December 13, 2013

Archbishop Lori sees hope in court decisions regarding HHS mandate

By Sean Gallagher

NEW ALBANY—After giving a presentation on Nov. 29 about the relationship between religious liberty and the ministry of charity at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore commented on various aspects of the current effort to defend religious liberty in answering questions from the approximately 100 people in his audience.

He noted that approximately 38 lawsuits have been filed by families that own for-profit businesses that challenge the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration’s abortifacient, sterilization and contraceptive mandate.

“Those have done very well,” Archbishop Lori said. “If it were baseball, we would say that those cases are batting about .750, which is pretty good.”

He also noted that two of those cases have been taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Archbishop Lori then discussed the approximately 43 suits that have been filed by various religious organizations, including the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend in northern Indiana.

“It would appear that we’re beginning to pick up a little bit of steam there,” he said. “ … We have high hopes that, sooner rather than later, these cases, too, will make their way to the Supreme Court. You can’t count your chickens until the eggs hatch. But kind of looking at the incubator, things are looking OK right now. So say a prayer that these turn out well.”

Archbishop Lori was asked how individual Catholic employees should approach health insurance plans offered them by employers that include the services included in the HHS mandate.

He agreed with an analysis of the situation made by the Philadelphia-based National Catholic Bioethics Center that says that it is morally permissible for Catholics to participate in such health insurance plans.

However, Archbishop Lori said that the employee should still express their dissatisfaction with the plan.

“If you decide you have to go along with this, it should be under protest,” he said. “You should let them know how strongly you disagree with this. You should let them know that you think it should be changed.

“And I think you need to support efforts to effect a public policy change. The bishops are trying to provide a kind of a platform for that to happen through the lawsuits and the other things that we’re trying to do, especially the public advocacy.”

He also commented on the restrictions that some dioceses are facing in adoption services in states that have redefined marriage to include couples of the same sex, noting that the Boston Archdiocese and dioceses in Illinois have been forced out of facilitating adoptions because of their unwillingness to place children in same-sex households.

“In some places, the state is willing to let the adoption services ride under the radar screen because it might be too big or too important to lose,” Archbishop Lori said. “But sooner or later, it’s going to affect all of our adoption programs. It’s a sad thing. It shouldn’t be. But it is.”

Finally, he was asked what will happen to Catholic dioceses and other ministries when the HHS mandate goes into effect for them starting on Jan. 1, 2014.

Archbishop Lori noted that many Catholic entities can push back their enrollment date and so avoid, at least for a period of months, being affected by the mandate. Other dioceses, including the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, have been grandfathered in because their health insurance plans have not been substantially changed in recent years.

“But eventually that is going to go away because, with the changing landscape, we’re going to have to make changes in the [health insurance] program,” Archbishop Lori said. “Then we’ll no longer be grandfathered. That’s why we’re trying to find an alternative way to provide health insurance.” †

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