Cardinal O'Malley urges support of Conscience Act

Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley spoke out against the new health regulations released by the Department of Health and Human Services and encouraged support of the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act in an Aug. 5 post of his blog,

On Aug. 1, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that she had accepted the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine on eight "preventive services" that must be included in any health plan under the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

"Unfortunately, the government has seen fit to include oral contraceptives, surgical sterilizations and so-called 'morning-after' pills, which can cause abortions, among 'preventive' services -- as if pregnancy was a disease to be cured rather than the gift of new life," said Cardinal O'Malley.

"Obviously, this is not morally acceptable to Catholics," he added.

The cardinal acknowledged that PPACA did offer an exemption for religious organizations but said the criteria are so narrow that many Catholic schools, hospitals, and other entities would not qualify.

In his post, Cardinal O'Malley included a link to recent comments on this issue by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chairman of the U.S. bishop's Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

He also included a link to Cardinal DiNardo's recent letter to the Congress urging them to support and co-sponsor the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, designed to be an overarching religious exemption.

The bill, introduced by Reps. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., and Dan Boren, D-Okla., would allow health insurance plans to exclude procedures that violate the moral or religious convictions of those providing or purchasing the plan.

"I urge all Catholics, and all those who respect the right of people to live according to their faith, to become educated on this issue and contact their U.S. Representative and let them know you support the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act," said Cardinal O'Malley in his blog.