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.
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.
“. . .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.
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…