An Open Letter on the Health Care Mandate

by Thomas More College on February 6, 2012

February 2nd, 2012

The Honorable Kelly Ayotte
United States Senate
144 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-2904

The Honorable Frank C. Guinta
United States House of Representatives
1223 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-2901

The Honorable Jeanne Shaheen
United States Senate
520 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-2903

Dear Senators Ayotte and Shaheen, and Congressman Guinta,

I am writing to you on behalf of the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts to raise my grave concern over the recent decisions made by the Obama Administration regarding mandated health care requirements.

The actions manifest in the Health and Human Service’s Interim Final Rules on Preventative Services (File Code CMS-9992-IFC2) and the January 20 statement by Secretary Sebelius are an insult to and direct attack against long-standing practices of the Roman Catholic Church in the manner in which it has governed its own affairs and been a good steward to a significant body of social services in our country.

These decisions constitute an offensive mandate which erodes public trust that the government will observe the required restraint needed to allow citizens to exercise constitutional liberties.  It calls into question the administration’s willingness or ability to work within the western tradition of constitutional and natural law principles.

This mandate is equally a direct violation of the conscience of any practicing Roman Catholic.  To condition the availability of medical benefits upon a community’s willingness to violate a cardinal teaching of its faith effectively prevents the full practice of its religion and thus—again—violates the free exercise of a constitutional liberty.

This mandate presumes competence and authority on the government’s part in the construction and administration of health care plans for employees of independent businesses.  The law chiefly targets one group within the United States: Roman Catholics.  This intention is evident in the subsequent meetings that the President and members of his administration have undertaken with Archbishop Timothy Dolan and other Catholic leaders, as well as through the White House’s attempt to close all discussion on the mandate and compel observance of it.

No social injustice was evident before the mandate.  It is farcical to attempt portraying birth control as a civil rights issue or suggest that it is tantamount to racial discrimination for a religious community or private association to not include full and free coverage for birth control, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs amongst its medical benefits.  No public case was ever made; no public consensus called for this mandate.  Its introduction clearly creates an undue burden without any sign of compelling interest.

This mandate casts human life and pregnancy in the same category as diseases to be prevented, and it reduces the beauty and goodness of human sexuality to an individual, utilitarian, and dangerous act.  If birth-control, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs are to be considered curative—as the administration desires—one must ask what is it that they “cure” or “prevent”?  Human life itself is now placed into a category of social burden, which the government now claims the competence and authority to control and define.  Such an action undermines the very purpose of the Department of Health and Human Services.  Whose health and which human is protected by this mandate?   Human life itself, by being put under the same category as heart disease, cancer, or syphilis, becomes a threat to health.  By promoting this mandate, the Department plays a treacherous game with language and the very meaning of health.  It debases the meaning of words and cripples our ability to pursue the common good with prudence and rationality.

As Thomas More College’s representatives in Washington, DC, you are in a position to do great good and prevent great harm.  I hope that you will see that the mandate attempts to force self-identified and faithfully Catholic organizations to compromise central tenets of their belief or drop health care coverage for their employees.  Furthermore, I hope that you will see that the mandate undermines the Constitution, compromises the integrity of the government, and abuses the foundational principle that free associations form an essential part of the social fabric of the United States.

Like you, I took an oath upon assuming my office as President of Thomas More College.  Each year, I renew this oath with the entire College faculty (who voluntarily make a similar profession).  At the heart of our oath are the words:

With Christian obedience I shall follow what the Bishops, as authentic doctors and teachers of the faith, declare, or what they, as those who govern the Church, establish.

The health care mandate calls me to renounce an oath that I have taken publicly and solemnly before God.  I cannot do this.  The enforcement of the health care mandate may place other Catholic College and University presidents who have voluntarily taken this oath in grave peril—torn between civil disobedience toward their own government or disloyalty to their Catholic Faith.  Is such a dilemma now to become the norm for men and women of conscience and religious faith within the United States of America?

On behalf of my College, I would urge you to take all legitimate steps to work towards the withdrawal of this mandate from law, as well as the creation of laws with regard to this issue that clearly secure the constitutional liberties and principles of justice which sustain our country.

Rev. Peter Libasci, the Bishop of Manchester, has stated clearly in a letter dated January 26th of this year that “we cannot—we will not—comply with this unjust law.”  His letter has been widely circulated, as have the letters of over three quarters of the Catholic Bishops of the United States.  They speak with one voice on this matter.  I will stand by my oath and with my bishops.  I hope that in so doing I will not be forced to stand against my own country.


William Edmund Fahey, Ph.D.

cc: Barack Obama, President of the United States of America
Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services
Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston
Cardinal Daniel Dinardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, Chair, U.S. Bishops Committee of Pro-Life Activity
Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York City, President, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
The Most Reverend Peter A. Libasci, Bishop of Manchester

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