Blammo! Bishops Refuse to Back Down an Inch

Blammo! Bishops Refuse to Back Down an Inch February 10, 2012

To wit:

February 10, 2012
Regulatory changes limited and unclear
Rescission of mandate only complete solution
Continue urging passage of Respect for Rights of Conscience Act

WASHINGTON – The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have issued the following statement:

The Catholic bishops have long supported access to life-affirming healthcare for all, and the conscience rights of everyone involved in the complex process of providing that healthcare. That is why we raised two serious objections to the “preventive services” regulation issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in August 2011.

First, we objected to the rule forcing private health plans — nationwide, by the stroke of a bureaucrat’s pen—to cover sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortion. All the other mandated “preventive services” prevent disease, and pregnancy is not a disease. Moreover, forcing plans to cover abortifacients violates existing federal conscience laws. Therefore, we called for the rescission of the mandate altogether.

Second, we explained that the mandate would impose a burden of unprecedented reach and severity on the consciences of those who consider such “services” immoral: insurers forced to write policies including this coverage; employers and schools forced to sponsor and subsidize the coverage; and individual employees and students forced to pay premiums for the coverage. We therefore urged HHS, if it insisted on keeping the mandate, to provide a conscience exemption for all of these stakeholders—not just the extremely small subset of “religious employers” that HHS proposed to exempt initially.

Today, the President has done two things.

First, he has decided to retain HHS’s nationwide mandate of insurance coverage of sterilization and contraception, including some abortifacients. This is both unsupported in the law and remains a grave moral concern. We cannot fail to reiterate this, even as so many would focus exclusively on the question of religious liberty.

Second, the President has announced some changes in how that mandate will be administered, which is still unclear in its details. As far as we can tell at this point, the change appears to have the following basic contours:

·It would still mandate that all insurers must include coverage for the objectionable services in all the policies they would write. At this point, it would appear that self-insuring religious employers, and religious insurance companies, are not exempt from this mandate.

·It would allow non-profit, religious employers to declare that they do not offer such coverage. But the employee and insurer may separately agree to add that coverage. The employee would not have to pay any additional amount to obtain this coverage, and the coverage would be provided as a part of the employer’s policy, not as a separate rider.

·Finally, we are told that the one-year extension on the effective date (from August 1, 2012 to August 1, 2013) is available to any non-profit religious employer who desires it, without any government application or approval process.

These changes require careful moral analysis, and moreover, appear subject to some measure of change. But we note at the outset that the lack of clear protection for key stakeholders—for self-insured religious employers; for religious and secular for-profit employers; for secular non-profit employers; for religious insurers; and for individuals—is unacceptable and must be corrected. And in the case where the employee and insurer agree to add the objectionable coverage, that coverage is still provided as a part of the objecting employer’s plan, financed in the same way as the rest of the coverage offered by the objecting employer. This, too, raises serious moral concerns.

We just received information about this proposal for the first time this morning; we were not consulted in advance. Some information we have is in writing and some is oral. We will, of course, continue to press for the greatest conscience protection we can secure from the Executive Branch. But stepping away from the particulars, we note that today’s proposal continues to involve needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions, and to threaten government coercion of religious people and groups to violate their most deeply held convictions. In a nation dedicated to religious liberty as its first and founding principle, we should not be limited to negotiating within these parameters. The only complete solution to this religious liberty problem is for HHS to rescind the mandate of these objectionable services.

We will therefore continue—with no less vigor, no less sense of urgency—our efforts to correct this problem through the other two branches of government. For example, we renew our call on Congress to pass, and the Administration to sign, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act. And we renew our call to the Catholic faithful, and to all our fellow Americans, to join together in this effort to protect religious liberty and freedom of conscience for all.

In addition, Whispers at the Loggia has an internal memo that shows the bishops have found their spine and their voice on this:

Here below, however, the text of the internal letter to the bishops — obtained tonight by Whispers — and signed by the aforementioned quintet: the conference president, Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan of New York, and the bench’s committee chairs for Pro-Life Activities, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston; Doctrine, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington; Domestic Policy, Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, and the newly-formed arm on Religious Liberty, Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport.

Here’s a snippet:

We remain fully committed to the defense of our religious liberty and we strongly protest the violation of our freedom of religion that has not been addressed. We continue to work for the repeal of the mandate. We have grave reservations that the government is intruding in the definition of who is and who is not a religious employer. Upon further study we are very concerned that serious issues still remain and we have found numerous problems which we will raise in this letter.

