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Senate blocks bill that aimed at reversing Hobby Lobby ruling


A woman walks toward a Hobby Lobby store in Phoenix. CNS/Nancy Wiechec

A woman walks toward a Hobby Lobby store in Phoenix. CNS/Nancy Wiechec

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate July 16 voted to block consideration of a bill aimed at reversing the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and forcing businesses to provide contraceptive coverage for employees even if they object to it on religious grounds.

Known as the “Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act of 2014,” or S. 2578, the measure was co-written by Democratic Sens. Patty Murray of Washington and Mark Udall of Colorado. Murray introduced the bill July 9. The 56-43 vote fell four short of the 60 needed to move ahead on the bill.

“While the outcome of today’s vote is a relief, it is sobering to think that more than half the members of the U.S. Senate, sworn to uphold the laws and Constitution of the United States, would vote for a bill whose purpose is to reduce the religious freedom of their fellow Americans,” said Jayd Henricks, director of government relations at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“We need more respect for religious freedom in our nation, not less,” he said in a statement.

In a July 14 letter to U.S. senators, Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, chairman of the Committee on Pro-life Activities, and Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, urged the lawmakers to oppose the measure.

They said it had the potential to affect “all existing federal protections of conscience and religious freedom” when it comes to health care mandates, telling senators: “Though cast as a response to the Supreme Court’s narrow decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the bill ranges far beyond that decision. … We oppose the bill and urge you to reject it.”

On June 30, the Supreme Court, citing the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, ruled that closely held for-profit companies cannot be forced to abide by the federal Health and Human Service’s mandate that requires nearly all employers to provide abortion-inducing drugs, elective sterilizations and contraceptives to their employees free of charge if the individual or families that own these businesses have religious objections to the mandate.

Murray and Udall said their bill was “consistent with congressional intent” in RFRA, but Cardinal O’Malley and Archbishop Lori said that the measure’s “operative provisions explicitly forbid application if RFRA whenever the federal government wishes to override the religious freedom rights of Americans regarding health coverage.”

After the July 16 vote, Udall said the Democratic Party would continue to contest a ruling that says “a boss’ beliefs can supersede a woman’s rights to health care benefits that she has earned.”

S. 2578 would have kept in place the Obama administration’s exemption from the HHS mandate for houses of worship and some other employers who fit its criteria for that exemption. It also would have kept intact the accommodation for nonexempt employers.

Under that accommodation, organizations self-certify that their religious objections entitle them to an exemption from the mandate and direct a third-party, in most cases the company that manages their health care plan, to provide the objectionable coverage.

But several Catholic and other religious employers who are not exempt and have sued over the mandate argue the exemption is too narrowly drawn and the accommodation itself still involves them in coverage they morally oppose.

In their letter, Cardinal O’Malley and Archbishop Lori wrote: “In short, the bill does not befit a nation committed to religious liberty. Indeed, if it were to pass, it would call that commitment into question. Nor does it show a genuine commitment to expanded health coverage, as it would pressure many Americans of faith to stop providing or purchasing health coverage altogether.”

A companion bill was introduced in the House July 9 by Democratic Reps. Diana DeGette of Colorado and Louise Slaughter and Jerry Nadler, who are both from New York. As of July 17, no vote on the measure had been scheduled yet.


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British faith leaders warn Parliament not to legalize assisted suicide


Catholic News Service MANCHESTER, England — The leaders of Britain’s faith communities have united to warn Parliament against the “grave error” of legalizing assisted suicide. Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster and Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury joined 21 other of the most senior Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Zoroastrian and Jain faith leaders to protest the Assisted Dying Bill.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, England, has joined with other leaders of faith communities to oppose Parliament legalizing assisted suicide. (CNS file)

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, England, has joined with other leaders of faith communities to oppose Parliament legalizing assisted suicide. (CNS file)

