Archbishop Wenski Speaks Up for Catholic Conscience

'The president's promises are not being kept,' Miami archbishop says.

(photo: Facebook)

MIAMI (EWTN News)—President Barack Obama has not kept his promises about conscience protections for abortion opponents, and those who trusted him to exclude abortion from the health-care bill seem to “have been played,” Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami said.

“His administration is running roughshod over conscience-protection provisions’ long part of the law that find their justification in the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion, a foundational human right,” the archbishop wrote in a Dec. 2 essay in the Miami Herald.

“It is one thing for an administration to support and promote an agenda; it is quite another to force those who disagree with it to violate their moral and religious principles.”

The archbishop noted President Obama’s 2009 commencement address at the University of Notre Dame, where he promised to “honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion” and to provide “sensible” protections for those who do not want to be involved.

“Fast-forward to late 2011, and the record shows that the president’s promises are not being kept,” the archbishop said. He added that the president seems to have deceived pro-life Catholics like former Michigan Congressman Bart Stupak, Catholic Health Association head, Sister Carol Keehan, and Notre Dame’s leadership.

“The long line of evidence is disturbing,” he said.

Archbishop Wenski cited the administration’s 2009 reversal of previous regulations on federal conscience laws. He noted that the health-care bill of 2010 omitted traditional protections for conscience rights and included language that would “subjugate” conscience rights to federal and state “emergency” service laws.

“In other words, any abortion declared an ‘emergency’ (broadly defined) by a government requires a health-care provider’s full cooperation, regardless of his or her views on the matter,” Archbishop Wenski warned.

He also objected to the Department of Health and Human Services rule announced on Aug. 1 that requires almost all health plans, including those provided by Catholic organizations, to cover sterilization and contraception, including abortifacient drugs.

“HHS seemingly wants to regard fertility as a disease — and elective abortion subsidized by the taxpayer as health care.”

The archbishop lamented federal contracts’ and grants’ new requirements that grantees help provide all legally permissible family-planning and obstetric/gynecological services. Many U.S. State Department AIDS program grants now require integration with family planning and “reproductive health” services, which ignores conscience clauses in the congressional authorizing statute.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had been receiving a grant to help human-trafficking victims, but this grant was discontinued after the conference said it could not meet the new requirements and pointed out that the requirement violates existing federal conscience laws.

“Catholic social and health-care providers — the largest private network in the nation — are at risk of being left out of all federal programs, despite their well-earned reputation for providing superlative service to the American public.”

“In effect, the Obama administration is telling these Catholic providers to surrender their conscience rights and their Catholic ethos or shut their doors,” Archbishop Wenski charged.

The archbishop urged Americans and elected officials from both parties to be concerned with these developments, warning that the violation of religious and conscience rights puts everyone’s rights in jeopardy.