Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Thursday, April 26, 2018

GOSHEN – Archbishop Henry J. Mansell used the occasion of an Archbishop’s Annual Appeal thank-you dinner to remind Catholics that the Church cannot and will not comply with a government mandate to provide insurance that includes free contraceptive, sterilization and drug-induced abortive services to female employees.

"There is no way we could comply with that," he said.

He spoke at the Torrington Country Club in Goshen to an overflow crowd of nearly 300 donors and prospective donors to the appeal, which last year netted a record $9,791,564. He said that was $527,000 higher than the previous year’s total. Priests in the archdiocese gave an average of $1,366 each, he said.

In a video that was shown prior to his remarks, the archbishop said, "We measure success not in the dollars raised but in the lives made different, made better through your wonderful response to our appeal."

In his live remarks, Archbishop Mansell announced that the Malta House of Care van that serves Sacred Heart-Sagrado Corazon Parish in Waterbury will begin serving St. Francis Xavier Parish in Waterbury on March 7. Eventually that van will serve St. Margaret and St. Stanislaus Kostka parishes in Waterbury as well. A similar van operates in Hartford. Both provide free primary care medical services to uninsured patients, thanks largely to donations to the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal.

Then the archbishop addressed the controversy over the Jan. 20 and Feb. 10 announcements by the Obama administration concerning free coverage for women seeking contraceptive, sterilization or drug-induced abortive services. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Jan. 20 that religious organizations could delay but not opt out of the requirement that all health plans cover contraceptives and sterilization free of charge.

On Feb. 10, President Barack Obama announced a revision that allows religious employers not to offer such services to their employees but would compel insurance companies to do so.

Archbishop Mansell said the revision was "nowhere near a compromise. It’s again a trick" that would cost hospitals and other religious employers millions of dollars.

"One sixth of all the hospitals in the country are run under Catholic auspices," the archbishop said. "We’d have to leave those. Think of all the colleges and all the universities we’d have to leave."

Catholic Charities alone employs some 77,000 people nationwide, he said. "They [government leaders] have no idea the services they provide, without which society would not survive. Think of all the soup kitchens, all the food pantries, all the schools that are funded precisely because of the good will of our people, and they wanted [religious employers] to be paying for programs that are contrary to our fundamental beliefs. It’s a major, major violation of the fundamental principle going back to the Bill of Rights," he said.

He said he has been writing letters to the parishes about it, which have appeared in church bulletins, and his column in last month’s Transcript (before the Feb. 10 "compromise") also criticized the plan. He has spoken on several radio and television programs about it, including WJMJ-FM 88.9, the archdiocesan radio station operated by the Office of Radio and Television.

"We think of the Church over the centuries and how dictators and communists and all sorts of totalitarian governments tried to persecute the Church," he said. But this, he said, is happening in the United States, "the country that founded religious liberty."

He added, "It’s a major, major confrontation. Some would say, and I’ve said it in columns, that the war against religion has now begun formally in our country, so we have to stand up to fight it."

Before the dinner, many people told the Transcript that the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal is an important cause.

"I’d support any appeal the Catholic Church wants to have," said Barbara Mulville, an extraordinary minister of holy Communion at Immaculate Conception Parish in Norfolk.

Walter McManus, a parishioner at Immaculate Conception in New Hartford, said, "I’ve seen some of the presentations of things that they do for people in need. It’s a very worthy cause."

Bob Skinner of Torrington, a communicant at St. Thomas of Villanova Parish in Goshen, said he and his wife have been donating for years. "I just feel that it’s a good charity to donate to," he said.

Dr. Michael Tesoro, of St. Bernard Parish in Sharon, said, "The Malta House of Care I think is extremely important. We started the one in Waterbury, and now Waterbury is going to two days a week."

Robert Doyle of Litchfield, a parishioner at St. Anthony of Padua there, said he and wife Rita have given to the appeal for years and that he has recently become a volunteer driver for the Malta van in Waterbury. "I think it’s a fantastic program, and I see some of the results working in Waterbury in the last six months," Mr. Doyle said.

Barbara Williams, also a St. Anthony parishioner, said, "This is an appeal that gives back to so many charities and keeps it close to home, to the soup kitchens and the schools and the children, for Catholic education and the needy, the people that really, really need it."

Father Christopher Tiano, pastor of the Roman Catholic Cluster of Parishes in Torrington and head of the Litchfield Deanery, emceed the event and told the attendees, "Over the years, as a result of the extraordinary generosity and tradition of generous sacrifice, folks like you have enabled the archdiocese to address the needs in our communities, helping the less fortunate, providing training for pastoral ministries in individual parishes, assisting in the faith formation of the Catholic education of our young people, encouraging vocations and supporting retired clergy, just to name a few."

(A Catholic News Service article was used in this report.)