|Letter on Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act|
February 2, 2012
My dear friends in Christ:
I am writing to you today to inform you of a recent ruling regarding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act from the Department of Health and Human Services which severely erodes the religious freedom of many religious employers. I am also asking for your assistance in combating this diminution in conscience rights.
You may have heard in the press that the Department of Health and Human Services has issued a final ruling on the definition of religious employer. The definition is narrow and may not allow some religious employers such as Catholic universities and Catholic hospitals to qualify for the exemption.
What this means is that most employers, including many religious employers, who offer health insurance to their employees will have to offer “preventative” services to their employees. These services include contraception (including the morning after pill and other forms of “emergency” birth control) and sterilization. The religious employer exemption only extends to non-profit entities that are organized for the purpose of inculcating religious values and primarily employ and serve persons who share its religious beliefs.
While this definition certainly includes all of our parishes and schools, there is a widespread, and legitimate concern that Catholic hospitals, Catholic Charities and Catholic universities will not be able to claim this exemption. It is difficult to understand how these religious entities may not be able to claim the religious exemption simply because they serve and employ people of all faiths and are “too” inclusive. I am concerned about the narrowness of the religious exemption and the conscience rights of the Catholic entities which may be affected by this ruling. These employers may include our own Catholic Charities.
I am asking for your help in two ways:
1. As a community of faith, we must commit ourselves to prayer and fasting that the Holy Spirit will guide our legislature and the president so that justice and equity will prevail; and,
2. I recommend that you visit www.usccb.org/conscience, to learn more about this assault on religious liberty and how to contact Congress so that this ruling may be changed.
I sincerely thank you for your help and support in correcting this terrible injustice.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Richard J. Garcia, D.D.
Bishop of Monterey