by Mother Mark Louis Anne, O.Carm.
The morning of March 23rd dawned warm and sunny. Unlike the Hudson valley, flowering trees were starting to blossom in Washington, D.C.. It was perfect weather for a rally, and one had been planned months in advance for the Little Sisters of the Poor Supreme Court case.
At the invitation of CMSWR, Sisters from California, Nebraska, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New York and other areas converged at the Little Sisters home on Tuesday, March 22 for an evening supper and briefing by the Becket Fund staff. They explained in detail the reasoning in the case. While the Federal Government granted an accommodation to religious organizations to have contraceptives and abortifacients paid for by the government and administered by the Sisters’ health plan under a separate section, this arrangement still remains ethically tied to the Little Sisters. Their refusal to sign the accommodation subjects them to fines of 70 million dollars per year. Curiously, large corporations such as Chevron, Exxon and Pepsi and grandfathered in and exempted. In addition, the US Military and some large cities do not have to abide by the contraception mandate. So, one in three employer plans are already exempt. The Becket Fund argues – why can’t religious organizations such as the Little Sisters be exempt as well. Contraceptives could be provided by government health insurance exchanges and leave religious groups to follow their consciences. That is an obvious win-win for all.
Sr. Mary Rose, Sr. Cyril, Sr. Jean Davis and I attended the rally, representing the Carmelite Sisters in the spirit of Mother Angeline, who would want us to support her beloved Little Sisters. We had a lovely ride down on Amtrak, and were welcomed overnight at the Paulist Center. Buses brought us to the Supreme Court on Wednesday morning, and we had placards and were in chant and song mode by 8:30 a.m. in front of the steps. (We were not allowed on them.) Planned Parenthood had a rally next to ours, but the two groups kept to themselves and were peaceful. There were representatives from other religions with us, some of whom were part of the court case, and many college students as well. Our own Stacey Jackson was also in attendance. About 10:30 we had a series of speakers talk briefly about the issues. One was the niece of Rev. Martin Luther King, who spoke passionately and read a Scripture passage. At 11:30 the oral arguments were over, and Little Sisters leadership along with the Becket attorneys came out of the Court building and down the steps to be interviewed by the press. There was a surge of cheers and song greeting the Sisters, and they felt the love and support of all. We then proceeded to a lunch sponsored by the Becket Fund at which we shared the table with the Provost of East Texas Baptist University, who gave us a school pin and a blessing to send us on our way. We then moved quickly to Union Station for the ride home. Carrying one of the signs with us, we were given thumbs up by a number of people in the street and on the train.
Our Sisters felt very blessed to be part of this event and were given hope by the warmth and support of so many people – especially the youth, some of whom were at the Court by 6:30 a.m. Please pray that the Court finds in favor of the Little Sisters so they can continue their ministry in peace. That is their great hope.
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