USCCB statement: “A first step in the right direction” — UPDATED

This just in:

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) sees initial opportunities in preserving the principle of religious freedom after President Obama’s announcement today. But the Conference continues to express concerns. “While there may be an openness to respond to some of our concerns, we reserve judgment on the details until we have them,” said Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, president of USCCB.

“The past three weeks have witnessed a remarkable unity of Americans from all religions or none at all worried about the erosion of religious freedom and governmental intrusion into issues of faith and morals,” he said.

“Today’s decision to revise how individuals obtain services that are morally objectionable to religious entities and people of faith is a first step in the right direction,” Cardinal-designate Dolan said. “We hope to work with the Administration to guarantee that Americans’ consciences and our religious freedom are not harmed by these regulations.”

UPDATE: The Bishops have released a second statement tonight:

Today, the President has done two things.

First, he has decided to retain HHS’s nationwide mandate of insurance coverage of sterilization and contraception, including some abortifacients. This is both unsupported in the law and remains a grave moral concern. We cannot fail to reiterate this, even as so many would focus exclusively on the question of religious liberty.

Second, the President has announced some changes in how that mandate will be administered, which is still unclear in its details. As far as we can tell at this point, the change appears to have the following basic contours:

·It would still mandate that all insurers must include coverage for the objectionable services in all the policies they would write. At this point, it would appear that self-insuring religious employers, and religious insurance companies, are not exempt from this mandate.

·It would allow non-profit, religious employers to declare that they do not offer such coverage. But the employee and insurer may separately agree to add that coverage. The employee would not have to pay any additional amount to obtain this coverage, and the coverage would be provided as a part of the employer’s policy, not as a separate rider.

·Finally, we are told that the one-year extension on the effective date (from August 1, 2012 to August 1, 2013) is available to any non-profit religious employer who desires it, without any government application or approval process.

These changes require careful moral analysis, and moreover, appear subject to some measure of change. But we note at the outset that the lack of clear protection for key stakeholders—for self-insured religious employers; for religious and secular for-profit employers; for secular non-profit employers; for religious insurers; and for individuals—is unacceptable and must be corrected. And in the case where the employee and insurer agree to add the objectionable coverage, that coverage is still provided as a part of the objecting employer’s plan, financed in the same way as the rest of the coverage offered by the objecting employer. This, too, raises serious moral concerns.

We just received information about this proposal for the first time this morning; we were not consulted in advance. Some information we have is in writing and some is oral. We will, of course, continue to press for the greatest conscience protection we can secure from the Executive Branch. But stepping away from the particulars, we note that today’s proposal continues to involve needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions, and to threaten government coercion of religious people and groups to violate their most deeply held convictions. In a nation dedicated to religious liberty as its first and founding principle, we should not be limited to negotiating within these parameters. The only complete solution to this religious liberty problem is for HHS to rescind the mandate of these objectionable services.

We will therefore continue—with no less vigor, no less sense of urgency—our efforts to correct this problem through the other two branches of government. For example, we renew our call on Congress to pass, and the Administration to sign, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act. And we renew our call to the Catholic faithful, and to all our fellow Americans, to join together in this effort to protect religious liberty and freedom of conscience for all.

And: Rocco has the scoop of the night, with an internal letter from the USCCB on this subject.  Read it.


  1. Probably the last step too.

    It appears the Obama administration negotiated directly with the parachurch organizations. With many of them offering their endorsement today, the bishops will have difficulty claiming that they are representing parachurch interests as opposed to their own agenda if they don’t accept victory.

  2. Mark LaVergne says:

    A prudent, cautious, initial response. Cardinal-elect Dolan and the USCCB understandably need time to dig through the fine print (and the intentional obfuscation one can imagine) of the WH statement.

    Makes one wonder why Sr. Carol Keehan chose to get ahead of the USCCB on this? The WH asked her to review their statement in advance and she agreed and spoke out before the USCCB had a chance to review, digest and comment. She could have declined the WH offer to participate in advance of the USCCB. Why contribute to potential disunity on this issue? Does she alone speak for the Catholic Church on this matter?

  3. Seems like a smart response. “Good start. What else you got?” Don’t corner the trapped animal and provoke him to a fight when he’s trying to save face while running away. They have to keep up the pressure till Obama doesn’t merely appear to concede, but really does concede. I hope this blows up in his face very very badly and he never tries it again.

  4. Mark LaVergne says:

    If he is re-elected, he will “try it again,” as you say. You can be certain of it. He showed his hand on this one (as he has before) and will look for ways again in the future.

  5. Why? For what purpose?

    Women who want contraception are going to get. Catholic organizations aren’t even going to have to make a debit in their ledger for it. Everyone is happy.

  6. Someone pays – who????

    And religious institutions are still required to “provide” the insurance that covers these immoral services.

    Only Obama is happy.
    I pray we stand firm.

