Tag Archives: contraception

The Waiting Game

Religious nonprofits including Legatus are waiting to see what the federal government’s next step will be regarding the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ controversial mandate that employers provide contraceptive coverage in their employee health plans.

The Little Sisters of the Poor and their supporters rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court

The Little Sisters of the Poor and their supporters
rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court

On July 22, the Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Department of Labor and HHS published a five-page document in the Federal Register opening a 60-day public comment period for anyone to suggest changes in how seamless contraceptive coverage can be provided while respecting the rights of religiously affiliated organizations.

The deadline for public comment is Sept. 20.

“After that, we’ll have a better idea of the direction the federal government is going,” said Kate Oliveri, an attorney with the Thomas More Law Center, which is representing Legatus in its lawsuit challenging the federal government’s contraceptive mandate.

Waiting period

Legatus’ lawsuit — Legatus v. Sebelius — is currently on hold in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Legatus is pretty much in the same position as dozens of other religious nonprofits that have challenged the mandate in federal courts.

Kate Oliveri

Kate Oliveri

“We’re in a waiting period,” Oliveri said.

On May 16, the U.S. Supreme Court, after hearing arguments in Zubik v. Burwell, vacated several lower court decisions and remanded 35 cases back to the federal appellate courts with instructions that the federal government and the religious nonprofits work out an arrangement to provide contraceptive coverage while preserving the plaintiffs’ religious liberty rights.

In Zubik — a consolidated case that included Thomas Aquinas College, The Catholic University of America and the Little Sisters of the Poor as plaintiffs — the high court in its unanimous 8-0 decision did not take any position on the merits on the arguments, though it noted in the supplemental briefs it had earlier requested that both the petitioners and the federal government confirmed that contraceptive coverage could be provided to employees without directly involving the religious employers.

“The court basically said, ‘We think you guys can come to some compromise so we’re not going to decide if there is a burden on religious liberty or if the regulations satisfy the test for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act,’” said Oliveri, who described the court’s decision not to make a final ruling as “very unusual.”

Religious liberty

Little Sisters of the Poor wave to supporters at the U.S. Supreme Court on May 16

Little Sisters of the Poor wave to supporters
at the U.S. Supreme Court on May 16

Since 2012, religious nonprofits like Legatus have been challenging the federal mandate that employers provide, without copays, all federally approved forms of birth control in their health insurance plans. Those methods include abortifacient pills, so-called emergency contraceptives and sterilization.

The Obama administration has amended the mandate several times. In July 2015, the administration finalized its so-called accommodation for religious non-profits to notify the Department of Health and Human Services in writing about their objections to contraceptive coverage. The written notification would then trigger HHS to inform the insurers and third-party administrators, with separate payments then being made to enrollees for the coverage.

The religious nonprofits objected to this “accommodation,” arguing it still makes them complicit and hijacks their health insurance plans in the scheme to provide morally objectionable contraceptive services.

Michael McLean

Michael McLean

“It’s not really an accommodation. It doesn’t protect religious liberty, and it doesn’t allow us to conduct our business affairs in full accord with the teachings of the Church,” said Michael McLean, president of Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, Calif.

McLean, a member of Legatus’ Ventura/LA North Chapter, said the Supreme Court’s decision in Zubik v. Burwell gave TAC and other nonprofits hope that an acceptable compromise could be reached. But he said negotiations between the college’s attorneys and the federal government have not been productive.

“The government has been very slow to respond and has shown little interest in working out an agreement,” said McLean, who speculated that the government’s negotiators may be dragging their feet to buy time until the November elections with hopes that Democrat Hillary Clinton will be elected and eventually tilt the high court in a more liberal direction.

“I’ve been kind of disappointed and somewhat disillusioned, frankly,” McLean said. “I thought the parties would take the court’s encouragement very seriously and work out a compromise, and so far I don’t see any evidence of that — except on our side of course.”

John Garvey

John Garvey

John Garvey, president of The Catholic University of America, also said he’s surprised that more progress hasn’t been made in the negotiations.

