Bishop Peter J. Jugis: Lack of clear conscience protection must be corrected
The following letter was read at all Masses during the Feb. 18-19 weekend:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I write to you today regarding the healthcare regulations that would require religious institutions to provide contraception for their employees. Since the HHS guidelines were released in January, a great many people in the Diocese of Charlotte have contacted my office to express their concern. More recently, President Barack Obama offered a compromise in the administration of the regulations.
Unfortunately, the compromise does not address the fundamental concern of conscience protection and religious liberty that the original regulations threaten.
The compromise retains the nationwide mandate of insurance coverage of sterilization and contraception, including some abortifacients, for all religious employers. This remains a grave moral concern.
Additionally, it appears that the regulations will still mandate that all insurers include coverage for the objectionable services in all the policies they would write. At this point, it would appear that self-insuring religious employers, including the Diocese of Charlotte, are not exempt from this mandate.
The lack of clear conscience protection for key stakeholders is unacceptable and must be corrected.
The bishops in the United States therefore continue – with no less vigor, no less sense of urgency – the efforts to correct this problem. We urgently need legislation to correct the mandate's threats to religious liberty and conscience rights. The Respect for Rights of Conscience Act has been introduced in Congress (H.R. 1179, S. 1467) to ensure that those who participate in the market for health insurance "retain the right to provide, purchase, or enroll in health coverage that is consistent with their religious beliefs and moral convictions."
As a community of faith we must commit ourselves to prayer and fasting that wisdom and justice prevail, and that religious liberty be restored. Without God, we can do nothing; with God, nothing is impossible. I ask you to visit CatholicVoiceNC.org to learn more about this severe assault on religious liberty, and to contact Congress in support of legislation to reverse the Administration's decision.
Assuring you of my prayers, and asking God's blessings upon you, I am
Sincerely yours in Christ,
The Most Reverend Peter J. Jugis
Bishop of Charlotte
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