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Boston Archdiocese Threatens To Stop Offering Employee Health Care

In a sharply worded letter sent to parishioners on Sunday, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley said forcing Catholic churches to cover the cost of birth control for employees is violation of Catholic consciences. (AP)

In a sharply worded letter sent to parishioners on Sunday, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley said forcing Catholic churches to cover the cost of birth control for employees is violation of Catholic consciences. (AP)

The Archdiocese of Boston says it may stop offering health insurance for its employees if the Obama administration does not relax a new rule that requires many church-affiliated employers to cover the cost of birth control in employee health plans.

In a sharply worded letter sent to parishioners, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley called the rule a violation of Catholic consciences. Citing the Church’s longstanding opposition to contraception, O’Malley wrote:

In its ruling, 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.

O’Malley’s letter was one of many sent out to parishes across the country at the behest of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The debate continued Monday morning when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius argued in USA Today that the health care policy exempts Catholic churches — thus protecting freedom of religion — but not Catholic-run institutions like hospitals or universities, institutions that often employ non-Catholic workers.

Is this ruling on birth control and health care an attack on religious freedom? We put the question to Father Bryan Hehir, secretary for health care and social services for the Archdiocese of Boston.


  • Father Bryan Hehir, secretary for health care and social services for the Archdiocese of Boston


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  • Kelly Rush

    Cathlolics can’t be allowed to become second-class citizens.  Really, why not?  They’ve been trying to keep the LGBTQ community second class citizens for years!

    • Anonymous

      They can’t even come up with their own rhetoric.

  • Mary

    Really? Why the Catholic Church holds sway over so many is baffling. They get this upset about birth control after years of vile and inhuman violence against children committed by their own staff? Where was the outcry then…

    It makes sense though. An organization run by men that wont allow birth control or the right to control your own body as a woman.

    It is hard to believe this isn’t just a really bad movie that we are watching, instead of actual people.

  • phk

    I see this issue as similar to the war protesters who didn’t want to pay taxes that would go to support war. The law was tested multiple times, and it is clear that you can be compelled to pay taxes for things that you oppose on moral grounds.

    Catholic institutions are free to remain opposed to birth control, while still offering insurance that covers birth control for those employees who want it. Those employees that follow the church teachings about birth control won’t be using this feature of their policies.

  • Clare

                Health insurance itself does not mandate that anyone use a specific covered service. The Roman Catholic Church can continue to persuade individuals to accept their teaching that every time they have a sexual relationship they should also be open to having a child. Those individuals who accept the teaching would not be expected to use contraceptive pills, or get a vasectomy, or anything else to prevent pregnancy and childbearing, so would not offend their Roman Catholic employers or cause them to pay for these services. I doubt that Catholic employers would want to limit their employees to those that subscribe to this teaching, nor should they.
                Most of the employers that offer health insurance to employees that the Roman Catholic Church claims as part of their mission and as institutions of the church are also operating as businesses in competition with others, for example, schools and hospitals.  They should follow the same rules as other businesses of that type, otherwise they should not receive government funds or be providers for government sponsored insurance such as Medicare.
                I believe we should uphold a separation between religious doctrines and policies of our secular state. There are many views about sexuality and reproduction in our society, but the vast majority of us want everyone to have access to good health care and to have options for when we use specific services. I do not believe a mandate to provide different options for health care should invoke a “conscience clause” because it does not mandate that anyone take advantage of what is only possible.

  • Grabbit

    The stand that cardinal o’malley and the catholic church are taking regarding birth control will be the final blow that sends me and my family running to practice our christianity elsewhere.  How do you spell episcopalian?

    • Don

      I believe that if the Episcopal Church offered Saturday afternoon/early evening services, they would attract a large turnout of Roman Catholics. 

    • Linda

      Then how will you receive the Body and Blood of Christ?

    • Christian

      This isn’t about birth control but about the government control over religion. Bit by bit are freedoms are eroding.  What will be next?

      Don’t become an apostate over an issue you clearly don’t understand.  The Church, begun by Christ himself, and protected by the Holy Spirit, has good reason for opposing birth control. Approach the subject with an open heart. Pray and then pray again. Talk to a priest. Find out why the Church has such an opinion.

      Life leads to light which leads to the Lord.
      Death leads to darkness which leads to the Devil.

      It is your choice. But before you choose to leave the Church, you ought to know what you’ll be losing.

    • http://twitter.com/hotcommodities William Conti

      I hope you leave now.

  • Don

    When birth control coverage is offered in a health insurance plan, it doesn’t mean that the beneficiary will utilize the coverage offered if it’s against their religeon.  The cardinal’s concerns really mean that his “faithful” flock will go astray and practice birth control.  He’s admitting that he flat out doesn’t trust his people.

    This is a new version of pro-choice which now means one has a right to utilize the provisions built into their health insurance coverage.  Where does it say this is an intrusion or an attack on religious freedom?  The Catholic Church is attacking their members personal right to choose health coverage for their families, or worse, not provide health coverage at all.  Absurd!

    Can you imagine a powerful Christian threatening not to provide insurance for thousands of the sick?  Getting sick in this country is a financial disaster, and without proper coverage, people soon die! 

    Jesus healed the sick and fed the poor.  The cardinal will see that the sick will not heal, and they shall be poor.

    • Celticguy47

      How is the pill saving lives? Who will die if they are not sterilized?

      • Kerri1057

        But Viagra is covered?? Won’t that lead (im)potent men to fornicating outside the sanctity of marriage? And what about the unmarried women who fornicate with said men?

        • dj85

          Viagra is not covered by health insurance. Actually it was covered for a short time by medicare until they realized what it was and then stopped coverage.

    • josif58

      The Archdiocese will still be paying for the the coverage whether the beneficiary uses it or not. Will the church be forced into performing same-sex Marriages next?

  • Peter

    Why do I look for reasoned argumentation in the comments section?  People are missing the point completely.  Their personal dislike or anger is clouding the ability to give a well thought out argument…

  • http://twitter.com/hotcommodities William Conti

    All Catholics who disagree with the  Catholic Church founded by Jesus Christ on doctrine please leave as soon as possible. We have to cleanse the Church of the weak. 

    • Kerri1057

      I was not aware that the Catholic Church was “founded by Jesus Christ”. Thought it was Christianity, not solely Catholocism, which came about centuries later. Also, glad you outted the cafeteria-line catholics who are oh so pius..go to church weekly, but who use birth control; get divorced and receive communion without first getting that marriage anulled; cheat; use racist/sexist/ageist language and behavior; don’t turn the other cheek;or, treat their neighbor as they would like to be treated. The church pews would indeed be half empty.

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