“It didn’t seem to be a very complicated thing. The proposal we made in our supplemental brief laid out a course that seemed to us to be squarely in line with what the court was asking from us,” said Garvey, who explained that an acceptable proposal would be for the health insurer to set up a contraception-only policy, which employees could enroll in without the participation of the employer.

Garvey, a founding member of Legatus’ Washington D.C. Chapter, said he is keeping his fingers crossed that a compromise can be reached. He said the Supreme Court’s decision was probably the best outcome the religious nonprofits could have hoped for.

“I wouldn’t call it validation, but at least it doesn’t validate the contrary position,” Garvey said. “For now at least, we’re back to where we started.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus staff writer.

Catholics and acceptable uses of contraceptives

Contraceptives include drugs and devices like condoms, the Pill and spermicides. It might come as a surprise to some to learn that the Catholic Church does not always oppose the “use of contraceptives.”

Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D.

A couple of trivial examples can help explain this point. The Church wouldn’t oppose the use of a contraceptive spermicidal gel to lubricate a bicycle tire’s axle to improve its rotation, nor would it specifically oppose the use of inflated condoms as party balloons. The particular context is important. More serious examples of acceptable contexts and uses for contraceptives would include using the Pill medically to treat serious gynecological problems — or using the Pill to block the release of an egg from a woman’s ovary in a situation of rape to protect her from becoming pregnant from the attack. Contrary to popular confusion, as we can see, the Church does not always oppose the use of contraceptives.

What the Church does always oppose, however, are acts of contraception. An act of contraception is a very particular type of disordered human action that involves the decision freely to engage in marital intercourse, while pursuing countermeasures in anticipation of, contemporaneously with, or after the completion of the sexual act, to try intentionally to block it from achieving its proper finality — namely, the engendering of new human life. These countermeasures can include, to borrow the words of Blessed Pope Paul VI, “any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation — whether as an end or as a means” (Humanae Vitae, #14).

In a recent interview, Pope Francis pointed out that Paul VI, in a difficult situation in Africa, “permitted nuns to use contraceptives in cases of rape.” This use of contraceptives by a group of nuns occurred during an exceptional wartime situation in the Belgian Congo. Although no document has ever been found in the Vatican indicating that permission was actually given by the Pope, these women were given the Pill by their physicians because they appeared to be in imminent danger of sexual assault during the uprisings of 1960. The Pill was provided to prevent their ovaries from releasing an egg, so that if they were raped during the chaos, the attacker’s sperm would not be able to fertilize any of their eggs and a pregnancy would not occur.

This “use of contraceptives” would clearly not be an act of contraception because there would be no consensual sexual act, but only an act of violence and brutality forcibly directed against the women. Hence, this use of contraceptives constituted, in its essence, an act of self-defense, not an act of contraception. A rapist, of course, has absolutely no right to forced sexual intimacy with his victim, nor does he have any right to bring about her impregnation, and the woman has absolutely no moral duty to make her eggs available to an attacker’s sperm. Hence the use of contraceptives in an emergency situation like this would be morally permissible precisely because it would not constitute, morally speaking, an act of contraception, but would rather represent a defensive and self-protective maneuver in a situation of grave and imminent danger.

The use of contraceptives can be morally acceptable in other contexts as well, again because such uses do not constitute acts of contraception. For example, when a woman has severe menstrual bleeding or pain from ovarian cysts, the hormonal regimen contained in the Pill may sometimes provide a directly therapeutic medical treatment for the bleeding or the pain. This use of contraceptives is an act of medical therapy to address a pathological situation, not an act of contraception.

The secondary effect from the treatment, namely marital infertility, is only tolerated and should not be willed, desired, or intended in any way by the couple. It’s worth noting that it would not be acceptable to make use of contraceptives like the Pill for these medical cases if other pharmacological agents or treatments were available which would offer the same therapeutic benefits and effects without impeding fertility.