The legislation scheduled to be debated in the House of Lords July 18 was designed to abolish the crime of assisting a suicide by allowing doctors to supply lethal drugs to people expected to die within six months and who are mentally competent. But in a July 16 open letter, the faith leaders said the bill would allow doctors to decide if some people are “of no further value” and that it would place vulnerable and terminally ill people at “increased risk of distress and coercion at a time when they most require love and support.” “This is not the way forward for a compassionate and caring society,” said the letter, signed also by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis of the United Hebrew Congregation of the Commonwealth and Dr. Shuja Shafi, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain. “While we may have come to the position of opposing this bill from different religious perspectives, we are agreed that the Assisted Dying Bill invites the prospect of an erosion of carefully tuned values and practices that are essential for the future development of a society that respects and cares for all,” the letter said. The show of unity among faith leaders followed three senior Anglicans saying they supported assisted suicide. Lord Carey, who served as archbishop of Canterbury from 1991 to 2002, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, each said they were in favor of the practice. Anglican Bishop Alan Wilson of Buckingham also has declared his support for “assisted dying,” making him the first serving bishop of the Church of England to say that doctors should be legally permitted to help their patients to commit suicide. “Today we face a central paradox,” Lord Carey wrote July 11 in the Daily Mail newspaper. “In strictly observing the sanctity of life, the church could now actually be promoting anguish and pain, the very opposite of the Christian message of hope.” The Church of England has opposed the bill on grounds of “patient safety, protection of the vulnerable and respect for the integrity of the doctor-patient relationship.” This position, according to the Church of England’s website, is consistent with successive resolutions against assisted suicide by its governing General Synod. In his Daily Mail piece, Lord Carey announced that he would dissent from such policy and vote for the bill. “The fact is that I’ve changed my mind,” he wrote. “The old philosophical certainties have collapsed in the face of the reality of needless suffering.” On July 13, Archbishop Tutu expressed similar sentiments in a column for The Observer, a London-based Sunday newspaper. “I revere the sanctity of life — but not at any cost,” the Nobel peace laureate wrote. “Yes, I think a lot of people would be upset if I said I wanted assisted dying. I would say I wouldn’t mind, actually.” However, Archbishop Welby called the Assisted Dying Bill “dangerous.” He argued that an assisted suicide law would exert pressure on the sick, disabled and elderly to “stop being a burden to others.” “What sort of society would we be creating if we were to allow this sword of Damocles to hang over the head of every vulnerable and terminally ill person in the country?” he asked in a July 12 article for The Times newspaper. The Catholic bishops of England and Wales have encouraged the laity to write to politicians to ask them to oppose the bill. Catholic Bishops Mark Davies of Shrewsbury and Mark O’Toole of Plymouth have issued pastoral letters condemning the bill, and Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth has announced that he will open the churches of his diocese for a “holy hour” of prayer and adoration July 17, the eve of the debate, in the hope that the legislation will fail. Lord Carey was nominated to Britain’s second political chamber on his retirement, but 26 Anglican bishops, including Archbishop Welby, sit there as “Lords Spiritual” and have a right to vote. If the bill progresses successfully through the House of Lords, later this year it will go to the House of Commons, where lawmakers will be allowed to vote according to their consciences. Under the 1961 Suicide Act, the offense of assisting a suicide is punishable in Britain by up to 14 years in prison.

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Dinner, with a side of friendship: For eight years, St. Edmond’s Church has supported international students who work at state’s beaches


For The Dialog   For eight years, St. Edmond’s Church has supported international students who work at state’s beaches   REHOBOTH BEACH — Chet Poslusny chatted with four students from Bulgaria, making them feel more at home by speaking in their native language. “He made my day,” said one of the students, Denis Ismet. He was surprised to meet someone who not only knew about Bulgaria but spoke the language. Read more »

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Catholic Appeal has exceeded its goal: Annual fundraiser is at $4.5 million with three months to go

July 10th, 2014 Posted in Featured, Our Diocese Tags:


The 2014 Annual Catholic Appeal has surpassed its target of $4,347,000 by more than $186,000 with a total of $4,533,436 pledged as of July 7, the diocesan Development Office reported this week.

“The Annual Catholic Appeal is an opportunity for each of us to unite as a Catholic community and to answer the needs of those most vulnerable – the hungry, the homeless, the unemployed, the distressed, the unchurched, our children and our elderly”, said development director Deborah Fols. “Because of the generosity of so many donors, those in need who come to the church searching for Christ’s love and protection will receive assistance.” Read more »

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Holy Land bishops criticize ‘collective punishment’ of Palestinians


JERUSALEM — Catholic leaders in the Holy Land called for an end to the cycle of violence and criticized Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and its collective punishment of Palestinians.

