Priests throughout the area have been speaking against “Obamacare” over the past few months during their sermons, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Norwich has been issuing statements against the law in their weekly bulletins.
“Am I for pure healthcare for the poor? Absolutely,” said Fr. Joseph Whittel, the head pastor of Waterford’s St. Paul’s Church. “But they have taken things that are not healthcare and made them healthcare.”
Several local priests, following a national trend, are enraged with the mandates that come with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare,” specifically that it mandates employers to pay for contraception and morning-after pills for their employees. There are exemptions to the law, but priests argue the exemptions are narrow and wouldn’t cover many Catholic organizations.
“Healthcare is healthcare,” Whittel said. “They have changed the definition of healthcare.”
Patch called the Roman Catholic Diocese of Norwich for comment, and their spokesman was not available, but they referred us to the US Conference of Catholic Bishop’s website, which had articles written about Catholic’s concerns with Obamacare. Additionally, Bishop Michael Richard Cote – the head bishop of the Diocese of Norwich, which covers all of New London County – wrote a letter to parishioners in the summer of 2012 urging Catholics to push to end the mandates involved with Obamacare.
“We cannot act with any less urgency right now regarding the united effort to let our U.S. Senators and Congressional Representatives know that the HHS mandate must be rescinded,” Cote wrote. “There can be no concession of our First Amendment rights.”
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act mandates that all employers with at least 50 employees provide health insurance to their employees. As part of that health insurance, employers must pay for contraceptives, morning-after pills and female sterilization – three mandates the Catholic Church is against.
There is an exemption written into the law for religious institutions. Specifically, an organization is exempt if it satisfies three criteria:
- It has religious inculcation as its primary duty.
- It primarily employs people of the same faith.
- It primarily serves people of the same faith.
Catholic priests argue that this exemption is too narrow and wouldn’t cover many Catholic organizations, such as Catholic schools. On the website www.preservereligiousfreedom.org, it argues that the exemption would force Catholic organizations to deny their services to non-Catholics. Here is an excerpt:
“Effectively, the mandate prohibits us from asking what we’ve asked for more than 200 years, ‘Are you hungry?’ Now we also have to ask, ‘Are you Catholic?’ To qualify for the exemption, and so to be permitted to follow their beliefs, Catholic institutions may have to stop providing educational opportunities to as many non-Catholics as they currently educate, stop serving as many non-Catholics in need as they currently serve, and stop employing some of the non-Catholic employees they currently employ. But this kind of withdrawal from the world violates our religious commitment to serve all in need without regard to religion.”