Newspaper of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Hark the herald angels: How sacred music evangelizes, lifts up hearts
Msgr. Vincenzo De Gregorio, director of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music, is pictured at an organ at the institute in Rome Dec. 6. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)   VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- 'Tis t...

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Witnesses recall New Year’s Eve cathedral blaze of 60 years ago
Written by Jack Sheedy
Left, people gather to watch firefighters attack the blaze as it rages near the towers of the cathedral. The roof eventually collapsed after being completely involved in flames. At right, firefighters...

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Museum featuring crèches of Germany
Written by Mary Chalupsky
German Nativity scene by Egon Wolfsgruber is placed inside a barrel with polychrome wood figurines. (Photo courtesy of the Knights of Columbus Museum)  NEW HAVEN – With its ancestral heritage, c...

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Pope Francis meets Martin Scorsese, director of 'Silence,' at Vatican
VATICAN CITY (CNA/EWTN News) – On Wednesday, Pope Francis added world famous director Martin Scorsese to the list of Hollywood stars he has welcomed for a private meeting in the Vatican, following a...

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Theater review: ‘The Front Page’
John Slattery and Nathan Lane in “The Front Page” (Photo by Julieta Cervantes)NEW YORK – Because of Nathan Lane’s presence in the cast,  the revival of “The Front Page” has attracted attention an...

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Sacred music: a St. Mary tradition
Written by Mary Chalupsky
Nicholas Renouf, director of music at St. Mary Church in New Haven or four decades, accompanies the Schola Cantorum during a noon Sunday Mass at St. Mary recently. (Photo by Mary Chalupsky) NEW HAVEN...

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Retirement Fund for Religious helps when communities can’t
Written by Administrator
Campaign photo for the 2016 Retirement Fund for Religious collection, which will take place Dec. 10-11 in most parishes. (Photo by Jim Judkis) WASHINGTON – The annual Retirement Fund for Religious ...

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Hark the herald angels: How sacred music evangelizes, lifts up hearts
Hark the herald angels: How sacred music evangelizes, lifts up hearts
Witnesses recall New Year’s Eve cathedral blaze of 60 years ago
Witnesses recall New Year’s Eve cathedral blaze of 60 years ago
Museum featuring crèches of Germany
Museum featuring crèches of Germany
Pope Francis meets Martin Scorsese, director of 'Silence,' at Vatican
Pope Francis meets Martin Scorsese, director of 'Silence,' at Vatican
Theater review: ‘The Front Page’
Theater review: ‘The Front Page’
Sacred music: a St. Mary tradition
Sacred music: a St. Mary tradition
Retirement Fund for Religious helps when communities can’t
Retirement Fund for Religious helps when communities can’t

Latest Commentary

ARCHBISHOP

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, I wish all of you a holy Advent and a Christmas...

LOCAL

HARTFORD – Reverend Ivan Dario Ramirez and Reverend Israel Rivera have been incardinated in the Archdiocese of Hartford by Archbishop...

WORLD

Women religious gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington March 23, the day the high court heard oral arguments...

ARTS

Gabrielle Union and Colman Domingo star in a scene from the movie "The Birth of a Nation." (CNS photo/Fox) NEW...

FROM OUR READERS

ENFIELD – John Berube, president of the parish council of St. Bernard Parish, thanks Father John P. Melnick, pastor, for...

YOUTH

BRANFORD – More than 300 people attended the 10th annual Archbishop’s Columbus Day Breakfast, held at the WoodWinds this year...

20131115cnsbr2563 webPeople hold signs during a 2012 rally outside the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington against the government mandate (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has asked President Barack Obama to exempt religious institutions from fines related to health insurance requirements while legal challenges work their way through the courts.

"The administration's flexibility in implementing the (Affordable Care Act) has not yet reached those who want only to exercise what has rightly been called our 'first freedom' under the Constitution," wrote Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky.

In a Dec. 31 letter, he asked Obama to extend the same kind of temporary exemption from penalties for noncompliance with the ACA that the administration has allowed for small employers and individuals whose current insurance plans will be canceled.

The letter described those allowances as "actions to advance the ACA's goal of maximizing health coverage, while minimizing hardships to Americans as the act is implemented."

Archbishop Kurtz said a whole category of Americans "has been left out in the cold: those who, due to moral and religious conviction, cannot in good conscience comply with the (Health and Human Services) regulation requiring coverage of sterilization and contraceptives.

"This mandate includes drugs and devices that can interfere with the survival of a human being in the earliest stage of development, burdening religious convictions on abortion as well as contraception," the letter said. It noted that at least 90 lawsuits representing almost 300 plaintiffs have been filed to challenge the mandate. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear two of the cases, and several lower courts have found merit in the claims and granted at least temporary relief to the institutions and businesses. Other courts have yet to take up the cases. Still others have ruled the employers must comply.

Archbishop Kurtz asked the president to consider that, under other actions by the administration, no employers will be required to offer a health plan at all, and that employers face no penalty in the coming year for canceling coverage.

However, he added, "an employer who chooses, out of charity and good will, to provide and fully subsidize an excellent health plan for employees -- but excludes sterilization or any contraceptive drug or device -- faces crippling fines of up to $100 a day or $36,500 a year per employee. In effect, the government seems to be telling employees that they are better off with no employer health plan at all than with a plan that does not cover contraceptives. This is hard to reconcile with an act whose purpose is to bring us closer to universal coverage."

The letter said the result is "a regulation that harshly and disproportionately penalizes those seeking to offer life-affirming health coverage in accord with the teachings of their faith."

The archbishop added that he realizes the legal issues will ultimately be settled by the Supreme Court.

"In the meantime, however, many religious employers have not obtained the temporary relief they need in time to avoid being subjected to the HHS mandate beginning Jan. 1," he wrote. "I urge you, therefore, to consider offering temporary relief from this mandate, as you have for so many other individuals and groups facing other requirements under the ACA."