Obama “Accommodation” Reactions

This morning I wrote what I had anticipated in the Obama “accommodation” and the reaction.

I expect President Obama will come out and say something that sounds wonderful and conciliatory and that seems reasonable to people who are eager to reconcile with the president and give themselves permission to vote for him again in November. I also expect that beyond the words, what the President offers will be too little — the government miserly granting to us pieces of freedom we are utterly entitled to own outright — but it will be “enough” for some.

And with that, Obama will have done the thing he needs to do, here, which is re-divide the Catholics who have apparently surprised him with their nearly unanimous condemnation of his HHS Mandate.
But the thing to remember is this: Obama has now demonstrated that he cannot be trusted to deal in good faith with the churches. Even if he gives a “full exemption”, one needs to worry whether he can be trusted if he wins re-election, and is no longer constrained by the need to please anyone.

I think I called it pretty close. While we wait for the bishops, let’s look at some reactions — and keep checking back; I’ll add to them as I find them!

Grant Gallicho at DotCommonweal: Saying Obama “fixed” the mandate, but still leaving room for Bishops:

Given that religious institutions will not have to pay for policies that include contraception, and they there is no requirement that they refer employees for such services, the new policy directly addresses the legitimate objections raised by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

We’ll see. More details as they come.

Diane Korzeniewski, OCDS at Te-Deum Blog: wonders why Sr. Carol Keehan did not leave room for the bishops but stepped out ahead of them?

Does she really think she is going to influence the U.S. bishops by going public with something that has the potential of being in opposition to them – again?

I can’t imagine anything more damaging to the fight for religious liberty and conscience protection than to have such public division. The U.S. bishops, who have finally found their voice, deserve to be heard before dissent hits the ground.

Well, but that’s precisely why she was given a heads up before the bishops (her statement and EJ Dionne’s lavishly approving column went out over the White House religion press portal) so the spinners could hit the ground running while the bishops are still trying to find their shoes. I’m disappointed that she consented to do that.

Robert Destro, law professor at Catholic University of America: “it’s a shell game”! Well, duh. That piece has other responses, as well, including this:including this:

Marie Hilliard, director of bioethics and public policy at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, a registered nurse and a canon lawyer, noted that the administration has not changed it’s definition of who is exempt. Instead, Obama just established a special provision for “non-exempt religious groups.”

It’s still a narrow definition focused on churches that employ and serve people of their faith, not schools, hospitals, social services or other ministries that are recognized under the tax code as exempt religious organizations. Until that’s changed, Hilliard said, the government is still “cherry-picking to see which groups will be seen by our government as worthy of exemptions and which won’t. “

At NRO, Kathryn Jean Lopez quotes a law professor from Notre Dame, who pronounces it “unacceptable”:

Today’s rule still requires religious institutions (on pain of ruinous treasury fines) to purchase insurance that covers these same objectionable services. It is irrelevant that the rule requires the insurance company (rather than the religious institution) to explain to employees that the policy purchased for them by their employer includes the 5-day after pill. For institutions that self-insure, the situation is even worse; they will be forced to contact their employees and pay for such services themselves.

It is no answer to suggest that the religious liberty of such employers is being accommodated because they are not “paying” for the objectionable services. First, it is naïve to imagine that the services are truly cost-free and that these costs will not be passed along to the employers who purchase these plans. More importantly, the simple fact is that under this policy the government is coercing religious institutions to purchase a product that includes services that they regard as gravely immoral.

We should ask ourselves why President Obama has sustained the narrow exemption for churches, religious orders, and auxiliaries? This is tantamount to the admission that this policy, just like the previous one, runs afoul of religious liberty.

The Beckett Fund: “This is a false compromise”

Stephen White at Catholic Vote says “POTUS Fail!”:

Then: All employers that don’t meet the narrow “religious exemption,” including Catholic hospitals and universities, are required by law to provide insurance coverage that includes contraception and sterilization procedures with no out of pocket costs cost to the insured.

