Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wisconsin bishops object to mandated contraceptive coverage

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As Gov. Jim Doyle was telling Wisconsinites on Aug. 17 that he would not seek a third term as governor, the Catholic bishops of Wisconsin were letting the faithful know of their "deep concern" about the recently approved state budget that requires them to provide contraceptive services to those for whom they provide health insurance. "This mandate will compel Catholic dioceses, parishes, and other agencies that buy health insurance to pay for a medical service that Catholic teaching holds to be gravely immoral," the bishops wrote.... "This mandate violates not just our religious values, but also our constitutional rights. The right of conscience established in the Wisconsin Constitution protects the minority from the majority..." the bishops wrote.

Insurance coverage in two dioceses - Superior and La Crosse - is not affected by this mandate because self-insured entities are exempt from the contraceptive provision.

The statement, released through the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, noted that "as Catholic teachers and pastors, we strongly object to this blatant insensitivity to our moral values and legal rights."

John Huebscher, executive director of the WCC, told your Catholic Herald that the law will take effect around the beginning of 2010. "The bishops are using this as a way of teaching the value of the church's stance on contraception, why this is important, and engage it in a way that will not lead to people losing any health insurance because of this mandate," he said. The bishops wrote that while they are assessing "our options to contest this policy," they will continue to provide health insurance for church workers.

Asked if the bishops might challenge the mandate in court, Huebscher said, "It would be premature to say it would lead to litigation." The bishops acknowledged that there are Catholics who disagree with the church's opposition to using artificial contraception, but that they would as "pastors and teachers" continue to instruct the faithful on what the church teaches and why. " ... the prohibition of artificial contraception is a conviction," the bishops wrote.

The bishops likened their catechesis in this area to "efforts to help you form your consciences on opposition to the death penalty, justice for immigrants and ethical approaches to economics." "We commit ourselves to continue listening to your objections and to explaining the church's understanding of human sexuality in such a manner that you may discover a greater understanding and appreciation of this teaching and the reasons for it," they wrote. The bishops said that as they deal with the mandate the budget has placed upon them, they will "continue to affirm and communicate the teachings of our faith." "No legislation can repeal or annul our commitment to upholding the dignity of human life and the means by which each life is conceived," they wrote. The Catholic Herald
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