“Using the death of the three Israelis to exact collective punishment on the Palestinian people as a whole and on its legitimate desire to be free is a tragic exploitation of tragedy and promotes more violence and hatred,” said a July 8 statement from the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land.

People carry the body of a Palestinian boy whom hospital officials said was killed in an Israeli airstrike on his family's house in Gaza City July 9. The Israeli army intensified its offensive on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, striking Hamas sites and killing dozens of people in a military operation it says is aimed at quelling rocket fire against Israel. (CNS photo/Ashraf Amrah, Reuters)

People carry the body of a Palestinian boy whom hospital officials said was killed in an Israeli airstrike on his family’s house in Gaza City July 9. The Israeli army intensified its offensive on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, striking Hamas sites and killing dozens of people in a military operation it says is aimed at quelling rocket fire against Israel. (CNS photo/Ashraf Amrah, Reuters)

“We need to recognize that the kidnapping and cold-blooded murder of the three Israeli youth and the brutal vengeance killing of the Palestinian youth are products of the injustice and of the hatred that the occupation fosters in the hearts of those prone to such deeds,” the church leaders said, but added that the deaths “are in no way justifiable.”

In early July, Israel launched airstrikes into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, killing more than 40 Palestinians — including children, elderly and militants — in a circle of escalating violence that began with the discovery of the bodies of three kidnapped Israeli teens and the brutal apparent revenge killing of a Palestinian teen. The Israeli offensive, dubbed Operation Protective Edge, has hit hundreds of targets, while more than 100 missiles have been launched into southern Israel, reaching into the center of the country and Jerusalem as well.

The ordinaries, who include Catholic bishops and the Franciscan custos of the Holy Land, called the situation in Gaza “an illustration of the never-ending cycle of violence in the absence of a vision for an alternative future.”

They criticized Israeli “leadership that continues to foster a discriminatory discourse promoting exclusive rights of one group and the occupation with all of its disastrous consequences. Settlements are built, lands are confiscated, families are separated, loved ones are arrested and even assassinated. The occupation leadership seems to believe that the occupation can be victorious by crushing the will of the people for freedom and dignity. They seem to believe that their determination will ultimately silence opposition and transform wrong into right.”

“Resistance to occupation cannot be equated with terrorism,” they said. “Resistance to occupation is a legitimate right, terrorism is part of the problem.”

The church leaders said the mourned all those, Israeli and Palestinians, who had died.

“Some of their faces are well known because the media have covered in detail their lives, interviewing their parents, bringing them alive in our imaginations, whereas others, by far more numerous, are mere statistics, nameless and faceless. The selective coverage, mourning and memory are themselves part of the cycle of violence,” they said.

The church leaders also said the “violent language of the Palestinian street that calls for vengeance is fed by the attitudes and expressions of those who have despaired of any hope to reach a just solution to the conflict through negotiations. Those who seek to build a totalitarian, monolithic society, in which there is no room for any difference or diversity, gain popular support, exploiting this situation of hopelessness. To these we also say: Violence as a response to violence breeds only more violence.”

“We need radical change,” they said. “Israelis and Palestinians together need to shake off the negative attitudes of mutual mistrust and hatred.” They called for educating the younger generation “in a new spirit that challenges the existing mentalities of oppression and discrimination,” but they also called for a change in political leaders.

“We must find leaders who are clear-sighted and courageous enough to face the urgency of the present situation and to take the difficult decisions that are needed, leaders who, if necessary, are ready to sacrifice their political careers for the sake of a just and lasting peace. Such leaders have the vocation to be healers, peacemakers, seekers of justice and visionaries of the alternatives to the cycle of violence,” they said, recalling Pope Francis’ separate meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders during his May visit to the Holy Land and “his incessant call for justice and peace.”

The complete statement can be found at http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2014/07/09/holy_land_a_call_for_courageous_change/1102679.


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Vatican restructures its financial offices


atholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — As the restructuring of Vatican financial institutions moves into high gear, “our ambition is to become something of a model of financial management rather than a cause for occasional scandal,” said Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy.