  7. Having witnessed many from all faiths and walks of life stand by the Catholic Church as it’s protection under the Bill of Rights, became vitally threatened, it is my hope that the Church, too will stand with insurance companies, employers, and entrepreneurs, of the Catholic Faith and others, who now continue to have those same rights threatend. We witnessed President Obama politely tell “Joe the Plummer” that the government was increasing charge of his charity by spreading his wealth in the name of “social justice,” and now he must supply contraception in the name of social justice or be subject to fines. It is also my hope that Notre Dame will reconsider commencement speech invitations to those that vote “present” on bills regarding the rescue of children that have birthdays as a result of botched abortions. The Church appears to have won its battle over its rights, but many of it’s faithful members are still threatened with ours. We ask that the church please stand, in peace and prayer, with us now as well.

  8. Once again a lie within a lie. Not surprising that those katholics who supported obamacare lies would jump on this one.

    Here is a good analysis of this idiotic proposal that exposes the lies. And never forget that this is simply the boot in the door and every other freedom will follow if he is elected. ObamaCare is a path to slavery for the American people and has been exposed by this first move by HHS who has been given total power above congress to impact all our lives.

    The administration’s “retreat” is a distinction without a difference on multiple levels.

    First, since the employee would not be contacted by this insurer without the employer having purchased an insurance plan, the employer is still paying for the health insurance coverage.

    Second, the coverage is not actually “free.” There may be no further cost for the employee and no co-pay for getting the covered drugs or services, but pills and doctors are not free. The cost is built into the total cost of the policy, and therefore, again, the employer is still paying for the coverage.

    Third, if for Catholics (and others) the use of birth control pills and other reproduction-related drugs and services is a sin, then this rule requires that any health insurer which provides insurance to a religious organization then go tempt that organzation’s employees into a behavior which the employer considers to be a sin. Again, the temptation offered to the employee is only possible because the religious organization buys the insurance policy.

    Fourth, the new Obama position would be close to reasonable if the employee in question would have to pay for the additional coverage not included by the employer. In that case, the employer could have a reasonably rational and moral case that they are not paying for the coverage. But as my “Access This!” article notes, for the radical left, this isn’t about free exercise of religion, it’s about government domination and inculcating dependence through the destruction of personal responsibility.

    Left-leaning Catholics struggling to find any fig leaf with which to accept the administration’s so-called retreat are fooling themselves and others if they believe this modification is substantially different in impact from the policy which they were rightly screaming about just hours ago.

    Any government with the slightest respect for the Constitution or conscience, if they were to involve themselves where they have no business—such as in federal regulation of health insurance—would reach the exact opposite conclusion from the new Obama rule. Health insurance companies should be prohibited from, not required to, offer free contraception and sterilization to the employees of organizations which are morally opposed to the use of such products.

    The new Obama administration rule is no less tyrannical than the old. Don’t be fooled by their continuing lies.

  9. Oregon Catholic says:

    The notion that this proposed change in the rule provides moral cover for the Church only makes sense to those whose moral foundation is completely relative. They really don’t get it.

    I believe we need to get a clear legal ruling declaring that the gov’t cannot force an insurer, employer, or individual to go against their religious beliefs in the provision and payment of health insurance. Then set up an independent Catholic health insurance system which any employer or individual may subscribe to. That may be the only way to prevent having to constantly fight attempts to make people who object pay for abortion and euthanasia and embryonic stem cell treatments, and IVF, etc. etc. whatever new offensive thing comes down the road.

  10. Bill McGeveran says:

    While the compromise makes little practical difference, it looks like it removes religious institutions from being complicit and thus preserves their religious freedom. If so it solves the immediate issue that bishops were rightly up in arms about; I’d say they could declare victory while noting some causes for dissatisfaction. For example, by keeping the narrow definition of religious exemption, it still raises freedom of religion issues in general. (Also, why no added premium as in the Hawaii plan; is there really no added cost to insurers, because of preventive effects? If not, maybe all drugs should be covered free!) Beyond that there are underlying questions of policy, maybe for another day. For example, should the government really require that anybody’s health insurance policy cover contraception, etc.? (and for no copay?)-I’d say no but those matters are not about to be resolved differently. (There is also the question of whether contraception really is wrong or should be prohibited by the church in the first place; I’d say no to that as well, but it’s not about to change anytime soon.)

  11. deacon john m. bresnahan says:

    Note the president seemed top be purposely avoiding mentioning educational institutions. And where does that leave deeply Catholic enterprises like EWTN–is it going to be listed as a “charity”.
    And Sister Keehan appears to be a gullible (when it comes to politics) limelight chasing nun who belongs in a Trappistine monastery to stop the damage she regularly inflicts on the Church’s struggle to not become a branch of the state.

  12. deacon john m. bresnahan says:

    It is sad to see so many Catholics willing to let our own home grown Henry VIII become the arbiter, definer, and administrator of all American religions and all American religious people for purposes of protecting his mandate power.
    It is inspiring to read the bishops not only standing up for the Church’s First Amendment rights, but also the First Amendment rights of other religions and individual religious believers. For it is not just Catholics as a group and Catholics in Church institutions that are being trampled on, but all religious groups and all religious believers.
    It is power grabs like this and having a callous attitude toward religious liberty that can be the start of worse and greater power grabs. One need only read a few history books to see that.
    But then again modern liberal education from the early grades to college graduation has so frequently kicked aside genuine history courses for the latest fad pop courses, it is no wonder so many modern Americans seem illiterate when it comes to history.

