Louis Hannegan, Managing Editor
University of Dallas President Thomas Keefe said last Tuesday that UD will follow the directives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on how to respond to the Health and Human Services mandate that requires employers to cover contraceptives, abortifacients and sterilizations in insurance plans.
“We will take directions from the Catholic Church of America,” Keefe said in an interview that day. “We are allowing them [the U.S. bishops] to take the lead.”
According to Keefe, the USCCB is currently working with the United States Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate an exemption from the mandate for Catholic institutions of higher education.
These institutions include UD and the 218 other Catholic colleges and universities that will follow the lead of the USCCB on how to respond to the mandate.
The exemption being sought would allow these institutions to provide health insurance to their faculty, students and staff without being required to include contraceptives, abortifacients and sterilizations in that coverage.
“We’ve been encouraged that a positive resolution is forthcoming,” Keefe said.
The one-year exemption from the mandate for religious institutions – the so-called “temporary safe harbor” – expires Aug. 1 of this year. Beginning in 2014, institutions that fail to cover contraception will face fines of up to $100 per employee per day. Institutions that fail to provide insurance will face fines ployee per year.
When asked if providing contraception were an option, Keefe said, “No, not at this time.
“If the bishops direct us to accept a compromise, then we will follow the directions of the bishops. We will take our cues from the bishops. We won’t do anything that the bishops of the United States Catholic Conference don’t approve and direct us to do.”
Throughout the conversation, Keefe stressed the national character of this issue.
“And we won’t do anything without discussing it with Bishop Farrell, but this is larger than Bishop Farrell; this is a United States Catholic issue, and it has to be dealt with collectively,” Keefe said.
Keefe also emphasized his confidence that institutions like UD would not have to choose between maintaining full fidelity to the Magisterium and providing insurance.
“We are looking forward to a resolution that allows us to maintain unflinching fidelity to our faith and quality benefits to our employees. I’m confident that with the grace from the Holy Spirit, we will have a compromise that will allow us to meet those two criteria.”