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Bishop Slattery Responds to the Obama Administration's "Accommodation"
February 3, 2012 -- HH Ambrose
To all the Clergy, Religious and Lay Faithful of the Diocese of Tulsa,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
These are dire times in which we live and dire times require that we not mince words but speak with authority when it comes to matters of faith, conscience and truth.
I wish to join the Bishops of this country in expressing my fear that religious liberty in the United States is even now under attack from those elected officials whose duty it is to protect the inalienable right we have from God to worship Him and to defend the Constitution of the United States which guarantees that our right of conscience may neither be violated nor held in contempt.
With the Bishops and with all right thinking Americans, I protest as strongly as I can the decision made by the Secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services on January 20 which will require every Catholic in the United States to violate his or her Christian conscience and support abortion, abortion-inducing drugs, unnatural chemical contraception and direct sterilization.
As you know, in 2010 President Obama signed into law the Health Care Reform Act. This Act, the legality of which has already been challenged in the Supreme Court, makes it compulsory for every citizen to buy or procure health insurance. This same law gives to President Obama's Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, unprecedented power over all health insurance. On January 20, Ms. Sebelius issued a ruling that will require every insurance policy - even policies issued privately - to cover the cost of those actions which are in themselves always and everywhere immoral and contrary to the law of God.
This means that all of our Catholic schools and hospitals, our charitable agencies and welfare institutions, our dioceses and all our parishes will be required to cover the complete cost of chemical contraception, sterilization and abortion. If this mandate is not overturned, we Catholics will be compelled by law either to violate our conscience in a matter of grave sin, or to cancel the health insurance we offer to those who work for the Church, or for the hospitals, schools and agencies through which the Church exercises it mission.
Until now, nonprofit religious institutions have always had the right to exempt themselves from having to offer coverage if it contradicts their basic religious beliefs or violates their conscience. This right was guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution. This is no longer the case. Sebelius' January 20 decision gives us one year to comply or suffer the consequences.
As your bishop, I want to make it clear that I consider this mandate unconstitutional, unjust and evil.
This mandate is unconstitutional because it does not allow us the full and unfettered practice of our faith. The religious freedom guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution is not simply the freedom to worship God on Sunday morning, but also the freedom to worship Him by living moral lives. No Catholic can claim to live a moral life and at the same time support contraception, direct sterilization and abortion. The first amendment guarantees us the freedom not to participate in health care plans that would require us to insure and pay for actions that are gravely sinful.
Because this mandate is unconstitutional, we will refuse to comply with it.
This mandate is evil, because not only does it require that all Catholics cooperate in sin by providing for and paying for coverage for gravely immoral actions which have as their final end the destruction of human life, but also by requiring that Catholics who do not cooperate in this should be punished. Were we to comply with this law, we would offend God and imperil our souls. We will not comply.
This mandate is unjust because it imposes a secular definition of religious freedom that makes it a crime to practice our faith in the public square. It is the Church - not the government - which has the right to determine how and when we practice our faith. In this matter, President Obama's administration has overstepped its authority. This is what Pope Leo XIII cautioned against when he wrote over a hundred years ago: "if the will of rulers is opposed to the will and the laws of God, then those rulers exceed the bounds of their own power and pervert justice. Nor can their authority be valid, since authority without justice is null."
From the founding of our nation, we Catholic have always obeyed the laws. But this law, we cannot obey.
I ask you as a fellow American, I beg you as your Bishop, pray and do penance that this matter be resolved according to God's will. I also hope you will contact your senators and congressmen in Washington to protest this outrage against our religious liberty and demand that this decision be overturned.
In this difficulty as in all things, let us place our confidence in Jesus.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Rev. Edward J. Slattery
Bishop of Tulsa -