by Jerry and Anna Parisella
Dear Mr. Vice President:
We have been enthusiastic supporters of your and President Obama’s fair and wise domestic and foreign policies. There is one policy, however, that is unsupportable and is considered of such long-term, precedent-setting consequence that it trumps all other issues – the HHS Mandate.
We are respectfully writing to you, as our nation’s first Catholic vice president, in the hope that you will persuade President Obama to see what a profound error he is making in failing to include in the Affordable Care Act language exempting Catholic, or any bona fide religious-affiliated organization from the requirement to include in its employee health plans coverage for abortions, abortifacient drugs, sterilization and contraceptives.
Government compelling a religious-affiliated organization to support the provision of products or services that compromise its moral beliefs and teachings is an affront to personal conscience, religious liberty and the long tradition of separation of church and state.
As a respected legislator, you can recognize how the HHS Mandate, as currently written, violates the “free exercise” clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution – “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
As a Catholic, you presumably can appreciate how threatening the current HHS Mandate is to the conscience, codes of conduct and mission statements of the many Catholic hospitals, schools, universities and charities that have played a vital role in the development of this country and in meeting the health, education, financial and spiritual needs of the American people. Those Catholic organizations are not alone but are joined by numerous Orthodox, Protestant, Jewish and other religious-affiliated organizations that also find the HHS Mandate objectionable.
Our first Catholic President, John F. Kennedy, made a wise moral decision during the Cuban Missile Crisis, to look beyond the prevailing wisdom of most of his cabinet to bomb or invade Cuba and instead used backchannel negotiations to trade off missiles in Turkey, which were already slated for decommission. Perhaps it was Catholic moral teaching about the sanctity of life that guided President Kennedy to challenge the prevailing wisdom and craft a more elegant solution.
Perhaps it is providence now, Mr. Vice President, that we have in you, exactly 50 years later, the first Catholic vice president, in a position to privately persuade our current president of the wisdom of crafting a more elegant solution than the current HHS Mandate – one that serves the interests of all who depend upon and deserve healthcare without compromising religious-affiliated organizations which depend upon and deserve their freedom of conscience to operate without imposition of state values or financial penalties.
Jerry and Anna Parisella are parishioners of St. Mark, Sheepshead Bay, and St. Jean Baptiste, Manhattan.