Tag Archives: HHS Mandate

Fast for Freedom promotes prayer for nation’s future

October 29, 2012

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Fasters include, left to right: Jeremy Berfanger, Katarina Hemstad, Meghan Mueller, Anne Crouch, Lauren Bickford, Dain Finney, Peter Murphy and Andrew Nistler.

With Election Day nearing, many Catholics are still mulling over a host of issues as they prepare to vote Nov. 6. To help them get ready, a college junior from Coon Rapids is working with a group of fellow students to promote prayer and fasting as a way to unify Catholics and so that voters and leaders may receive the grace to make morally sound decisions.

“Our country’s morality no longer is based on objective right or wrong, but a sliding scale of how good something feels for the most people,” said Meghan Mueller, a nursing major at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., who previously attended St. Paul in Ham Lake. “In many cases, it seems as if truth has been completely taken out of the picture. From this stems many of the major issues our country is facing: the sanctity of life, the sacredness of marriage, and the right to religious freedom.”

The Fast for Freedom initiative — which asks people to abstain from meat or something else as an alternative until Election Day — began earlier this month among a few friends and others on campus. Since then, the effort has “spread like wildfire,” mostly by word of mouth, and includes students from St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul as well as family and friends in the Twin Cities area, Mueller said.

“As of now, we have it documented that about 800 people are partaking in the Fast for Freedom with us,” she said Oct. 26. “From recent reports, however, we have heard that many classrooms, schools and families have joined as well, so we project that participation is higher than we thought.”

In addition to fasting, participants are encouraged to pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3 p.m. on Fridays for the elections and the future of the country.

One election issue of particular concern to Mueller, a nursing major, is religious liberty, especially in light of the federal Department of Health and Human Services contraceptive mandate.

The mandate requires all employers, including most Catholic and other religious employers, to provide coverage in their health care plans for contraceptives — including some that can cause abortions — and sterilizations despite moral objections they might have.

If the mandate remains in place, “we will be forced to go against our conscience and provide ‘services’ . . . that we believe are intrinsically evil and have been scientifically proven as harmful,” Mueller said.

“This issue most definitely affects my life in a very real way,” she said. “If our religious freedom is taken away, working as a Catholic nurse will be like walking through a health care minefield.”

Anyone who wants to let the students know they are joining the fast, or who has questions, can email them at fast4freedom2012@gmail.com.

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What does the Church have to do with politics?

October 4, 2012


Photo/KitAy. Licensed under Creative Commons.

It’s been an interesting year and I’m not surprised that I’ve heard some interesting questions like,  “Why are the bishops interfering with politics?” and, “Why is the Church trying to tell me how to vote?”

These questions reveal concerns that the Church is trying to manipulate voting and that it’s placing itself in the political sphere when it shouldn’t.

In a culture unreasonably fearful of Church encroachment on the State–even though the founding fathers proposed separating the two mostly for the opposite reason—some are skeptical when the Church speaks on controversial social issues, especially near an election.

What is the Church trying to do and where in Church teaching does say she has the authority?

History of speaking on policy issues

The bishops have long spoken out on issues affecting public policy. During World War I, they created a council to enable U.S. Catholics to contribute funds for the spiritual care of Catholic servicemen. For the better part of a century in this country, they also have promoted Church teaching on issues including education, care for the poor and immigration.

The Church should always have the freedom to preach the faith, to proclaim her teaching about society, “and also to pass moral judgment in those matters which regard public order when the fundamental rights of a person or the salvation of souls require it,” the Vatican II Council Fathers wrote in the document Gaudium et Spes.

Informing Catholics—and even non-Catholics—about Church teaching on important social issues is especially the U.S. bishops’ responsibility, they write,

The Church’s obligation to participate in shaping the moral character of society is a requirement of our faith. It is a basic part of the mission we have received from Jesus Christ, who offers a vision of life revealed to us in Sacred Scripture and Tradition.

While the Church’s position on certain important social questions is motivated by our faith-based moral conscience, it is on the level of the social and societal impact of these issues that the Church addresses them with us and our fellow citizens with a view to promoting the common good of all, according to Father Timothy Cloutier, judicial vicar for the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

Faith helps us see more clearly the truths we discover through reason regarding the sacredness of human life and the dignity of each person, which is the heart of Catholic moral and social teaching, according to the bishops, who add,

“Because we are people of both faith and reason, it is appropriate and necessary for us to bring this essential truth about human life and dignity to the public square.”

Why so outspoken about the HHS Mandate?

Why has the HHS Mandate, the federal government’s requirement that many employers who fall outside the government’s definition of a religious institution must cover contraception and sterilization through health insurance, so essential that the U.S. bishops have been so outspoken about it?  Especially since polls say a majority of Catholics think employers should supply this coverage in their health plans?

