The Catholic bishops of Iowa are asking all Catholics to put a focus on religious liberty during their regular Lenten Friday practice of prayer, abstinence and fasting. Tom Chapman, a spokesman for the Iowa Catholic Conference, says they want to send a message about the Health and Human Services mandate requiring Catholic and other religious groups to cover medical services that go against their beliefs.
“I think the bishops thought that would be a good way really to try to reach all Catholics, even those who don’t necessarily always agree with the Bishops’ political position. But, I think that everybody can agree to ask for God’s wisdom for this situation, and to pray for a resolution that really respects the rights of the church, but also the role of government,” Chapman says.
The administration came out with an accommodation the president said would answer the concerns of Catholics on the issue. But Chapman says there’s still a problem.
“From our perspective, I think the mandate still goes too far,” Chapman explains. “One of the things that we are really trying to deal with is, it makes a distinction between our houses of worship, you know the churches, and our ministries.” He says you can have a particular parish that may be exempted, but something like Catholic Charities, hospitals and schools wouldn’t be exempt. “And we think that’s a real issue that we’d like to see dealt with.”
He says the mandate goes back to one thing. “From out perspective it’s the government forcing the church to violate our religious beliefs, so that’s the real issue we’re try to raise attention to,” according the Chapman. How will prayer help them out?
“Well certainly as Catholics and as Christians..we depend on God and we think prayer matters. And I certainly think that if all the people of Iowa and certainly the Catholics in Iowa would observe this day of prayer, and abstinence and fasting on Friday — that’s going to make a difference. Because what we’re really trying to do is be faithful to what God is asking us to do…I think if we pray for that wisdom, hopefully we’ll get it,” Chapman says.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case seeking to overturn the Federal Health Care plan and Chapman says if that happens, it would certainly be one way to solve the issue for Catholics. There are an estimated 500,000 Catholics in Iowa.