Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki sent an email to pastors, deacons and parish directors Jan. 31 with an attached letter explaining the church’s opposition to the Department of HHSletterRead the letter that Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki sent to pastors, deacons and parish directors Jan. 31 to be used as a pulpit announcement or bulletin insert.Health and Human Services’ decision requiring all health plans to provide contraceptive coverage and sterilization free of charge.

According to Catholic News Service, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Jan. 20 “that nonprofit groups that don’t provide contraceptive coverage based upon religious beliefs will get an additional year ‘to adapt to this new rule.’”

Archbishop Listecki is communicating the “seriousness of this decision” to the people using a letter that its recipients can use as a pulpit announcement or bulletin insert to make parishioners “aware of the decision and the reasons for the Church’s opposition to the mandate.”

He explained in the letter, written in conjunction with the U.S. bishops and bishops of Wisconsin, that the mandate has a direct and negative impact upon the U.S. church and “strikes at the fundamental right to religious liberty for all citizens of any faith.”

The archbishop wrote that the administration’s ruling forcing almost all employers to offer employees health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs and contraception denies Catholics religious liberty, the “nation’s first and foremost fundamental freedom.”

“We cannot – we will not – comply with this unjust law,” the archbishop said in the letter, outlining two options for Catholics.

“As a result, unless the rule is overturned, Catholics must be prepared to either violate our consciences or to drop health coverage for our employees (and suffer the penalties for doing so),” he said in the letter.

The archbishop said he hopes Catholics will stand up and protect the church’s sacred rights and duties as past generations have by committing “to prayer and fasting that wisdom and justice may prevail, and religious liberty may be restored,” but also by educating themselves on the ruling and contacting Congress “in support of legislation that would reverse the administration’s decision.”

“We cannot stand idle and allow the infringement of government in the practice of our faith,” he said.