Cardinal George, the HHS Mandate and Prayer

I just can’t face writing about Christian persecution today, even though that’s my usual Friday practice. I’m going to delay it until tomorrow.

I want to talk about Cardinal George, instead.

Cardinal George’s cancer recurred late last summer. I read in February of this year that he had been given a clean bill of health and was cancer-free.

I have no idea why, but just out of the blue I’ve been getting this impulse to pray for him. It’s like a soft little dinging in the back of my mind.

I don’t know if it has anything to do with his health. All I can say is that I almost never think about Cardinal George. Because it’s so odd for me to suddenly feel that I should pray for him, I am assuming that for reasons I don’t know and may never know, he probably needs a little extra prayer.

I’m passing this along to the rest of you so that you can join me in saying a Hail Mary for the Cardinal now and again.

In the video below, he is discussing the HHS Mandate.

At one point he talks about the “definition” being so narrow. I believe that he is referring to the definition of religious institutions as it is used in the HHS Mandate, and not the First Amendment. Among other things, the Obama administration has been trying to narrow the meaning of “religious freedom” to only include the freedom to attend services in “places of worship” and behind the closed doors of our homes.

This should be anathema to any freedom-loving American, irrespective of their religious beliefs or lack of belief.

Here is Cardinal George:

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  • Green_Sapphire

    I recognize the enormity of the challenge faced by the Catholic Church wrt
    the HHS mandate, so I am wording my comment as respectfully as possible.

    The issue, although it can be viewed from one side as religious freedom,
    when viewed from both sides is religious primacy. That is, in this
    conflict, whose rights to religious freedom are primary: the non-ministerial
    employee with medical insurance or the employer who, as part of the employee’s
    compensation, includes insurance coverage?

    It is a plain fact that setting a broken leg is not a religious ritual,
    particularly when the only people in a Catholic hospital that are necessarily
    Catholic are the senior administrators, even if Jesus did say, “Heal the

    It is a plain fact that teaching a child to read is not a religious ritual,
    particularly when the only people in a Catholic school that are necessarily
    Catholic are the principal and the religious education teacher, even if Jesus
    did say, “Let the little children come to me.”

    Why are the employees not all Catholic? Because our pluralistic society
    decided that the rights of employees to employment without discrimination based
    on religion outweigh the rights of an employer, for a non-ministerial job, to
    hire only people of a certain faith.

    Perhaps a solution would be for the Catholic Church to make all its
    non-ministerial health insurance payments ‘arms-length’ transactions as it does
    for salary payments.

    • FW Ken

      Your ignorance is astounding. I do give you points for not getting malicious, but so much in your post is just nonsense.
      whose rights to religious freedom are primary?
      There is no religious right to have your contraceptives (some of which induce an abortion) and sterilizations paid for by someone else. And no place in the world that I can find pays for these services 100% with no co-pay. Therefore what we have is the religious right of employers to not cooperate with immoral actions in providing a benefit (not a “right”) versus … what? There is no “religious right” on the employees part. They are not being restricted from using contraception, having an abortion, or getting sterilized. They aren’t even being restricted from buying insurance that covers that.
      As to non-ministerial jobs, particular regarding teachers: I suggest you review Hosanna-Tabor Church v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
      In fact, Catholic institutions hire non-Catholics to accomplish the mission of the agency. And we serve non-Catholics (that’s the other way they are trying to control us) because that is our mission. The Catholic Faith teaches us to do all we do, as unto Christ. A cup of water given to the thisty is a cup of water given to Our Lord. The point is assuaging thirst, which is, yes, a religious activity. So is setting a broken leg, or teaching an algebra equation (although algebra may be evil, I have to check) – these are indeed religious rituals.
      And we saw things this way long before your laws made us. Actually, if we would hire and serve only Catholics, we would be exempt from a lot of that business, but then we would not be Catholic.
      I really don’t mean to dog you, GS. I really do respect that you are trying to be respectful, but you don’t seem to have an accurate idea about what Catholics are about, limited ability to reason logically, and you do have a repulsive totalitarian bent.

      • Green_Sapphire

        I don’t believe you are dogging me at all, FW Ken. My view is that we are having a discussion.

        And, with regard to a previous comment you made, “You hate us, GS,” I don’t hate you; I disagree with you. I am making an effort to understand your point of view, and to consider whether mine should change as a result of new information and new perspectives.

        I am trying to express my point of view as well as I can so that you can understand it, even though you may never agree with it. And you have every right not to respect my opinions (find them repulsive, lies, snake oil, nonsense, spitting, totalitarian, etc.), but I do believe that you respect my right to hold my opinions and express them.

        Personally, I would appreciate if you could tone down the oprobrium, and I think that would improve the conversation. But if you are not able to contain yourself, I can tolerate it.