Scholar and author Janet Smith has succinctly summarized the issue this way: “The Church teaches that acts of contraception are always against the plan of God for human sexuality, since God intended that each and every act of spousal intercourse express both the intention to make a complete, unitive gift of one’s self to one’s spouse and the willingness to be a parent with one’s spouse. These meanings of the spousal act are, as Humanae Vitae stated, inseparable.”

REV. TADEUSZ PACHOLCZYK, PH.D. is a priest of the diocese of Fall River, Mass., and serves as the director of education at The National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia.

Catholicism is countercultural on contraception

PATRICK LEE writes that our sexual lives must be grounded in reality and truth . . .

Patrick Lee

The Catholic Church teaches that sexual acts belong in marriage, that every marital act should be open to new life, and therefore that contraception is objectively immoral. This teaching, needless to say, is held in contempt by our affluent western culture.

While some Catholics are embarrassed by it (or reject it), it is the Church’s constant teaching and flows from the fundamental truths that human life is sacred — and that marriage is a two-in-one-flesh union. Catholics need to defend and explain this teaching. Two lines of argument can help them do so.

The first argument focuses on the goodness of human life itself. Morality centrally concerns how our choices bear on the intrinsic goods of human persons — goods such as life, health, knowledge and friendship. To choose contrary to one or more of these goods is to set oneself against an intrinsic good of a person and thus to act contrary to love of God and neighbor.

Contraception is the choice to deprive a sexual act of its potential to procreate. This choice is an interior act of will, carried out by an external behavior, either before, during, or after the sexual act. As its name indicates, it’s a choice directly against the coming to be of new human life. While it isn’t a choice to destroy a life that already exists, it is a directing of one’s will against new life. Just as it’s possible to direct one’s will toward goods that don’t yet exist — by willing to bring them into being — so it’s possible to direct one’s will against a good that does not yet exist by choosing to ensure it does not come to be. But it’s morally wrong to direct one’s will against the inherent goods of persons — including life itself.

People often object that contraception is morally indistinguishable from Natural Family Planning. However, there is a clear difference between the two. It’s not wrong to choose not to pursue a good because of the difficulties associated with that pursuit. If a student chooses not to take a summer course because of time and expense, he is not choosing contrary to knowledge. In the same way, a couple’s choice to refrain from intercourse during a fertile time is not a choice against conception. By contrast, contraception is a choice to do something to make sure a baby does not come to be.

A second line of argument concerns the relationship between the sexual act and the marital unity it is meant to express. The sexual act should express mutual love and commitment and thus not treat the other’s body like a tool for pleasure. But it can truly express love and commitment only if it actualizes a real bodily union, only if the man and woman become one flesh.

Marriage is the sharing of lives by a man and a woman on all levels of their humanity. And this sharing of lives — this bodily, emotional and spiritual union — is naturally extended and fulfilled, if all goes well, by their conceiving and rearing children together (even though not every marriage reaches that natural fulfillment). Children are the concrete fruit of the spouses’ marital union. But in contraception the will is directed against the coming to be of a child and so it is a choice contrary to the culmination of marital unity.

Moreover, marital intercourse is not just a sign or symbol of the spouses’ love — though it is that, of course — but it’s a real bodily union. In marital intercourse the spouses become the single subject of a single biological function, related to each other somewhat like the various organs — heart, lungs and arteries, for example — are parts of a single organism. If they have consented to share their lives on all levels — including, if all goes well, by becoming mother and father with each other — then this bodily union expresses and enables the spouses to experience their multi-leveled marital union. It is a constitutive part of their marital union.

But contraception closes the sexual act to procreation with the result that the associated sexual acts — for there is not a single, joint act — do not make them biologically one. Failing to embody their union, the sexual acts cease to be genuinely marital.

In today’s culture, feelings count for everything — even if they are illusory. But Christian teaching is that reality matters. Our sexual lives must be grounded in reality and truth. When Our Lord taught that in marriage a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two become one flesh (Mt 19:5), he was insisting that marriage is an objective reality, grounded in the genuine goods of life and bodily union.

