Acton Institute Powerblog

U.S. Catholic Bishops Correct Biden’s Debate Inaccuracies

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The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement regarding remarks made by Vice-President Biden during last night’s debate.

According to the debate transcript from the Washington Post, Biden stated,

With regard to the assault on the Catholic church, let me make it absolutely clear, no religious institution, Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic Social Services, Georgetown Hospital, Mercy Hospital, any hospital, none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact.

The Bishops responded, in part:

This is not a fact. The HHS mandate contains a narrow, four-part exemption for certain “religious employers.” That exemption was made final in February and does not extend to “Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital,” or any other religious charity that offers its services to all, regardless of the faith of those served.

HHS has proposed an additional “accommodation” for religious organizations like these, which HHS itself describes as “non-exempt.” That proposal does not even potentially relieve these organizations from the obligation “to pay for contraception” and “to be a vehicle to get contraception.” They will have to serve as a vehicle, because they will still be forced to provide their employees with health coverage, and that coverage will still have to include sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients. They will have to pay for these things, because the premiums that the organizations (and their employees) are required to pay will still be applied, along with other funds, to cover the cost of these drugs and surgeries.

The fact is: Joe Biden got his facts wrong.

Elise Hilton Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.


  • Ryan

    You confound two concepts (as Catholic Organizations have continuously done since the beginning of this debate):

    1. The employer provided healthcare benefits an employee is entitled to under law.
    2. The requirements a religious healthcare provider (meaning someone who actually administers healthcare, not simply a religious employer) to administer health options which that organization religiously disagrees with.

    Biden correctly addressed the second point yesterday (as Democrats consistently have done). Under the ACA, a hospital, or other healthcare provider, is not required to administer medical options they object to on religious grounds (contraception, abortion, etc.). [Example: A doctor in a religious hospital saying no, we do not provide contraception here]

    However, under the law, a religious organization cannot deny its employees (employees that may have differing religious views) from making available private health insurance plans from a private insurer which includes such options. [Example: A religious missionary that provides private healthcare benefits to its employees must allow those employees choose the plan they want (even if such a plan includes religiously objectionable benefits), since it is the individual’s plan.]

    Either the USCCB is being purposely disingenuous, or does not understand this important distinction. What this law says is that Religious organizations can make religious choices for their business, but when it comes to the individual, they cannot impose their own decision upon employees. Such a view maintains a consistent respect for personal and religious liberty.

    Seems to be a stronger view of religious freedom than what the USCCB condones… Just as the hospital doesn’t want to be told what type of medical care it must dispense, so too does the employee not wish to be told which type of medical care it can have access to.

    • Nonsense. The USCCB understands perfectly well what the Obama administration is up to. Read this exhaustive, 21-page legal analysis from the bishops’ General Counsel on the so-called accommodation published in May. Here, for example, is Point 5:

      … however the term “religious organization” is ultimately defined, the Administration’s suggested “accommodation” for such organizations, as described in the ANPRM, will not relieve them from the burden on religious liberty that the mandate creates. Under the ANPRM, the central problem for insured plans remains: conscientiously-objecting non-exempt religious organizations will still be required to provide plans that serve as a conduit for contraceptives and sterilization procedures to their own employees, and their premiums will help pay for those items. For self-insured plans, the Administration has invited comment on a number of different approaches. As a practical or moral matter, none of them will solve the problem that the mandate creates for non-exempt religious organizations with a conscientious objection to contraceptive coverage.

    • Brian Wood

      the employee does have access to any type of medical care they want. If they want something that is not given to them by their employer, they should buy it themselves. My employer does not pay for my cough drops – so by your logic they are denying me access to cough drops??

  • stephen healy

    i wonder if they are correcting paul ryan’s views on social justice and help for the poor.? this catholic is voting for obama biden

    • Kevin

      how can you claim to vote for social justice when the most oppressed social group gets overlooked? The unborn.

    • David Todd

      Then that “Catholic” is voting to allow people to immerse themselves in the culture of death in order to insulate themselves from the consequences of their immoral sexual actions. And that “Catholic” is ignoring the fact that it is NOT the responsibility of the government to redistribute wealth to insulate those who make bad choices from the financial consequences of THEIR actions. Bottom line: the government isn’t supposed to enable its citizens, but rather to allow them to empower themselves. And that is what Romney/Ryan is all about.

    • The Obama/Biden ticket is pro abortion, pro murder. Social justice can not be weighed against infanticide. Very few informed Catholics can claim ignorance of the Democratic Party’s stance on this issue. This means you will be cooperating with intrinsic evil. Jesus, through His Catholic Church calls us to sacrifice. In this case we are called to sacrifice political affiliation, social justice views and other long held ideas. The Holy Spirit led you to this site, you are being called to be holy. Don’t miss the opportunity. I will pray that you reconsider.

    • Rachel

      Except that the Romney/Ryan plan actually helps the poor become middle class or rich, while the Obama/Biden plan keeps them poor. It is important to examine the facts rather than to “think” with emotions. This Catholic woman will vote for Romney/Ryan.

    • EternalAnachronism

      Stephen, you must not be well catechized, because you’re mixing apples and oranges. The Church teaches that direct abortion is ALWAYS morally evil, and must be opposed by Catholics and prohibited if possible. As for “social justice” (a silly term for helping the poor), the Church teaches that while we have an obligation to help the poor, good Catholics can disagree on how best to accomplish that. There is no teaching that it must be done through government. In fact, charity ALWAYS starts with the individual.

      Anyway, when describing yourself, you were right to spell “catholic” with a lower-case c.