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Editorial
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Mar. 03, 2016 -- 12:00 AM

An order of Sisters has been quietly caring for the elderly for many years. Founded by Sr. Jeanne Jugan in 1839 in France, the Little Sisters of the Poor now serve in over 30 countries of the world.

The Sisters’ website describes their mission “to offer the neediest elderly of every race and religion a home where they will be welcomed as Christ, cared for as family, and accompanied with dignity until God calls them to himself.”

Living out their mission

Their vision, the Sisters say, is “to contribute to the Culture of Life by nurturing communities where each person is valued, the solidarity of the human family and the wisdom of age are celebrated, and the compassionate love of Christ is shared with all.”

The Little Sisters of the Poor have been living out their mission and vision day in and day out in caring for elderly persons in homes located throughout the world, including 29 homes in the United States. The closest homes to the Diocese of Madison include two in Illinois (Chicago and Palatine) and one in St. Paul, Minn.

For the most part, the Little Sisters of the Poor have stayed out of the news. They have dedicated their lives to living with and caring for the elderly poor. They have focused on service, not on advocacy or policy.

Fighting for their beliefs

But nonetheless, the Little Sisters of the Poor now find themselves in the spotlight as they fight for their religious beliefs. They have refused to go along with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate requiring them to provide contraceptive services to their employees.

This is how the Sisters explain it: “After promising that the Little Sisters’ religious beliefs would be protected, the government created a new regulation requiring the Little Sisters to change their healthcare plan to offer services that violate Catholic teaching.”

They point out that one in three Americans do not have a plan that is subject to the mandate HHS is fighting so hard to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to follow. Exxon, Chevron, and Pepsi — as well as other large corporations — are exempt from the mandate, because they never changed their plans and are grandfathered. And the government is not even requiring our own US military to provide these services through their family insurance.

The government is arguing that since it has offered to reimburse the costs of the services it wants the Little Sisters to provide, they should have no moral objection to offering them. But the Little Sisters are saying this is not about money, but conscience, and whether they should be forced to change their healthcare plan to offer services to which they have a moral objection.

The Sisters say there is an easy solution that protects the Little Sisters’ religious freedom and the right of the government to offer these services to women who want them. Rather than trying to force religious plans to offer these services, the better solution is for the government to provide these services through the Affordable Care Act healthcare exchange to any employees who want them but can’t get them through employer plans.

Coming before Supreme Court

In the meantime, their case is coming before the U.S. Supreme Court on March 23 in a consolidated case called Zubik v. Burwell.

Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, announced that on Tuesday night, March 22, Priests for Life will lead a national prayer rally for religious freedom in front of the U.S. Supreme Court from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. There will also be a rally outside the court on March 23.

Those who cannot be present at the rally are invited to join in a prayer campaign at www.SupremeCourtVictory.org

The Little Sisters say they never wanted this fight and just want to get back to caring for the elderly in need. Please join in praying for a successful decision by the Supreme Court so they can do just that.

 
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