USCCB President Reacts To Supreme Court HHS Mandate Decision

May 16, 2016
WASHINGTON—Today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a per curiam opinion in the case of Zubik v. Burwell, in which Catholic and other religious organizations are challenging the HHS mandate requiring them to facilitate health insurance coverage of sterilization, contraception, and drugs and devices that may cause abortions.

The Court unanimously vacated the decisions before it, remanding the cases to the lower courts with instructions to afford the parties the opportunity to work out an alternative approach to the mandate. In the meantime, the Court forbade the government from imposing taxes or penalties on the organizations for failure to provide the required “notice” and “certification” or otherwise to trigger the “accommodation.”

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, offered the following statement in response:

I am encouraged by today’s unanimous decision of the Supreme Court. It wipes away the bad decisions that so many of our charitable ministries were appealing, it maintains hope that we might resolve this dispute finally and favorably sometime in the future, and in the meantime, it prevents the Administration from issuing crippling fines against those who object.

I take this occasion to reiterate the unity and resolve that the bishops of the United States have expressed repeatedly in opposition to the HHS mandate, such as in their Special Message from 2013 and their statement “United for Religious Freedom” from 2012. I also recall the encouragement that we have received from Pope Francis in this regard during his recent apostolic visit to the United States, first by his remarks at the White House, and then by his personal visit to the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Speaking about religious liberty from the White House in September, Pope Francis said “that freedom remains one of America’s most precious possessions. And, as my brothers, the United States Bishops, have reminded us, all are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.”

In light of this, USCCB will continue its opposition to the HHS mandate in all three branches of government. We are grateful to the Supreme Court for the opportunity to continue that effort. We remain convinced that, as a nation, we do not wish to push people of faith and their ministries out of charitable work – under threat of severe government fines – or leave freedom of religion protected only in private worship.

USCCB Chairmen Respond To Administration’s New Guidance Letter On Title IX Application

May 16, 2016
USCCB Chairmen Respond to Administration’s New Guidance Letter on Title IX Application

WASHINGTON—Two Committee chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued the following statement in response to guidance issued May 13 by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education entitled “Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students”:

The Catholic Church consistently affirms the inherent dignity of each and every human person and advocates for the wellbeing of all people, particularly the most vulnerable. Especially at a young age and in schools, it is important that our children understand the depth of God’s love for them and their intrinsic worth and beauty. Children should always be and feel safe and secure and know they are loved.

The guidance issued May 13 by the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education that treats “a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex” is deeply disturbing. The guidance fails to address a number of important concerns and contradicts a basic understanding of human formation so well expressed by Pope Francis: that “the young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created” (Amoris Laetitia [AL], no. 285).

Children, youth, and parents in these difficult situations deserve compassion, sensitivity, and respect. All of these can be expressed without infringing on legitimate concerns about privacy and security on the part of the other young students and parents. The federal regulatory guidance issued on May 13 does not even attempt to achieve this balance. It unfortunately does not respect the ongoing political discussion at the state and local levels and in Congress, or the broader cultural discussion, about how best to address these sensitive issues. Rather, the guidance short-circuits those discussions entirely.

As Pope Francis has recently indicated, “‘biological sex and the socio-cultural role of sex (gender) can be distinguished but not separated'” (AL, no. 56, emphasis added). We pray that the government make room for more just and compassionate approaches and policies in this sensitive area, in order to serve the good of all students and parents, as well as the common good. We will be studying the guidance further to understand the full extent of its implications.

The statement was issued by Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth; and Archbishop George Lucas, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Catholic Education.