        And, of course, I respect Rebecca Hamilton for her public service to the people of Oklahoma and the United States and for giving us the opportunity on her blog to have this discussion, to the extent that she finds it appropriate.


        You write, “…although algebra may be evil, I have to check.” From
        my perspective, I would say not algebra per se, but
        linear algebra is looking pretty dicey.


        You write, “I really do respect that you are trying to be respectful.”

        Thank you for that. And I do understand your strong feelings on these issues, and that perhaps some of your intensity may be due to things other people who disagree with you have said.

        I also understand that, from your perspective, the HHS mandate wrt contraception feels like an attack or an affront or even a requirement to be evil.


        You write, “you don’t seem to have an accurate idea about what Catholics are about”

        I’m not sure where, in what I said, there was anything inaccurate about Catholics. Please let me know specifically where I have made such a mistake, because I sincerely do want to know.


        You write: “There is no religious right to have your contraceptives (some of which induce an abortion) and sterilizations paid for by someone else.”

        I acknowledge that this is your perspective. I will not in any way try to convince you that contraceptives are moral. That is not the subject of this discussion.

        My point is that Americans have the right to hold different (religious or non-religious) life stance views and moral views regarding contraceptives.

        And, as you note, legally, they have the right to buy contraceptives and insurance that covers contraceptives.

        EDIT: Deleted the last partial sentence.

        • FW Ken

          Of course I can contain myself. In fact, I’m quite the mild-mannered fellow. But I don’t respond well to bullies nor ignorance.

          The issue is only tangentially the morality of contraceptives. However, some of them induce abortion, and that is simple evil. You don’t think so? Ok. You have the legal right to have an abortion, or get one for your female significant other. Why do you think you should have the right to make me pay for killing the baby? Don’t believe it’s a baby? I do. And it’s my wallet.

          And that’s based on science, not religion. It’s your opinion that is a faith-statement, which you seem to think should be law. Moreover, the HHS mandates clearly have no basis in the Constitution (you are welcome to demonstrate otherwise), so holding different views is not the issues: forcing me to do things that are in the Constitution is. Anyway, it’s pretty obvious that this is a first step to taxpayer funded abortions. Once the souls of Catholics and other Christians have been compromised, there really won’t be much resistance.

          Finally, there is the practical matter that if the government can do this to Catholics over a fringe issue like contraception, they can do it to you over whatever you find repugnant.

          • Green_Sapphire

            You wrote: “But I don’t respond well to bullies nor ignorance.” I don’t think I would either. I know that we disagree on many points. However, if you have perceived me as personally bullying you, please tell me what I said that you perceived that way instead of just calling me a bully.

            And if you perceive that I am lacking information about some point, I would appreciate if you would point out the missing information to me instead of just calling me ignorant.

            You wrote: “the HHS mandates clearly have no basis in the Constitution”

            I am not a lawyer in real life and this isn’t a legal forum and I don’t want to get into a constitutional debate. So in response to your basic statement, I’ll just reply with two very basic points: (a) In the preamble to the Constitution, one of the fundamental purposes of the government is to “promote the general welfare,” and health care falls under general welfare. (b) The Supreme Court of the United States found the Affordable Care Act to be constitutional.


            I wrote: “I will not in any way try to convince you that contraceptives are moral.” You wrote (paraphrasing) that you believe contraceptives are not moral, and that certain contraceptives are significantly more immoral than others. I think we understand each others’ position on this issue.

            You wrote: “And that’s based on science, not religion.” I think we understand that we each ethically interpret the biological facts differently.


            You wrote: “a fringe issue like contraception.” My sense is that you really do not consider contraception to be a fringe issue, nor do the American Catholic bishops.


            It seems to me that one of the main issues is whether the health insurance dollars are (a) the employer’s money with which it contracts for a service which the employer then provides to its employees or (b) the employee’s money (that is, completely analogous to salary) which the employee then spends on health insurance.


            But my main point, which I discussed above, is that employers have certain rights and employees have certain rights. And sometimes those rights come into conflict. And in many cases, there are laws that have taken all these rights into account and made a decision about whose rights are primary in this case.

            Public Accommodation is one example. Please note that I am providing this as an example of the concept of conflicting rights, and I am not claiming that this example is a perfect analogy.

            In this example, the right of a restaurant to not serve people of color conflicts with the right of citizens of all races to participate in the business and social life of the community. The government decided that the latter right outweighs the former right. So even restaurant owners who believe for religious reasons that the mixing of the races is against the will of God are required to serve people of color if they are otherwise open to the public.

            With regard to the HHS mandate…

            Employees, like all citizens/residents, have the right to freedom of religion, including religions or life stances that do not oppose contraception.

            It is not clear to me how a “school” or a “hospital” or other business can have a right to freedom of religion. This is a pretty significant point, and central to several of the current lawsuits.

