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Opinion

THE CATHOLIC SPIRIT • JULY 3, 2013

/ This Catholic Life

Setting record straight on assessments, archdiocesan finances

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he article in the June 23 StarTribune that ran under the headline “Twin Cities Archdiocese seeks bigger cut of collections,” got it wrong. The article included misinformation and left out important facts. The StarTribune has so far refused to print a correction or the response that I submitted to set the record straight. The StarTribune article attempted to connect two unrelated financial items. One is a possible capital campaign that is still being evaluated by Thomas an exploratory committee consisting Mertens of a broad range of Catholic organizations. This committee is still carefully examining the results of a very recent feasibility study. Its decision to move forward or not is totally unrelated to anything else cited in the article. The other item concerns changes to the parish assessment formula. Directly opposite of the impression left by the headline and the article itself, the truth is that our parishes will see their assessments decrease or remain flat. The article fails to report that changes to the assessment include the elimination of a 1 percent surcharge that some parishes now pay for distribution of The Catholic Spirit newspaper. The net result is that the archdiocese will actually receive a smaller portion of weekly plate and envelope collections — not a larger one — as the story’s headline states. To be clear, our newspaper will not be eliminated, just the 1 percent assessment. In fact, the reasons for the changes to the assessment were precisely to simplify the formula, correct potential inequities between parishes and support parishes with Catholic schools. These were material facts covered in our conversations with the StarTribune reporter, but were inexplicably left out.The net effect left the readers with the opposite of the truth. (For an accurate story about the forthcoming changes in the assessment, see “Parish assessments help to fund ministries in local Church” in the May 23 issue of The

Commentary

“The reasons for the changes to the assessment were precisely to

simplify the formula, correct potential inequities between parishes and support parishes with Catholic schools. These were material facts covered in our conversations with the StarTribune reporter, but were inexplicably left out.

THOMAS MERTENS Chief financial officer, Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

Catholic Spirit or online at THECATHOLICSPIRIT.COM.)

Increase in giving The StarTribune article also supposes — incorrectly — that giving to the Catholic Services Appeal (CSA) would have been higher had we not financially supported the marriage amendment. This is simply untrue. The reporter knows the facts, but they didn’t make their way into the article. First, giving to the CSA between 2007 and 2011 actually increased. It is well-established that charitable giving decreased substantially during this period, which included the worst economic crisis this country has endured in decades. The archdiocese, however, saw overall giving increase in this same period. Further, giving to the CSA over the last year increased again, and we surpassed our goals. In fact, we are on track for another strong giving year, for which we are deeply grateful to the tens of thousands of families who provide this important support for the good work of the Church, which includes millions of dollars dedicated to Catholic Charities and Catholic schools. The reporter made the additional claim that the $650,000 we gave in 2011 in support of the marriage amendment came from “investment income and special

donations.” As we stated clearly in a Jan. 31, 2012 news release, the source of these funds was “investment income; it did not come from . . . donations to parishes or to the archdiocese.”

Foundation mischaracterized Lastly, the article referred to the Aim Higher Foundation (AHF), which is a completely separate entity from the archdiocese. As education is the key to the strength of our economy and the health of our community, the mission of the AHF is to expand access to a life-changing Catholic school education to more families who could not afford it otherwise. It is not to “work to increase enrollment and funds for Catholic schools,” as the story said. There is an important and fundamental difference between AHF’s mission and how it was characterized in the article. StarTribune readers and Catholics of this archdiocese have a right to know the facts. We strive every day to be faithful stewards of the generous support we are provided so that the Catholic Church may continue to support and serve our communities. Mertens is chief financial officer of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Why we need conscience rights in health care

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Faith in the Public Arena Sarah Schaefer

No health care professional should have to leave her conscience at the door when she goes to work

he need for conscience protection in health care is rapidly increasing as the Obama administration mandates that most insurance plans cover so-called “preventive care” services, which include abortifacient drugs, contraception and sterilizations. Additionally, cutting-edge biotechnology has developed all sorts of methods, drugs and procedures that, for example, allegedly permit people to change sexes, conceive children outside of sexual intercourse, and manipulate their genetics to produce more desirable traits. The growing prevalence and insurance coverage of these procedures and services is an immense concern. However, the urgent issue is the lack of conscience protection for health care professionals who have moral or religious objections to participating in these procedures. For many of our physicians, nurses and pharmacists, these developments pose a crisis of conscience in which they are forced to choose between their religious beliefs and their career.

Today’s challenges It is morally illicit to perform abortions, sterilizations and in-vitro fertilizations as well as distribute contraceptive and abortifacient drugs. It is also morally illicit to pay for, or refer people to others for those services or products. The growth of these procedures under the auspices of legitimate medi-

cine puts the health care professional who wants to adhere to Church teaching in a seemingly loselose situation: participate in these acts and violate her beliefs, or decline and succumb to the employment discrimination charges and other penalties that, under current law, could likely result. No health care professional should have to leave her conscience at the door when she goes to work. Thus, legislation is needed to provide her with the right to decline to participate in these services and procedures.

Current landscape Despite the gloomy horizon regarding the high demand for these morally problematic procedures, there are several federal laws that provide conscience protections for abortions and sterilizations. The three most notable are the Church, Coates/Snow and Hyde/Weldon amendments. The Church amendment is the main legislative protection. It grants

individuals and federally funded institutions the right to object to sterilization or abortion procedures without fear of discrimination or liability. Coates/ Snow adds protection for involvement in abortion training, and Hyde/ Weldon prohibits discrimination for refusing to refer or pay for abortions. These statutes are a good start — but only a start. They do not provide for the integral “private right of action” that would allow victims of conscience discrimination to bring a case to court. Some provisions only address discrimination by governmental entities. And, furthermore, the Hyde/Weldon amendment must be renewed annually as an amendment to the Labor/HHS appropriations bill, thus making it vulnerable to legislative changes. Their most considerable shortcoming, however, is that they do not cover anything beyond abortion or sterilization procedures.

In progress Just this past March, Congresswoman Diane Black (R-Fla.) introduced the Health Care Conscience Rights Act, H.R. 940, which would

amend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to provide for greater conscience protections. This bill is being considered right now in Congress. The Health Care Conscience Rights Act is a major step for conscience rights in federal law. It expands the “religious employer” exemption in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services contraception mandate to protect all individuals and employers from being required to pay for contraception insurance. Moreover, it provides for a private right of action and codifies the Hyde/Weldon amendment, thus securing Hyde/Weldon’s federal discrimination and liability protections. It also extends these protections to the full range of health care providers. This legislation is heartening, and has received strong support from our bishops. This archdiocese is currently sponsoring a postcard campaign to encourage our congresspersons to support this legislation, which has been introduced in both houses.

At the Legislature Minnesota law contains provisions that allow health care professionals and institutions to refuse to participate in abortions (Minn. Stat. Ann. § 145.414 and 145.42). These statutes also shield from any liability or discrimination that may result from refusal to participate. PLEASE TURN TO PROTECTIONS ON PAGE 11

The Catholic Spirit - July 3, 2013  

Crossroads Walk, Immigration Reform, History Day Winners, Supreme Court Marriage Rulings,Vince Flynn

The Catholic Spirit - July 3, 2013  

Crossroads Walk, Immigration Reform, History Day Winners, Supreme Court Marriage Rulings,Vince Flynn