The gloves are finally off.

(CNS News) — Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who leads the Roman Catholic Archdiocese for the Military Services, wrote a letter to be read at all Sunday Masses for U.S. military personnel around the world that said that a regulation issued by the Obama Administration under the new federal health care law was “a blow” to a freedom that U.S. troops have not only fought to defend but for which some have recently died in battle.

“It is a blow to a freedom that you have fought to defend and for which you have seen your buddies fall in battle,” the archbishop wrote.

Another line in his letter said: “We cannot—we will not—comply with this unjust law.”

The message from the archbishop touched off a controversy both in and outside the military when the Army’s Office of the Chief of Chaplains told the service’s senior chaplains that Catholic priests serving as Army chaplains should be told not to read the archbishop’s letter from the pulpit.

The Archdiocese for the Military Services has described that move as a violation of the archbishop’s First Amendment rights as well as the First Amendment rights of the Catholic chaplains involved and their congregations.

The regulation the archbishop spoke about was finalized by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Jan. 20. It mandates that all health-care plans in the United States cover sterilizations and all FDA-approved contraceptives, including those that cause abortions. A “religious” employer exemption included in the regulation only applies to organizations that primarily focus on inculcating the tenets of the church in question, primarily employ members of the church, primarily serve members of the church, and is organized under the section of the Internal Revenue Code used by actual parishes.

Catholic hospitals, universities and charitable institutions would not be exempt from the regulation, nor would Catholic individuals, business owners, or insurers.

Archbishop Broglio’s letter minced no words in telling Catholics in the Armed Forces that the federal government was not only violating their constitutional rights through the new Obamacare regulation but was also violating the constitutional rights of all Catholics, while harming the freedom of religion generally.

“It is imperative that I call to your attention to an alarming and serious matter that negatively impacts the Church in the United directly, and that strikes at the fundamental right to religious liberty for all citizens of any faith,” wrote the archbishop.

“The federal government, which claims to be ‘of, by, and for the people,’ has just dealt a heavy blow to almost a quarter of those people—the Catholic population—and to the millions more who are served by the Catholic faith,” wrote the archbishop.

“And, as a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled to choose between violating our consciences or dropping health care coverage for our employees (and suffering the penalties for doing so),” said the archbishop.

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