Now: All employers that don’t meet the narrow “religious exemption,” including Catholic hospitals and universities, are required by law to provide insurance coverage. All such coverage must include contraception and sterilization procedures with no out of pocket costs cost to the insured.

We need details.

Robert T. Miller at First Things:

Thus far, the bishops have argued that, since the Church believes that abortion, sterilization, and contraception are morally wrong, it is wrong for the government to force the Church’s institutions to fund such things through its health insurance plans. By what logic, however, does the Church restrict this argument to just religious institutions? If these practices are morally wrong in the way the Church clearly says they are, how may the government force any employer who objects to them to funding them?

Vincent Miller at America Magazine is “thrilled”. . .but…:

The details of the solution are very important. They manifest great attention to the nuances of Catholic moral reasoning. As described by the Administration, this is a very substantial solution that is enormously attentive to the details of Catholic moral understanding over cooperation in immoral acts. [. . .] The details of this solution matter. There may yet be important moral snags that emerge with the details when the new regulation is published.

EJ Dionne: seems to be privy to details I’ve not yet seen elsewhere?:

“. . .the administration lifted the requirement that objecting religious organizations had to pay for contraception themselves. The health care policies they issue will not have to include contraception. Moreover, responding to another Catholic concern, they will also be under no obligation to inform their employees that they can receive contraception coverage in other ways or refer them to such coverage.

Instead, the requirement to inform will rest with the insurance companies who will be required to provide such coverage free of charge if individual employees ask for it. Since contraception coverage in effect saves insurance companies money (covering contraception is cheaper than covering pregnancy and child birth), the insurance companies will be required to offer this coverage free of charge. Under Obama’s proposal, responsibility for asking for contraception coverage falls to individuals.

As I said, Dionne (and for that matter Sr. Carol) seem to be privy to more details than the rest of us. Both the CHA statement and Dionne’s column went out under the White House religion list. So, they have been helping the White house to have a package ready, to shape reaction.

Ed Morrissey:

Let’s just take this one step at a time. Where do insurers get money to pay claims? They collect premiums and co-pays from the insured group or risk pool. No matter what the Obama administration wants to say now, the money that will cover those contraception costs will come from the religious organizations that must now by law buy that insurance and pay those premiums. Their religious doctrines have long-standing prohibitions against participating in contraception and abortion, and nothing in this “accommodation” changes the fact that the government is now forcing them to both fund and facilitate access to products and services that offend their practice of religion.

Basically, the Obama administration told religious organizations to stop complaining and get in line. This “accommodation” only attempts to accommodate Obama’s political standing and nothing more.

Predictably, the media narrative is Obama reconciled this and the story is over. If the bishops object, they’ll blame them. And, just as predictably — if comboxes are to be believed — it’s going down like mother’s milk to the public.

So, Obama has managed to reduce this to ideology and “right” vs “left” again, and the point everyone seems content to miss is this: it is not the President’s job to dole our rights out to us!

EWTN: Not dropping lawsuit:

EWTN is particularly concerned that the proposed rules for non-exempted religious organizations will still not be finalized until later in the coming year. This leaves EWTN and other such organizations very uncertain about what the future may hold with regard to this mandate. We will continue to consult with our legal counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty to determine the implications of this revised approach; however, our legal action against the administration will continue.”

USCCB: this is only the first step “in the right direction”. They want more.

Yural Levin: This changes nothing
Dan Collins:
What are the functions of the church?
Fr. Dwight: United we stand Divided we fall.
Mark Shea: Obama attempts a head fake
Just One Minute: I still want my “free” lunch
Mary’s Aggies: Biggest issue since Roe v Wade and here is why
Kim Priestap: It’s not the money…

About Elizabeth Scalia
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  • http://te-deum.blogspot.com Diane K

    I’ll add this post at the bottom of the one I just made.

    I could not help myself. I had to ask a question: Why is Sr. Carol Keehan stepping ahead of the bishops?

