As Catholic officials across the country decry the Obama administration’s new birth control policy that would force religious institutions to provide their employees with free contraception, local officials are also concerned that the mandate would put them in an uncomfortable position between their morality and their duty to do what’s right for their employees.
Sister Kathy Nace, principal of St. Rose High School in Belmar, said she is grateful that Church officials are fighting the policy, but is worried about the decision she might be faced with if the mandate, scheduled to take effect Aug. 1, 2013, remains unchanged despite nationwide protests.
If religious institutions are not granted an exemption from the policy, schools and hospitals across the country, including St. Rose, may be forced to decide whether to continue providing healthcare coverage for their employees even if it means possibly going against their beliefs.
Nace said she is waiting to see how things shake out before making a decision that would still be more than a year away, but admits she’s not comfortable being put in a position to act out of accord with Catholic beliefs.
“I want to obviously provide the best healthcare for our faculty and staff and for our families, but I also know that I don’t want to be put in a position where I’m making a moral decision that goes against what I believe,” Nace said.
Nace said that the idea of losing the ability to provide healthcare for her teachers and staff "jeopardizes the very fabric of what we’re able to do here."
Bishop David M. O'Connell of the Diocese of Trenton released a video this week on the diocese's website bashing the policy, claiming it considered "abortion-inducing" drugs as preventative services.
O'Connell said that despite many appeals by the U.S. Bishops and outraged Catholics, the federal government has refused to broaden the policy's religious exemptions.
"Such an affront to religious liberty constitutes an unprecedented assault on the consciences of Catholics — 25 percent of the United States' population," O'Connell said.
Nace said that her teachers deserve healthcare coverage and she is hopeful Church officials can pressure the federal government to change its mind.
“Our teachers justly deserve fair compensation, and I want to be able to provide the best for them,” Nace said. “I’m grateful to hear that there might me some movement for allowing us a little more freedom of religious choices.”
But it appears the battle is only beginning.
“I think we’re all just waiting,” Nace said.
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