This ain’t over. And it’s quite on the cards that the bishops, rather than back down on this, could just tell CHA and Catholic Charities that if they try to compromise on this they can forget calling themselves Catholic anymore. I hope that doesn’t happen and that Keehan and Co. dial back their instant willingness to bow and scrape to Obama. But if they refuse, the Church may be better off cutting them loose to fend for themselves so that She can attend to what is, after all, her real mission of proclaiming the gospel. Those Catholic organization willing to stick with the Church’s teaching in its integrity can continue their mission unimpeded by the need to justify their betrayal of the Church.

But as I say, I hope Catholic Charities and CHA dial it back and obey their bishops.

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  • michigan

    Ah, cut em loose. They’ve been asking for it for ages and it’s what they really want.

    • Mark Shea

      First, see if they get back in line.

    • Joseph

      I wonder if, once she decides to love Christ more than Caesar, Keehan will have to give up her ceremonial “pen” that she received from his hand when she utterly failed to get the public option included in the health care bill in the first place… essentially making it nothing more than a government enforced cash cow for the big insurance companies.

      Sorry for being harsh, but man I’m sick of her making Catholics look ridiculously inconsistent and still being able to retain the moniker of a “nun”.

  • Chris

    Wow. I had no idea Catholic Charities already hopped on the parade float.

    Or, as someone once said, “It’s only when the tide goes out that you learn who’s been swimming naked.”

  • Frank Weathers

    Glad they have our backs, and ASAP. It’s truly awe inspiring.

    • Joseph

      Yes. They are our William Wallace right now. I hope they keep it up. If they do, they will see thousands of converts flooding into their RCIA programs because it will become obvious that the last beacon of Christian hope lies within the Church.

  • Elmtree

    In all fairness to Catholic Charities, this has to be extremely difficult- knowing the people you help, that no one else will help. Cut em a break. They are wrong here, but cut em a break and try to understand why they might be quick to jump on this ‘compromise’

    I’m THRILLED, mind you, that our Bishops are taking a stand for what’s right, and sticking to it.

    • Mark Shea

      I understand they are running scared. But they should man up and face down this tyrant. He can’t be stupid enough to really try to smash the Catholic health care system in an election year.

      • Joseph

        I’m having a difficult time thinking he’s that stupid as well. What freakin’ cards is he holding?

      • The Deuce

        Yup, he’s going to keep looking for “compromises” that leave him with the option to unilaterally recommence the smashing on November 3, without having to create or repeal any laws, until he gets one.

    • Dan C

      This is the end of Catholic Charities as it is known today if there is no budge.

      By that I mean it will be very much a reduced mission. The reduction of that mission will hurt the Church too.

  • Good job, your Excellencies! Outstanding leadership by my bishop, (soon to be) Cardinal Dolan.

    My favorite part was where the bishops pointed out to the President: you are definitely not the only game in town: we do not have to accept your largesse, there is Congress. That should put him in his place. Now Congress needs to do its duty.

  • Wryman

    Bravo bishops!
    As for the others, time will tell who they are and Who they will serve.

  • Ann

    I just wrote the USCCB a thank you note for their courageous and articulate response. You can, too!

  • I’m not so wild about “cutting [Catholic healthcare facilities] loose”: without the at least stated principles of respect for life in all its stages, I am afraid that unmoored formerly Catholic facilities will so conform to the spirit of the age that eventually there will be no health care entity in the country that could be counted on to respect my life when I am old and “useless”; no corporate witness to the value of the human person, no matter their degree of exterior participation in society.
    Anyway, the whole situation gives me the willies.

    • Joseph

      CHA has been fawning over Obama since he was tapped to be the next president by Dick Cheney. They are just an association so I see nothing that they deliver but politics. However, I’m with you on Catholic Charities. I hope to God they come back into the fold because they are so necessary for our mission to provide for people in need.

      • Deadstop

        Obama chosen as the next President by Dick Cheney? You are deep into the conspiracy theory here, Joseph. You might recall there was an election, in which Obama was opposed from within his own party as well as by the Republicans?

        If the Ruling Classes, as Mark calls them, are capable of that degree of secret collusion, why are we even bothering to oppose them? Sounds like it would all turn out to have been part of their massive Xanatos Gambit from the start.

        • Mark Shea

          I think Joseph was speaking tongue in cheek. The idea is that Bush/Cheney’s brutal ineptitude and “deficit’s don’t matter” stupidity handed Obama the White House.

  • God bless these men. This is truly amazing to see. The Holy Spirit is involved in this.

