It’s not just a Catholic thing. It’s also not simply about contraception. As we celebrate Independence Day today and close the Fortnight For Freedom we do well to revisit the major misunderstanding that has been repeated so very many times in the media, “it’s just the Catholics who don’t like contraception!” Using the rallying cry that the bishops are waging a “war on women” many commentators claim that it is unreasonable for Catholics to object to the HHS Mandate because doing so shows that “they are against women’s rights.” Further the claim is made that Catholics should have no right to impose their beliefs on others. Is this really the case?
Prior to the Fortnight For Freedom, several U.S. Bishops gathered with a diverse group of religious leaders to sign a document “Free Exercise of Religion: Putting Beliefs into Practice.” You may want to read the entire one page document here.
In the central passage they make the point that the issue Catholics have with the mandate is not that Catholics seek to force others to believe or act upon Catholic teachings, rather Catholics seek to have their own faith respected so that they may be free to act according to their conscience. This means that there will be things that will arise that Catholics will refuse to do because of their moral convictions, like abortion, for example. Catholics are working to protect all American’s right to live in this way, free to practice their religion in the public square and not simply free to worship in private.
As religious leaders from a variety of perspectives and communities, we are compelled to make known our protest against the incursion of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) into the realm of religious liberty. HHS has mandated that religious institutions, with only a narrow religious exception, must provide access to certain contraceptive benefits, even if the covered medications or procedures are contradictory to their beliefs. We who oppose the application of this mandate to religious institutions include not only the leaders of religious groups morally opposed to contraception, but also leaders of other religious groups that do not share that particular moral conviction.
That we share an opposition to the mandate to religious institutions while disagreeing about specific moral teachings is a crucial fact. Religious freedom is the principle on which we stand. Because of differing understandings of moral and religious authority, people of good will can and often do come to different conclusions about moral questions. Yet, even we who hold differing convictions on specific moral issues are united in the conviction that no religious institution should be penalized for refusing to go against its beliefs. The issue is the First Amendment, not specific moral teachings or specific products or services.
The undersigned list is really quite impressive. I recommend that you check it out and see for yourself that this really is not simply a Catholic issue.