Jean-Baptise de Franssu, the new president of the Vatican bank, and outgoing president Ernst Von Freyberg pose during a news conference at the Vatican July 9. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

Jean-Baptise de Franssu, the new president of the Vatican bank, and outgoing president Ernst Von Freyberg pose during a news conference at the Vatican July 9. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

Introducing the new president of the Institute for the Works of Religion, commonly called the Vatican bank, and announcing changes in several Vatican structures, the Australian cardinal told reporters July 9, “This should, we hope, result in financial gains generating revenue for the work of the church, especially in the service of the wider society.”

The new president is Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, the French chairman of INCIPIT, a mergers and acquisitions consulting firm. Prior to that, he was the chief executive officer of Invesco Europe, an investment management company.

He replaces the German industrialist Ernst von Freyberg, who served as president for the past 17 months, leading the bank through the process of reviewing all its client accounts, culling those not strictly tied to the church and implementing new procedures designed to prevent financial scandals and money laundering.

At a Vatican news conference, von Freyberg told reporters that it made sense for him to leave as the institute enters a new phase, one which requires a full-time president — which he is not prepared to be — and one with experience in asset management, which he said he does not have.

Cardinal Pell also announced the names of four of the six new members of the bank’s board, including Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard law professor, former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See and member of the commission Pope Francis had appointed to study the mission and functioning of the bank.

Two board members, including an Italian, will be named at a later date, the cardinal said. They replace a board of supervisors, including Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, whose terms have expired.

Cardinal Pell, de Franssu and von Freyberg all emphasized the need to continue to consolidate financial operations in a process marked by transparency, coordination, professionalism, ethical values and compliance with the law.

The Vatican released an apostolic letter signed by Pope Francis July 8 transferring to Cardinal Pell’s secretariat what had been the “ordinary section” of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See, which will return to focusing on what it was founded to do: manage the portfolio of Vatican real estate holdings and the financial settlement paid by the Italian government in 1929 with the signing of the Lateran Pacts, in which Italy and the Vatican recognized each other’s sovereignty and boundaries.

The administration, Cardinal Pell said, will “focus exclusively on its role as a treasury for the Holy See and Vatican City State.”

The administration’s “ordinary section,” which will now be under Cardinal Pell’s office, includes the Vatican personnel office, its general purchasing office and the personnel who manage the rentals of Vatican property. The transfer of the section, the cardinal said, will allow his office “to exercise its responsibilities of economic control and vigilance.”

Cardinal Pell also said he and the pope’s Council of Cardinals hope by the end of the year to announce the appointment of a full-time independent auditor general, “not answerable to myself,” but to the Council on the Economy. He said the auditor general can go “anywhere and everywhere” in the Vatican to ensure the entire financial system is operating correctly.

Danny Casey, who had worked with Cardinal Pell in Sydney, has moved to Rome and will serve as the head of the project management office in the secretariat.

Assuring Vatican employees that the pension fund was “completely secure,” the cardinal announced that the Council for the Economy had appointed a technical committee to study the fund and make suggestions for ensuring its continued health far into the future.

As for the Vatican bank, von Freyberg said it is set now to be even more exclusively “a savings and loan for religious congregations,” which make up the majority of its account holders.

De Franssu said the assets the bank is managing will be gradually shifted — over the next two years – “to a newly created central Vatican asset management” structure.

“Obviously,” Cardinal Pell said, “we will have a policy for ethical investments and very obviously, too, all the clerical and lay members who will become part of our boards will have to sign an appropriate document setting out that there is no conflict of interest” and declaring areas where there could be so they would abstain from voting on those matters.


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Pope Francis meets with sex abuse survivors, begs forgiveness


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Asking for forgiveness, Pope Francis told abuse survivors that “despicable actions” caused by clergy have been hidden for too long and had been “camouflaged with a complicity that cannot be explained.”

Pope Francis met with and offered a Mass for survivors of sex abuse by clergy on July 7. (CNS file)

Pope Francis met with and offered a Mass for survivors of sex abuse by clergy on July 7. (CNS file)

“There is no place in the church’s ministry for those who commit these abuses, and I commit myself not to tolerate harm done to a minor by any individual, whether a cleric or not,” and to hold all bishops accountable for protecting young people, the pope said during a special early morning Mass for six survivors of abuse by clergy. The Mass and private meetings held later with each individual took place in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the pope’s residence and a Vatican guesthouse where the survivors also stayed.

