Obama Admin and HHS vs Catholic Church

There was a lot of pretense in 2008 that Obama — with his 100% approval rating from NARAL — should be the choice of “intelligent” Catholics because even if he was wrong on abortion, he was “so good” on everything else — the poor, the disadvantaged, the promise to turn back the Bush wars, close Gitmo, halt rendition, bring “transparency” and restore our “shredded constitution” — these were all so compellingly at-one with the church that an Obama presidency would bring about the large solutions. It would address those “root causes” that make women decide to abort.

That was pretty much the argument, right? Obama would ultimately be “good” for the pro-life cause!

The people making that argument would skip over the fact that while a state senator Obama voted against the “born alive bill” that came before the Illinois Senate. That bill, you might recall, mirrored the federal Born Alive Act, which sought to provide medical attention to babies born alive during abortion procedures. Even that most ardent abortion-supporter Nancy Pelosi voted for the Born Alive Act.

But Obama didn’t. He said he had a problem with the language of the state bill; if only it was the same language as the federal one! When the bill was adjusted to reflect that federal bill, he didn’t vote for it.

Obama’s administration has been wholly pro-abortion, and the HHS — under the direction of Kathleen Sebelius, pays the shallowest of lip service to the notion of a constitutional protection of religious conscience. If Catholics want to assist this administration in serving the marginalized, the helpless, the enslaved, well, they’d better fall in line on abortion and contraception or they may as well just stay home. Their expertise and services are not wanted.

The latest from Sister Mary Ann Walsh at the USCCB:

USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) had scored high enough to be awarded a federal grant to continue its very successful anti-trafficking program. But the decision was “overturned,” so to speak, when Sharon Parrott, a top adviser to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, stepped in to “have a dialogue” (her words) in the process because the award would go through a Catholic agency. Their problem?: the Catholic Church—though providing food, shelter, and legal and other medical services for trafficking victims more effectively than any other—is forbidden by conscience from referring those victims for abortion, sterilization or contraceptives. So much for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and other federal legislation that protects conscience—not to mention ordinary fair-play in picking grant recipients.

According to the first version [of an article] which appeared on the Washington Post website October 31, the decision caused controversy within HHS. The Post web article stated that “HHS policies spell out that career officials usually oversee grant competitions and select the winners, giving priority consideration the review board’s judgment. The policies do not prohibit political appointees from getting involved, through current and former employees said it is unusual, especially for high-level officials.”

Sheldon, who in the spirit of political loyalty apparently was willing to fall on his paperclip for higher-ups, told Markon: “I don’t think there was any undue influence exerted to make this grant go one way or the other.” He added, “Ultimately I felt it was my responsibility – and I’m not trying to get anyone off the hook here – to do what I thought was in the best interest of these victims.” [...] The original story on the web, which was later scrubbed of some quotes for whatever reason, was even more telling than what appeared in print:

“But some HHS staffers objected to the involvement of the secretary’s office, saying the goal was to exclude the Catholic bishops, individuals familiar with the matter said.

“It was so clearly and blatantly trying to come up with a certain outcome,” said one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak to the media. “That’s very distasteful to people.”

Theologian Tim Muldoon is hoping for a sliver lining to this gathering cloud:

In short: the Bishops clearly do the best work on behalf of refugees; HHS doesn’t like the bishops’ denial of abortion and contraceptive referrals; HHS denied the funding. Sr. Walsh sees ABC (anyone but Catholics) at work in this organization.

I wonder whether this obvious act of bias will, in the long run, be a good thing.

Let me be clear: I am deeply concerned that this kind of bigotry will ultimately hurt refugees the most. In the short term, they will not have the institutional support of the organization that is most able to reach out to serve them.

But in the long term, I hope that this move does several things:

1. It disabuses people of the notion that the Obama administration supports Catholic Social Teaching.

2. It mobilizes Catholics to recognize and act on the link between their faith and the demand for justice.

3. It forces a conversation within the Church about why the Church’s positions on abortion and birth control are rooted in the same care and concern for the poorest of the poor.

4. It makes clear that Catholics cannot rely on government funding for the promotion of faith and the service of justice.

Read the rest, here


First Things: Obama inflexibly Pro-Abortion
Gregorian: Religious Freedoms Under Attack

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About Elizabeth Scalia