a division of The Cardinal Newman Society (CNS), and authored by attorneys Kevin Theriot and Matthew Bowman of the Alliance Defense Fund.  Joining the Center and 18 colleges in the letter were the Society of Catholic Social Scientists and Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.  Bishop Curry, who signed in his individual capacity, is chairman of the Committee for Catholic Education at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"This health insurance mandate is potentially very damaging to Catholic higher education, both in its immediate impact on the moral climate of colleges and universities and its broader implications for the Constitutional rights of religious employers," said Msgr. Stuart Swetland, Executive Director of the Center for the Advancement of Catholic Higher Education and Vice President for Mission at Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, Md.

"The lack of respect for the beliefs of Catholic persons and institutions (and other men and women of good will) is startling and unprecedented in modern federal regulations," Swetland continued.  "This animus towards sincerely held moral beliefs and practices comes just at a time when ethically based education is so needed in our society. 

"Catholic institutions will not compromise on the question of the immorality of contraception and sterilization or the grave injustice of abortion.  The administration seems to be telling Catholic institutions that the only way we can operate in their America is to abandon our core ethical beliefs.  This law and its outrageously narrow religious exemption cannot stand."

On September 14, The Cardinal Newman Society urged more than 230,000 e-mail recipients to send comments to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) opposing the mandate (press release here.)  In a September 22 article in Crisis Magazine, CNS President Patrick J. Reilly also encouraged Catholics to participate in the U.S. bishops' campaign against the mandate.

Today's comment on behalf of Catholic colleges describes the HHS exemption for religious employers as "potentially so narrow as to be not only nearly inconsequential but insulting to religious entities, in particular to Catholic Colleges and Universities," which may not be exempt depending on the discretion of HHS.

"No federal rule has defined being 'religious' as narrowly and discriminatorily as the Mandate appears to do, and no regulation has ever so directly proposed to violate plain statutory and constitutional religious freedoms," the letter argues.  Whether considering religious institutions, other employers or individuals, "federal law simply prohibits the federal government from violating the religious and moral beliefs of any of these stakeholders."

"For this reason we urge HHS (and the Departments of Labor and of the Treasury that jointly issued the interim final rule) to exempt all stakeholders with a religious or moral objection to 'contraceptives' (including abortifacients as well as non-abortifacient mechanisms of action), sterilization, and related education and counseling, from having to provide, offer, pay for or in any way participate in health insurance that includes such coverage.  The right to religious freedom requires no less."

The letter cites the official summary of the mandate, in which HHS acknowledges "that one reason it was rushed to finalization prior to the notice and comment period was precisely to ensure that collegiate women would have access to 'contraception,' abortifacients, sterilization and the like as quickly and as freely as possible."  The mandate will likely force Catholic colleges to include such coverage in student health plans.

The comment also suggests the frightening possibility that the mandate could be used to require insurance coverage for future abortion drugs as long as the Food and Drug Administration declares them to be "contraceptive."  The mandate already includes drugs that may cause early abortions, in violation of various federal laws, including ulipristal ("Ella").

Together the Catholic colleges, Catholic higher education groups and Bishop Curry call on HHS to issue "a blanket, non-discretionary exemption from the Mandate for any employer, issuer, payer, individual, or entity who in his or its own determination has any religious or moral objection to providing, issuing, enrolling in, participating in, paying for or otherwise facilitating or cooperating in coverage of any required practice or of any required provision of information."

The Catholic colleges and universities that signed the Center's comment are: Aquinas College (Tenn.), Ave Maria University (Fla.), Benedictine College (Kans.), Catholic Distance University, Christendom College (Va.), College of Saint Mary Magdalen (N.H.), College of Saint Thomas More (Tex.), DeSales University (Pa.), Franciscan University of Steubenville (Ohio), Holy Apostles College & Seminary (Conn.), John Paul the Great Catholic University (Cal.), Mount St. Mary's University (Md.), Saint Gregory's University (Okla.), Thomas Aquinas College (Cal.), Thomas More College of Liberal Arts (N.H.), University of Mary (N.D.), University of Saint Thomas (Tex.) and Wyoming Catholic College (Wyo.).

In 2009, The Cardinal Newman Society led a national protest of the University of Notre Dame's decision to honor President Barack Obama, gathering more than 367,000 signatures to an online petition against the honors.  President Obama used the occasion to reiterate his support for abortion rights, then pledged to seek "common ground" with pro-life Catholics on health care reform.

"Let's honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion and draft a sensible conscience clause," President Obama said.

---

The Cardinal Newman Society is dedicated to renewing and strengthening Catholic identity at America's 224 Catholic colleges and universities.This article is used with permission.

Keywords: Cardinal Newman Society, health care, abortion, freedom of religion, conscience, university, catholic college



NEWSLETTERS »

E-mail:       Zip Code: (ex. 90001)
Today's Headlines

Sign up for a roundup of the day's top stories. 5 days / week. See Sample

Rate This Article

Very Helpful Somewhat Helpful Not Helpful at All

Yes, I am Interested No, I am not Interested

Rate Article

1 - 3 of 3 Comments

  1. JeanCatherine
    2 years ago

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cK7QG6hbNE8

    Everybody check this video out and support our brothers and sisters who will stand for life on this day and event. God Bless. Pass this along to as many people as you can.

  2. Lyn
    2 years ago

    What if every faithful Catholic college, hospital, and lay institution just said no to the government and refused to honor these unethical regulations, come hell or high water? Maybe its time for some peaceful disobediance to make a point. The US government can't win against 25-percent of the U.S. population if Catholics stand firm in their beliefs and actions. What is at stake here are lives and souls.

  3. Doc G
    2 years ago

    I'm happy to see 2 NH colleges on the list. We are blessed to have 2 such schools here. Maybe our newly appointed bishop can get some of the less than enthusiastic clergy on board, too. Our priests preach for "justice" in our health care laws (heaven forbid they mention abortion), and then steer us toward the very politicians writing and passing these very laws. How can supposedly educated men not see that the laws are not meant to provide better healthcare. They are meant to CONTROL healthcare. Progressivism is about nothing if not control. They mean to control who gets what, and, yes, who lives and who dies. Maybe someone can explain the difference between a law that will test a fetus for, say, Down's Syndrome, and then steer a woman to abort it, and the Nazi policy of euthanizing, among others, "mental defectives."

    Merrimack College, my alma mater was not on the list. No surprise that I stopped giving to them years ago. I think I'll start giving to one or both of the NH colleges on the list, and let MC know that I am and why. If all Catholics who attended less than Catholic schools did the same, maybe they'd get the message.

Leave a Comment

Comments submitted must be civil, remain on-topic and not violate any laws including copyright. We reserve the right to delete any comments which are abusive, inappropriate or not constructive to the discussion.

Though we invite robust discussion, we reserve the right to not publish any comment which denigrates the human person, undermines marriage and the family, or advocates for positions which openly oppose the teaching of the Catholic Church.

This is a supervised forum and the Editors of Catholic Online retain the right to direct it.

We also reserve the right to block any commenter for repeated violations. Your email address is required to post, but it will not be published on the site.

We ask that you NOT post your comment more than once. Catholic Online is growing and our ability to review all comments sometimes results in a delay in their publication.

Send me important information from Catholic Online and it's partners. See Sample

Post Comment

Find your College Now