Catholic Organizations to Congress, Administration: Protect Conscience Rights

October 12, 2011 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON—Leaders of 20 national Catholic organizations signed a joint statement to protest the “preventive services” mandate issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). They also called for legislative reform of health care law to protect conscience rights.

The new rule on mandated “preventive services” issued by the HHS “will force Catholic organizations that play a vital role in providing health care and other needed services either to violate their conscience or severely curtail those services. This would harm both religious freedom and access to health care,” the statement says. The new rule would force employers to pay for such services as sterilization and contraceptives, including drugs which can induce abortion. As of now, a narrowly-written religious exemption to the rule would apply only to church institutions that hire and serve mostly Catholics and meet other narrow criteria, thus excluding most Catholic schools, hospital, and social service agencies.

The statement appeared as an ad in two Capitol Hill newspapers, Politico and The Hill, on October 11 with the headline: “Support access to health care? Protect conscience rights.”

Signatories include Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and heads of Catholic universities, health care associations, domestic and international agencies that serve refugees and the poor, and lay associations. Many signers represent Catholic employers and service organizations who will be affected if the law is not reformed. Others represent lay Catholics who would face coercion under the same HHS rule because they participate in private health insurance plans.

In addition to Archbishop Dolan, the co-signers wereRobert B. Aguirre, President, Catholic Association of Latino Leaders; Carl A. Anderson, Supreme Knight, Knights of Columbus; F. DeKarlos Blackmon, OblSB, Supreme Knight/CEO, Knights of Peter Claver; William J. Cox, President/CEO, Alliance of Catholic Health Care; Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, Chairman, Migration and Refugee Services; Michael Galligan-Stierle, PhD, President /CEO, Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities; John Garvey, JD, President, The Catholic University of America; Sheila Gilbert, President, National Council of the U.S. Society of St. Vincent de Paul; John M. Haas, PhD, STL, President, National Catholic Bioethics Center; Ken Hackett, President, Catholic Relief Services; Jan R. Hemstad, MD, President, Catholic Medical Association; Father John Jenkins, CSC, President, University of Notre Dame; Patty Johnson, President, National Council of Catholic Women; James G. Lindsay, Executive Director, Catholic Volunteer Network; Stephen L. Mikochik, JD, Chair, National Catholic Partnership on Disability; Karen M. Ristau, EdD, President, National Catholic Educational Association; Geralyn C. Shelvin, Supreme Lady, Knights of Peter Claver Ladies Auxiliary; Father Larry Snyder, President, Catholic Charities USA; and Joanne Tomassi, National Regent, Catholic Daughters of the Americas.

The full-page ad featuring the joint statement is posted on the USCCB’s conscience protection web page:


Keywords:Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, conscience protection, religious liberty, conscience rights, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, PPACA, Department of Health and Human Services, HHS, religious exemption, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, Pro-Life Activities; bishops, USCCB, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops