Illinois bishops: rescind rules mandating contraceptives coverage

Asking if the federal government desires “the Catholic Church out of public ministry,” leaders of the six dioceses in Illinois voiced strong opposition to new rules mandating insurance coverage of sterilization and prescription contraceptives, including some that can cause an abortion.

In a Sept. 9 letter to Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Illinois bishops object to both the mandate — proposed by the department Aug. 3 — and to “an incredibly narrow definition” of religious employers exempted from it.

“The rules abrogate a generations-old, bipartisan consensus to protect religious freedom and rights of conscience in health care,” wrote the Illinois bishops.

The Illinois bishops added their voice to a chorus of Catholic leaders across the United States objecting to the new regulation. The U.S. bishops have launched a website to educate on the issue. The site hopes to generate thousands of letters to the Department of Health and Human Services before the 60-day comment period on the proposal ends Sept. 30.

The Catholic Conference of Illinois has also created a series of talking points to assist in the submission of comments. They can be found online here.

If Sebelius refuses to rescind the rules, the Illinois bishops ask that she modify the regulations to include accommodations for religious organizations.

They acknowledge that Catholic teaching on the immorality of contraception and sterilization as a rejection of God’s life-giving “may not enjoy popular support.”

“The church may be one of the last major structures in American society to hold this belief,” wrote the Illinois bishops. “For this reason, the rule seems not only to target religious freedom generally but Catholicism in particular — an egregious violation of the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment.”

Catholic teaching is that human fertility cooperates with God in the creation of new human life and ensures the extenstion and prosperity of society.

“The government’s treatment of pregnancy as a disease to be prevented or terminated on any whim undermines not only our teaching but also the respect for human sexuality and human life intrinsic to well-ordered society,” write the Illinois bishops.

Signing the two-page letter were Cardinal Francis George, OMI, of Chicago; Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, of Peoria; Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield; Bisthop Thomas G. Doran of Rockford; Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Belleville; and Bishop R. Daniel Conlon of Joliet.

The full text of the letter is found here.

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