Chicago Archbishop Cardinal Francis George this week entered the fray of a national debate over President Obama's plan requiring most religiously affiliated employers to cover the costs of their employees' birth control -- a mandate the cardinal called "unjust."
George, formerly the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has issued a letter, that is reportedly slated to be read at all of the city's Catholic masses Sunday.
In the letter [PDF], George contends that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services "seemingly ignored the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our Nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty." The cardinal continues:
We cannot -- we will not -- comply with this unjust law. People of faith cannot be made second class citizens because of their religious beliefs. ... Our parents and grandparents did not come to these shores to help build America’s cities and towns, its infrastructure and institutions, its enterprise and culture, only to have their posterity stripped of their God given rights. All that has been built up over so many years in our Catholic institutions should not be taken away by the stroke of an administrator’s pen. This order reduces the Church to a private club, destroying her public mission in society.
The cardinal urges city Catholics to pray and fast "so that wisdom and justice may prevail."
As the Chicago Tribune reports, New York Archbishop and current U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops president Timothy Dolan has also blasted the ruling.
Last month, the Obama administration announced the new rule, set forth by the Affordable Care Act, allowing most women employed in the U.S. will have the cost of their birth control covered with no co-pay. While churches and other places of worship will be exempt from the ruling, religiously affiliated employers -- such as universities and hospitals -- will no longer be able to deny their employees full birth control coverage. These employers have a year to comply with the ruling.
The ruling has been met with outrage by conservative religious groups who claim the regulation "jolted" them as it forces people of faith to choose between upholding their faith's doctrine and serving the broader society.
Likely as a result of that outrage, the Obama administration is expected Friday to announce a new compromise for religiously affiliated employers who object to offering birth control to their employees.
Results of a survey released Thursday found that a majority of respondents disagreed with the Catholic Church and other conservative religious groups' stance that the mandate "forcing religious groups, individuals, health providers, and health plans to perform or pay for a service that they may find morally objectionable" is wrong.