Of course, it’s a complicated issue.  There is the Church’s opposition to contraception.  Most notably, the bishops have emphasized that they are speaking out for protection of the Church’s own institutions, “the care of the souls of the individual faithful, and with the common good.”

Of especially great importance in this case is the freedom to practice religion. According to another Vatican II document it’s a matter of human dignity—one of those core teachings the bishops mention.

As for the Church trying to tell us how to vote, I’m pretty sure there will never be a sample ballot stuffed into my parish’s bulletin telling me how to choose  “Catholic-approved candidates.” Also, IRS law prohibits clergy from preaching at Mass about political candidates.

Helping to form consciences

But by illuminating and clarifying Church teaching on important issues, the Church helps me form my conscience so I can make sound moral voting judgments based on the truths of the faith.

Whatever you think of the Church’s involvement in the public arena, Pope Benedict XVI emphasized in his encyclical Deus Caritas Est that it’s not her place to directly enter politics to make a more just society. At the same time, she plays a role in promoting justice. The Church:

cannot and must not replace the State. Yet at the same time she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice. She has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper. A just society must be the achievement of politics, not of the Church. Yet the promotion of justice through efforts to bring about openness of mind and will to the demands of the common good is something which concerns the Church deeply.


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Sex, Congress and the Catholic Church

April 14, 2012


WARNING – This may be a PG 13 Blog post.

It seems everybody is talking about contraception these days.   It used to be impolite to speak about sex in public and if you spoke to anyone about contraception, it would be only your most intimate friends. Now it has become the subject of coffee clutches, water coolers, the United States Congress and homilies!

If you haven’t heard about the HHS Mandate click HERE for a primer.

Hurray – it is about time we get this hush-hush topic out in the open and because I love to talk about my faith, I welcome the opportunity to talk about the church’s teachings on just about anything.

The question I get most often from friends, family and strangers is: ” The Bishops are just plain ignorant when it comes to contraception.  Don’t they know that 98% of women in their churches are using contraception? The church should change their thinking on this!”

I first ask them to look into that statistic a little further – how was the information taken?  Does it mean that one time a Catholic woman used contraception once? It certainly doesn’t mean that 98% of the women in the pews are currently contracepting.  – I would maybe need to confirm that with the 80 year old blue haired lady sitting in the front pew – but I am pretty sure she is not.

My reply to the the question is: “Of course the bishops know that a percentage of Catholics are contracepting.  Maybe even 98%.  But 100% of us have gossiped, Probably 99% of us have lied.  How many of us have stolen? Maybe we should change those sins too.  If we are going to change what is considered a sin based on how popular it is – I vote for changing gossip too.  I really like to gossip. It is my favorite sin – lets change it so I can always do it and not have to feel guilty or attempt to change my behavior.”

The thing is – the church knows that we are prone to sin and that is why we have the church’s teachings to rely on to help us hold to doing what is good for us instead of doing what ever feels good at the moment. Yup – The bishops know human nature or rightly Jesus knows it.

But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well. (John 2:24-25)

Even though it feels good – gossiping is not good for me or good for my community. (neither is gluttony but since I write about food sometimes we won’t go into that one just yet)  Likewise, sex without responsibility is not good for us, our community or society as a whole.  The years since the sexual revolution has seen the downfall of marriage, the family and parenting. Sex before marriage has not been a great thing for our society.  Contraception makes it easier to just do what we want without consequences. The church, like a good parent, only wants what is good for us.

What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish?

Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? (Luke 11:11-12)

Regardless what congress has to say on this subject – the Catholic church will not be handing us (or more likely paying for) a scorpion.

I have spoken to women who have used contraception before marriage or  are possibly in a difficult marriage situation who say to me that they just can’t use Natural Family Planning.  It takes two to tango you know. NFP requires self control – for both parties.  I ask them to read Blessed John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and then ask them to tell me that it is not a beautiful teaching. It is important to know the value of what you are throwing away.  You can’t say it is not beautiful, because it IS a beautiful teaching and in a perfect world we all would be living it ALL of the time.  Instead, people want the church to change it’s thinking from this beautiful teaching and recognize human nature and let us do what we want instead of holding us to a higher standard.

And – maybe like myself and my favorite sins – some people can’t follow this teaching successfully.  Or maybe they can’t YET.

That brings us to the real beauty of our church.  Because Jesus knows human nature – he gave us this beautiful gift.  The sacrament of confession.  As Mother Theresa said “We are not called to be successful, we are called to be faithful.”

So once a month or so – I head into confession and confess many of the same sins over and over again. It occasionally seems futile, but the grace of that sacrament produces a miracle. Little by little – my behavior changes (I hope) to comply more and more to God’s will for me.  And maybe someday – in a perfect world – I will be living it all of the time.