  • The Deuce

    I’m glad to see the USCCB holding firm on this so far. It had been my suspicion that they were looking for any excuse to cave, given how weak they were on Obamacare from the get-go, so this is a nice surprise. It’s been my damn near certainty on guys like Keehan, and I was right.

    Still, there’s something that really bugs me on the bishops’ position, and has all along. Even if they manage to carve out a full exemption for officially Catholic organizations, individual business owners who happen to be faithful Catholics will still have to pay for contraceptives and abortificiants for their employees, in violation of their right to free exercise of religion.

    And what’s more, this isn’t some sort of recent revelation like the mandate on Catholic organizations has been. It was known to be the case all along. Where was the USCCB then? They raise hell when their personal ox is gored and their own organizations are forced to pay for contraception in violation of their religious liberty, but they were fine with it, even rather enthusiastic about it, when individual members of their flock are being forced to do the same thing?

    While it may make them look a bit hypocritical to start complaining out infringements of religious rights that they were content to overlook before, they really need to expand their focus and stick up for all Catholics, and all Christians, who are having their religious freedom trampled by this monstrosity.

    • The Deuce

      Well, I guess I should add, they officially opposed the mandate on those grounds early on, but it wasn’t until it turned out that it would apply to them personally a couple weeks ago that they really started raising a holy ruckus. I hope now they’ll fight the mandate itself, as applied to anybody, tooth and nail until it’s gone.

    • The Deuce

      Wow, I should’ve read the bishops’ whole letter before I commented. It looks like they are indeed going to bat for all of those issues now, and not just for the rights of their own organizations. Bravo!

      • Peggy R

        Yes, I am glad you saw that. The bishops are demanding every one’s religious freedom. God bless them!

  • Perhaps I still have the Super Bowl on my mind, but this seems like nothing other than a coach calling time out after the other team makes four first downs in a row. Obama could see the momentum building against him, and despite the best efforts of the MSM to frame this as ‘Catholic Bishops against contraception’, a growing number of people, including non-Catholics, were seeing it as a religious freedom issue.

    So to break the juggernaut of resistance to the mandate, maybe to break morale as well, and to give his own team a breather, he threw a time out. Already tonight I saw the president of Episcopal Divinity School, Katherine Ragsdale, on FOX, and James Carville on CNN, saying it’s time to move on, Obama has done his part, let’s get back to the important things (like ensuring women’s health is protected). I could be wrong. But I can’t help believing, if I put my cynical hat on, that something close to a time-out mentality is why Obama did what he did (unless, of course, this is what he wanted all along). So I’m glad to see the Bishops are still resisting, and it sounds like they’re not the only ones.

    • Adolfo

      Then that head coach is using his time outs incorrectly. You don’t use time outs to halt momentum in football. You do, however, in basketball. Maybe you’ve got that on your mind instead.

  • I just got the following e-mail from the White House… Look at the spin and watch how Catholics United and the Catholic Health Association are used to give this legitimacy, and note the disingenuousness of the title:

    Protecting the Health of Women While Accommodating Religious Liberty

    By Cecilia Muñoz, Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council

    Thank you for using We the People to make your voice heard about the Obama Administration’s decision to ensure that women have access to free preventive care with no co-pays, including contraceptive services, no matter where they work.

    As background, the Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to cover preventive services, including preventive care for women, without charging a co-pay, starting on August 1, 2012. These preventive services include well women visits, domestic violence screening, and contraception, and all were recommended to the Secretary of Health and Human Services by the independent Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science.

    The policies we have proposed exempt churches, other houses of worship, and similar organizations from covering contraception on the basis of their religious objections. But some religious organizations have raised religious liberty concerns about providing contraception in particular in recent weeks.

    Today, President Obama has announced that his Administration will implement this policy in a manner that fully accommodates religious liberty while protecting the health of women. As the President said:

    Nearly 99 percent of all women have relied on contraception at some point in their lives –- 99 percent. And yet, more than half of all women between the ages of 18 and 34 have struggled to afford it. So for all these reasons, we decided to follow the judgment of the nation’s leading medical experts and make sure that free preventive care includes access to free contraceptive care. Whether you’re a teacher, or a small businesswoman, or a nurse, or a janitor, no woman’s health should depend on who she is or where she works or how much money she makes. Every woman should be in control of the decisions that affect her own health. Period. This basic principle is already the law in 28 states across the country.
    Now, as we move to implement this rule, however, we’ve been mindful that there’s another principle at stake here –- and that’s the principle of religious liberty, an inalienable right that is enshrined in our Constitution. As a citizen and as a Christian, I cherish this right. In fact, my first job in Chicago was working with Catholic parishes in poor neighborhoods, and my salary was funded by a grant from an arm of the Catholic Church. And I saw that local churches often did more good for a community than a government program ever could, so I know how important the work that faith-based organizations do and how much impact they can have in their communities.
    Video of his entire statement is available here.

