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Cover design: Cecilia Guerrero Rezes
The contraception mandate, migrant workers, the new missal
Margaret O’Brien Steinfels’s critique of theU.S. Catholic bishops’ refusal to accept thevarious forms of accommodation in theDepartment of Health and Human Servicescontraception-coverage mandate ignoresa key point (“A Losing Strategy,” May 4).The incredibly narrow definition of a “re-ligious employer,” which Steinfels her-self criticizes, remains exactly as it alwayshas been. What the Obama administrationnow suggests in its most recent proposedrule is that those institutions—other thanhouses of worship—that have a religiousobjection will be allowed to
as thoughthey are a religious employer, yet throughtheir health plans they will have to
ex-actly like an atheist organization. Everyemployee of such organizations will auto-matically have to accept coverage for con-traception, sterilization, and abortifacientdrugs—and they must allow their teenagedaughters to have this coverage as well,with “confidentiality”—whether the em-ployee wants such coverage or not. Theorganizations can claim that they did notdo this or agree to it, but the effect willbe the same. Their decisions about bene-fits for their own employees will simply betaken away from them and given to oth-ers, potentially including hostile third par-ties like Planned Parenthood in the case ofself-insured plans. Protecting a religious or-ganization from being forced to act im-morally, by depriving it of the ability to actat all, is no way to serve religious freedom.How could anyone rest easy with the gov-ernment’s enshrining into law a definitionof religious ministry so narrow as to ex-clude the work of the Good Samaritan, themodel of caring for the stranger for thesole reason that the stranger was in need?
Washington, D.C. The writer is director of media relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
the Author replies
I do not rest easy with the HHS man-date’s definition of religious ministry. Butthe complexities of providing religious ex-emptions from generally applicable lawsor from funding actions that one findsmorally objectionable are not usefully ad-dressed by overheated rhetoric that dwellson protecting teenage daughters, fendingoff Planned Parenthood, and the equationof nonreligious organizations with “athe-ist” ones. Contrary to Sr. Walsh’s claim, theObama administration has not proposedto force employees of accommodated re-ligious institutions to accept contraceptioncoverage. The idea is that such employeeswill be offered the coverage, which theyare free to reject. Walsh’s letter suggestswhy the bishops’ claims to be negotiat-ing with the government seem uncon-vincing: Is it a negotiation they want or acapitulation?My question, as I hinted in the final sen-tence of my column: Do they know whatthey’re doing? I have my doubts.
the more things chAnge…
I was moved by the article “¿Vale laPena?” (Joseph Sorrentino, April 20) andnot at all surprised to see that the plightof farmworkers has not changed verymuch since the days when Cesar Chaveztook up this cause. The simple irony con-tinues to be that the people who work sohard to pick beautiful, nutritious producefor our tables are unable to afford thesame for their own families.
continued on page 30
Founded in 1924
The next issueof
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