PATRICK LEE, PH.D., is the John N. and Jamie D. McAleer Professor of Bioethics and the director of the Institute of Bioethics at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Governor Jindal and the politics of birth control

Fr. Pacholczyk dissects Gov. Jindal’s proposal for over-the-counter birth control . . .

Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk

Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed last December, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal argues that the cost of birth control could be reduced by eliminating the required doctor’s visit to get a prescription — making contraception available “over the counter.”

If it were made available this way, he argues, it would no longer be reimbursable by health insurance, and people could simply purchase it on their own. Jindal posits that this approach would result in “the end of birth control politics.” He relies on several simplistic assumptions and inadequate moral judgments, however, as he tries to advance this argument.

First, he misconstrues the objective. The goal should not be to remove birth control from political debate, but rather to arrive at reasonable medical, ethical and constitutional judgments about birth control and public policy. Contraception is an important topic for public discussion because it touches on basic human and social goods, such as children, family and sexual fidelity.

Indeed, laws about contraception have always been based upon concerns for the public good and public order. This was the case when Connecticut, in 1879, enacted strong legislation outlawing contraception. This law, similar to the anti-contraception laws of many other states, was in effect for nearly 90 years before it was reversed in 1965. These laws codified the longstanding public judgment that contraception was harmful to society because it promoted promiscuity, adultery and other evils.

Yet Jindal fails to engage these core concerns and instead retreats behind a common cultural cliché when he writes, “Contraception is a personal matter — the government shouldn’t be in the business of banning it or requiring a woman’s employer to keep tabs on her use of it.” If it’s true that contraception is often harmful to individuals and families, to marriage and to women’s health, then it clearly has broader public policy implications and is, objectively speaking, not merely a “personal matter.”

Consider just a few of the health issues: Contracepting women have increased rates of cardiovascular and thromboembolic events, including increased deep vein thrombosis, strokes, pulmonary emboli (blood clots in the lungs), and heart attacks. Newer third and fourth generation combination birth control pills, which were supposed to lower cardiovascular risks, may actually increase those risks, and recently there have been class action lawsuits brought against the manufacturers of Yaz, Yasmin and Ocella, because women have died from such events.

In seeking to serve the public interest, the government may determine to become involved in such matters, as it did back in 1879, through specific legislative initiatives or through other forms of regulatory oversight. Indeed, the recent deployment of the HHS contraceptive mandate, as a component of ObamaCare, reflects an awareness of the public ramifications of this issue, even though the mandate itself is profoundly flawed and ultimately subverts the public interest. It compels Americans, unbelievably, to pay for the sexual proclivities of their neighbors, not only by requiring employers to cover costs for the Pill in their health plans, but also to pay for other morally objectionable procedures, including direct surgical sterilizations and abortion-causing drugs.

Jindal goes on to argue, “As an unapologetic pro-life Republican, I also believe that every adult (18 years old and over) who wants contraception should be able to purchase it.” Yet Jindal is really quite apologetic (and inconsistent) in his pro-life stance by arguing in this fashion. Contraception can never be pro-life. It regularly serves as a gateway to abortion, with abortion functioning as the “backup” to failed contraception for countless women and their partners. Abortion and contraception are two fruits of the same tree, being anti-child and therefore anti-life at the root. Certain “emergency” contraceptives (like Plan B and EllaOne) also appear able to function directly as abortifacients. IUDs can function similarly, making the uterine lining hostile for an arriving human embryo and forcing a loss of life to occur through a failure to implant.

Jindal, a committed Catholic, should not be minimizing the medical and moral risks associated with promoting contraceptive use, nor lessening social vigilance by promoting “over the counter” availability. Committed Catholics and politicians of conscience can better advance the public discourse surrounding contraception by avoiding such forms of circumlocution and instead directly addressing the medical and ethical evils of contraception and the unacceptability of the coercive HHS mandate itself.

REV. TADEUSZ PACHOLCZYK, Ph.D., earned his doctorate in neuroscience from Yale. He is a priest of the diocese of Fall River, Mass., and serves as the director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia.

