Joliet bishop calls for protest of birth-control requirement
By Bob Okon email@example.com February 2, 2012 4:36PM
Diocese of Joliet Bishop Daniel Conlon | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media, file
Updated: March 4, 2012 8:14AM
JOLIET — Catholics throughout the Diocese of Joliet will hear from Bishop Daniel Conlon this weekend on an Obama administration mandate that would force the church to provide free coverage of birth control in employee health benefits.
A letter from the bishop, who calls the directive “a violent breach of the wall of separation between church and state,” is to be read at all Masses in the diocese Saturday and Sunday.
Bishops across the U.S. have been calling on Catholics to write the White House and Congress in opposition to the requirement since it was announced Jan. 20.
“The directive applies to religious employers, even if the services in question violate their moral principles,” Conlon writes in the letter. “It also places an unnecessary burden of conscience on other employers, Catholic and otherwise, who consider these services immoral.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said nonprofit institutions, including church-affiliated hospitals, colleges and social service agencies, would have a year to comply.
“I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventative services,” Sebelius said in a statement.
The rule would exempt actual church operations and other employers whose primary purpose is to promote religious beliefs.
Conlon, however, said the Catholic Church’s ability to run hospitals, schools, homeless shelters and other services “is at stake, and many of our dedicated employees are potentially at risk of losing their medical insurance.”
Diocese spokesman Doug Delaney said the church could consider dropping health insurance, though he was not sure how that would be done under the new Obama health care rules.
“It’s an option, but it’s a very difficult option to take away health insurance,” Delaney said.
Bishops in the dioceses of Springfield, Rockford and Peoria also have spoken out against the Obama administration requirement.
Conlon’s letter is at www.dioceseofjoliet.org with instructions on how to contact the president and Congress to oppose the rule.
This is the second time in the past year that Illinois dioceses have had to grapple with new government regulations that clashed with Catholic religious beliefs.
Last year, the Joliet diocese and others stopped providing foster care services through Catholic Charities when the state required that they work with homosexual and unmarried couples.