    Catholic Health Association released a statement that they are “pleased” with the compromise.

  • Katherine Harms

    I think the word “accommodation” says it all. This is not a recognition that the president trampled on religious freedom. It is not a recognition that the institutions have any rights at all. It simply creates a facade that not only still tramples on religious freedom, but adds the insult that he thinks we will be okay with this injury to the insurance companies. This is a shell game, and in the end, the president gets what he wants. Contraception, abortion and sterilization are not public health issues. They never were. They are simply the rituals of a humanist god-free religion. The so-called accommodation is just as thoroughly unconstitutional as the original policy.

  • http://www.patheos.com Amy

    If an insurance company is Catholic, they will not comply.

  • Peggy R

    I think it was the NRO editorial that noted that any “fix” including those in pending legislation were inadequate. The editors said we need to go back to a pre-Obama understanding of religious freedom–broad-based.

    And, let’s also admit that the case has not been made that contraceptives etc, are not “preventive” services and are not already widely available today.

  • archangel

    Daine… in answer to your question. Because that is what radical nuns do. They perceive themselves above the bishop, not to mention the Holy See. They won’t say they are, but they sure act it out.

  • http://sbucca@gmail.com Sambuca

    The Devil is in the details. Unfortunately the main stream media will never explain how Obama is trying to dupe the country. [Edited b/c I draw lines at calling people the devil. -admin]

  • http://clcumary.com Leroy Huizenga

    From here: http://www.catholicsun.org/2012/february/10/obama-hhs.html

    Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity who is president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, praised what she called “a resolution … that protects the religious liberty and conscience rights of Catholic institutions.”

    “The framework developed has responded to the issues we identified that needed to be fixed,” she said in a statement. “We are pleased and grateful that the religious liberty and conscience protection needs of so many ministries that serve our country were appreciated enough that an early resolution of this issue was accomplished.”

  • kevin

    We have a genuine, nascent tyrant in the White House. I never thought I’d see the day. This is what happens when you elect someone whose favorite author dedicated his most famous book to Lucifer.

  • LisaB

    Not surprisingly some of the predictions written here by Elizabeth and others came true in the DotCommonweal comment section. There will be no reason for the Obama supporters not to vote for Obama, on the contrary Barry has saved the day!

    From the comment section of DotCommonweal:

    Good for Obama for reacting decisively and avoiding what could have been a brutal constitutional war.

    He didn’t say in so many words, “I made a mistake”, but actions speak louder than words. The compromise is a fine one.

  • SteveN

    As others have pointed out, this is just a shell game. But suppose the bishops decide to play along. Then they will have declared that it is morally unacceptable for Catholic institutions to be required to purchase this coverage, but that it is morally acceptable for others to be forced to give away their goods and services for free – even those very same goods and services that were previously intrinsically wrong.

    [They're not playing along. They're studying their next move -admin].

  • Beth

    Thanks for all of your work to keep us informed, Anchoress.

  • CV

    The USCCB statement is up:


    It’s a bit too polite as far as I am concerned but sounds like they are taking a “wait and see” attitude until they have more details.

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  • David

    Isn’t this new rule even worse than the original? Specifically, under the old rule, churches and houses of worship (that could meet the narrow test laid out in the regulation) could choose an insurance plan for their employees that did not cover contraception and early abortion drugs. Now, they don’t even have that option because every insurance plan will be run by an insurer who will be required to provide the objectionable services at no additional cost. Now even the churches must violate their consciences!

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  • Joe

    Let’s see:
    - He told Archbishop Dolan all was well before the bill was signed.
    - He told people @ Notre Dame, he would respect the issues that Catholics and other would have

    I DON’T trust him or the administration!

    This is but ONE issue that has surfaced with OBAMACARE. What else will we have to fight?

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    Amazing how the Catholic Liberals are so blind. Actually they are either in cohoots with this administration or lap dogs or maybe, ala the communist era, useful idiots. Now they can justify an Obama vote in November. Did anyone think otherwise? I cannot respect any Catholic that votes for Obama in a second term given what has transpired these past few weeks.