  13. Doug Indeap says:

    Arguments for a “religious employer” exemption have gone from wrong to ridiculous.

    Those demanding such an exemption initially worked themselves into a lather with the false claim that the law forced employers to provide their employees with health care plans offering services the employers considered immoral. The fact is that employers have the option of not providing any such plans and instead simply paying assessments to the government. Unless one supposes that the employers’ religion forbids payments of money to the government (all of us should enjoy such a religion), then the law’s requirement to pay assessments does not compel those employers to act contrary to their beliefs. Problem solved–except perhaps for an employer who really desires not just to avoid a moral bind, but rather wants to retain control of his employees’ health plans, limit their choices to conform to the employer’s religious beliefs, and avoid paying the assessments that otherwise would be owed. For that, an employer would need an exemption from the law.

    Indeed, some continued clamoring for just such an exemption, complaining that by paying assessments they would be paying for the very things they opposed. They seemingly missed that that is not a moral dilemma justifying an exemption to avoid being forced to act contrary to one’s beliefs, but rather is a gripe common to most taxpayers–who don’t much like paying taxes and who object to this or that action the government may take with the benefit of their tax dollars. Should each of us be exempted from paying our taxes so we aren’t thereby “forced” to pay for a war, health care, or whatever else the government does that each of us may consider wrong or even immoral?

    In any event, they put up enough of a stink that the government relented and announced that religious employers would be free to provide health plans with provisions to their liking and not be required to pay the assessments otherwise required. Problem solved–again, even more.

    Nonetheless, some continue to complain. They fret that somehow religious employers ultimately will pay for the services they oppose. They argue that if insurers (or, by the same logic, anyone, e.g., employees) pay for such services, those costs will somehow, someday be passed on to the employers in the form of demands for higher insurance premiums or higher wages. They counter what they call the government’s “accounting gimmick” with one of their own: the “Catholic dollar.” These dollars, once paid by a religious employer to others, e.g., insurers or employees, should be used only for things the religious employer would approve. The religious employers’ aim, we are assured, is not to control the actions of others, oh no, but rather is merely to assure that the employers themselves have not somehow acted contrary to their own beliefs by loosing “their” dollars into hands that would use them for things no self-respecting religious employer would himself buy. Their religious liberty, they say, requires not only that they be exempted from the law, but further that anyone to whom they pay money also be exempted and thus “free” to act according to their desires.

    I wonder what they would say if they knew they had some of my “atheist dollars” in their wallets that can only be used for ungodly purposes, lest I suffer the indignity of paying for things I disbelieve.

  14. Hey – the person who posted above under my name and linked to my blog is not me. I’ve never posted here before. This is pretty disturbing. Please, whoever runs this blog – notice that the person who posted under my name has a different email than I have and don’t allow that person to use my identity.

  15. Today in New York, the pastors read a letter from Archbishop Dolan about the crisis in front of us. On the other hand, the NY Times moved it off the front page due to the “compromise” announced Friday and endorsed by some Catholics in prominent positions.

    Here is my idea: Archbishop Dolan should not go to Rome to get his red hat this week.

    There is no better way to say to the nation, “hey, this ‘compromise’ is not acceptable and is still a crisis,” than to have the leader of the US Bishops demonstrate that this is more important than a red hat.

    Instead of footage of the genial archbishop smiling at being made a cardinal (an admittedly deserved and happy event), let the media have footage of their people standing empty-handed in Rome because he is still at his post here, leading the good fight against an unjust political policy (not even a law, just a regulatory rule).

    I’m sure Pope Benedict XVI would approve. In the 1960′s, the bishops left the first session of Vatican II early due to the Cuban Missile Crisis. He remembers that well since he attended the council.

    And Blessed Pope John Paul the Great will be joining his prayers with us as he sees a current archbishop struggle against an unjust government as he did.

    And speaking of Vatican II, perhaps our separated brethren, our elder brothers in faith, and the other Abrahamic religion will stand up with us, too.

  16. Dolan already left for Rome. I don’t think it would have been wise to miss as he is giving a talk on the New Evangelization.

  17. Again, whoeve owns this blog, will you please delete the post above with the name “Crystal”. The person posting that comment is impersonating me, using my name and linking the name back to my blog. You can email me if you want to discuss the problem, but only you can see that person’s email address and their IP address, so please help me.

  18. Why don’t you have the courage to comment under your real name? Why are you impersonating me and linking to my blog? A couple of weeks ago some “anonymous” person commented on my blog …..

    “God, you are one truly awful person. Pro-choice? and you receieve communion? just brutal, bad, repulsive.”

    And I replied …

    ” Anonymous, Your cctiticism might carry more weight if you had the courage to use your name.”

    Perhaps that is who you are – you’re still a coward.

  19. Thank you — I stand corrected — I saw that on the news tonight and thought, gee, I guess we aren’t in that much of a crisis after all.

    What a strong evangelization point it would have made to stay home in the fight.

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