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United States government making chilling attack on religious freedom

HONG KONG (SE): Two newspapers in the United States of America (US) have sprung to the defence of the bishops in their standoff with the president, Barack Obama, over compulsory facilitation and supply of contraceptives by religious employers, which is being imposed by the Health and Human Services Department.

A February 26 statement from Francis Cardinal George saying that the Catholic Church would be forced to give up its medical care and educational services (Sunday Examiner, March 11) prompted a response from The Fiscal Times on March 1.

Edward Morrissey editorialised that the Catholic Church has the most extensive health care delivery system in the country, as it operates 12.6 per cent of all hospitals, accounts for 15.6 per cent of all admissions and 14.5 per cent of all expenses, in real terms, US$98.6 billion ($7.64 trillion) worth.

However, Morrissey points out the real value of Catholic hospitals in the US only shows up when a study is made of whom the hospitals serve. He says that they handle more than their proportionate share of Medicare cases (16.6 per cent) and Medicade (13.65 per cent).

In concrete terms one in six senior citizens and patients with special needs is being treated in Catholic hospitals, as well as over one in eight low-income patients. 

The system also provides the most widespread service in rural areas.

“Catholic hospitals take a leading role in providing less profitable services to patients. They lead the sector in breast cancer screenings, nutrition programmes, trauma, geriatric services and social work,” Morrissey writes.

“Imagine the impact if these hospitals closed down?” he says, “not to mention 400-plus health centres and 1,500 specialised homes that the Catholic Church operates.”

Morrissey notes that Obama has also succeeded in reigniting the cultural wars, but this time they seem to be united in opposition against him, with representatives of the Jewish faith and evangelical Churches signing statements of opposition alongside the Catholics.

The Wall Street Journal has also joined the attack on Obama, with an editorial on March 6 describing the White House stand as a chilling attack on religious freedom.

The archbishop of New York, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, wrote to all bishops in the country informing them that Obama’s invitation to come back and work out the wrinkles seems to have been shelved, as the White House has now announced that the new regulations of the Department of Health and Human Services have now been published in the Federal Registry.

The president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops said that when White House staff was asked if issues concerned with religious freedom were now off the menu, “they were informed that they are,” Cardinal Dolan said.

An editorial in The Wall Street Journal says, “In other words, the White House’s solution is simply for the bishops to shut up about the wrinkles.” 

It adds that in other words, the administration is “telling the bishops they know less about Church teachings than your average Washington Post columnist.” editorialises that Obama’s strategy is to divide the Church, saying that the White House takes the view that Catholics who abide by their faith are somehow opposed to modernity.

The Wall Street Journal concludes its editorial saying that apparently, the Catholic bishops cannot stop “the dominant wing of American’s government political party from insisting that religion kneels before its secular will.”

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