By now most Catholics are aware of the mandate of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services requiring employers to provide health services such as contraception and sterilization, even if such services violate the employer’s deepest moral principles.

The health care reform measure of the Obama administration also so narrowly defines a religious organization that the employer’s right to opt out of the mandate based on conscience is nullified.

President Obama therefore has incited a battle with one very large employer who is resisting this federally mandated coercion: the Catholic Church.

Contraception and sterilization are counter to the plan of love and life that God revealed, a plan that the Church has consistently taught. But more fundamentally, she is being forced to support such practices through insurance coverage for the health benefits of her employees.

Since the Church will not violate its own teachings, she would be forced to cease offering current services to all people and provide them only to Catholics.

Catholics must not allow the administration to define what services the Church may provide, and for whom, thus forcing the Church to withdraw into the margins of American society.

Important initiatives for all Americans, Catholics included, are coming this month. A rally for religious freedom will be held at Independence Hall June 8 at noon. The nationwide “Fortnight for Freedom” borrows the British term for a two-week period — June 21 to July 4 — in which heavy pressure will be brought to bear on the administration and Congress by Catholics through prayer, education and action.

Look for a parish bulletin insert this month on the importance of protecting conscience, or read it along with many other resources at

Everyone can get involved in some way: pray for our country and its cherished tradition of religious freedom; learn about the HHS mandate and the vigorous responses to it (visit; and write letters and emails, or call or visit elected officials about this issue. Rescinding the mandate or granting organizations a conscience objection, at the least, is the goal of the Fortnight for Freedom.

As Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik has said, “we did not pick this fight or this timing. This is the federal government’s choice to impose this on us now.”

And now is the time to oppose this power grab of the government into religious freedom.