ObamaCare at the bottom of the ninth

Dorinda Bordlee & Nikolas Nikas say efforts to overturn ObamaCare are ongoing . . .

Nikolas T. Nikas

Nikolas T. Nikas

In July of 1973, Yogi Berra’s New York Mets trailed the Chicago Cubs by nine games in the National League East. That’s when he uttered his most famous phrase: “It ain’t over till it’s over.” The Mets rallied to win the division title on the final day of the season.

Most are aware that the Health and Human Services “contraceptive mandate” cases are proceeding, but the legal challenges to ObamaCare as a whole are over, right? Not according to the U.S. Supreme Court. We’re writing this article to summarize the revived ObamaCare challenge — and to invite Legates to join a “friend of the court” amicus brief.

On Nov. 26, 2012, just three weeks after the presidential election, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an order reviving a 2010 lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of vital ObamaCare provisions — provisions that if struck down could prove to be fatal to the entire ObamaCare scheme.

In this revived case — Liberty University v. Geithner (No. 11-438) — the Supreme Court granted the Christian university’s petition for rehearing and “remanded to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit for further consideration in light of National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius.NFIB v. Sebelius is the case issued by the Supreme Court this past summer that upheld ObamaCare’s individual mandate under Justice Roberts’ strained reasoning that the penalty on individuals could be viewed as a “tax.”

Dorinda C. Bordlee

Dorinda C. Bordlee

The NFIB case did not raise or address many issues that will now be the subject of federal court scrutiny, including provisions regarding the employer mandate and its crippling penalties, the individual mandate in light of possible constitutional infirmities that arise from the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the penalty as a “tax,” and — as raised in our original amicus brief — conscience issues and Free Exercise violations posed by ObamaCare’s hidden “abortion premium mandate.”

The Liberty case will be briefed and argued by Liberty Counsel lawyers before a federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., this spring and might end up before the U.S. Supreme Court on the merits before the 2014 effective date of the ObamaCare state exchanges.

Bioethics Defense Fund — the non-profit legal organization that we founded to put law in the service of life in accord with the natural law teachings of the Catholic Church — will be counsel of record on the amicus (friend-of-the-court) brief designed to support Liberty University by fully addressing issues of religious liberty and pro-life conscience.

Several Legatus members have already agreed to be named as “amici” (friends) in the brief to be presented to the U.S. Fourth Circuit — and later to the U.S. Supreme Court. We are looking to add as many Legatus members as possible. As amici, you would be on record as a Catholic businessperson who has an interest in educating the federal judges about provisions that raise serious conscience objections for Catholics. Amici are not parties to the lawsuit, and they are free from any legal obligations.

All that would be required to join the brief as a friend-of-the-court is your name (and that of your spouse if desired) and the location of your Legatus chapter. We will list you in your individual capacity as a Legatus member, but you may list your position and the name of your company for purposes of identification only.

Our brief will address the “abortion premium mandate,” a section that allows health plans in the state exchanges to carry abortion coverage but not to disclose it until enrollment. ObamaCare then requires that every enrollee who ends up in a health plan with abortion coverage must pay a separate itemized abortion premium of a minimum $1 per month, with no exceptions. That separate premium, directly paid from the pockets of individual enrollees, is required to be placed by the insurer into a fund designated solely to pay claims for other people’s elective abortions.

As counsel on amicus briefs in nearly a dozen HHS mandate cases, we know that the Obama Department of Justice has its hands full defending religious liberty lawsuits across the country. But the rights of conscience lawsuits are set to explode exponentially once millions of Americans find themselves in plans that require a government-compelled abortion premium mandate in 2014 — unless ObamaCare is fatally undermined by this revived legal challenge.

Action Item: To join the BDF ObamaCare amicus brief in the Fourth Circuit on behalf of individual Legatus members who have an interest in educating the judges about the abortion premium mandate, contact us at info@bdfund.org or (504) 231-7234. Click here to join us in this effort.

DORINDA C. BORDLEE and NIKOLAS T. NIKAS are attorneys and founders of Bioethics Defense Fund, a national legal and educational organization whose mission is to put law in the service of life.

