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Some Pennsylvania Catholic Colleges Hesitant to Follow Bishops’ Lead Opposing HHS Mandate

Peter Souza

Kelly Conroy - published on 11/27/13

Despite Pennsylvanian bishops' firm refusal to comply with the HHS Mandate, some Catholic colleges in their dioceses appear to be less resolute.

The bishops in Pittsburgh and Erie have stated that they will not comply with the HHS mandate, but some of the Catholic colleges in their dioceses appear to be less resolute.

Last week, Catholic Education Dailyreported that U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab granted an injunction to Erie Catholic Preparatory School—together with the Catholic Dioceses of Pittsburgh and Erie and several affiliated nonprofit groups—to continue offering employee health insurance that does not cover abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization, while litigation continues.

The charge was led by Pittsburgh’s Bishop David Zubik and Erie’s Bishop Lawrence Persico who stated that they cannot cooperate with the mandate because it violates their sincerely held religious beliefs.  Bishop Zubik told The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “I would not be able to live with myself knowing that we're contradicting what we believe.”

The three Catholic colleges located in the Diocese of Pittsburgh are Duquesne University, La Roche College, and Carlow University.  Duquesne and La Roche did not respond to inquiries seeking their response to Bishop Zubik’s recent statements, or whether or not they plan on complying with the mandate.

Carlow University does not have plans to pursue a lawsuit, although they did issue the following statement of “support” for their bishop:

As a Catholic institution, Carlow University supports Bishop David Zubik, as he leads the Diocese of Pittsburgh.  We are very interested in the outcome of the lawsuit, but have no plans to pursue a lawsuit on our own or in conjunction with other institutions.  On these matters, we continue to pursue a decision which reflects the best path for Carlow as a Catholic university.

The relative silence from Pittsburgh-area Catholic colleges stands in stark contrast to the statements by Bishop Zubik, who plans on combating the mandate for as long as it takes to win.  He told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after winning the injunction: “This is an absolutely critical decision. If it has togo to the Supreme Court, I'm moving with it all the way."

In the Catholic Diocese of Erie, Bishop Persico mirrored Bishop Zubik’s resolve to resist the HHS mandate.  Bishop Persico testified that signing the document would cause the Church to cooperate in the provision of “immoral” services and said, “I don't see how we could do it.”

The two Catholic colleges located in the Diocese of Erie are Mercyhurst College and Gannon University.

Despite exchanging several emails and phone calls with Catholic Education Daily, Mercyhurst declined to officially comment for this story.

Gannon University issued the following statement:

Our Gannon University community supports Bishop Persico and the efforts of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie to ensure our right to religious freedom and our ability to serve the community fully as a Catholic university.

Gannon University did not directly address in their correspondence with Catholic Education Daily whether or not the school will comply with the HHS mandate, or refuse to do so as Bishop Persico has stated he would do.

Originally published by The Cardinal Newman Society's Catholic Education Daily on 27 November 2013.

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