Last April, Xavier University in Cincinnati made headlines when its president, Father Michael J. Graham, SJ, announced that the school would be dropping contraception and sterilization coverage from its health insurance plan as of July 1. That change was not implemented, however, and Father Graham now regrets his previous announcement, according to a recent interview.
In the spring, Graham reviewed Xavier’s insurance policies in light of the Obama administration’s mandate that all policies provide coverage for contraception and sterilization. The Jesuit university was already covering those services under its plan, and in an April 2 letter to the university community, Graham announced that this coverage would be suspended as of July 1, in the middle of the insurance plan period.
“As a Catholic priest and as president of a Catholic university, I have concluded that, absent a legal mandate, it is inconsistent for a Catholic institution to cover those drugs and procedures the Church opposes,” Graham said in his letter.
Now it seems Father Graham has changed his mind.
Graham’s original interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer is behind a firewall, but Inside Higher Ed has confirmed the details:
The policy change was announced in an interview with The Cincinnati Enquirer, although the decision was made earlier, said Kelly Leon, a university spokeswoman. In the interview, the Jesuit university’s president, the Rev. Michael J. Graham, said he faults himself for his handling of the situation. While he disagrees strongly with the mandate, he told the newspaper, he said he believes universities should set a moderate example for the nation. …
Xavier’s decision — which would have taken effect in the middle of the health insurance plan period, on July 1 — provoked an outcry from faculty and staff, in part because the decision would apply to married couples, non-Catholics, and those who did not agree with church teachings on birth control, and because it was made without consulting employees. Faculty met with Father Graham to express their displeasure, Leon said Friday, and he agreed to postpone the change until December.
When the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act in June, the university decided to continue covering contraception after all, since it would be required as of Aug. 1, 2013, anyway, Leon said.
In an e-mail to Inside Higher Ed, Leon said Father Graham reiterated his opposition to the contraception mandate as a violation of employers’ religious freedom. “Religious institutions have never been asked to violate their consciences in this profound a manner,” he said.