Catholics here set protest over health-plan issue

Posted: March 21, 2012

THE FUROR over requiring religious institutions and nearly all other organizations to cover contraception in their health plans comes to Philadelphia on Friday.

Local Catholics and pro-life supporters will rally at Independence Hall at noon in opposition to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate.

Last month in his online weekly column, Archbishop Charles Chaput called the mandate a "bad law with very dangerous implications." He said the mandate should be rescinded because it forces some Catholic employers to violate their own beliefs.

Only churches are exempt from the mandate but not their affiliated charities or universities. President Obama recently has signaled a willingness to expand some exemptions, but religious advocates say they shouldn't be required to do anything that contradicts their faith.

"This is a religious liberty issue," said Steven Bozza, 57, director of the Archdiocese's Respect Life Office, who helped organize the rally. "This is not a contraceptive issue."

Bozza, who teaches biology and theology at Immaculata University, said people shouldn't be surprised about restrictive policies at religious institutions.

"If you go to a Chinese restaurant are you expecting to see lasagna on the menu?" he asked rhetorically.

Area Catholics have welcomed Chaput's vocal opposition, said Rocco Palmo, 29, a Philadelphia native and creator of the religious blog "Whispers in the Loggia."

"There's a new sheriff in town and he is very different than those who came before him," he said.

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