Friday, January 19, 2018
Opinion

Why the president is wrong

In all Roman Catholic churches in the Diocese of St. Petersburg last weekend, this letter from Bishop Robert N. Lynch was either read by the priest or distributed in the church bulletin.

Dear Friends in Christ,

On Jan. 20, President Barack Obama informed the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan that it was his decision that the Affordable Care Act regulations would require many Catholic institutions and agencies to provide mandatory insurance coverage for contraceptive procedures and medicines. As a consequence, all of our elementary and secondary schools, Catholic colleges and universities, Catholic Hospitals, Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services to name only a small sector of Church agencies affected may be required by August 2013 to provide these services and medicines under federal mandate. A huge piece of the wall of separation between Church and State has been breached and if allowed to stand, one has to wonder what the government might require next. Mandatory abortion coverage sometime in the future should not be discounted by anyone if we allow this regulatory implementation at this moment to go unchallenged.

The president and his secretary for Health and Human Services are willingly and willfully precipitating a constitutional crisis by causing this assault on the freedom of religion at the federal level. Their judgement cannot be allowed to stand. I am certain that our church will pursue both judicial and legislative relief in the days and months coming. I also believe that we will prevail in the end, most likely in the judicial approach. The latest action follows the denial of funding to a respected agency (Migration and Refugee Services) of the church to help female victims of sexual trafficking heal from the terrible wounds inflicted on them in this country. Why? Because the church agency refused to provide abortions and contraception as options for these women.

The lofty and hopeful words of the president at the time of his speech at Notre Dame three years ago about freedom of and respect for the religious conscience of all have been rendered questionable at best. What a tragedy and what a shame.

Those of you who have known and watched me over the 16 years it has been my privilege to be your bishop know that I have until now refrained from engaging in political discourse. But this is now a moral issue and the timing by the president leaves me no option but to inform you of what is happening which I believe to be an assault on the sacred. I and my brother bishops did not choose this moment, the president and Secretary Sebelius did.

I write to you in the hope that you might better understand the high stakes involved in this matter and that our efforts to overturn and reverse last week's decision can be the beneficiary of your prayers and support. For additional information on this matter, I refer you to the diocesan website (http://www.dosp.org) and to my personal blog articles which can be accessed through the same address.

John Carroll, our nation's first Catholic bishop, and the early Catholics of the 13 original colonies came to these shores to escape precisely this form of religious intolerance and tyranny. For well over two centuries we have enjoyed the pluralistic benefits of their vision for freedom for all religions in this land of plenty. We just wish to be left alone to follow the dictates of our conscience. This is indeed the worst assault on religious freedom by the federal government in a long time. It cannot be allowed to stand.

Wishing you every peace and blessing of this New Year, I remain

Sincerely yours in Christ

Most Reverend Robert N. Lynch, Bishop of St. Petersburg

Comments
Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

The death last fall of a 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge revealed pervasive dangerous behavior within the school’s Greek system. Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party, and a...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Editorial: Confronting racial distrust in St. Petersburg, one conversation at a time

The St. Petersburg Police Department’s heavy presence in Midtown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the community animosity it stirred have raised a familiar, troubling question: Can St. Petersburg’s racial divisions ever be reconciled?That big ideal ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

The state Board of Education hopefully sent the message this week with its warning shot about the slow pace of the turnaround at Hillsborough County’s low-performing schools.The board criticized the school system for failing to replace administrators...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18

Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18