What’s at stake on November 6

Alan Sears writes that the values Americans hold sacred are up for grabs this year . . .

Alan Sears

With Election Day right around the corner, Americans must decide not only who will serve in office, but how those “personnel choices” will affect crucial federal and state-level issues foundational to our nation’s heritage and to our continuance in the image envisioned by our Founders.

A quick look at recent headlines easily demonstrates that three of those issues — religious freedom, marriage, and the sanctity of life — are facing some of the most serious challenges we’ve seen in our nation’s history. (Click here for a related story.)

In probably the most prominent example, religious freedom has literally been under assault since ObamaCare’s introduction in 2009. The passage of that bill into law in March 2010 only upped the ante, and has since spawned an abortion pill mandate that literally forces business owners to forego their consciences and their faith in order to provide health insurance that covers abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraceptives for employees.

We witnessed a significant victory against the abortion pill mandate in August when Denver-based Hercules Industries won an injunction against the mandate. The company is led by Denver Chapter Legates William and Andrew Newland.

Alliance Defending Freedom represents Hercules in that case, and we were happy to see them secure relief from the coercion other businesses in America still face. Everyone needs to remember that votes cast at all levels on Nov. 6 will affect decision-makers who will have the power to repeal this mandate altogether.

Marriage, the most fundamental building block to the health and survival of the nation, is also endangered at the federal level and in many states across the country this November.

The Obama administration has not enforced the Defense of Marriage Act since officially announcing their opposition to the law on Feb. 23, 2011. This move emboldened individuals and special interest groups nationwide to push the redefinition of marriage. It opened the door for those seeking to impose a homosexual agenda on the military through repeal of the military’s so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in September 2011. It gave way to our President announcing his support for same-sex “marriage” in May 2012.

Not surprisingly, there are now efforts to secure same-sex “marriage” ceremonies for U.S. forces. The future of these ceremonies and, most importantly, the protection of religious freedom for chaplains who have biblical convictions against performing them, is in the hands of members of the House and Senate — many of whom Americans will have the opportunity to support or oppose in just a few days.

And at the state level, ballot initiatives in Maine, Minnesota, Maryland, and Washington will allow citizens of those states to decide whether they wish to protect and preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman. These ballot initiatives are crucial not only for those states themselves but also because other states are watching. For example, groups in California, Colorado, Florida, Nebraska, and Ohio are already collecting signatures for proposed initiatives that either legalize same-sex “marriage” or repeal an existing ban on it.

Life is also on the ballot this November — both directly and indirectly. As Legatus magazine featured last month, Massachusetts voters will decide whether doctor-prescribed death will become the law of the land as it is in three other states. The “Death with Dignity Act,” which is on the ballot in the Commonwealth, allows doctors to prescribe life-ending medications for patients who then take the drugs home and end their lives when they’re ready.

It’s a surreal proposal, reminiscent of the famous lines of “Invictus” by English poet William Ernest Henley: “I am the captain of my fate. I am the master of my soul.” And it begs the question: Do we take our lives into our own hands only for the purpose of throwing them away with a prescription? Suffering patients need understanding and sound medical treatment, not encouragement to kill themselves.

Voters this year, as in all years, must look at the policies surrounding life that each candidate is promoting, weigh the candidate’s position, and choose those who will stand against the culture of death by standing for a culture of life.

Dropping our guard is simply not an option this November. Religious freedom, marriage, and life face serious challenges that simply cannot be put off for consideration in some future election cycle. The time is now. Your vote may help carry the day.

Alan Sears is a former federal prosecutor who held various posts in the departments of Justice and Interior during the Reagan administration. He is president and CEO of Alliance Defending Freedom. He and his wife Paula are members of Legatus’ Phoenix Chapter.

Defending liberty

Legatus members nationwide step up to protect religious freedom by fighting HHS mandate . . .

Legatus members are at the forefront of a legal battle being waged against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate requiring employers to cover abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilization in their insurance plans.

