To read Bishop Noonan’s homily on the HHS mandate, click here.
To watch video highlights of the news conference, click below.
By Teresa Lantigua Peterson
Bishop John Noonan held a news conference on Feb. 25 to speak about the Catholic Church’s reaction to the Health and Human Services mandate that is historic in its attempt to reduce religious freedom, a freedom on which this country was built.
“It’s important to be clear on what the issues are – freedom and the first amendment, freedom of religion and conscience. You can’t mandate the Church to do something that’s against its teaching,” said Bishop Noonan.
The Diocese of Orlando hosted the news conference inside the chapel of St. James Cathedral to share concerns over the Health and Human Services ruling issued on January 20th mandating that contraception, sterilization and abortion inducing drugs be included at no cost to the insured in all health care plans.
On Feb. 10 President Barack Obama announced a revision that would exempt religious employers from paying for coverage. However, the revision would compel insurance companies to provide such services. The bishops of the U.S. have rejected this plan, insisting that it still forces people to pay for “services” that violate their religious convictions.
“This particular ruling is especially egregious in its disregard for the conscience protection of religious entities and for people whose religious beliefs may be in conflict with funding health care plans mandated to cover abortion or sterilization,” said Bishop Noonan.
Also speaking at the news conference were Fr. Jorge Torres, Diocese of Orlando Vocations Director, Dr. Peter Morrow, president of the Orlando Guild of the Catholic Medical Association and Dr. Patrick Mongan, a deacon and retired family physician.
“Birth control is not preventative medical care. Defining birth control as preventative care would make, in essence, defining children as diseases. In addition, one would then have to consider a women’s fertility or pregnancy as a disease condition which it most certainly is not,” said Dr. Morrow.
Dr. Mongan spoke of the changes he has witnessed over the years that are concerning. “For years we’ve been concerned about this erosion of moral values on our society and its effect upon the practice of medicine and a physician’s ability to practice according to their conscience,” said Dr. Mongan.
Bishop Noonan also affirmed the Church’s role in proclaiming the Gospel message which is life-affirming and promotes the dignity and value of human life.
“As heralds of the Gospel we are called to promote the dignity and value of human life and the liberty to express these values in society. At the heart of this issue is the full expression of faith in the world. Religious freedom allows us to express that uniqueness before the Lord, in whom we receive our meaning and purpose in the world,” Bishop Noonan added.
Following the news conference, Bishop Noonan celebrated the White Mass at St. James Cathedral. In attendance were doctors, nurses, hospital chaplains, ministers to the sick and others who care for the ill and dying. The purpose of the White Mass was to ask for God’s guidance upon all those involved in the ministry of health care. This is the first White Mass to be celebrated by Bishop Noonan in the Diocese of Orlando.