    Here are a few basic facts:

    Under the policy, women have access to preventive care with no co-pay that includes contraceptive services.
    All churches and houses of worship are exempt from the requirement to provide coverage for contraception or refer for contraception.
    If a woman’s employer is a religious non-profit organization, such as a charity hospital that has a religious objection to providing contraceptive services as part of its health plan, her insurance company — not the hospital or charity — will be required to reach out and provide her contraceptive care free of charge if she chooses to use it.
    There are tremendous health benefits for women that come from using contraception. Contraception is a safe and effective way of preventing unintended pregnancies which can be associated with increased health risks, and doctors also prescribe contraception for medical and health reasons, including helping to reduce the risk of some cancers, serious infections and cysts. Yet many women skip contraceptive care because of cost.

    President Obama is also committed to preserving religious liberty and he listened to the concerns raised by certain religious organizations and took them seriously.

    You can learn more about the policy here.

    This is an issue where people of good will on both sides of the debate have been grappling to find a solution that works for everyone, and the policy announced today has done that. The right to religious liberty will be fully protected, and a law that requires preventive care without co-pays will not discriminate against any woman, anywhere. Here are a few statements from groups involved in the issue:

    Catholics United:

    President Obama has shown us that he is willing to rise above the partisan fray to deliver an actual policy solution that both meets the health care needs of all employees and respects the religious liberty of Catholic institutions.

    Catholic Health Association:

    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.

    Planned Parenthood:

    The Obama administration has reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring all women will have access to birth control coverage, with no costly co-pays, no additional hurdles, and no matter where they work.

    Today’s announcement makes it clear that President Obama is firmly committed to protecting women’s health.
    Thank you again for participating in the We the People platform to make your voice heard on this important issue.

  • Doug Indeap

    I’m curious. How long do you suppose a dollar remains Catholic after the Church uses it to pay others and they use it to pay others, etc? At some point, someone might rightfully regard that dollar as theirs to do with as they will–without regard to the religious views of someone who had it in their hands a transaction or two earlier.

    • James Nightshade

      Person X gives Person Y a dollar who then chooses to use the dollar to commit an immoral act. Does this trouble Person X’s conscience?

      Well, it’s not a question of who has the dollar at any given moment. It’s whether Person X suspected (in this case, knew outright) what Person Y was going to do with the dollar.

      • Doug Indeap

        So can anti-evolutionists stop paying their property taxes to pay for public schools that teach evolution? Can anti-war protesters stop paying income taxes the government uses to fight that war? Should I refuse to tip the waitress after hearing she is thinking of having an abortion? All this has me wondering how many people I can control for how long with “my” dollars.

        • S. Murphy

          It’s a democracy; if enough people decide it’s not worth paying taxes to defend it, then it’s not. Fair enough.
          Changing the language a little bit so that there’s a fig leaf screening the government- imposed conscience violation doesn’t change what’s actually happening. Insurance companies don’t do anything for free, so the Church will be paying for contraception & abortion if the president gets his way.

        • Will

          Gee, when I was in college, I was barraged with lefty stickers saying “DON’T PAY TAXES FOR AN IMMORAL WAR”. I guess they are the absolute judges of what is “moral” or “immoral”, and the rest of us do not get to make judgements like that.

          • Doug Indeap


            You recognize the difference between an act of civil disobedience in protest against a government action and a political demand for an exemption from a law, right?

            • S. Murphy

              No, you’re right: the law itself violates the First Amendment. We shouldn’t be asking for exemptions – we should just be opposing the HHS mandate entirely, and the ACA itself, if it implicitly requires such measures in order to implement it.
              Healthcare may need fixing, but the 2000 page bill that hardly anybody read just may not be the way to do it.

