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Forum at St. Cecilia Parish addresses HHS mandate

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February 16, 2012

By Mike Dyer

A very attentive and passionate audience heard and participated in a six-member forum and panel discussion opposing the U.S. federal government health mandate during a two-hour event at St. Cecilia Parish in Oakley Feb. 15.


The event was scheduled in response to the recent U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate that would require all institutions that provide health insurance to cover the cost of contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization for their employees.


The Obama administration late last week revised the contraceptive mandate offering an accommodation that shifted the costs to the insurance company instead of Catholic individuals and institution, but the panelists still believed the revision did little to change the concept of the policy overall.


“It is the most intolerant religious crusade that we have seen in centuries,” Msgr. Frank Lane said.


Msgr. Lane, who has been a pastor in several parishes in the Columbus diocese, was one of the panelists who took part in the discussion. Msgr. Lane articulated the church’s moral philosophy on life issues and said it is the duty of Catholics everywhere to stand up against the moral bankruptcy of contraception.


Msgr. Lane urged those in the audience to continue to pray and apply the sacraments in this time of crisis and to hold true to their strongly held beliefs.


“If the Catholics of the country authentically lived their faith, there would be no room for this happening,” he said.


Each panelist was given up to seven minutes to share their individual perspective before the discussion was opened up to questions from the audience. The panelists included Fred Summe, a lawyer and vice president of Northern Kentucky Right to Life who discussed the legal ramifications of the mandate and its relationship to religious freedom.


Dr. Andrew Sodergren, a licensed clinical psychologist and director of Ruah Woods Psychological Services in Green Township, spoke about the Theology of the Body and why the church is opposed to birth control from a spiritual perspective.


Kate Iadipaola, who has been a Chastity Outreach Coordinator for Pregnancy Center East and an advocate for a homeless shelter for women and children, has taught Theology of the Body Classes for the Diocese of Covington and Archdiocese of Cincinnati. She cited extensive scriptural references that the church uses in its stance against contraception. She also described the important role of the laity in educating Catholics and taking action against the health care mandate.


Dr. Arthur Kunath, a physician at Tristate Arthritis and Rheumatology in Crestview Hills, Ky., spoke about the medical dangers of the birth control pill and the other risks associated with it from a medical standpoint. He also offered insightful perspective as a Catholic doctor.


Jenn Giroux, a mother of nine children with her husband, Dan, has been a registered nurse for 26 years. She has been involved at the pro-life movement on a national level for over 20 years. She offered several real-life examples of how contraception and abortion have hurt women over the years.


Giroux also described how abortion has had several ill effects on society. Giroux has also worked to build a criminal case against Planned Parenthood.


The meeting began with a welcome prayer from Father Jamie Weber, pastor of St. Cecilia Parish. Those in attendance sang “God Bless America” before the panel started its remarks.


The audience seemed connected with each panelist in its own unique manner and a round of applause followed each of the individual’s talking points.


Father Weber estimated between 360-380 people attended the meeting. The church parking lot was nearly full about 20 minutes before the meeting started, and several pews were filled many rows deep a few minutes before it began.


Dan Egan, sacramental coordinator at St. Cecilia, helped to organize the meeting, along with other parish staff members. Egan said he received 30 emails inquiring about the meeting. He also said another parish requested the same panel for a future forum at a later date.


Father Weber said the idea for the meeting came up a few weeks ago after Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr wrote an open letter to the Catholic community against the Health and Human Services edict. Father Weber said his parish staff was instantly proactive about acting on the letter and scheduling the panel to help parishioners be well informed.


“(The staff) wanted to do something automatically,” said Father Weber, who has been the pastor for three years. “It takes some time to get this together; we knew we had to do it immediately, as fast as we could. …I’m not surprised we had 360 people. We started to have a feeling (it would be a large attendance).”


Dave Willig, a parishioner at St. Antoninus in Covedale for more than 20 years, was one of several individuals who posed a question to the panel. He said afterward the event was “outstanding” for discussion on the sanctity of life. He heard about the meeting through friends and Sacred Heart Radio.


“It’s great to see our church motivated,” said Willig, who is a co-chairperson for Pro Life and Pro Family at St. Antoninus. “Hats off to Fr. Jamie Weber. He is an outstanding young priest and is showing great leadership with our church. Somebody needed to take the ball and run with it because we need to move as one and really come together…against this evil.”


Dr. Kunath, who is a member of Divine Mercy Parish in Bellevue, Ky., said he was very impressed with the size of the audience. He said the audience was sympathetic to the panel’s message and hoped they were better informed because of it. He said he believes the people in the audience will carry the message with them and act on it in a positive direction for the church community.


“I think it’s almost a miracle that you can fill a church and be talking about why contraception is evil,” Dr. Kunath said. “That’s the true miracle. And maybe out of this evil, some good will come of it.”

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