Of the estimated 27 lawsuits that have been filed by businesses, nonprofit organizations, and institutions since the mandate was announced Aug. 1, 2011, nearly a fourth involve Legatus members as plaintiffs.

In addition to a suit filed by Legatus itself, the list includes the cases of Hercules Industries of Denver (which recently won the first court order against the mandate), Triune Health, EWTN, Priests for Life, and Ave Maria University. All are owned or led by Legates. Detroit’s Weingartz Supply Co., and its president, Legate Daniel Weingartz,  also are plaintiffs in the Legatus suit, which challenges the  constitutionality of the HHS mandate under the First Amendment’s religious liberty and free speech provisions.

First Amendment rights

Matt Bowman

Matt Bowman, legal counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing 14 plaintiffs in the Hercules case and three other suits contesting the HHS mandate, said Legatus involvement in this issue shows that the organization is doing vital work to help Christian business leaders incorporate their faith into their everyday lives.

“The government in these cases is taking the position that you cannot exercise religion in your everyday life,” said Bowman. He quotes Pope Benedict XVI, who vigorously countered such sentiments in 2008 when he asked, “Is it consistent to profess our beliefs in church on Sunday, and then during the week to promote business practices or medical procedures contrary to those beliefs? Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted. Only when their faith permeates every aspect of their lives do Christians become truly open to the transforming power of the Gospel.”

The first suit against the HHS mandate was filed last November by Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic liberal arts school in North Carolina, before the Jan. 20 publication of final rules on the directive. According to the Catholic News Agency, that case was dismissed in July on technical grounds. The college is expected to  continue its fight against the mandate.

Michael Warsaw

Led by Legate Michael Warsaw, EWTN became the first Catholic organization on Feb. 9 to legally challenge the HHS mandate after publication of the rules. That same month, two other groups with  Legates at the helm, Priests for Life (Legate Janet Morana) and Ave Maria University (Legate Jim Towey), followed with similar suits.

Denver’s Hercules Industries, where Legates William and Andrew Newland are CEO and vice president, respectively, filed suit April 3 and in July was granted an order against the mandate. That ruling, however, only applies to Hercules. In opposing the order, the Obama  administration said that people of faith give up their religious liberty when engaging in business.

Legate Mary Ann Yep, co-founder with her husband, Christopher, of Chicago’s Triune Health Group, disagrees. Triune is challenging  both the HHS mandate and a similar state mandate in Illinois in a suit filed in August. Yep told the Catholic News Agency that she cannot separate her identity as a Catholic woman from her identity as a business owner, and that she aims to live by the same principles whether she is at home, at work or in church.

Crain’s Chicago Business recently named Triune Health the Best Place to Work for Women in the Chicago metro area.

Spiritual warfare

As members engage in the fight for religious freedom on various fronts, Legatus is seeking to bolster their efforts by mobilizing members in a spiritual battle for the future of the country.

On Aug. 1, the date the HHS mandate took effect, Legatus’ executive director John Hunt asked chapters to offer 1,776 Masses and pray 1,776 hours of Eucharistic adoration before the Nov. 6 election.

The effort has garnered a tremendous response from Legates. As of publication, members have committed to 2,186 Masses and 750 hours of Eucharistic adoration. Orange County Chapter member Tim Busch has arranged for 600 Masses and 250 hours of adoration. Anthony Mullen, an At-Large member, has pledged 100 Masses.

Mullen has called the prayer effort “the single most important work we can possibly do to defeat religious intolerance in America. We have a sacred duty together before God to fight with all our being, relying on the greatest power in the universe: God’s sacrifice in the  Mass and his presence in the Eucharist.”

Judy Roberts is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Threats to the integrity of the medical profession

Patrick Lee writes that secularism and materialism have distorted the medical profession . . .

Dr. Patrick Lee

Medicine is a noble profession dedicated to helping patients maintain or restore their health and life. Health and life are intrinsic goods of the human person. Thus the medical profession is defined not by its provision of some commodity, but by its mission to contribute to human flourishing. But our culture threatens this truth, both in specific policies and in pervasive attitudes.