I think they call that place Heaven…

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Twin Cities Rally for Religious Freedom

March 20, 2012

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Please participate in this nationwide effort to help defeat the HHS Mandate. Hear religious leaders and other public figures speak about why this mandate is un-American and does not embrace life. Let’s make our voices peacefully heard in opposition to the requirement that all employers’ health plans provide free contraceptives, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.

According to Mary Jane O’Brien on behalf of the Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC):

On Friday, March 23, thousands of faithful citizens will gather in public witness and prayer across the United States to oppose the HHS mandate. Minnesotans are coming together to stand in solidarity with Americans throughout the country.

Please join us!

  • What: Twin Cities Rally for Religious Freedom
  • When: Friday, March 23 from noon-1:00p.m.
  • Site: Warren E. Burger Federal Building and United States Courthouse
  • Address: 316 North Robert Street, 100 Federal Building, St. Paul, Mn. 55101
  • Map: Click here

Ideas for signs:

  • “Stand Up for Religious Freedom”
  • “Stop the HHS Mandate”
  • “I Have a Say, Too!”

Other Information:

  • To find national locations and learn more about the growing campaign to stop the HHS mandate, click here.
  • For more information on this endeavor and the Minnesota Catholic Conference, click here.
  • You can also visit Pro-Life Action Ministries.
  • Spread the word!
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6 Things Everyone Should Know About the HHS Mandate

February 7, 2012


It’s frustrating.

I’m talking about President Obama’s decision to force employers (yes–religious institutions too), to provide health insurance coverage for contraception–including those that cause abortions.

According to The Hill:

“In a piece over the weekend, the Washington Post columnist, a fan of Obama, wrote that the administration ‘utterly botched’ the issue and ‘threw his progressive Catholic allies under the bus,’ giving more ammunition to those in the church who aim to derail the new healthcare law.”

The Obama Administration has said it will work on the rules but has not stated that it will back down, despite pressure from christian organizations and the Catholic Church. The bishops estimate that 70 percent of parish priests criticize the HHS rules to their congregations because the mandates do not embrace life according to Natural law.

I thought you would appreciate reading the USCCB’s points listed below. Thanks to Sharon Wilson, Respect Life Coordinator for the Archdiocese, for sending this my way!

USCCB Media Blog


 Six Things Everyone Should Know About the HHS Mandate

1. The mandate does not exempt Catholic charities, schools, universities, or hospitals. These institutions are vital to the mission of the Church, but HHS does not deem them “religious employers” worthy of conscience protection, because they do not “serve primarily persons who share the[ir] religious tenets.” HHS denies these organizations religious freedom precisely because their purpose is to serve the common good of society—a purpose that government should encourage, not punish.

2. The mandate forces these institutions and others, against their conscience, to pay for things they consider immoral. Under the mandate, the government forces religious insurers to write policies that violate their beliefs; forces religious employers and schools to sponsor and subsidize coverage that violates their beliefs; and forces religious employees and students to purchase coverage that violates their beliefs.

3. The mandate forces coverage of sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs and devices as well as contraception. Though commonly called the “contraceptive mandate,” HHS’s mandate also forces employers to sponsor and subsidize coverage of sterilization. And, by including all drugs approved by the FDA for use as contraceptives, the HHS mandate includes drugs that can induce abortion, such as “Ella,” a close cousin of the abortion pill RU-486.

4. Catholics of all political persuasions are unified in their opposition to the mandate. Catholics who have long supported this Administration and its healthcare policies have publicly criticized HHS’s decision, including columnists E.J. Dionne, Mark Shields, and Michael Sean Winters; college presidents Father John Jenkins and Arturo Chavez; and Daughter of Charity Sister Carol Keehan, president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association of the United States.

5. Many other religious and secular people and groups have spoken out strongly against the mandate. Many recognize this as an assault on the broader principle of religious liberty, even if they disagree with the Church on the underlying moral question. For example, Protestant Christian, Orthodox Christian, and Orthodox Jewish groups–none of which oppose contraception–have issued statements against the decision. The Washington Post, USA Today, N.Y. Daily News, Detroit News, and other secular outlets, columnists, and bloggers have editorialized against it.

6. The federal mandate is much stricter than existing state mandates. HHS chose the narrowest state-level religious exemption as the model for its own. That exemption was drafted by the ACLU and exists in only 3 states (New York, California, Oregon). Even without a religious exemption, religious employers can already avoid the contraceptive mandates in 28 states by self-insuring their prescription drug coverage, dropping that coverage altogether, or opting for regulation under a federal law (ERISA) that pre-empts state law. The HHS mandate closes off all these avenues of relief.


You may want to read previous blogs I’ve posted on this issue: http://catholichotdish.com/embracing-life/5-facts-you-didnt-know-about-obamacare/ and http://catholichotdish.com/embracing-life/pay-for-peoples-contraception-no-thanks/

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