You can't find much more of an uncomfortable clash than this one. In recent news, Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who is the leader of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese for Military Services, wrote a letter that he wanted read at all Sunday Masses being held for U.S. military personnel worldwide. Certainly, this is common practice. The topic and wording of the letter, however, were not.
How It All Started
On January 20th of this year, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius finalized part of the Obama health care plan that mandates that all health-care plans used in the U.S. need to cover sterilizations. In addition, it dictates that all FDA-approved contraceptives must be covered – even those that cause an abortion. In the law, there is a "religious" employer exemption but it only applies to organizations that mostly focus on church principals. Organizations, for instance, that are not exempt include Catholic hospitals, universities, and charitable institutions. Similarly, Catholic individuals, business owners and insurers would also have to follow the policy.
The Archbishop's letter said that this policy,
"Is a blow to a freedom that you have fought to defend and for which you have seen your buddies fall in battle." He went so far as to write that, “We cannot—we will not—comply with this unjust law.”
The problems then began when the Army's Office of the Chief of Chaplains spoke to their senior chaplains and said that Catholic priests who are Army chaplains should not read the archbishop's letter from their pulpits.
Storm of Controversy
This created a storm of controversy about the Obama plan, about First Amendment rights of the Catholic chaplains and about what is appropriate to say and what isn't. Archbishop Broglio complained to Secretary of the Army John McHugh, who is a political appointee of President Barack Obama. He explained that the attempt to quiet the Army chaplains and to influence them not to read the Archbishop's letter was a violation of his First Amendment rights to free speech and to the free exercise of religion.
Archbishop Broglio managed to get The Honorable John McHugh to concede that the Army was mistaken in trying to stop the reading of the Archbishop's letter. Archbishop Broglio had the line "We cannot – we will not – comply with this unjust law" removed from the readings.
Lambasting the White House Policy
In addition, in his letter to The Honorable John McHugh, Archbishop Broglio took the time to lambast the Obamacare regulations for violating the constitutional rights of Catholics and harming the freedom of religion. He wrote in his letter,
“It is imperative that I call to your attention to an alarming and serious matter that negatively impacts the Church in the United directly, and that strikes at the fundamental right to religious liberty for all citizens of any faith." He wrote, the federal government, which claims to be ‘of, by, and for the people,’ has just dealt a heavy blow to almost a quarter of those people—the Catholic population—and to the millions more who are served by the Catholic faith,” wrote the archbishop.
He continued, “In so ruling, the Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying Catholics our Nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty."