You know things are bad when…– UPDATED

…even Chris Matthews is upset with the HHS/contraception ruling.

On Tonight’s “Hardball,” the Catholic Matthews (whose aunt, he mentioned, is a Sister of St. Joseph) was almost beside himself trying to fathom what compelled the Obama Administration to insert itself into the way people practice their faith:

I guess I grew up watching movies like Becket and A Man for All Seasons and seeing the church and state go to war with each other and being told stories from the Old Testament about the Maccabees, about people, families being told you got to eat pork. The state requires you to do it. It gets to that interesting point to me, which is frightening, when the state tells the church what to do. And then the church can no longer teach. If the church teaches it’s morally wrong to use birth control, how can you make the teacher pay for birth control without losing their authority, their moral authority? That’s what the church is afraid of. If they start financing, under the law, what they are called to do, do they have any more credibility on the issue of birth control or anything else? That’s what I think is the concern here. It’s a political issue. I agree. If you can make them do it, they can’t teach it anymore.

Meantime, is the White House getting cold feet?

A key White House adviser on faith issues said Tuesday that several organizations with ties to the administration have approached President Obama’s aides about finding a resolution to fast-growing controversy over a new rule requiring many Catholic institutions to offer birth control and other contraception services as part of employees’ health care coverage.

“There are conversations right now to arrange a meeting to talk with folks about how this policy can be nuanced,” said Pastor Joel C. Hunter, a Florida megachurch pastor who has grown personally close to Obama and advised his White House on religious issues. “This is so fixable, and we just want to get into the conversation.”…

Stay tuned.  This story does seem to be getting traction.  I noticed that CBS News ran the contraception controversy as the second item on tonight’s Evening News, and included an interview with CUA President John Garvey.  An otherwise decent report was flubbed, however, by Wyatt Andrews intoning in his standup that -quote – “98% of Catholic women use contraception.”

Also: The Anchoress has this tidbit from this morning:

David Axelrod, who serves as a top adviser to Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign, said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program that the president would “look for a way” to address the vocal opposition from Catholic groups who say the rule forces them to violate their religious beliefs against contraception.

“We certainly don’t want to abridge anyone’s religious freedoms, so we’re going to look for a way to move forward that both provides women with the preventative care that they need and respects the prerogatives of religious institutions,” Mr. Axelrod said.

UPDATE: Bloomberg has some interesting back and forth on this, and how the decision on the HHS mandate was reached:

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, a Catholic and a two-term governor of Kansas, was joined by several female Obama advisers in urging against a broad exemption for religious organizations. To do so would leave too many women without coverage and sap the enthusiasm for Obama among women’s rights advocates, they said, according to the people, who spoke about the deliberations on condition of anonymity.

Vice President Joe Biden and then-White House chief of staff Bill Daley, also Catholics, warned that the mandate would be seen as a government intrusion on religious institutions. Even moderate Catholic voters in battleground states might be alienated, they warned, according to the people familiar with the discussions.

The administration’s decision, announced Jan. 20, has quickly entered the presidential campaign. Republican rivals accuse Obama of trampling on religious freedom and Catholic bishops have ordered lectures from the pulpits across the nation.

And the New York Times adds more:

The White House has been skittish from the start about the new rule, which was announced last month only after internal debates at the White House that, to some extent, pitted women — Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who is Catholic; Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to the president, and Nancy-Ann DeParle, the deputy chief of staff, on one side, arguing forcefully in favor of the rule, administration officials said.

On the other side, cautioning that the administration tread carefully and look for ways to minimize another major break with the church, they said, were several Catholic men who are close advisers to Mr. Obama: Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and William M. Daley, the chief of staff at the time. Also weighing in, administration officials said, was Denis R. McDonough, the deputy national security adviser, whose purview does not naturally extend to health issues, but who is a Catholic.

“I can’t tell you how many times we went over this,” one administration official said, speaking on grounds of anonymity. In the end, it was Mr. Obama himself who made the decision, aides say, calculating that at the end of the day, the issue of public health access outweighed the concerns of the religious institutions.

Administration officials say one avenue for resolution might be to look at how Catholic institutions in the 28 states with similar laws have dealt with the issue. One possible compromise might be to emulate Hawaii, where the rule is in effect, but where employees at religious institutions that do not offer free contraception can get birth control through side benefits, which the employees nominally pay for but which often end up being free.


  1. Such an obvious lie. Even assuming they are meaning to say 98% of Catholic women of childbearing age, that would mean no Catholic babies are being born, or virtually none. It’s a lie.

  2. Prayers will be the sword through which this battle is won…but a friendly letter to your congressman won’t hurt either!

  3. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    I believe the more accurate statistic is “98% of Catholic women at some point in their lives have used artificial contraception.” Which, when you think about it, is plausible. Whether or not it’s accurate is something else.

  4. Deacon Greg:
    Your comment:
    “even Chris Matthews is upset with the HHS contraceptive ruling.”

    Well, let’s play hard ball!

    Not only am I not surprised but I expected him to respond to the ruling in this way. Why? He went to the same Christian Brothers High School as my brothers and in the same era. In addition, I have an aunt who is a Sister of St. Joseph, whom I admire, as he obviously does.

    Those kinds ofinfluences are difficult to lose.

  5. Deacon Greg Kandra says:


  6. I read Ed Peters’ post as well as Fr. Z’s. It really is time for Wuerl to do something re Pelosi. Publicly.

  7. And if Cardinal Wuerl and Niederauer won’t do something to stop this atrocious and painful scandal she is causing, Catholics should petition the pope to do it himself. He has immediate and plenary jurisdiction to act by himself in every diocese in the world under Canon Law. He doesn’t need Wuerl’s or Niederauer’s permission. Sad that the bishops love talking about collegiality but when “dirty work” needs to be done, they are nowhere to be found.

  8. Dec Greg:

    While I understand why you said ” You know things are bad when…” vis-a-vis Matthews and the HHS decision – this of course is only bad news for those who would wish this misguided and incorrect mandate to stand.

    The usual suspects (ok most of them) have cut and run on the administration on this issue – and this is a good thing. Beyond the obvious imposition on the rights of belief of religious institutions, this decision reinforces the fear many had that the effort to broaden heath coverage ( which actually has broad support) would result in federal micromanaging of all health care.

    When the administration loses Matthews, the political sharpies at the WH are likely busy working the sails to tact right – at least for now. If so, the key here is to be sure we get the proper and necessary protections for our Catholic institutions to be able to fully practice their faith and provide medical insurance for those that work with them. This time no pig-in-the-poke promise will cut it.

  9. I still don’t believe that to be accurate.

  10. re: the 98% of Catholic women have used some form of contraception
    Last I checked, 100% of all living Catholics have sinned too, but we’re against that.

  11. Interesting to see how this issue seems to be bringing together conservative and liberal (for want of better descriptive terms) Catholics.

  12. Even if they tact right and fully reverse course, we know that it was only from political pressure in an election year. We now know that this is who they are. This is their core. Even supposed Catholics like Pelosi, Biden, and Sibelius have one true religion, Liberalism as currently defined and manifest since the 1960s. A Liberalism that puts the sexual revolution as part of their core values. Values which ultimately find their expression in free contraception, abortion, steralization, and gay marriage. Whatever this administration does now, I can’t see how any self respecting Catholic can vote for them.

  13. It’s not accurate.

    The survey was worded in a way that:

    1) any one who ever used contraception for ANY purpose (so, say before converting, or before “re-verting,” or with the belief that it was the only option to treat their PCOS or endometriosis) has to answer in the affirmative


    2) Catholic couples who are faithfully practicing Natural Family Planning for a grave reason (which is morally acceptable) have to also answer in the affirmative.

    Kind of skews the statistic a bit…which isn’t surprising, considering it’s from the research arm of Planned Parenthood, who performs abortions that are due (in the vast majority) to failed contraception. Sigh.

  14. Seriously. Thank you.

    But this is also a golden evangelizing moment for us as Catholics, to our brothers and sisters in the faith. A lot of them DO contracept. How can we take advantage of this crisis to help lead them to the truth? Giving up “something” for Lent is such a cultural thing at this point– how about giving up contraception for Lent?

  15. Susan Suddjian says:

    98% of Catholic women do NOT use artificial birth control, and if a Catholic woman ever did, it’s because she was not aware of or did not heed the Church’s teaching on this issue of sexual morality. Many women are practicing Catholics who once used artificial birth control, including myself, but… THAT WAS BEFORE I WAS CATHOLIC!!! So, yeah, many women fall into that category but are not PRACTICING CATHOLICS. There is the little (HUGE) thing called REPENTANCE and that other thing… Oh yeah, CONVERSION.

  16. Manny,
    I don’t know how anyone can argue with you, Manny. Chris Matthews is a smart guy – he has articulated the point: the government has now told the Catholic Church what it can teach. And we now see that this administration will trample on the rights of anyone that gets in its way.

  17. Not just Chris Matthews, but also E.J. Dionne and Mark Shields are taking a stand against the mandate.

  18. Even if he does a complete 180, admits he was wrong and rescinds the ruling completely, can you believe that after he tricks you into giving him your vote again he won’t turn around and throw us under a bigger bus when he doesn’t need our votes??? Even Gomer Pyle knew “Fooled me once, shame on you. Fooled me twice shame on me.”

  19. “We certainly don’t want to abridge anyone’s religious freedoms, so we’re going to look for a way to move forward that both provides women with the preventative care that they need and respects the prerogatives of religious institutions,” Mr. Axelrod said.

    Pay attention to what they are doing, not saying.

  20. I am not certain why Chris Matthews is upset. He is, after all, a pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage Catholyc, who attends Blessed Sacrament Parish in NW DC. Chris “I get a thrill up my leg” Matthews and others ultimately helped to engineer this Hugo Chavez action and now he is upset? Why? He got exactly what he wanted. Suddenly, he is SHOCKED and outraged.

    Please, spare me the theatrics. He should have been excommunicated a long time ago.

  21. And while he is at it, he should also have a sit down with Sebelius.

  22. How about traditionalists and progressives?

  23. Manny, you’re making sweeping judgments about what the “true religion” of the people above supposedly is. Sorry. You know something about their politics. You do not know about the relationship that ANY of them have with Gods. No, you do not know their “true religion” — and I won’t presume to know the state of your relationship with God, either.

  24. That’s a typo…before anyone jumps on it to make a cheap point about secular idolatry or whatever. It’s supposed to be God, not Gods.

  25. Irish Spectre says:

    …or faithful and dissenters??

  26. awashingtondccatholic

    “Let’s play hardball!”

    Your comment that Chris Matthew is a pro-abortion Catholic borders on slander (calumny). See Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2475-2477.

    As to your comment, “He should have been excommunicated a long time ago.”

    Well, sorry to have to inform you – that is not your call.

  27. Actually, it is not slander but fact.

    If you look at his public comments — which are public statements, you will see that he is a supporter of abortion. Do a simple “google” search and you will see.

    Now, unless you have information otherwise, I think that an apology is in order.

    Regarding excommunication, it is not my call, but I do CALL for it.

  28. HMS, Matthews supports Roe and favors legalized abortion. He is on the record as saying so. This is why there was a huge protest when the president of Holy Cross decided to bestow an honorary degree on him several years ago.

  29. So, just to make it easy for you HMS, here are some quotes from Mr. Matthews. There are others, but I think that this will suffice for now.
    So, unless you can show that he has stated he is pro-life, I look forward to an apology.


    Interview with Al Gore, Hardball 12/12/02
    Gore – “ Do you think its right for the federal government to come and order a woman…”
    Matthews interrupts “No, I am pro-choice.”


    In Febtuary 2002, Matthews Claimed That He Was “For Abortion Rights.” Matthews: “I’m for abortion rights… but I think you people are hiding from the facts here.” (MSNBC’s “Hardball With Chris Matthews,” February 1, 2002)


  30. There was also a protest a year or two ago, when he was scheduled to receive an award from the Catholic Volunteer Network at the Franciscan monastary in DC. When CVN got wind of the protest, they quietly moved the function to another location.

  31. The former president of the Holy Cross Board of Trustees, Charles Millard, actually resigned over the decision to award him an honorary degree. It was against the stated policy of Holy Cross not to honor individuals who supported abortion in any way.

    It’s nice that Matthews is making common cause against Obama on this, but let’s not kid ourselves that he is some kind of ally in the pro-life cause. He puts the Democrat party (and Kennedys) first on his list of all loyalties in my view.

  32. Chris Matthews is almost always “almost beside himself” about one thing or another, which is why I find it unbearable to watch him and impossible to take him seriously. It is interesting, though, to see him almost beside himself on this side rather than the side he’s usually on.

  33. I’ll let the facts stand for themselves. You can draw your own conclusion. While Biden as far as I know has been less vocal than Pelosi and Sebelius, those two have publicly put forth and advocated policy clearly in opposition of the church. This whole issue we are discussing is manifest evidence. Anyone thinking otherwise is being delusional.

  34. Irish Spectre:
    I’m confused! (sarcasm)

    Who are the the faithful?
    the traditionalists or progressives?
    Who are the dissenters?
    the traditionalists (some of whom deny the legitimacy of Vatican II) or progressives?

  35. It would be important to know how the questions were asked and how the sample was selected. I suspect that the sample may have had people self-identify their religious affiliation. “Catholic”, like “Jewish” often has a cultural connotation as well as a religious one. People whose sole encounters with Catholic liturgy occur at the funerals of elderly relatives will self-identify as Catholic.

  36. “You know things are bad when…–

    Bad for Obama? Please. Things are just fine. He takes two giant steps forward, then one small step back, and we’re ready to breathe a sigh of relief? This is rope a dope — that’s what’s going on here.

  37. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    I don’t think so.

    I’m reminded of what LBJ said after Walter Cronkite’s critique of Vietnam: “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America.” If even people like Matthews (and MIchael Sean Winters and E.J. Dionne and the rest) are upset about this, Obama has upset an important part of the Catholic vote.

    I suspect this ruling won’t stand. The WH will effect some sort of compromise, and backtrack — sooner, rather than later. The GOP is now seizing on this issue and the suddenly-surging Santorum won’t let it go.

  38. There should be no compromise, because what is at stake is not just a Catholic Doctrine or even Catholic freedom or religion; but what is at stake is if the State can trump the constitution and do as it pleases. This is, in my mind, the most serious flagrant attempt to destroy what America has been about: freedom.

  39. No, this ruling won’t, but businesses owned by lay Catholics are on their own. Why don’t we get to have a conscience too? Why aren’t the bishops defending their flocks with the same energy?

  40. John Scanlon says:

    The Obama-Sebelius attack on the institutional Catholic church is truly an attack on the First Amendment. Add to this the Big Threes’ (ABC, NBC, CBS) and our putative newspaper of record (The New York Times), attack on the freedom of association (that’s upon Komen) and we all are in for a rough period of anti-freedom in our nation. Thanks to the Trinity the Catholic hierarchy is showing some spine and is distancing itself from the frequent American Catholic genuflection towards all things Democrat party. Many of good will, too, are joining the dissent and affirming Constitutional order. We need to also support Komen’s right to associate with whom it will. If they choose to contribute to the nation’s leading provider of abortion, then pro-lifers will dissent from that. If they cut such an unnecessary tie, pro-lifers will support in spades.

  41. quiddity2001 says:

    The Church’s business is the call to conversion. It does not matter what percentage of Catholic women use contraception, the Church proposes and does not impose. It is there to speak the truth no matter what and to be there with the sacraments including Reconciliation to care for the soul so that people can get to Heaven. Many women regret that they did not take the Church’s advice or were led astray by those within the Church who did not support them with the truth that the Church teaches. The issue is that the Church has a right to exist in our society. Obama is trying to say that he through the exercise of a legislative act that has granted him the right to act in an arbitrary manner to amend the Constitution without a constitutional process to do so, can dismiss and ignore the Constitution. He is demonstrating that he has the potential to stand amongst the notorious of totalitarian brutes. The compromise is a cynical ploy. If we allow it to stop our resolve instead of hauling his actions into court, we are allowing our own demise.

  42. This is the same Pope Benedict that gives communion from his own hand to pro-abort Italian politicians? Don’t hold your breath!

  43. Because the bishops are, on the whole, narcissistic careerists rather than shepherds defending their flock. I and other priests have fought this self-serving defense of the institutional Church while leaving lay Catholic businessmen to hang since this issue first raised its ugly head in California in the mid-90s. No response. I can’t tell whether the bishops lack empathy with the moral dilemmas of lay Catholics or just put on a show for the Vatican, but either way woe is us!

  44. Why did the Obama Administration pick this fight?
    And why did they pick this fight now?
    Bad advice?
    Or do they expect the outrage to die down and be forgotten before the election? Throw enough “spaghetti” against the wall and hope that some will stick?

    Oh, BTW, the Planned Parenthood website for my part of my state says they can give a prescription for birth control and the cost for the pills runs from $15 -$50/mo. The pills are also available online for about the same price. Therefore, birth control is already widely available and not expensive.
    So I ask again, why pick this fight, and why pick this fight now?

  45. David J White says:

    He puts the Democrat party (and Kennedys) first on his list of all loyalties in my view.

    Didn’t Chris Matthews work for Tip O’Neill in the 80s?

  46. Amen, Margaret. But let’s not stop with our fellow Catholics. After all, contraception is against the natural law, therefore immoral for all persons. One of the common, yet misguided, threads I’ve been hearing from political pundits througout this debate is that the Catholic teaching against contraception is analagous to meatless Fridays.

  47. Deacon Henry says:

    Two weeks ago I preached on the Authority and Power which Jesus endowed on His Church and I asked the question; “Do we place our politics over our Religion?” And if so, why? Who speaks with true authority and power? The administration, or the Church which Christ founded?

  48. Because there is no equivalency with the power of the state to coherese and step on the constitution.

  49. Great point about Catholic businesses (or like-minded non-Catholics for that matter.)! Your point is never mentioned in the media, but it is so important to give all businesses the right to conscience protection. This all went away when the bishops lobbied so strongly for universal healthcare. They threw us under the bus and allowed the government to regulate us to death. Disgraceful. This HHS ruling is only the beginning.

  50. As National Review notes, Matthews has stopped talking about JFK (finally) now that Mimi Alford’s book is coming out. She is still stunning at 69 and even as a huge fan of JFK throughout my young life, I was brought up short by some of what she relates in her memoir. In case any children are reading I won’t go into details. Sad. Very sad. It’s almost like JFK was 50 years ahead of his time in terms of decadence. But he was still so talented in other ways.

  51. Amen, Manny!! And even if Obama were to back off of the mandate you can be absolutely sure that if reelected, come November 7th the first thing he will do is reinstate it.

  52. When Obama says they want to find a “resolution” they mean, “we will try another tactic to get Catholics and others to violate their consciences and their religion, because it is imperative that every citizen does what we want.”

    In contrast, the only real resolution there can be is this: The administration changes its policy and does away with the regs, or the Congress and the Supreme Court will do it for him. And if he forces them to do that, it will only prove that his tyrannical tendencies are deeper than most of us thought. We citizens are getting sick of these government overreaches, no matter who they come from, but Obama has really outdown himself this time. And Sebelius makes me so angry, that I can’t even say anything about her!

  53. But I agree, when people who normally are against us or seem to be, speak out for us, you know the Administration has gone way off the deep end….

  54. I am glad to see Catholics from both sides of the political isle coming together to stand with the Bishops against this attack on religious freedom. I just read that Senator John Kerry and Sen Bill Nelson, both Democrats and Obama supporters have written to him asking him to eliminate the mandate.

  55. Raymond Ryan says:

    Deacon- Sort of witless to take a negative poke at one who is with us, don’t you agree. ? Raymond Ryan

  56. It doesn’t refer to all Catholic women or sexually experienced Catholic women. Page 8 of the report reveals the data and it’s defined as “current contraceptive use among women at risk of unintended pregnancy*” and further defined as “*Restricted to sexually active women who are not pregnant, post-partum or trying to get pregnant”.


  1. [...] Chris “Tingle up my leg” Matthews is upset about it, too. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this [...]

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