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Catholic Education Daily


Jenkins: ‘A Tough Decision’ for Notre Dame as They Re-file Lawsuit Against HHS Mandate

The University of Notre Dame will re-file its lawsuit against the HHS contraceptive mandate today, according to The National Catholic Reporter (NCR).

The university named after Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary, had originally filed suit last year, but the suit was dismissed in January 2013 because the mandate had not yet taken effect and the Obama administration had promised further accommodations for faith-based organizations seeking exemption. Since then, the administration announced that there would be no further accommodations and the mandate would take effect on January 1, 2014.  

Just last week, the Supreme Court announced that it has agreed to hear two cases challenging the controversial mandate, which requires organizations—including Catholic schools—to provide health insurance coverage for contraceptive and abortifacient drugs, as well as sterilization for its employees.

The Reporter provides the follow excerpt from Notre Dame’s complaint, which was filed in the U.S.District Court for Northern Indiana:

This lawsuit is about one of America’s most cherished freedoms: the freedom to practice one’s religion without government interference. It is not about whether people have a right to abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception. Those services are, and will continue to be, freely available in the United States, and nothing prevents the Government itself from making them more widely available. But the right to such services does not authorize the Government to force the University of Notre Dame (“Notre Dame”) to pay for, facilitate access to, and/or become entangled in the provision of products, services, practices, and speech that are contrary to its sincerely held religious beliefs. It does not authorize the Government to coerce Notre Dame to participate in a program whose central financial premise—“cost neutrality” through reductions in the number of childbirths—is antithetical to Notre Dame’s faith. Finally, it does not authorize the Government to require Notre Dame to facilitate and appear to endorse practices that Catholic doctrine considers morally wrong.

In an interview with NCR, Notre Dame’s president, the Rev. John Jenkins,said the decision to re-file the lawsuit was “a tough decision.

“In the end, I wasn’t comfortable with where it [the mandate] placed Notre Dame,” Jenkins said.

“What I couldn’t get around was that a right found in the Constitution and in prior legislation is now being granted as an accommodation to us at the discretion of the administration.”

Fr. Jenkins said the mandate “diminishes our religious freedom.”

The complaint states, “Notre Dame’s mission is just as central to Catholic faith and life as the mission of Catholic houses of worship.”

Fr. Jenkins rightly points out that the HHS mandate would curtail Notre Dame’s religious freedom.  His additional comment in today’s statement, “We have sought neither to prevent women from having access to services, nor even to prevent the government from providing them,” creates confusion though as to the university’s real resolve to oppose the mandate’s intent.

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