              • Doug Indeap

                The law of the Constitution is simply other than you suppose, and thus so is the issue. Questions about the government requiring or prohibiting something that conflicts with someone’s faith are entirely real, but not new. The courts have occasionally confronted such issues and have generally ruled that the government cannot enact laws specifically aimed at a particular religion (which would be regarded a constraint on religious liberty contrary to the First Amendment), but can enact laws generally applicable to everyone or at least broad classes of people (e.g., laws concerning pollution, contracts, fraud, negligence, crimes, discrimination, employment, etc.) and can require everyone, including those who may object on religious grounds, to abide by them. (E.g., The First Amendment does not compel the broad exemption you advocate. It just doesn’t. (E.g., Were it otherwise and people could opt out of this or that law with the excuse that their religion requires or allows it, the government and the rule of law could hardly operate.

                When moral binds for individuals can be anticipated, the legislature may, as a matter of grace, add provisions to laws affording some relief to conscientious objectors.

                The real question here then is whether there is any need for such an exemption in order to avoid forcing some employers to act contrary to their consciences. As the law plainly does not force any employer to act contrary to his conscience there simply is no need for an exemption. The law affords those with conscientious objections to providing their employees with qualifying health plans the option of not providing any such plans and instead paying an assessment and, now, the compromise relieves them even of that burden by allowing them to provide health plans to their liking and not pay the assessment that otherwise would be required.

                • James Nightshade

                  Supposing you are right about the applicability of the First Amendment: what then about about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act? It was passed specifically because of the Supreme Court decision that you linked, and was intended to use federal law to establish a stricter standard. Can HHS rulemaking override RFRA, or does RFRA not apply to this situation?

                  • Doug Indeap

                    You raise a good point. I do not know enough about that statute to opine how it might apply here. In all the commentary I’ve read, none have addressed this. It may be that the ACA expressly or impliedly amends the RFRA to the extent necessary to implement the ACA. Something to check further.

  • Emperor Decius Obamacus appears bound and determined to put the faithful to the test. Some will pass and remain faithful, others will fail and bow down to the god-king, Decius Obamacus. Divide and conquer.

    “Such sweeping reforms necessarily brought into prominence the growing power of the Christian Church, and made it clear that any attempt to realize or enforce the absolutism of earlier Roman politics must necessarily be futile as long as any considerable body of citizens professing the Christian creed was allowed the free exercise of their religion. Belief in the freedom on conscience and the higher estimate of religion found among the Christians could find no part in such schemes as those of Decius and would necessarily prove an insuperable obstacle to the complete realization of his plans. Various reasons have been assigned for the emperor’s hatred of Christianity, some seeing in it an evidence of innate cruelty, others a desire to be avenged on the friends of his predecessor; but there can be little doubt that the main motives for his hostility were political, conceived not in the form of fanaticism but in purposes of political expediency. The scope of the anti-Christian legislation of Decius was broader than that of his predecessors and much more far-reaching in its effects. The text of his edicts has not survived but their general tenor can be judged from the manner in which they were executed. The object of the emperor was not the extermination of the Christians, but the complete extinction of Christianity itself. Bishops and priests were unconditionally punished with death. To all others was given an opportunity to recant and, to ensure the abandonment of Christianity, all were compelled to submit to some test of their loyalty to Paganism, such as the offering of sacrifice, the pouring of libations, or the burning of incense to the idols. The unexpectedness of the attack, coupled with the fact that an appalling amount of laxity and corruption had manifested themselves during the long peace which the Church had just enjoyed, produced the most deplorable effect in the Christian fold. Multitudes presented themselves to the magistrates to express their compliance with the imperial edict and to these apostates tickets were issued attesting the fact that they had offered sacrifice (sacrificati) or burned incense (thurificati), while others, without actually performing these rites, availed themselves of the venality of the magistrates to purchase certificates attesting their renunciation (libellatici). These defections, though numerous, were more than counterbalanced by the multitudes who suffered death, exile, confiscation, or torture in all parts of the empire. The Decian persecution was the severest trial to which the Church up to that time had been subjected and the loss suffered by the Church in consequence of apostasy was almost as damaging as the losses by martyrdom. The problem of deciding on what conditions the lapsi should be admitted to the church and what weight was to be attached to the pardon of confessors, produced the bitterest dissensions and led directly to two dangerous schisms.”

  • James

    I am reminded of the case of Eleazar in the Book of Maccabees. The greeks had taken over Jerusalem and dreed all jews must publicly eat pork or die. One old man, Eleazar, refused to violate God’s law. The greeks, not wanting to kill him, offered a concession. Eleazar could eat another meat but let his fellow jews think he was eating pork. Everyone would be happy. The greeks would save face and Eleazar could keep his life. The old man spurned the shameful conscience clause and chose death instead.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      Yes! Eleazar FTW.

