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Cardinal George: Birth Control Mandate Could Force Catholic Hospitals, Universities To Close

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Chicago Archbishop Cardinal Francis George on Sunday threatened that, because the Catholic Church "is being told she must 'give up'" its religious freedom in response to the Obama administration's birth control mandate, Catholic institutions such as hospitals and universities may face no other option but to close down.

George has been outspoken on the issue of Obama's contraception policy ever since it was introduced last month. In a letter he intended to be read citywide at Chicago's Catholic masses, the cardinal accused the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services of "denying to Catholics our Nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty" by forcing religiously affiliated employers to pay for their employees' birth control.

In response to largely Catholic concerns with the policy, the Obama administration softened its stance on the issue by offering an "accommodation" that would pass the cost of contraception coverage onto health insurance companies in the event that a religious institution objects to footing the bill.

But that has not satisfied Cardinal George and he has continued to the push for the policy to be rescinded. He commented earlier this month that the mandate will have the long-term effect that "the Catholic church would be stripped of the institutions that are her instrument for public service" -- such as hospitals, universities and social service organizations. He also hinted that legal action on the matter was not out of the question.

In his Sunday column in Catholic New World, George wrote that he only sees three options for Catholic institutions to avoid shutting down under the Obama administration's birth control mandate: To "secularize itself, breaking its connection to the church, her moral and social teachings and the oversight of its ministry by the local bishop;" to "pay exorbitant annual fees" to avoid paying for birth control-inclusive insurance policies or to "sell the institution to a non-Catholic group or to a local government."

"The state is making itself into a church," the cardinal wrote, after arguing that church leadership respects the separation between church and state. "The bishops didn’t begin this dismaying conflict nor choose its timing. We would love to have it ended as quickly as possible. It's up to the government to stop the attack."

A group of Illinois lawmakers has also lashed out against the Obama administration's birth control mandate. State Sen. and former gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) on Monday filed a resolution calling for Congress to overrule the new policy.

"The required practices directly contravene the teachings and beliefs of many religious denominations," Brady said in a statement, Crain's Chicago Business reports. "Many believe President Obama's directive is an assault on the religious liberty of every American."

Four fellow Republican state senators -- Christine Johnson, David Luechtefeld, Carole Pankau and Sue Rezin -- cosponsored Brady's resolution, according to Crain's.

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