The leader of the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington D.C., refused on Wednesday morning to rule out closing one of the most venerable of Roman Catholic charities over a government mandate forcing it to provide employee healthcare coverage that includes abortion-inducing medication.
“It will depend on what the Supreme Court rules,” Cardinal Donald Wuerl, told me, referring to the case before the high court in which the Little Sisters of the Poor charity is challenging the mandate of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Wuerl made his remarks as he became only the second leader of any religious faith to be a guest at the Christian Science Monitor’s near-half-century press breakfasts (the first was the Dalai Lama, who appeared at the Monitor event in September, 1995).
Now 175 years old, the Little Sisters of the Poor provide care-giving for more than 13,000 elderly and dying poor in 31 countries.
Although the government exempts church-run ministries from the mandate requiring employee healthcare coverage with abortion-inducing medication, the Department of Health and Human Services has argued that the Little Sisters are not eligible for that exemption.
On July 14 of this year, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals came down with its second ruling against the Little Sisters, but a month later, the same judges issued a temporary reprieve until the Supreme Court rules on their status.
Should the high court uphold the 10th Circuit’s decision, the charity must either accept the mandate which violates its religious-based opposition to abortion or pay hefty IRS fines.
Some supporters of the Little Sisters recall that prior to the Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, which decided the government could not force family-owned businesses to provide abortion-inducing medication if it violated their religious-based convictions, the Green family (which owns Hobby Lobby) vowed to close their business in the event of an unfavorable decision.
Would Cardinal Wuerl and other church leaders urge the same course of action by the Little Sisters if the court rules unfavorably in Little Sisters v. Burwell?
Wuerl did not rule it out. “I think there is a distinction [in the application of the exemption] between those [organizations] that are for-profit and those that are religious,” he told me. “I think we’ll have to wait for the Supreme Court. Then we’ll know what we’re answering.”
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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