Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York, who is president of the USCCB, brings an update on the HHS Mandate battle and he is being realistic and, it seems to me, trying to tell us all to gird our loins.
All links and emphases are mine:
The President invited us to “work out the wrinkles,” and we have been taking him seriously. Unfortunately, this seems to be going nowhere: the White House Press Secretary, for instance, informed the nation that the mandates are a fait accompli (and, embarrassingly for him, commented that we bishops have always opposed Health Care anyway, a charge that is simply scurrilous and insulting). The White House already notified Congress that the dreaded mandates are now published in the Federal Registry “without change.” The Secretary of HHS is widely quoted as saying, “Religious insurance companies don’t really design the plans they sell based on their own religious tenets,” which doesn’t bode well for a truly acceptable “accommodation.” And a recent meeting between staff of the bishops’ conference and the White House staff ended with the President’s people informing us that the broader concerns of religious freedom — that is, revisiting the straight-jacketing mandates, or broadening the maligned exemption—are all off the table. Instead, they advised the bishops’ conference that we should listen to the “enlightened” voices of accommodation, such as the recent hardly-surprising but terribly unfortunate editorial in America.
The White House seems to think we bishops are hopelessly out of touch with our people, and with those whom the White House now has nominated as official Catholic teachers.
So, I don’t know if we’ll get anywhere with the executive branch.
Congress offers more hope, with thoughtful elected officials proposing promising legislation to protect what should be so obvious: religious freedom. As is clear from the current debate in the senate, our opponents are marketing this as a “woman’s health issue.” Of course, it cannot be reduced to that. It’s about religious freedom. (By the way, the Church hardly needs to be lectured about health care for women. Thanks mostly to our Sisters, the Church is the largest private provider of health care for women and their babies in the country. Here in New York State, Fidelis, the Medicare/Medicaid insurance provider, owned by the Church, consistently receives top ratings for its quality of service to women and children.)
And the courts offer the most light. In the recent Hosanna-Tabor ruling, the Supreme Court unanimously and enthusiastically defended the right of a Church to define its own ministry and services, a dramatic rebuff to the administration, but one apparently unheeded by the White House. Thus, our bishops’ conference and many individual religious entities are working with some top-notch law firms who have told us they feel so strongly about this that they will represent us pro-bono.
So, we have to be realistic and prepare for tough times. Some, like America magazine, want us to cave-in and stop fighting, saying this is simply a policy issue; some want us to close everything down rather than comply (In an excellent article, Cardinal Francis George wrote that the administration apparently wants us to “give up for Lent” our schools, hospitals, and charitable ministries); some want us to engage in civil disobedience and be fined; some worry that we’ll have to face a decision between two ethically repugnant choices: subsidizing immoral services or no longer offering insurance coverage, a road none of us wants to travel.
Read it all. Someone asked me recently what I thought of the editorial in America magazine and I said I was sad about it, because there are so many Jesuits I admire greatly, but on this issue, they’re just wrong. I think they’re working through a very destructive conceit about their own intellectualism, and its leading them to a worldly and cynical alliance that will eventually — because this is about a government power-grab, not contraception, and they know it — end up marginalizing believers or creating a schismatic state church. I was disappointed that these exceedingly smart men were unable to see a simple truth, because it was “too” simple. I think sometimes this is the danger for very smart, well-educated folks. They miss the fact that sometimes, the truth is not complicated, at all.
The USCCB, by the way, is PhD heavy — our bishops are not bumpkins. But I suppose the bishops intellectual take on this issue, informed only by history, political science, philosophy and 2,000 years of reasoning is the wrong kind of smarts, or something. Not enlightened enough. The White House is (sadly, typically) as arrogant and disrespectful as ever.
UPDATE: Ed Morrissey does some numbers crunching regarding the impact of closing Catholic Hospitals:
Compared to their competition, Catholic hospitals take a leading role in providing less-profitable services to patients. They lead the sector in breast cancer screenings, nutrition programs, trauma, geriatric services, and social work. In most of these areas, other non-profits come close, but hospitals run by state and local governments fall significantly off the pace. Where patients have trouble paying for care, Catholic hospitals cover more of the costs. For instance, Catholic Health Services in Florida provides free care to families below 200 percent of federal poverty line, accepting Medicaid reimbursements as payment in full, and caps costs at 20 percent of household income for families that fall between 200 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty line.
Imagine the impact if these hospitals shut down, discounting the other 400-plus health centers and 1,500 specialized homes that the Catholic Church operates as part of its mission that would also disappear. Thanks to the economic models of these hospitals, no one will rush to buy them. One in six patients in the current system would have to vie for service in the remaining system, which would have to absorb almost $100 billion in costs each year to treat them. Over 120,000 beds would disappear from an already-stressed system.
The poor and working class families that get assistance from Catholic benefactors would end up having to pay more for their care than they do under the current system. Rural patients would have to travel farther for medical care, and services like social work and breast-cancer screenings would fall to the less-efficient government-run institutions. That would not only impact the poor and working class patients, but would create much longer wait times for everyone else in the system. Finally, over a half-million people employed by Catholic hospitals now would lose their jobs almost overnight, which would have a big impact on the economy as well as on health care.
And of course, we’re not just talking about hospitals.
Then again, if Catholic hospitals close, perhaps the government plans to acquire them, creating itself as the “be-all-and-end-all” — a false Christ, gathering all things to itself.
UPDATE II: Get Religion is watching the press get fed and digest the WH talking points
At Egregious Twaddle:
Yesterday’s New York Times, for example, brought this completely unsurprising editorial attempt to wedge the attack on Catholic conscience even deeper into the health care battlefield. “Women’s Health Care at Risk,” reads the headline over the earning that “a wave of mergers between Catholic and secular hospitals is threatening to deprive women of access to important reproductive services.” So now we’re not just making women sick by refusing to pay for free contraceptives for our employees; we’re withholding critical care. That these “important reproductive services”–”Catholic hospitals have refused to terminate pregnancies, provide contraceptive services, offer a standard treatment for ectopic pregnancies, or allow sterilization after caesarean sections,” all of which violate Catholic teaching on the sanctity of life–are in actual fact nonreproductive services is something nobody seems to be willing to discuss. (Is it just me?)
Read it all. Nope, it’s not just you, Joanne. The new narrative is that the church — which has never argued a ban on contraception — is trying to keep women from getting at it. It’s egregious, it’s false, and the promulgation of the lie is intensely cynical. But the press will promoted it, and people will buy it.
We Don’t Need No Stinking Bishops