Special reflection from Office of Mercy Mission and Identity

Special reflection from Mount Mercy’s Office of Mercy Mission and Identity

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently ruled that faith-based affiliated institutions, including colleges, universities, hospitals and social service agencies, must provide insurance coverage for contraception and sterilization to all their employees. In an effort to secure what many consider medications and procedures essential to women’s health, the HHS has overstepped its power and according to a significant number of Catholics, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, violated the “sacred issue” of religious liberty.

As a Mercy, faith-inspired institution and part of the body of the Conference for Mercy Higher Education, Mount Mercy cherishes and celebrates its religious liberty, and stands in agreement with the Catholic Church’s devotion to the free exercise of religious freedom. As such, the institution was deeply opposed to the original ruling and the stringent erosion of religious expression that such a ruling implied.

The Catholic Church’s traditional, founding position against artificial contraception was clearly pronounced again in 1968 in Humanae vitae, the encyclical of Pope Paul VI.

The considerable backlash to the HHS’ ruling by many Catholics as well as leaders of numerous faith-based health and human service organizations, regardless of their stance on contraception, reveals a far deeper issue at stake --- the issue of religious liberty. The huge outpouring of support in favor of religious freedom (manifested in this specific issue of contraception usage) goes back to a more fundamental conviction that umbrellas individual issues, and that is the fundamental right to religious liberty, regardless of which subject matter is at stake.

On February 10, after the Obama administration ceded ground on the original mandate, the Sisters of Mercy issued the following statement:

“The Sisters of Mercy of the Americas are pleased that adjustments are being made in the new health insurance requirements that will ensure conscience protections for religious-affiliated institutions. We commend President Obama for his openness to dialogue on this issue and his willingness to address these concerns. “

Encouraged by President Obama’s recognition of the “inalienable right” of religious liberty and his administration’s willingness to work with religiously affiliated employers to find an acceptable balance between health coverage and religious freedom, the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU) issued a statement on February 17:

“ACCU eagerly awaits the opportunity to meet with key leaders of all faiths and the Department of Health and Human Services to discuss the enduring value of religious liberty and work out the critical details related to self-insured health plans and other dimensions of the mandate.”

Clearly, thoughtful and proactive measures are needed to continue the conversation and ensure that the deeply-held and cherished value of religious liberty remains protected and upheld at the Federal level. Mount Mercy University will join this cause and supports the statements issued by the ACCU and the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas.

For more information on Mount Mercy’s Catholic identity, please visit our website.

Sister Shari Sutherland
Executive Director for Mercy Mission and Identity

Bill Mulcahey
Director of Campus Ministry

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