In a Nov. 20th memo obtained by The Cardinal Newman Society, Gonzaga University President Thayne McCulloh has announced to faculty and staff that in response to the HHS mandate it will begin covering contraceptives starting next month.
While many Catholic colleges and dioceses are battling the HHS mandate on religious liberty grounds in court, Gonzaga, a Jesuit University, announced to faculty and staff that even while they vow to clearly communicate the Church’s position on contraception, they are “compelled by the federal government to fulfill our legal obligation under the mandate.” According to the memo, the university will begin covering contraceptives on December 1st, 2012:
Gonzaga is a Catholic and Jesuit university and as such demonstrates its membership in and fidelity to the Roman Catholic Church in many ways. One of these involves promulgating Church teachings as regards respect for, and the promotion of, human life. The Church has, since before the issue of the Apostolic Letter of Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae (1968) held that engaging in any action which has as its purpose interference with the (sexually) procreative process is both immoral and unlawful. This position is well known and has been affirmed by the Church many times since. While there are many opinions about the Church’s position on these matters, heretofore Catholic institutions, like Gonzaga, have been permitted to construct and maintain policies in accord with this position…
Irrespective of the specific issue (e.g. contraception), the mandate is seen by many as oppressive and as creating an unresolvable conflict between the obligation to promote and support Church teaching and the obligation to follow the law. While the conflict remains, we conclude that it is incumbent upon us as a Catholic Jesuit institution to ensure that the position of the Roman Catholic Church on the specific issue of contraception is clearly communicated, even as we are compelled by the federal government to fulfill our legal obligation under the mandate.
But McCulloh also wrote, “Gonzaga’s own health care coverage has not heretofore included coverage of contraceptive prescriptions, unless determined to be ‘medically necessary.” We have contacted the University but have not yet received an explanation why Gonzaga’s health plan would not be at least temporarily “grandfathered” to keep the health plan they had previously and thus avoid the dictates of the HHS mandate. Moreover, the Obama administration has indicated that it will not enforce the mandate against religious employers for one year — the so-called “safe harbor” rule.
Despite the fact that several Catholic colleges including Belmont Abbey College, Ave Maria University, Franciscan University of Steubenville, and the University of Notre Dame among others have filed suit against the HHS mandate, not one Jesuit university has joined them. McCulloh did write that the Board of Trustees commissioned the Legal Committee of the Trustees to evaluate options regarding the issue of a “friend of the court (amicus curiae) brief” in support of one of the cases pending in federal court opposing the HHS mandate.
Gonzaga isn’t the first Jesuit university to recently announce they’ll be providing contraceptive coverage. Even though Xavier University announced earlier this year that it would cease covering contraceptives, University President Fr. Michael Graham, S.J., suddenly reversed that decision and announced that the university will cover contraceptives for its 950 employees.
This article was originally published in Campus Notes, the blog of The Cardinal Newman Society (CNS). Founded in 1993, the mission of The Cardinal Newman Society is to help renew and strengthen Catholic identity in Catholic higher education. They can be contacted at: alert at cardinalnewmansociety dot org.