In a lengthy, off-the-cuff homily in Spanish July 7, the pope thanked the six men and six women, two each from Ireland, the United Kingdom and Germany, for coming to the Vatican to meet with him. The Vatican provided its own translations of the unscripted homily.

The pope praised their courage for speaking out about their abuse, saying that telling the truth “was a service of love, since for us it shed light on a terrible darkness in the life of the church.”

The pope said the scandal of abuse caused him “deep pain and suffering. So much time hidden, camouflaged with a complicity that cannot be explained.”

He called sex abuse a “crime and grave sin,” that was made even worse when carried out by clergy.

“This is what causes me distress and pain at the fact that some priests and bishops, by sexually abusing minors” violated the innocence of children and their own vocation to God, he said.

“It is like a sacrilegious cult, because these boys and girls had been entrusted to the priestly charism in order to be brought to God. And those people sacrificed them to the idol of concupiscence,” the pope said.

“I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse made by family members, as well as by abuse victims themselves,” the pope said.

“This led to even greater suffering on the part of those who were abused and it endangered other minors who were at risk.”

The pope asked God “for the grace to weep, the grace for the church to weep and make reparations for her sons and daughters who betrayed their mission, who abused innocent persons” and left life-long scars.

He told the men and women sitting in the pews that God loved them and he prayed that “the remnants of the darkness which touched you may be healed.”

In an effort to help the abuse survivors heal, the pope met individually with each one, accompanied by a loved one or family member and a translator, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, told journalists.

The pope spent a total of three hours and twenty minutes in closed-door talks with each person, showing the rest of the church that the path of healing is through dialogue and truly listening to victims, Father Lombardi said.

The Jesuit priest said the men and women were visibly moved by the Mass and meetings and had “felt listened to,” and that the encounter was “something positive on their journey” of healing.

The length and nature of the pope’s very first meeting with abuse survivors represent “a sign, a model, an example” for the rest of the church, that “listening is needed” along with tangible efforts for understanding and reconciliation, he said.

Responding to critics that the July 7 meeting and Mass were ineffectual and part of a publicity stunt, Father Lombardi said that if people had been able to see, as he had, the reactions of the men and women who took part in the private gathering, “it was clear that it was absolutely not a public relations event.”

The raw emotion on people’s faces, including the pope’s, as well as his strongly worded homily, all showed the effort had been about “a dialogue with a pastor and father who tries to understand deeply” the wrongs that have been committed and the need “to be honest about reality,” the Vatican spokesman said.

It was the first time Pope Francis met directly with a group of victims of clerical abuse, following a tradition begun by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who met with victims for the first time as pope in 2008 during a visit to Washington, D.C. The retired pope subsequently met with other victims during his pastoral visits to Sydney, Malta, Great Britain and Germany.

Pope Francis had told reporters in May that he would be meeting with a group of survivors of abuse from various countries and would celebrate a private Mass with them. The pope had asked Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, the head of a new Vatican commission on protecting minors, to help organize the encounter.

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which the pope established in December, met July 6 at the Vatican, and its members, including Cardinal O’Malley, were also present at the July 7 Mass.

The commission, which has eight members, including a survivor of clerical sex abuse, mental health professionals and experts in civil and church law, is tasked with laying out a pastoral approach to helping victims and preventing abuse.


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Bishop Malooly sees hope in Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision


Dialog Editor

Bishop Malooly sees a “glimmer of hope” for the protection of religious liberty at the close of the Fortnight for Freedom.

In his prepared homily for his July 4 Mass at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Wilmington, the bishop called the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 30 decision allowing for-profit businesses to be exempt from the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act for religious reasons, “a great day for the religious freedom of family businesses.”

The court’s decision found that closely held for-profit corporations, such as family businesses, can hold religious beliefs that exempt them from government requirements such as the contraceptive mandate for employee health insurance coverage.

Bishop Malooly cited the remarks of Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who praised the court’s decision regarding the HHS contraceptive mandate that allows the owners of Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties corporations “to continue to abide by their faith in how they seek their livelihood, without facing devastating fines.”