  • ahem

    Sister Carol Keehan is not terribly bright, is she? Obama has changed nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. Null. He’s just forcing the Church’s insurance companies to pay instead, which is still having the same effect on Catholics: they’ll be forced to pay for murder any way they slice it. I guess some Catholics are stupid enough to believe that a tiny fig leaf will cover their nakedness.

    Alas, no.

    Dolan should have laughed in Obama’s face and told him to get serious.

    [In the language of diplomacy, that's precisely what he did do. -admin]

  • Justin

    This is all party of Obama’s strategy to push for a single payer system.

  • Brian English

    “There will be no reason for the Obama supporters not to vote for Obama”

    Anyone who was disturbed by the intra-Catholic fighting before the 2008 election and during the Obamacare debates should probably just leave now for a deserted island It is going to get ugly.

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  • David

    It looks like I answered my own question. I re-read the Whitehouse “fact sheet” and it appears that the rule requiring insurance companies to cover contraceptives where the employer doesn’t does not apply to houses of worship. It applies to the “non-exempt” religious non-profits only.

    [Read the link I provided from Ed Morrissey -admin]

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    So where do the insurance companies get the money to pay for this if the Church isn’t? Someone is paying for it?

    And we wonder why health insurance is so expensive. All these required services. If we had just basic catastrophic insurance then it would be afordable to all. And birth control for free? What does a box of condoms cost? I have no clue, but it can’t be more than five bucks. By having it go through insurance and government regulation, they probably tripled the price.

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  • Margaret

    We buy insurance coverage for our employees, but “don’t pay” (wink) for contraceptive/abortifacient/sterilization services. The insurance company turns around and “gives” these services to our employees “for free.” (wink wink nudge nudge.) Yeah.

    Frankly, I’m insulted– no effort was put into even making this LOOK superficially like a meaningful change.

  • ahem

    In addition, none of this has anything to do with the insurance model. Insurance is based on actuarial tables and probabilities, on the strong probability that you won’t need the service. That’s the only thing that keeps insurance costs reasonable. When you pay out $5 in benefits for every $1 collected, you’re not talking about anything that can reasonably called an insurance product. Health Insurance companies are no longer in the insurance business and will soon be obsolete.

  • ahem

    Obama is the master of the Big Lie. He keeps telling them because he can. It’s now a nightmare.

  • http://anchoress Tony

    I agree it’s a shell game and designed to give Obama cover until after HIS re-election (I don’t think he cares about any other member of his own party. I think he is very self centered.)

    What I think we are still missing is this:

    Obama (the Government) decreed what the church must do to comply with his interpretation of the law. He assumed the power. The response to the backlash, the accomodation, retains that power. He is only (in his beneficence) granting the Church a break. However, he is still claiming the power to order compliance and he can still change his interpretation of the law. In other words, Obama has asserted that he has the power to force the Church to comply, but he is not going to push it for now. There is no acknowledgment that he over-stepped the Constitution’s 1st Amendement protections. He still believes he has the power to force the church to comply and can use that power if it suits him.

    The accomodation is a sham. The requirement will be re-asserted when it suits Obama. We are on very dangerous ground if the Church leaders buy off on this.

  • LisaB

    @Brian English, very disturbing indeed. I’m ready for the fight; we all should prepare both spiritually and physically. It’s no coincidence that Lent is barely more than a week away.

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  • Geo

    It is entertaining and infuriating to watch cowards like Sr. Carol and E.J. Dionne slobbering at the chance to get back to shilling for this Constitution-chewing, Catholic-hating fraud of a president.

