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

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Off topic, but I’m very glad to hear that Kitty is on the mend!

    I think some of us knew all along that the promises of freedom of conscience weren’t worth the paper they were printed on.

    The idea seems to be to, eventually, force Catholics to choose between their work, and their faith; given the current economy, this is going to be a tough decision for some.

  • Greta

    I loved the video above on Coming Home to the Catholic Church. While watching it, I wondered if we might see Catholics coming home away from the party of abortion and increasingly a direct attack on the Catholic Church. I think they are gaining a sense that many of the catholics in their midst put their faith in a closet. Many they talk with actually dispise the catholic church as they see it today and so send the message it is OK to attack the Church without paying a price. The I am Catholic, BUT, crowd needs to have very consistent teaching by the Church. From my experience, no matter the topic, the I am XXX, BUT crowd look for any wedge that they can use to stir dissent. They do not leave because it seems to be their mission is to radically change or destroy the Catholic Church, not seek out thier faith elsewhere that already exists to match that belief. I have had a few of these type of people in my company over the years and you have to get them out before they destroy many of the other employees if not the entire company. It is the old bad apple problem.

    They often form the personally opposed crowd whose very vote insures that the killing abortion mills stay active. I have never understood how that works. I can think of the things that I am personally opposed to and find none that I would then support to make legal and certainly nothing close to a choice to kill or keep alive. I do not like the death penalty, but am far from being at a point I am personnally opposed to it because I see issues that the Catholic Church discusses such as the safety of others if the sentence is not carried out. Should I arrive at being personally opposed, I would vote to outlaw its existence. You can personally be opposed to purple, but issues like life would seem to have a more important core structure in your heart, mind, and soul. I often think of those who are personally opposed to abortion but vote and support the party of death as if they are discussing their dislike of turkey or ham for their dinner. Would love to have someone enlighten me on this point. I also would love for the same person to point out what is proportianate to 4,000 babies being killed 365 days a year for a total over 54 million. I would imagine it would come out about the same as being personally opposed to a ham sandwich.

  • http://elizabethk-fthnfort.blogspot.com/ Elizabeth K.

    #4 on Muldoon’s list is especially important; it simply may be time for us to part ways with government funding. The real question, though, will be whether Catholic charities can continue to operate according to the faith even when there are no government subsidies involved–I’m not sure whether the closure of adoption agencies has to do with lack of funding or noncompliance with news laws re: gay families.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Yes, that’s the question.

    Even if Catholic charities manage to operate without government funding, they could till be sued for “Bigotry”, or “Intolerance” or not noncompliance with the new laws.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Following up all the links on this story, it looks as the ACLU is going to continue going after the health service (if I read this correctly), because serveral years ago, they fired some of their workers who helped a teenage girl get an abortion.

    So, even when they’re not getting government funding, it looks as if the government is not going to let the charities keep running unmolested. The next step will be to wage “Lawyerfare” against them, if they don’t permit abortion, same-sex marriage, etc.

  • Kara

    Well said. I think Mr. Muldoon’s point – “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.” – is key. How can we shift people’s thinking from contraceptives/abortions as helpful in dire circumstances to actually being harmful? And how, for example, to help people who choose to have a number of children by different partners, without any responsibility or commitment, with their children suffering the effects of their parents’ choices, to see a different way when they are starting at such a different starting point than Church teaching.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Yes, Kara.

    For one thing, considering that this particular Catholic charity was working to stop human trafficking. . . I would think that providing the women with abortions and/or birth control would simply make it easier, in most cases, for those exploiting them to keep on doing so, without having to worry about the “Merchandise” getting pregnant, and inconveniencing them; in short, it would make it harder for them to get away.

  • SKay

    I remember a Catholic priest saying that Obama would certainly be “pragmatic” on the issue of abortion. Knowing Obama’s background I was amazed that anyone would believe that.

  • Teresa

    It is clear that grant-making decisions are now being made by political appointees exclusively with particular emphasis on denying grants to the Catholic Church charities. This one really smells because usually the grants process in the federal government is pretty straightforward. Civil servants review the applications (usually a panel reviews the applications) and their recommendations are almost always accepted. In my years of experience working for the federal government, political appointees rarely got involved in that process. Hopefully, the activities of this Administration will be exposed by a few brave federal workers, if there are any left.

  • Greta

    Does anyone truly believe that Obama and his party support in any way the Catholic Church teaching?

    I am so sick of hearing democrats hanging onto the social justice argument to try to justify voting for abortion candidates.

    I do not know a single republican who does not favor uplifting people out of poverty or protecting the environement or curbing violence. If there are, they are certainly in the minority.

    Since 1964, when LBJ decided to restart the socialist ideas going back to FDR but with a massive infusion of cash while massively escallating the war in Vietnam, the democrats have been pushing the idea that they are the saints on poverty. Trillions of dollars later, any study of the poor now versus 1963 does not lend itself to supporting the money as being well spent. The first problem is that is started rewarding behavior that was not positive. Have a family and work hard and you get nothing. Have children out of wedlock and the government is there to give you a hand for generations. Work hard and pay taxes and get nothing. Don’t work and you get massive government handouts funding out of ever growing and increasing government agencies. We even see them now advertising to increase those on government benefits. The list is endless and it has more to do with holding power by the Democratic Party than doing anything positive for America. In the midst of this spending orgy, the took the money from Social Security and put it into the general fund replacing it with IOU’s to keep the money flowing. And then when the leglaized killing of babies came along, the Democratic Party jumped in with both feet in supporting it and doing everything possible to set up payments to encourage and expand it. The list goes on and one.

    Republicans are painted as not caring about the poor but if what the Democrats have given us at a huge price is caring for the poor, spare the country going forward as doing nothing for poverty would have been a far better choice and much more compassionate. but the Republicans worked to increase deductions for kids and families, end the marriage penalty, end the death tax that destroyed family business and farms, promote charities that worked, promote school vouchers to give the poor a choice Democrats did not want the poor kids to have, set up empowerment zones to bring jobs to poor neighborhoods, keep the minimum wage affordable to business so kids could get in and learn how to work rather than drive it up and leave 50% of kids in some neighborhoods unemployed for life. This list goes on as well. Which side really cares about the poor?

    How about endless government regulations and incresed taxes to drive businesses out of many poor neighborhoods or the complete support of tort lawyers to damage business and jobs. Wow, those democrats really care about the poor.

    How about lying about data to make global cooling, warming, climate change a crisis that would demand more job killing regulations when there is no finite proof that what man is doing is even causing the small changes we are seeing in warming or to come up with reasonable solutions that do not kill jobs or make the USA no longer competitive in the world?

    I would love to see the social justice reasons to justify the support of abortion candidates that result in 4000 babies a day being slaughtered up to the 54 million now dead as a result of those supporting the party of death for all these years.