            But, for the sake of argument, let us proceed *as if* we agreed that such businesses can have a right to freedom of religion by some reflection of the right of the business owner (persons or churches).

            In this case, in the HHS mandate situation, there is a rights conflict. Who does the health insurance “belong” to? Does the employee have the right to health coverage congruent with hir religion / life stance and the ACA? Or does the employer have the right to limit coverage congruent with its religion? Is it like salary, which the government can regulate in ways like minimum wage? Is it like salary, which the employer doesn’t have the right to control how it is spent?

            • hamiltonr

              Note: Shorten up these comments a little. Right now, no one is commenting on this post but the two of you. I want to let you continue, but I’m concerned other people may feel shut out. Thanks.

            • hamiltonr

              Reading this last comment — which is FAR too long for a combox — raises a question for GS from me.

              You appear to be willing to go off into the weeds in any way you can to support the HHS Mandate. But you never answer the basic questions about the Mandate’s attack on the liberty of Americans except to say, so be it.

              I honestly find it implausible that any rational person would be willing to toss the Bill of Rights for the silliness of insurance that provides free contraceptives and abortifacients. Even if these things were the be all and end all of human existence that proponents seem to be trying to claim, they are easily available by other means.

              So, what is the real motivation here? Isn’t it a hostility toward religious faith and the First Amendment guarantees of religious freedom?

              The HHS Mandate is a direct attack on the First Amendment. No blather about non-specific language in the Preamble can set aside the human right to freedom of religion and freedom of conscience. THOSE are basic human rights.

              You’re grasping to maintain your position GS. Why? Don’t tell me that you think that Patrick Henry said give me contraceptives or give me death. I’m not buying it.

              • Green_Sapphire

                You wrote: “you never answer the basic questions about the Mandate’s attack”

                I beg to differ. I answered several times that (1) I don’t believe that businesses have a right to freedom of religion, and (2) even if they did, the employer’s rights would conflict with the employees’ rights, and I believe the employees’ rights outweigh the rights of the employer in this case.

                You wrote: “What is the real motivation here?”

                I really believe the above two points. Also, I really believe that contraception is a right of every woman or man who wants it. I really believe that America is a better place if every woman and man has access to low-cost or no-cost effective contraception, which the HHS rules and the ACA provide. I really believe that dialogue between folks who disagree is useful. I really believe in the separation of church and state. I really believe the church’s businesses are non-ministerial and thus should be subject to the same laws as any other hospital, school, university, etc. Really.

                You wrote: “You’re grasping to maintain your position.”

                I’m not sure where you see in my statements any “grasping.” Perhaps you could be more specific?

  • FW Ken

    Briefly, to respect Rebecca’s request:

    Of course the bullying is not personal. I take it personally because I have spent my adult life in public social services. I’m in a similar field now, but I do it as social services. I don’t worry about the Church. People have been writing our obituary for 2000 years. But the HHS mandates represent an incursion into public sector what was originally authorized as a private right. If the Church, and other mediating agents of social coherence, are marginalized, it is the poor people who will suffer. I’ve worked for the government for most of 40 years, as my father did before me. I’m rather knowledgeable about what the government can and cannot do. Which is pretty much what society is willing and not willing to do.

    Businesses don’t have religious rights, but their owners do. If I buy stock in a public company, I can choose whether I want to support any given practice and influence those practices. The force of law is being brought to bear on non-public entities.

    Your examples about public accommodation don’t really apply, because except in a very small number of cases, the objection to serving blacks was social, not religious. Read primary sources here: most white preachers supported integration. Anecdotally, I was there when a large Baptist Church admitted it’s first black family. Out of 2000 people, one member voted against. The Catholic archbishop of New Orleans excommunicated 3 church leaders for racism in 1957 (or so) and finally integrated the parish schools before the public schools were integrated. And so on.

    My objection is not to the ACA. I think it’s a bastardized mess that creates more problems than it solves, but that’s technical, not ethical. The issue is the HHS mandates, which have so far been stayed by courts in several instances. However, connecting the HHS mandated services to “health care” is a dicey proposition. In a statistically small percentage of cases, contraceptive, abortion, and sterilization are health care. In most cases, they are not.

    we each ethically interpret the biological facts differently.

    I don’t interpret anything. Here’s a scientist: argue with him.

    Contraception is a fringe issue in the larger society, meaningful only to Catholics. Yes, I think it’s a root issue in lots of social problems, but that’s another discussion. That most people don’t care (or understand “abortifacient”) makes it a good point for attacking freedom.

    I wrote a long thing about employer/employee dollars. That really is a technical discussion, but it boils down to one thing: health care is a right, health insurance is a benefit. Even at that, I’m not sure health care is a right, but I do believe decent communities make sure people get basic health care. In my community, that care goes well beyond “basic”.