Statement of Bishop Glen John Provost, Bishop of Lake Charles, in light of the so-called “accommodation” issued by the White House on Friday, February 10, 2012, concerning the mandate requiring Catholic entities to provide sterilization, abortifacients, and contraception:

The so-called accommodation for religious institutions regarding the mandate to provide coverage for sterilization, abortifacients and contraception is, in effect, no accommodation at all. The major concerns raised with the original policy have not been addressed, namely, the infringement of religious freedom and cooperation with grave evil.

The shift in responsibility from employer to insurer is not a safeguard for Catholics. Religious organizations and institutions are both employers and insurers in many cases.  This includes our diocese.  How will insurers pay for these services which must be provided for free?  Self-insured employers are still to pay for sterilization, abortifacients and contraception, just as before.

The issue of religious freedom is continually obfuscated by talk of access to preventative services.  Religious people and institutions that act as employers will still be required by force of law to purchase, provide or facilitate the purchase of health insurance that violates their religious freedom.  We cannot comply with any policy that requires us to participate in a grave moral evil, nor should we accept attempts by the government to define our own religious principles.

I continue to take issue with the Administration’s insistence that abortifacients, sterilization, and contraception are considered “health care.”  Pregnancy and fertility are not diseases or illnesses.  Such terminology is misleading and erroneous. 

When I attended elementary school, every child in the State of Louisiana, in public and private school, was at least informed about the letter of Thomas Jefferson to the Ursuline Nuns of New Orleans.  The United States had just purchased Louisiana in 1803.  These Catholic nuns, who ran the oldest Catholic girls school in the United States, wanted to know about their rights in their new country.  Their inquiry was forwarded to James Madison, the Secretary of State, who in turn referred it to President Thomas Jefferson.  In a letter dated May 15, 1804, President Thomas Jefferson replied to the Catholic nuns:

“The principles of the constitution and government of the United States are a sure guarantee to you that it will be preserved to you sacred and inviolate, and that your institution will be permitted to govern itself according to its own voluntary rules, without interference from the civil authority.”  The intent of our founding fathers must count for something. 

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