Bishop Malooly said that on the Independence Day close of the Fortnight for Freedom, the two weeks designated each year by the U.S. bishops for prayer, education and advocacy for religious liberty, “let us be reminded that it is our dependence on God that enables true freedom, true independence.

“Let us bring our anxieties to the Lord in prayer and let us experience the peace of God that surpasses all understanding as we celebrate with thanksgiving all our blessings. Hopefully, as the Declaration of Independence stated, we can continue to celebrate life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”



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Supreme Court rules some for-profit companies have religious rights, can’t be required to cover contraception


Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — In a narrowly tailored 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court June 30 said closely held companies may be exempted from a government requirement to include contraceptives in employee health insurance coverage under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.The court said that Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods, the two family-run companies that objected to the government mandate that employees be covered for a range of contraceptives, including drugs considered to be abortifacients, are protected from the requirement of the Affordable Care Act. The opinion essentially held that for-profit companies may hold protected religious views.

Pro-life demonstrators celebrate June 30 outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington as its decision in the Hobby Lobby case is announced. The high court ruled that owners of closely held corporations can object on religious grounds to being forced by the government to provide coverage of contraceptives for their employees. (CNS photo/ Jonathan Ernst)

But the court also said that government requirements do not necessarily lose if they conflict with an employer’s religious beliefs.

The ruling is not a slam-dunk for all entities that oppose the contraceptive mandate for religious reasons. The court noted that cases challenging the mandate for nonprofit entities, such as Catholic colleges and faith-based employers, are pending and that the June 30 ruling doesn’t consider them. The decision also did not delve into whether the private employers have religiously motivated protection from laws under the First Amendment.

It said the government failed to satisfy the requirement of RFRA, a 1993 law, that the least-restrictive means of accomplishing a government goal be followed to avoid imposing a restriction on religious expression.

The majority opinion said the ruling applies only to the contraceptive mandate and should not be interpreted to hold that all insurance coverage mandates — such as for blood transfusions or vaccinations — necessarily fail if they conflict with an employers’ religious beliefs.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote the primary holding, which was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote a separate concurring opinion, which agreed with the ruling, but made clear that while the opinion applies to the particular companies involved in this case, it’s not a sweeping condemnation of the key elements of the contraceptive mandate itself.

“It is important to confirm that a premise of the court’s opinion is its assumption that the HHS regulation here furthers a legitimate and compelling interest in the health of female employees,” wrote Kennedy in his concurrence. He went on to say that the federal government failed to use the least restrictive means of meeting that interest, pointing out that it has granted exemptions from the mandate for employees of nonprofit religious organizations.

“That accommodation equally furthers the government interest, but does not impinge on the plaintiff’s religious beliefs,” he wrote.

In her dissent with the main opinion, Justice Ruth Ginsburg called the court’s decision one of “startling breadth” allowing commercial enterprises to “opt out of any law” except tax laws that they “judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Ginsburg, joined on its merits by Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer, said she was “mindful of the havoc” the ruling could produce and noted that the court’s emphasis on RFRA failed to take into account the impact the decision would have on “third parties who do not share the corporation owners’ religious faith.” She said she believed the law was enacted by Congress “to serve a far less radical purpose.”

“Until today,” she wrote, religious exemptions have not been extended to the “commercial profit-making world” because these groups do not exist to foster the interests of those of the same faith, as religious organizations do. She also questioned why the court failed to make the distinction between a group’s members of diverse beliefs and members who share the same faith.

“The court’s determination that RFRA extends to for-profit corporations is bound to have untoward effects,” she said, adding that even though the court “attempts to cabin its language to closely held corporations, its logic extends to corporations of any size, public or private.”

As a result, she said, “RFRA claims will proliferate.”


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Sustaining Hope for the Future pledges at $16 million


For The Dialog


Bishop Malooly pleased by ‘generous response’ from Wave I parishes, Wave II effort begins in September

Twenty-one parishes participating in Wave I of the Sustaining Hope for the Future campaign have pledged almost $7.25 million to help the diocese and their local church.

The amount raised totals just under 80 percent of the combined goal for those parishes. In addition, three parishes conducting their own capital campaigns raised $5,300,000, which included almost $1.5 million for the diocese through Sustaining Hope for the Future. Read more »

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