Next August a regulation from the Department of Health and Human Services is slated to mandate health insurance providers to cover “contraceptive” devices — including many that are sometimes abortifacient. This is a particularly egregious example of governmental intrusion to classify procedures as health care which are in fact the diametrical opposite of that.

Physician-assisted suicide is now legal in three states and there are organized movements to bring it to others. Physicians are being pressured to kill the severely disabled, the dying and the suffering — and to help create a culture that tells them their lives are not worth living. And regarding the beginning of life, physicians are under intense pressure to cooperate with contraception, sterilization and abortion.

Yet these recent overt threats are later symptoms — perhaps lethal in themselves — of the progression of an underlying, more extensive disease. They stem from ideas that permeate our culture (especially in medical schools) that block any coherent view of the true mission of the medical profession. The chief of these influential ideas are materialism and secularism.

The basic premise underlying the truth that medicine is a distinct and noble profession is that the human person is of incalculable dignity — each person is irreplaceable, inherently valuable and should be treated with reverence. And so the patient enters a sacred trust with his physician. The physician doesn’t just have a job, but a mission to cooperate actively with a patient to help the whole person with respect to his health.

Since health is only one of many intrinsic goods of the person, the person seeking health care is the ultimate authority in deciding whether or not to accept the physician’s recommendations. Therefore, paternalism — making all the decisions for the patient — is wrong. Yet the patient’s rightful autonomy does not mean that the physician is obliged to do whatever the patient demands. The physician is committed to the patient’s true well-being, and the physician is also a real moral agent with moral responsibility for his actions. Thus, the physician is not just a functionary or a technician hired to produce a specific product or result. The physician (and the whole health-care team) should cooperate with the patient to serve his overall well-being with respect to health.

Materialism denies that the human being has a spiritual aspect. Secularism is the view that religion is a mere distraction and even harmful. Secularism also often leads to the view that there is no objective meaning and value in the universe — and that we ourselves endow it with whatever meaning and value we choose. Health-care professionals need not themselves be materialists or secularists for their outlook on patients to be profoundly influenced by these views. Such views permeate our culture and there is often an assumption that even if one does not personally hold them, one’s actions must be guided by them in the public domain. Hence there is often a tendency to lose sight of the patient as a whole person and to view him as a mere machine. Then, instead of trying to help a person decide how best to fulfill his particular responsibilities, the medical challenges become viewed as mere technical problems to be fixed.

It is often rightly said that a physician needs to treat the whole person. But it doesn’t mean that the physician must try to solve issues outside his expertise. Rather, it means that the physician should remember that he’s treating health issues that will fit within the whole set of responsibilities and vocation of a person of inestimable worth.

Materialism and secularism together create an environment which obscures the actual nature of the people in need of health care. To the extent that human beings are viewed as mere complex machines (materialism), health-care professionals will find it virtually impossible to treat patients with reverence. And to the extent that reality is viewed as lacking any inherent meaning and value (secularism), health care will be reduced to mere mechanics, and then health-care professionals will be fair game for bureaucrats insisting that destructive and lethal procedures must be part of their training and practice.

In truth, we are created in the image of God, and we are sacred. Health-care professionals need to remind themselves of that, need to be vocal about their beliefs and need to strive to treat their patients with reverence and awe, begging God for his guidance and grace in their important mission.

Patrick Lee, Ph.D., is the John N. and Jamie D. McAleer Professor of Bioethics and the director of the Institute of Bioethics at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Motherless

Gail’s spellbinding novel explores modern life sciences technology gone wrong . . .

Motherless
Human Life International, 2010. 350 pages, $19.99 paperback

The sequel to Fatherless and second in his trilogy, Gail has written another heart-pounding page-turner for Catholics straining to hear their Church’s voice in what Pope John Paul II called the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church.

Gail’s spellbinding narrative explores the expanding slippery slope of life sciences technology and its growing threat to the family and Church. Readers will certainly look forward to the final chapter: Childless, which is anticipated to be released in 2012.

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