Sr. Carol Keehan DC “Something has to be fixed”

by | Feb 2, 2012 | Vincentian Family | 2 comments

Sr. Carol Keehan, DC speaking on behalf of the Catholic Health Association has released an updated statement on the recent HHS position on a narrow religious exemption for Catholic institutional employers.

CHA and its members were profoundly disappointed to learn that the definition of a religious employer was not going to be broadened in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ rules for preventive services for women.

The impact of being told we do not fit the new definition of a religious employer and therefore cannot operate our ministries following our consciences has jolted us. The contributions of Catholic health care, education and social services to this country’s development are legion. They have responded to the needs of all, not just Catholics. They have been delivered by many who do not share our faith, but share our commitment.

From President Thomas Jefferson to President Barack Obama, we have been promised a respect for appropriate religious freedom. The first amendment to our Constitution affirms it. We are a pluralistic country, and it takes respectful dialogue to sort this out fairly. This decision was a missed opportunity.

CHA has expressed concern and disappointment about this on behalf of the ministry. We have said the problem is not resolved, and we must have a national conversation on this. CHA is working closely with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities USA, the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities and others to look at options to resolve this. We will be discussing it at the CHA board meeting on Feb. 8.

I assure you that we will use the time to pursue a correction during the one-year extension. We will give this issue priority and consult with members and experts as we evaluate options to deal with this. Any suggestions, comments or questions are welcome. I promise to keep the membership informed as we move along in this effort. Please keep this important effort in your prayers as well.


  1. Sr Mary Ellen Lacy

    On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed into law the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This is a federal statute that provides for comprehensive health insurance reforms that will unfold in the next 4 years. Most deadlines for implementation of benefits are slated for 2014. The law was designed to meet the needs of the 30 million presently underinsured or uninsured citizens.
    Specifically, the law
     reforms the most negative parts of the private health insurance industry;
     corrects numerous deficits in public health insurance programs;
     extends healthcare for young adults;
     ensures continued care for children regardless of long term or prior illnesses;
     balances the national medical spending against anticipated Medicare spending;
     gives broad choices to healthcare insurance consumers;
     mandates individual coverage for all Americans by 2014.
    Finally, and presently the cause of much public strife, the ACA requires all employers, who choose to provide insurance for their employees, to provide insurance that covers a mandated minimum list of essential services. Under the ACA, Congress delegated the identification of the specific services to be included in the list of mandated coverage to Kathleen Sebellius and the Department of Health and Human Services.
    On January 20, 2012, Kathleen Sebellius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, announced that the insurance plans provided for women by most employers must cover the cost of all FDA approved contraceptive devices with no co-pay. This includes coverage for the IUD, sterilization procedures and ella, “the morning after pill”. Churches and other places of worship would be exempt from having to cover contraception for their employees if they morally object to the practice. However, all other organizations will have to comply with the new requirement by August 2013, even if they are religiously affiliated. While the right of conscience afforded the direct care providers remains intact, the right of conscience of the sponsors of religiously affiliated organizations is categorically denied.
    Pursuant to the ACA and the DHHS’ Final Rule, no healthcare institution is required to offer any medical procedures that they have previously refused to do. No form of surgical abortion must be provided or insured. That is not the concern here.
    The issue is solely a right of conscience violation because it pertains to mandated insurance coverage that violates the conscience of those being forced to pay for the insurance. To bring other issues into play merely dilutes the valid argument. The “right to choose” should include the right to say no to objectionable practices. Otherwise, it is not a matter of choice.
    Sr. Carol Keehan and NETWORK have strenuously called upon the Administration to reconsider this rule and its implications. We have not heard of any meetings.
    The President stated at the dedication ceremony of the new statue of Martin Luther King that, “Progress did not happen with oratory alone”. He called upon the nation to promote further progress with action. In this, he was correct.
    Our responsibility to the poor includes deliver y of service in a moral, life giving manner. The conversation at the water fountain or the grocery store will not cause change. No, progress will not happen with oratory alone. Own it. Everyone needs to tell /write President Obama and Kathleen Sebellius that we oppose this. I implore all readers to write the President, The Secretary of DHHS as well as your legislators. Write of your opposition to your local newspapers. Get your college kids to light up the internet and e-blast the White House with their objections to this regulation.
    Ask the DHHS to engage in an open discourse regarding the seemingly unanticipated consequences of this deprivation of the right of conscience of religious persons who own, operate and/or sponsor institutions of higher education, healthcare and social work.
    This is not about abortion – it is about eviscerating our right to conscience. It is a slippery slope – today we pay for abortifacients and sterilizations, tomorrow we may pay for other procedures that are a little further down this bad path. The ACA is a fabulous piece of legislation for the poor …..until it crosses this line.
    The line in the sand must be drawn here and now.

  2. Carol A.

    A jolt? What did you expect?

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