Bishop Swain, when he was still Monsignor Swain, was pastor of Madison’s Holy Redeemer Church at the time he was appointed bishop of Sioux Falls. That was only a short while after I returned to the practice of my Faith, so I never met him, though I did attend a talk he gave here to Madison’s Thomas More Society (a Catholic lawyers’ group) on religious liberty, last fall. He’s clearly more than just talk–back home in South Dakota, he’s recently had to take action.
SIOUX FALLS, SD, March 18, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Catholic bishop of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, has taken action against a Catholic insurance agency that has chosen to cover contraception with no co-pay in order to satisfy the legal requirements of the Obama administration’s health reform law.
Bishop Paul Swain said the action of Avera Health Plans has created “public scandal,” because its practices are “inconsistent with Church teaching.”
The decision hits close to home, as the diocese of Sioux Falls is an Avera customer, although the changes do not affect the diocese’s policy.
He said the company’s CEO, John Porter, decided to begin covering contraceptives and abortifacients without seeking his blessing. “I was not consulted on the decision and disclosure was not made to me until after the expansion of coverage to include these immoral practices had taken effect,” the bishop said.
“Compliance with government requirements must not be viewed as licit reasoning for compromising moral teachings,” he added.
In a letter sent to diocesan priests and deacons dated March 1, Bishop Swain asked Jerry Klein, the diocese’s Delegate for Social Outreach, and Mike Bannwarth, Diocesan Finance Officer to resign from Avera Health Plans’ board and finance committee, respectively, “[t]o insure that their continued presence could not be interpreted as diocesan acquiescence and therefore cause an intensification of the scandal.”
Bishop Swain and insurance officials noted the change does not apply to any religious institution that qualifies for a “safe harbor” exemption, including the diocese itself. In all, the new policy affects 300 of Avera’s 3,000 customers.
Bishop Robert Gruss of Rapid City, which does not purchase insurance through Avera, also expressed his “disappointment” with Avera.
Read the rest of the article at LifeSiteNews.
Digging around on the Avera website, I found that “Avera is sponsored by the Sisters of St. Benedict of Sacred Heart Monastery of Yankton, S.D. and the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Aberdeen, S.D. In accord with its Catholic mission, Avera adheres to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.” But that seems not to be true now that they’re providing birth control and abortifacients through some of their plans.
As Bishop Swain says in his letter, “Avera will now be materially cooperative in the termination of life.” The president of Avera is a layman who says it was solely his decision. Remaining publicly silent is convenient for the Sisters, who get to continue in the insurance business but surely don’t want to jeopardize their congregations’ canonical status by indicating directly that provision of abortifacients is okay with them.
Good job Bishop Swain for standing up for what is right. I trust the two diocesan staffers will have the integrity to remove themselves from the Avera board. How about the Sister board members? “The Avera Health Board of Directors defines system-wide mission, vision and goals, keeping in mind the health needs of the entire region. The 16-member Board includes Benedictine and Presentation Sisters, physicians and business and community leaders from several locations in the Avera Health service region.”
Sisters, it looks to be time to get out of this business if it can’t be done anymore with Catholic integrity.