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BY Jeanette DeMelo
My guest last week on Register Radio was Register senior editor Joan Frawley Desmond. We spoke about the new lawsuit EWTN filed against the HHS mandate.
On October 28, EWTN filed a new legal challenge against the HHS mandate.
Joan covered the story for the Register, on radio she explained:“EWTN was one of the first religious nonprofits to file a legal challenge against the HHS mandate, and it really helped to break ground and get people looking at what the mandate presented to the Church, to religious nonprofits, as well as for-profit businesses that also oppose contraception, abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization in their plans based on Catholic teaching.”
The federal district judge had originally looked at the HHS mandate 2012 lawsuit filed by EWTN in March 2013. The judge said it was too soon to rule on it, and it was essentially set aside.
The new lawsuit names U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius. It asks the court to halt the government from imposing the HHS mandate and define the law as unconstitutional.
EWTN believes it’s important to file the lawsuit now, because it takes time for them to move through the courts. EWTN faces a formal January 2014 deadline imposed by the government for showing compliance with the HHS mandate, though, like all religious nonprofits, EWTN has its own deadline based on when it rolls out its new health plan, which is during summer 2014.
For an entity like EWTN, the HHS mandate is essentially still in place and whether they provide the services themselves or hire a third-party entity, strong objection to the services remains. The State of Alabama joined EWTN’s lawsuit as a co-plaintiff, saying they wanted to defend and stand by EWTN. The State’s Attorney General said the mandate is also a violation of the State’s own religious freedom protections. Attorney General Luther Strange characterized the third-party provision as a “shell game, an accounting gimmick” saying that insurance companies do not provide anything for free. It’s not, he said, about who has to pay, it’s also about the government forcing EWTN to participate in a scheme that forces it to violate its religious beliefs.
There have been many lawsuits filed against the HHS mandate. Of the 36 nonprofit lawsuits filed, only one has been decided on its merits and the others have received rulings on procedural issues. There have been 39 for-profit lawsuits against the mandate, and of those, 35 have obtained rulings on the merits of the claims and 30 have received injunctive relief, allowing the case to move forward and protecting them against massive crippling fines. Now everyone is waiting to see what happens at the Supreme Court. The nation’s highest court is likely in the coming weeks to agree to hear a case this term.
The Latest from the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious
Dan Burke spoke with Sister Regina Marie Gorman about the latest with the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR) from her role as Chairperson.
One of the missions of the CMSWR is to renew the understanding of religious life. Church documents, says Sister Regina Marie, provide a rich source for this and the first way to nurture that among the young women entering the community and among those they minister to.
There are a number of ways the sisters meet and gather, nationally and regionally, with a number of different focuses.
Sister Regina Marie confirmed Dan’s observation of a renewal of religious life. “It is slow,” she said, “but it is very consistent that young women are searching for opportunities to be challenged, to be supported in their total self-giving of Christ in community, with common apostolate, with common prayer. It is growing.”
The CMSWR has a new website that enables all the sisters from around the world to connect with this important work. CMSWR.org is brand-new and will grow in depth, said Sister Regina Marie. There are theologians writing articles about religious life. They’re sharing pictures and aspects of religious life. On the site, there are summaries of each of the member religious communities. For those women who may be discerning, there is also a section that has questions, reflections, meditations, definitions and descriptions, and pictures of novices and postulants.
Dan considers this site a blessing to the laity in particular to see the vast joy of these sisters in their religious life. The foundation of the Council is in conjunction with the Magisterium of the Church.