The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released a summation of their position regarding the HHS Mandate yesterday. The position paper dispels any rumors, reported in some media outlets, that the Catholic Bishops of the United States are weakening in their resolve to resist the mandate.
The summation provided by the USCCB is a succinct summary of their concerns that is well worth reading. The document makes it clear, contrary to memes promulgated by the Obama Administration and repeated throughout the mainstream media, that the Bishop’s resistance to the mandate is not an attempt to restrict access to contraception or seek legal restrictions in regards to its use. Nor is the Church forcing government to comply with their demands (in fact, it is an agency of the Federal government that is compelling the Church to act contrary to its beliefs and practices) or an example of the resistance of the Church to a comprehensive health care strategy for all Americans.
Further, the assertion that the opposition of the Bishops to the Mandate as being simply about the Church’s teaching in regards to contraception is also an attempt to position public opinion in regards to but one aspect of why the Mandate will be problematic for not only Catholics and their institutions, but for all Americans who treasure the rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution.
The document insists that the HHS Mandate represents an unprecedented move by an agency of the Federal Government to provide for religion a definition of what its self understanding should be regarding both belief and practice, essentially making the state the arbiter of what a religion should believe and do, and imposing penalties should a religion not comply. Also, the Mandate represents an incursion of an agency of the Federal Government in terms of conscience, which has implications for not only the rights of religion, but the civil rights of all American citizens as well.
It has become clear in all of this that the Church cannot rely on the mainstream media to present these kinds of clarifications or present the Bishops’ concerns without being distilled through attempts to editorialize. The Catholic faithful, recognizing the Bishops as the successors of the apostles who, as such, have an authority to teach the Catholic Faith that is absolutely unique, should have recourse to the statements of the Bishops themselves in order to understand their opposition to the HHS Mandate.