Outreach at risk

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The June 4 letter “Twisting Freedom” from the Rev. Rob Keithan of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice contains a great deal of misinformation.

The Catholic bishops are not spending millions of dollars in their effort to defend faith-based institutions against government threats to everyone’s religious freedom. Several public interest and private law firms are defending us at no cost to the church. We are deeply grateful for this. Although the Rev. Keithan seems to believe that America should hold a referendum on how to practice the Catholic faith, a basic American principle is that the majority cannot impose its views on the minority, especially in matters of religious faith and practice.

The question on the table in the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act is not who agrees with or follows a tenet of a particular faith, but whether we as a nation believe in the right of each person or church to follow its own tenets without undue pressure. The government will impose staggering fines if a faith-based agency does not violate its foundational beliefs and comply with this mandate to facilitate access to contraceptives, including those that can cause early abortions, and sterilization.

In the case of Catholic Charities of Pittsburgh, the fines would amount to millions of dollars each year. This would likely force us to close our doors and end more than 230,000 annual acts of service to those in poverty, including free medical care, counseling, housing assistance, support for seniors and many other crucial safety net services.

No one is forced to work for a Catholic institution against his or her will. Many of our employees choose to work here precisely because they share our sometimes countercultural values. Contrary to the Rev. Keithan’s assertion, those values include a very high priority commitment to ending poverty and violence. Our church spends many millions of dollars each year to aid those who struggle with the plight of poverty. It is not the church putting that outreach at risk — it is the federal government.

Executive Director
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh

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