Archbishop to U.S. Troops: Obamacare Reg 'Is a Blow to Freedom'
It is a blow to a freedom that you have fought to defend and for which you have seen your buddies fall in battle
Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who leads the Roman Catholic Archdiocese for the Military Services, wrote a letter to be read at all Sunday Masses for U.S. military personnel around the world that said that a regulation issued by the Obama Administration under the new federal health care law was "a blow" to a freedom that U.S. troops have not only fought to defend but for which some have recently died in battle.
Archbishop Timothy Broglio
WASHINGTON,DC (CNSNews.com) - Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who leads the Roman Catholic Archdiocese for the Military Services, wrote a letter to be read at all Sunday Masses for U.S. military personnel around the world that said that a regulation issued by the Obama Administration under the new federal health care law was "a blow" to a freedom that U.S. troops have not only fought to defend but for which some have recently died in battle.
"It is a blow to a freedom that you have fought to defend and for which you have seen your buddies fall in battle," the archbishop wrote.
Another line in his letter said: "We cannot-we will not-comply with this unjust law."
The message from the archbishop touched off a controversy both in and outside the military when the Army's Office of the Chief of Chaplains told the service's senior chaplains that Catholic priests serving as Army chaplains should be told not to read the archbishop's letter from the pulpit.
The Archdiocese for the Military Services has described that move as a violation of the archbishop's First Amendment rights as well as the First Amendment rights of the Catholic chaplains involved and their congregations.
The regulation the archbishop spoke about was finalized by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Jan. 20. It mandates that all health-care plans in the United States cover sterilizations and all FDA-approved contraceptives, including those that cause abortions.
A "religious" employer exemption included in the regulation only applies to organizations that primarily focus on inculcating the tenets of the church in question, primarily employ members of the church, primarily serve members of the church, and is organized under the section of the Internal Revenue Code used by actual parishes.
Catholic hospitals, universities and charitable institutions would not be exempt from the regulation, nor would Catholic individuals, business owners, or insurers.
Because the Catholic Church teaches that sterilization, artificial contraception, and abortion are morally wrong and that Catholics cannot be involved in them, and because the Obamacare law requires that all individual purchase health insurance and that larger employers provide health insurance to their workers or face a penalty, the regulation would force Catholics to act against the teachings of their faith and against their consciences.
Archbishop Broglio's letter opposing the regulation and describing it as a violation of the constitutional rights of Catholics was read verbatim at Masses served by Navy and Air Force chaplains around the world.
However, the Army's Office of the Chief of Chaplains attempted to silence Catholic Army chaplains from reading it at their Masses-an effort rejected and resisted by Archbishop Broglio.
"On Thursday, January 26, Archbishop Broglio emailed a pastoral letter to Catholic military chaplains with instructions that it be read from the pulpit at Sunday Masses the following weekend in all military chapels," the Catholic Archdiocese for the Military said in a statement.
"The letter calls on Catholics to resist the policy initiative, recently affirmed by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, for federally mandated health insurance covering sterilization, abortifacients and contraception, because it represents a violation of the freedom of religion recognized by the U.S. Constitution," said the statement by the archdiocese.
"The Army's Office of the Chief of Chaplains subsequently sent an email to senior chaplains advising them that the Archbishop's letter was not coordinated with that office and asked that it not be read from the pulpit," said the archdiocese's statement. "The Chief's office directed that the letter was to be mentioned in the Mass announcements and distributed in printed form in the back of the chapel."
On Saturday, Jan. 28, after the Army's Office of the Chief of Chaplains issued this directive, Archbishop Broglio spoke with Secretary of the Army John McHugh, a political appointee of President Barack Obama.
Archbishop Broglio's position was that, in trying to stop Catholic Army chaplains from reading his pastoral letter, the Army was violating his First Amendment rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion and the First Amendment rights of Catholic chaplains and Catholic service members.
"Archbishop Broglio and the Archdiocese stand firm in the belief, based on legal precedent, that such a directive from the Army constituted a violation of his Constitutionally-protected right of free speech and the free exercise of religion, as well as those same rights of all military chaplains and their congregants," said the statement from the archdiocese.
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