Md. Archbishop: Church Unable to Live With HHS Mandate

A prominent Catholic Church official has stated that the Church cannot live with the Department of Health and Human Services contraception mandate.

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore made these remarks on Monday regarding the HHS mandate controversy before the meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. "And as it stands, certainly we would not be able to live with it … especially the four-part definition of what Church activity is," said Lori, as reported by the Catholic News Agency.

"That's just not who we are, and we don't find it appropriate for any government to draw lines in our mission where we don't draw them."

Lori presented remarks on religious freedom issues in the United States as part of the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty.

"In the short to mid-term – the political landscape is the same but so is our resolve to eliminate the HHS mandate," said Lori in his official remarks. "The lawsuits continue and since we last met in Atlanta additional law suits have been filed and all of us are carefully monitoring the progress of these suits. The legislative efforts continue … but it is also important that we leave no stone unturned."

In January, the HHS Department announced that religious charities would not be exempted from a mandate to provide contraception services in their employee health insurance plans.

Many religious groups, especially Roman Catholic organizations who opposed having to provide services that went contrary to their beliefs, voiced opposition.

In February, President Barack Obama opted to modify the mandate so that insurance companies for religious organizations would directly cover contraception, abortifacients and sterilization if the religious organization had objections to providing such services.

Many Catholic groups still opposed the mandate, however, arguing that the definition of a religious group used by HHS still meant many of them would have to provide services contrary to their beliefs.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a legal firm that specializes in religious freedom cases, is representing some of the suits brought against HHS over the mandate.

Kyle Duncan, general counsel for The Becket Fund, told The Christian Post that Archbishop Lori's remarks are "consistent with the arguments we are making in court on behalf of our clients."

"The HHS mandate coerces religious organizations – of all faiths – to participate in activities they believe to be immoral," said Duncan.

"On top of that, the mandate grants 'favored status' to a narrow class of religious organizations – those who hire and serve mostly within their own religious communities. Those who reach out to others are deemed unworthy of protection."

Duncan told CP that while his organization was not representing the USCCB or the Catholic Church directly, they are representing many Catholic organizations.

"The Becket Fund represents Catholic schools such as Belmont Abbey College and Ave Maria University. It also represents the largest Catholic broadcasting network in the world, the Eternal Word Television Network," said Duncan.

"The Becket Fund's efforts on behalf of its Catholic clients will hopefully redound to the benefit of Catholic organizations generally – and, of course, to the benefit of Becket Fund's non-Catholic clients as well."

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