BUFFALO - Bishop Edward U. Kmiec, bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo, has asked pastors to bring to the attention of their parishioners a new government mandate that jeopardizes their religious freedoms. The United States government announced on Jan. 23 that almost all employers, including Catholic employers, will be forced to offer employees "health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs and contraception." This is a contradiction to Catholic beliefs.
Letters were distributed this week to all parishes in the eight counties of Western New York, and priests throughout the diocese will be addressing this matter at Masses over the weekend.
"The administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our nation's first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty," said Bishop Kmiec. "And, as a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled either to violate our consciences, or to drop health coverage for our employees (and suffer the penalties for doing so). We cannot - we will not - comply with this unjust law."
According to the administration and the United States Department of Health and Human Services, employers would have one year to comply with this mandate. Throughout the country, Catholics have called this an attack on not only religious freedom, but also a direct assault against the Catholic Church. But, the issue has incensed not only Catholics but those of other faiths as well.
Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York, stated, "When government tampers with a freedom so fundamental to the life of our nation, one shudders to think of what lies ahead."
As a collective church, Bishop Kmiec is urging the community to pray that wisdom and justice prevail, remembering that, "with God, nothing is impossible."
"I would also recommend visiting www.usccb.org/conscience, to learn more about this severe assault on religious liberty and how to contact Congress in support of legislation that would reverse the administration's decision," Bishop Kmiec said.