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Appeals court rejects EWTN, other Catholic groups objection to religious mandate

February 22nd, 2016 Posted in National News Tags: , , ,


ATLANTA — The head of the Eternal Word Television Network said Feb. 18 that a federal appeals court ruling handed down earlier that day in effect orders the Catholic global network “to violate its religious beliefs and comply” with the federal contraceptive mandate or “pay massive fines to the IRS.”

“We are extremely disappointed that the court has refused to protect our religious freedom,” Michael P. Warsaw, EWTN chairman and CEO, said in a statement.

In a 2-1 decision, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta upheld the Health and Human Services mandate that is part of the federal health care law.

In one decision, the panel ruled on two cases. One was filed by EWTN, based in Irondale, Alabama, and the other was filed by Catholic entities in Georgia — the Atlanta archdiocese, Catholic Education of North Georgia Inc. and the Savannah diocese.

The majority opinion rejected the Catholic organizations’ argument that complying with a requirement it opposes on moral grounds violates its freedom of religion. The decision also dismissed the groups’ position that they would be unduly burdened by the Obama administration’s “work-around” whereby they could notify HHS in writing of their religious objections and a third-party administrator would be told by the government to provide the objectionable coverage at no charge to employees.

However, the ruling also said the HHS mandate should not be enforced until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the issue. The high court will hear oral arguments March 23 in Zubik v. Burwell. The case groups together several plaintiffs, including the Little Sisters of the Poor. A ruling from the court is not likely until late spring.

Under the federal Affordable Care Act, most employers, including religious ones, are required to cover employees’ artificial birth control, sterilization and abortifacients, even if employers are morally opposed to such coverage. Only religious employers who fit narrowly drawn criteria are exempt.

Catholic and other employers who are not exempt also argue that by complying with the “work-around” they are still involved in coverage they oppose.

Writing for the majority, Judge Jill Pryor of the 11th Circuit said that Congress included the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act “to improve women’s health and public health generally.”

“There is no evidence whatsoever that the mandate was enacted in an attempt to restrict religious exercise,” she said.

Judge Gerald Tjoflat, in a strongly worded dissent, said the two-judge majority was running “roughshod over the sincerely held religious objections” of the plaintiffs.

“At bottom, the majority’s reasoning takes aim at the heart of RFRA itself,” he said. Tjoflat was referring the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which says that the government “shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless that burden is the least restrictive means to further a compelling governmental interest.


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Parishes hold ‘watch celebrations’ for those who can’t see pope live



For The Dialog

LEWES – Bernadette Cajina had a ticket to last Sunday’s Papal Mass in Philadelphia, but a leg ailment made that impossible.

So Cajina, using a crutch, went to St. Jude the Apostle’s parish hall where she joined about 200 others to watch Pope Francis via Eternal Word Television Network.

“I guess I wasn’t meant to be there,” said Cajina, a member of the St. Jude pastoral council who chairs the adult faith formation committee. “That’s fine. I’m here, and [Pope Francis’] message is coming through.”

“It’s a beautiful message of mercy and love, unconditional love, that he’s trying to share.” Read more »

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EWTN to air documentary on Father Balducelli, Jan. 29



The good news is EWTN will broadcast “A Man for Others: The Life of Father Roberto Balducelli,” on Jan. 29.

However, the Catholic cable channel will show the documentary at 5 a.m. Thursday, so Father Roberto admirers will have to set their DVRs to record the hour-and-a-half program, if they don’t think they’ll be awake before dawn.

Fr. Roberto Balducelli

Fr. Roberto Balducelli

EWTN reportedly first scheduled the program for a Sunday afternoon, but bumped that time for a rebroadcast of the Jan. 22 March for Life.

In its schedule, EWTN describes “A Man for Others,” this way:

“The life and work of Italian immigrant priest Father Roberto Balducelli of the Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware, who had been an inspiration to everyone who knew him, from victims he aided during World War II to the local Italian community.”

“A Man for Others” is directed by Nina Juliano, who grew up as a parishioner of St. Anthony of Padua in Wilmington and attended Padua Academy.

Juliano included an interview with Father Balducelli in a previous piece she directed “The Essence of the Spirit,” an hourlong film that profiles a Philadelphia priest and nun, in addition to Father Balducelli.

When Juliano talked to The Dialog in 2013, she said her film centering on Father Balducelli might include an interview with Father Balducelli’s sister, Maria.

An Oblate priest for 77 years, Father Balducelli, a native of Italy, served as a priest and pastor of St. Anthony’s for 77 years. He died in August 2013 at 100.


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