Catholic Free Press

Catholic Free Press Digital Edition

  • Feb
  • 9

Mandate is sad reminder for priest

Posted By February 9, 2012 | 1:50 pm | Lead Story #1

By Tanya Connor

The Obama administration’s attempt to force Catholics to support contraception, including abortifacients, brings back bad memories for at least one diocesan priest.
“I came from a Communist country and I have seen Communists killing innocent children before birth. I told them (parishioners) now I came over here, and my feelings are the same,” said Father Thien X. Nguyen, who left his native Vietnam after finishing high school in 1980. The associate pastor of St. Leo Parish in Leominster was telling parishioners about what Bishop McManus calls “a dangerous assault on religious liberty.”
In a letter to the diocese, the bishop expressed outrage that the United States government is mandating religious organizations to provide employees with health plans that cover sterilization and contraception, including abortifacient drugs, all of which the Church opposes. He asked to have the letter read at all parishes last weekend.
The new mandate, part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, is to take effect Aug. 1, 2012. Religious non-profit groups are to be given until Aug. 1, 2013 to comply.    The contraceptives and sterilization would be considered preventive health care and would be dispensed without a co-payment.
Father Nguyen said he read parishioners the bishop’s letter and preached about it, tying in the Scriptures of the day and his own experiences.
He said the attempt to force Catholics to support contraception and even abortion feels like what happened in Vietnam, and that it was emotional for him to recall living under Communism. He said he preached about how the devil exists and how people receive strength and courage to fight evil when they obey God.
“We have to fight,” he said. “Otherwise the next generation will be the victim of the administration’s decision.”
Families at the parish agreed, saying they need to stand up with their bishop, he said.
Msgr. Francis J. Scollen, pastor of St. Peter Parish and St. Andrew the Apostle Mission in Worcester, recounted a similar experience.
“People in our parish from other countries really could resonate with it, because in their countries the governments have invaded churches” and tried to tell the Church what to do, he said. These immigrants were supportive of the bishop’s message, he said.
“I would say it was well received,” he said of the letter. He said some people had not heard about the government mandate and some wanted more information. One question was whether the government has a right to tell religious institutions what to do if they receive federal money.
Msgr. Scollen said he invited people to talk further. Sometimes a homily does not provide sufficient time to address such an issue, which also calls for a question-and-answer period, he said.
“The whole issue is so significant; it certainly engages people’s attention,” said Father Michael J. Roy, pastor of St. Roch Parish in Oxford. He preached about it and read the bishop’s letter, because preaching about another topic would have put the topics in competition, he said.
At a coffee hour after Masses “that was the topic of conversation at many of the tables,” he said, adding that many people were happy the bishops were taking a strong stand.
He said this coming weekend he will put an insert in the parish bulletin in response to a fax which came  from Allison LeDoux, director of the diocesan Respect Life Office.
Mrs. LeDoux said Bishop McManus asked her to send the parishes additional information, including how to contact elected officials and websites to visit.
“Most of the reaction was very positive,” Father Paul M. Bomba, pastor of St. Theresa Parish in Blackstone, said of his parishioners’ responses to Bishop McManus’ letter, which he said he read and put in the parish bulletin. He said they also included the issue in their prayers.
“Bishop said pray about it; that’s Number 1,” he said.
A call to prayer concluded comments Father Walter J. Riley, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Worcester, said he made in conjunction with reading the bishop’s letter.
“I ask you also to please pray for the salvation of the soul of the person who heads the Department of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, a professed Catholic who directly supports this initiative, along with any Catholic politician who supports this,” he said, after asking people to contact their legislators.
He said this is not the first attempt to strip away religious liberty in the United States, but it is the most serious on a national scale, because it comes out of the White House.
“The Catholic Church will never, under any circumstances, oblige this administration, or any administration, with cowering to such unjust laws that contradict God’s law,” he said. “Legalizing abortion in this country is bad enough. Attempting to force religious institutions to directly participate in the process of death is unheard of.”
He said people must pray for the law to be overturned, or Catholic institutions will be forced to find another way of providing medical benefits to their workers.
“People I have spoken to have been encouraged that our shepherds have spoken up on this issue,” said Deacon Robert S. Connor Jr., who serves at Immaculate Conception Parish in Lancaster and also contacted friends and co-workers around the country.
Immaculate Conception’s pastor, Father Edward P. Lettic, read Bishop McManus’ letter and excerpts from a statement by Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and will speak about the issue again this coming weekend, Deacon Connor said.
He said he’s been reading letters bishops around the country wrote about this issue.
“It is up to the laity at some point to tell our bishops we’re behind them,” he said. He said he has also been encouraged by non-Catholics who have stood up with Catholics on this issue.
Like some other priests, Father Adam Reid, pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Webster, said he did not get much feedback about Bishop McManus’ letter last weekend because most parishioners left before he finished blessing throats for the feast of St. Blaise. One or two expressed surprise at what the government is trying to do and one expressed much concern, he said.
He said he made posters of an advertisement listing opponents of the government mandate from the website He said the ad ran in the New York Times and the Washington Post. He will hang the posters near the doors of the church for next weekend’s Masses, he said.
For more information on madate

By Tanya Connor

Bishop McManus said he has been getting good feedback about the letter about health insurance and religious freedom that he asked priests of the diocese to read at Masses last weekend, Allison LeDoux told The Catholic Free Press this week.
The director of the diocesan Respect Life Office said the bishop asked her to send additional information in a fax this week, because some priests were confused about how to use the website
In his letter, Bishop McManus recommended people visit this website of United States Conference of Catholic Bishops “to learn about more about this dangerous assault on religious liberty and how you can do something about it.”
In explaining this “assault” the bishop’s letter said: “The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that almost all employers, including Catholic employers, will be forced to offer their employees health care coverage that includes sterilization, abortion inducing drugs and contraception. Almost all health insurers will be forced to include those so-called ‘services’ in the health policies they write. And almost all individuals will be forced to buy that coverage as part of their policies.”
The new mandate, part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, is to take effect Aug. 1, 2012. Religious non-profits are to be given until Aug. 1, 2013 to comply.
“To correct the threats to religious liberty and rights of conscience proposed by PPACA, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act has been introduced in Congress (H.R. 1179, S. 1467),” says an Action Alert included in Mrs. LeDoux’s fax. This Action Alert from the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment asks readers to ask their U.S. Representative and two Senators to co-sponsor this Act and help enact it into law.
NCHLA acts as a public policy arm on federal matters for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Mrs. LeDoux says in her letter to priests faxed with the Action Alert.
She thanked them for reading Bishop McManus’ letter at Masses last weekend and says it was very helpful that many also made print copies available to parishioners.
“We encourage you to keep this in the public eye as much as possible,” she says. To assist them, she includes the Action Alert and a description of how parishioners can contact their legislators.
Following is a summary.
To obtain contact information by telephone call 202-224-3121
To contact legislators by e-mail:     See
Click on “Protect Conscience Rights.”
Click on “Send e-mail to Congress.”
Follow prompts.
(Your e-mail will automatically be directed to the right senators and congressman when you enter your zip code. You do not need to know who they are.)
All Massachusetts residents have the same two senators: Scott Brown and John Kerry. The website gives their contact information.
To find out which Congressman represents your district, see