  • Chelli Miller-nonCatholic friend and supporter

    Dear Catholic friends,

    Please do not be fooled by this tricky administration. There have been numerous comments about the deviousness of this supposed “accommodation” to the Catholic church but there is so much more involved here. Quite frankly, Catholic as well as non-Catholic American’s NEED you to stand firm about the entire meaning of this mandate…our FIRST Amendment rights! We need YOU to lead all Constitution-respecting Americans to a unified protest against the foundation this great country was built upon.
    I enjoy attending St. John’s Cantius in Chicago, IL. The church is exquisite, I love the Latin services, sacred traditions, and the music at St. John’s is as good/better as any Chicago Symphony performance. I love the sacredness and always leave feeling peaceful and grateful.
    It was with a great sense of relief when I heard the priest read the Bishop’s letter asking for dedicated fasting and prayer against this attack on our religious freedoms through the polarizing guise of “women’s health.”
    It must be known clearly what this attempt represents? What will this administration do to this country with no fear of re-election?
    One more point…our MILITARY chaplains were asked not to read the Bishops letter??? How dare “they” put our honorable military chaplains in such a position to disobey a direct “request” or honor their religious vows.
    Please stand firm for you speak for all of us. And we are all behind you in our united fight to protect our First Amendment rights of religious freedom.
    Thank you for listening.

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  • http://allhands-ondeck.blogspot.com/ Mister H

    The Church absolutely has been right on the issue of birth control.

    For those who wish to learn why the Church is correct on this issue, an excellent commentary and further resource links can be found here:

  • Mark

    This is a good test to see who are Catholic and who are katholic by their response. Very interesting.

    Then Cardinal Ratzinger suggested that having a smaller Church that was actually Catholic would not be a bad thing. It would certainly clarify what was actual Catholic teaching.

    My question to the USCCB and my own Bishop is what they are going to do about someone like Sister Carol Keehan who seems to see herself as the Catholic authority to negotiate and speak for the USCCB. At some point, if the USCCB is to ever have any ability to lead, they need to actually remove those who are in full dissent and who also see themselves as the leaders of the Catholic Church. I would love to see this nun removed to set an example of who actually is in charge in the Church and responsible for Catholic teaching. That would be a “good start” to fixing many of the problems in the Catholic Church today. I would think HHS Sebelius would also be on that list since she has had a long running war with the Church teaching, might be good to send her on her way.

  • http://grumpyelder.com Grumpy

    The use of the accommodate or accommodation leaves the impression that he’s going out of his way to be a nice guy– Many will see it that way. and ignore the fact the regulation was Unconstitutional to begin with.. And a illegal power grab. He will look for others ways to regulate religion– He’s trying to set a precedent, the word was carefully chosen.

  • http://scrutinies.net Dorian Speed

    I really don’t understand how anyone could not have seen that this is how it would go down. Provoke the Catholics, pretend to be the voice of reason, then shake his head in disbelief that any of us are still squawking about the issue. I’m glad EWTN still plans to file suit.

  • piotr

    instead of forcing any company to provide an obligatory health care coverage, US goverment should create its own health care plan and pay for it from its own revenues.
    In Canada, BCP coverage is not a requirement sanctioned by law(not that things are better on this side of the border).

  • doc

    EJ Dionne is a snivelling little worm. Hugh Hewitt was much too respectful to him during the interview this week.

    Yes, Chellie, St. John Cantius is a Chicago treasure, but badly in need of repair, last time I checked.

  • Chris K

    He puts the mandate in.
    He takes the mandate out.
    He’ll put the mandate in and shake us all about.
    ‘Cuz THAT’s what it’s all about!

  • Chelli Miller-nonCatholic friend and supporter

    Doc…they’ve been doing renovations at St. John’s and it’s coming along nicely. I appreciate the progress to restore the church to its original beauty even if it is slow moving.

    I hope something is done with Sister Keehan if she is not in fact, a designated spokeswoman. And I was wondering how Sibileus could be Catholic and publicly support such policies?

