Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 20, 1971 when parishioners settled on a site for the new St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Oxford.
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LSP Ill Have NUN of ItIf you would like one of the Little Sisters’ “I’ll Have NUN of It” buttons, visit the website

A few weeks ago, I received a New Year’s card that read, “This will be the best year yet.” We Little Sisters of the Poor are fervently praying that 2016 will be remembered as the year we were able to return to our quiet lives at the service of the elderly after a happy resolution to our long legal struggle over the HHS contraceptive mandate.

Although we had never before involved ourselves in politics, in March of 2012, we felt compelled to publicly voice our opposition to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ contraceptive mandate. Since then, our convictions, based on Catholic teaching, have taken us from the District Court of Colorado to the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court, and finally to the U.S. Supreme Court, where our case will be heard in oral argument this March.

Along the way, we have received hundreds of supportive notes, along with more than a few negative comments, including the following, often voiced with a note of disdain: “Why don’t you stop being so stubborn and just sign the form?” This question refers, of course, to the so-called “accommodation,” which the federal government hoped would silence all the conscientious objections to the mandate.

Form 700, more commonly called “the form” or “the piece of paper,” is not what a lot of people think it is.

Contrary to how it is often presented, Form 700 is neither a simple declaration of conscientious objection, nor an “opt out” regarding the HHS contraceptive mandate. Form 700 is a permission slip. Signing it would allow HHS to commandeer the infrastructure of our health care plan in order to use it to distribute abortifacients and contraceptives to our employees. In other words, signing Form 700 would involve us in formal cooperation with wrongdoing, which is never permissible under Catholic doctrine.

Not only would such cooperation with moral evil constitute grave sin on our part, but it would likely also cause scandal, leading others to sin as well. This is serious stuff, especially for women like us who are devoted to the service of the church. Through our vow of hospitality we are bound, in the eyes of God and the church, to upholding the sanctity of human life, from the moment of conception until natural death.

Very simply, Form 700 involves the taking of innocent human life. That is why we cannot “just sign the form.”

Throughout the four years of this legal journey, I have found courage by turning to the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us on our earthly pilgrimage. Specifically, I often think of Saint Thomas More, and of the Old Testament figure Eleazar.

The story of Saint Thomas More is well known, thanks in part to the classic movie, "A Man for All Seasons." Thomas More was imprisoned for refusing to sign an oath acknowledging Anne Boleyn as King Henry VIII’s legitimate wife and recognizing the king’s authority as head of the newly formed Church of England. A year later he was beheaded after famously proclaiming that he was “the king’s good servant but God’s first.”

Each time I watch "A Man for All Seasons," I am inspired by Thomas More’s responses to those who tried to persuade him to “just sign the oath.” Using the proverbial “everyone else is doing it” argument, the Duke of Norfolk suggests, “Why can’t you do as I did and come with us, for fellowship?” Refusing to compromise his convictions, Thomas responds, “And when we die, and you are sent to heaven for doing your conscience, and I am sent to hell for not doing mine, will you come with me, for fellowship?”

Saint Thomas More’s daughter then pleads with him to consider the impact of his actions on the family, suggesting that he “take this oath with your lips, but think otherwise in your heart.” Again Thomas resists the temptation to fall into dissimulation. “Daughter,” he responds, “what is an oath but words you speak to God?” Obviously, Saint Thomas More couldn’t “just sign the form.”

Thomas More’s integrity is indeed inspiring, but my favorite martyr of religious liberty is Eleazar, described in the Second Book of Maccabees as “one of the foremost scribes, a man advanced in age and of noble appearance.” As he faced torture and death because he refused to defile himself by eating the king’s food, friends of the old man pulled him aside and tried to persuade him to “fake it” by secretly eating his own provisions. But Eleazar feared the scandal he might cause the younger men by compromising the prescriptions of their faith, so he died honorably, proving himself worthy of his old age and “leaving in his death a model of nobility and an unforgettable example of virtue” (2 Mac 6:31).

I hope that these reflections help to clarify why we cannot “just sign the form” with regard to the HHS contraceptive mandate’s so-called accommodation. To do so would allow the federal government to commandeer our health plan. It could cause scandal by giving the example that it’s okay to ignore clearly stated Catholic doctrine. And it would no doubt lead to the taking of innocent human life through the use of abortifacient drugs. Inspired by Eleazar and Saint Thomas More, we feel compelled to affirm that we wish to be good citizens and servants our nation’s elderly, but faithful daughters of the church first.

Sister Constance Veit is the communications director for the Little Sisters of the Poor in the United States.

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.