Catholic Church Bristles At Birth Control Mandate

Madison Bishop Urges Parishioners To Oppose Rule

MADISON, Wis. - The Roman Catholic Church is bristling at a new rule about birth control.

Under the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act, companies that provide insurance for employees must cover contraceptives, including faith-based employers.

The decision came from Washington, after what White House press secretary Jay Carney called Tuesday "careful consideration."

The administration chose not to change the provision for faith-based organizations in an effort to give women who work for Catholic hospitals and schools access to "preventative services."

"I think it's fair to say that, while there are those who take issue with the decision, millions and millions of Americans, American women, will have access to preventive services, as they should, appropriately through the health care reform bill," Carney said.

Diocese of Madison Bishop Robert Morlino is speaking out against the rule.

Parishioners in Madison heard a message from Morlino in church Sunday asking them to write letters, make calls and do whatever they could to denounce the Obama administration's rule.

Supporters of the policy said it just gives everyone the same equal opportunity when it comes to insurance coverage.

"And doesn't that sound fair? But it couldn't be fair because it completely ignores the fundamental right to religious liberty which people have," Morlino said. "If it's us this time, it will be somebody else the next time."

Morlino said that, for Catholics, being ordered to endorse and pay for contraceptives stands in the way of God's grace.

"That means that our salvation is at stake," Morlino said.

Morlino said he believes the First Amendment will ultimately be on the Catholic Church's side.

"Once the precedent is taken, that religious liberty can be violated and suppressed, then it's open season," Morlino said.

In some cases though, Morlino's own parishioners said they don't agree. Mariann Fredal said she not only objects to the Catholic Church's stance on the issue but also hearing her priest read a letter from the bishop at Sunday mass, which is something she said she hasn't heard on other issues such as capital punishment and torture.

"The Church has chosen not to discuss that in church, not to bring that up, not to ask people to rally around and send letters and act, so that offends me also," Fredal said.

Fredal said she speaks for many who disagree with the bishop and the Church's very public stance on a thorny legal and religious issue.

"Many, many theologians, many, many church historians and experts feel that contraception is not a violation of God's law," she said. "I firmly believe that those decisions need to be made by the women."

Morlino said his letter to parishioners was not unique. He said every bishop in the country has or will share a similar message with their communities.

The Obama administration has given Catholic schools and hospitals a year before they have to implement anything.

SSM Health Care, which owns St. Mary's Hospital in Madison, issued a statement Tuesday saying it's "disappointed with the contraceptive mandate in the rule, as it will force organizations like ours to go against our conscience and the explicit teachings of the Roman Catholic Church."

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