    My greatest hope is that ALL Christians and God-fearing American’s don’t forget what this administration is really about and we don’t give them another 4 years to “finish the job” in November. I pray the Catholic Church will lead this defense without “accommodation.” (excellent post on the use of this word and the unfortunate listening of the uninformed)

  • Renie

    ‘Why is Sr.Carol Stepping Ahead of the Bishops”. I don’t think it so much stepping ahead, but just being more involved all along in crafting a solution. The White House reached out to Sister when it realized how unhappy we Catholics were with the original rule. My understanding from news articles is that this compromise, even if some consider it imperfect, was only generated because people like Sr. Carol were unhappy with it. I honestly don’t believe the Bishops have the base or political clout to win any changes at all in the rule, so I’m thankful for Sister Carol and her intervention.

    [More correctly, the WH reached out to Sr. Carol b/c they understood that their credibility with the "progressive" Catholics lay with her and with Dionne, who they also brought on board to spin this thing within minutes after it was announced (both of their words went out over the WH press portals). The WH is unconcerned with the bishops and did not bring them into this "solution" b/c they do not see the bishops as holding votes for them, as Sr. Carol does. There is nothing accommodating, here, only political calculation, managed with people who wanted very much to be able to say they were once more in agreement with the administration. It would not at all surprise me to see the bishops unleash the CHA after this. Basically Sr. Carol gave a "progressive Catholic imprimatur" to this thing and waylaid the bishops. It was a usurpation and it play a large part in creating schism between those interested in the teachings of the Church of Rome and those determined to create an American version of Catholicism. We live in very interesting times -admin]

  • http://ilfuoconecessario.wordpress.com Paolo

    Today’s first liturgical reading – 1 King,12:13 passim – is an extraordinary up-to date of every HHS mandate and similar. The Old Testament’s king make a Machiavellian choice, creating a political dividing line between the Israelite tribes, inducing to sustain his project with a religious choice, a “super partes” one.
    This is, of course, an excellent astute strategy, but the effect is the people’s eradication from God, to have no free binding force with his God. I repeat, all this is perfectly politically accepted, but the final result will be a fracture between people united by the same history, faith and commitment to life, liberty and pursuit of true happiness.
    Our leaders should be, indeed, inspired not by obsession to maintain power- that’s “divide et impera”- but by true compassion, attention to the poorest of the poor, as stated Mother Theresa, halleluia!

  • Janet F

    I am frightened that people of faith will believe the Pres. has heard them and wants to correct a wrong he has done. He has shown he cannot be trusted and I believe this was a game he played to create division with Catholic voters. From the days of his first campaign I strongly felt he was an anti-Christ – touting the title of Christian while quietly working to remove faith from our lives.
    In comment after comment, on non-Christian sites, people continue to treat pregnancy as an illness that needs a cure. If people do not believe that it is a child, how are they going understand that contraception is also destructive?

  • Chris

    Political opinions should not be in reigion. These comments are saturated with them. We are not living in the Kingdom yet and it (the revision) sounds totally free from any sin on Religious’ part. I think this is a weak place to start being (I don’t even want to use the word others are using) – militant. It was the zealots who caused all the problems in 70 AD. It is a sin to hate the President. We are all complicate in sin we don’t directly cause. EWTN forums are filled with the topic. If there was some love in the people you see in Church, maybe I would be withe you, but I think we need to humble ourselves first and show sanctity and these problems will heal themselves. Just my food for thought.

  • Romulus

    My wife and I won’t be using Obama’s “free” contraception. Could we get a free pony instead?

  • Margaret

    An article entitled “Nothing But Squid Ink” at NRO’s Corner is pointing out that the “proposed regulations” just WENT INTO LAW YESTERDAY. Unchanged. Not even with Obama’s fig leaf compromise included. Money quote from the OFR.gov PDF file (p. 19): “Accordingly, the amendment to the interim final rule with comment period amending 29CFR 2590.715-2713(a)(1)(iv) which was published in the Federal Register at 76 FR 46621-46626 on August 3, 2011, is adopted as a final rule without change.”

  • Chelli Miller-nonCatholic friend and supporter

    Margaret is correct. The original amendment was in fact passed into law yesterday.