WASHINGTON—Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), in a May 21 statement, applauded 43 dioceses, hospitals, schools and church agencies for filing 12 lawsuits around the nation saying the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate violates religious freedom.
He said, "We have tried negotiation with the Administration and legislation with the Congress - and we'll keep at it - but there's still no fix. Time is running out, and our valuable ministries and fundamental rights hang in the balance, so we have to resort to the courts now. Though the Conference is not a party to the lawsuits, we applaud this courageous action by so many individual dioceses, charities, hospitals and schools across the nation, in coordination with the law firm of Jones Day. It is also a compelling display of the unity of the Church in defense of religious liberty. It's also a great show of the diversity of the Church's ministries that serve the common good and that are jeopardized by the mandate - ministries to the poor, the sick, and the uneducated, to people of any faith or no faith at all."
Bishop Edward U. Kmiec said he strongly backed the move, "We are in full support of the decision to file these lawsuits against this unjust mandate. Since talks to rescind the mandate have been unsuccessful, it was necessary to challenge the government directive, and we are confident that the courts will side with the plaintiffs in support of religious freedom."
The archdioceses of New York and Washington, along wtih the dioceses of Erie and Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame University are among the Catholic institutions challenging the mandate in court.
Below are addtional statements by organizations that have filed lawsuits; click on the organization name to read their entire story.
John Garvey, president, Catholic University of America
"We have filed this lawsuit today only after concluding that time is running out and there are no other viable options. The HHS mandate was made final on February 15, 2012, and is now law. Efforts to overturn it in Congress have failed. The White House has refused to compromise on the central issues that cause us such grave concern. For some religious institutions, the law will take effect August 1 of this year; for others, August 1, 2013. In any event, our lawsuit will take time to work its way through the court system. Unless we can get judicial relief, we will soon have to take steps to conform to a rule we view as immoral."
Father John Jenkins, C.S.C., president, University of Notre Dame
This filing is about the freedom of a religious organization to live its mission, and its significance goes well beyond any debate about contraceptives. For if we concede that the Government can decide which religious organizations are sufficiently religious to be awarded the freedom to follow the principles that define their mission, then we have begun to walk down a path that ultimately leads to the undermining of those institutions. Click here to read Notre Dame lawsuit.
Bishop Donald W. Trautman, Bishop of Erie
The bishop noted that in effect, the mandate would prohibit the diocese from asking what it has asked for more than 200 years in the history of the nation. Rather than asking people in need, "How can we help?" the church and its agencies would have to also ask, "Are you Catholic?"
"Clearly this would prevent us from continuing the significant work we have accomplished in the almost 160 years during which we have served in the 13 counties of northwest Pennsylvania," Bishop Trautman said. "As a matter of religious commitment, we serve everyone—whether or not they are Catholic.