The recent expansion of the HHS mandate exception is long overdue. The Little Sisters of the Poor — who serve so faithfully in our own diocese — along with other religious and leaders from faith-based institutions, made their case for exceptions to the mandate very publicly and convincingly. And, it seems, their tenacity is beginning to pay off.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop William Lori, chair of the bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty, issued the following joint statement: “The Administration’s decision to provide a broad religious and moral exemption to the HHS mandate recognizes that the full range of faith-based and mission-driven organizations, as well as the people who run them, have deeply held religious and moral beliefs that the law must respect. Such an exemption is no innovation, but instead a return to common sense, long-standing federal practice, and peaceful coexistence between church and state. It corrects an anomalous failure by federal regulators that should never have occurred and should never be repeated.”
Common sense indeed. While litigation over the mandate in court will likely continue, the broadening of the exception is a significant first step. Almost on cue, within hours of the announcement from the administration, accusations of religious tyranny and gender inequality were sounded vociferously and raucously. It is hard to hear common sense over the din of misleading and unsound polemic. Common sense may have fallen on hard times, but it’s still the most accessible measure of reality. And in this case, we are grateful it has carried the day.