Defending Catholic Identity in Health Care Reform

September 30 is the last day to submit comments to U.S. Department of Health & Human Services regarding religious exemptions for contraception coverage.

Benedictine College is proud to report that the three principal officers of the College — the president, dean and chief financial officer — all submitted testimony. So did our Dean of Students, College Minister, Vice President of College Relations and many others at the school.  Benedictine College is also one 18 colleges that joined with the Cardinal Newman Society in joint appeal.

Submit your comments here.   This is not a partisan political issue, but an issue of public response to a regulation in an existing law.

Dean of the College Dr. Kimberly Shankman submitted these comments:

“As the academic dean of a Catholic College, I am respectfully requesting, on behalf of my institution and others similarly situated, that HHS reconsider the exceptionally narrow religious exemption included in the “preventive services” mandate.

“As an institution of higher education, our mission is the education of men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.  The religious exemption in the draft regulations would not recognize our freedom to carry out this mission.  While the inculcation of religious values is not our primary purpose, (and, therefore, we do not qualify under the exceptionally narrow definition of a religious organization contained within the regulations) nevertheless, adherence to the tenets of our faith is an obligation central to our identity as a Catholic college.

“To provide contraceptive coverage would be contrary to our institutional commitment to the teaching of the Catholic church.  The religious exemption in the mandate is not broad enough to protect the legitimate conscience rights of institutions that have a well-founded and well-established commitment to religious principles and practices that would prevent them from conscientiously complying with the mandate.

“Therefore, I request that the mandate be removed in its entirety; failing that, I would ask that the religious exemption be broadened to be more consistent with existing practice, exempting organizations like ours from the burden of laws that contradict their very purpose and mission.”


Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes, author of The Rosary of Saint John Paul II and The Fatima Family Handbook, is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Kansas and hosts The Extraordinary Story podcast about the life of Christ. His book What Pope Francis Really Said is now available on Audible. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, Hoopes served as press secretary of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman and spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Aleteia.org and the Register. He and his wife, April, have nine children and live in Atchison, Kansas.