    • freddy

      James; brilliant! This bears repeating. Shouting from the rooftops, even. T-shirts with “2 Macc. 6: 18-31!”

  • This sentence gives me pause: “We will, of course, continue to press for the greatest conscience protection we can secure from the Executive Branch.” My worry is that it appears to surrender our best ground in the fight against this tyranny: we are not petitioning a King to grant us a boon; rather, we are demanding that a public servant do his sworn duty and uphold our God-given natural rights. The second we accept that B.O. is giving us something we want rather than limiting his power according to natural law, we’ve lost.

    Fr. Philip Neri, OP

    • Oregon Catholic

      Absolutely spot on Father! It gave me pause too because it sounds like they think they might have to accept less protection than what they want, i.e., a compromise instead of a total reversal. Hopefully, it is just the result of rushing out a response.

      • WHERE did the bishops ever say they thought our rights come from the government, or that we beg them from our Glorious Leader as a concession? Nowhere. No, they were simply asking the government to do its job of protecting our God-given rights.

        It would be quite an insult to Cardinal-designate Dolan to suggest he doesn’t know where our rights come from. The man has a graduate degree in American history, for Pete’s sake! In fact, in one of his on the run interviews when the mandate boom was lowered, he said something along the lines of “The government should continue to do now what it has done since July 4, 1776,” the day on which, as everyone knows, the nascent government of the U.S. recognized that we are “endowed by our Creator” with our fundamental rights and liberties. He said that for a reason, I’m sure.

        I actually read the bishops’ statement as a subtle sarcastic dig at the President. Read the whole thing. They were saying in essence: “Mr. President, we want you to do the right thing; we don’t really expect anything much. But you’re not the only game in town. We don’t have to accept a weak compromise solution from you. There are Congress and the courts to offer us redress.” I’m sure that was intended to put him in his place. But it will probably go right over Obama’s head. After all, he thinks he is the whole government.

  • Wryman

    As good as the bishops’ statement is, it is very unfortunate that they took so long, allowing the opposition and the media to declare the issue over. Didn’t they have a plan? Nearly everyone on our side came out right away with the proper blistering response. Their first response was tepid. This morning, the AP analysis going out to every newspaper in America declares the issue over as far as “united Catholic opposition” and does not even mention the bishops’ latest statement. It would be nice to see Sister forced to recant today, but of course that is not going to happen. Perhaps she will be invited in for some “dialogue” at some point, but then the story line becomes “courageous nun punished by authoritarian male-dominated church that sheltered pedophiles.”

    • Mark Shea

      Yes. Bishops aren’t bloggers and they can’t shoot from the hip. They took a whole eight hours to respond. And so guys like you are back with counsels of defeat and despair–again. Instead of perpetually declaring doom, why don’t you shut up and pray for the bishops and the Church? You’ve done nothing but complain and prophesy “game over” since the start. You help nothing.

      • Mike

        Why is it too much to ask to wish that the Bishops and the Conference laity obtain some PR and political wisdom along with the Spiritual strength they already have???

        You look at the clock at noon on a Friday as the President releases his statement after already have been briefed by the President. You realize at 12:05pm that the President means for this to be a weekend style document dump. You realize at 12:10 that you should try to put out a statement prior to close of business Friday so that the press over the weekend doesn’t get a clean narrative that the President “compromised”.

        At 12:15 you call up your staff and a lawyer and relay that we need to get a message out by close of business. By 1:00pm your lawyer has looked at the rule and tells you what it does and does not do. Then at worst by 2:00pm your have at least one staff member pounding this thing out, and your edit and send to press sometime shortly after 4:00pm.

        This type of thing is standard for a non-profit, interest group, or congressional staff. If the USCCB intends to be the lobbying arm for the US Bishops, it is not too high of expectations to ask that they get something out like this in just a few hours.

        Prayer matters, but there are also legitimate practical considerations that you shouldn’t just dismiss out of hand.

        • Mark Shea

          They did get something out in a few hours. But that’s not good enough for the big-mouth naysayers in comboxes who, thank God, do not run the Church. Why not try praying instead of incessant prophesying of doom?

          • Mike

            Maybe because a lot of people here DID pray. Not getting it out before business closed didn’t mean they caved, but it would have been very useful for them to get it out then, not a few hours later than that.

            Politics is like Chess, the best players think multiple moves ahead of their opponent and plan for all scenarios. I know the Bishops aren’t politicians nor should they be, but trying understand how politicians and the media thinks, when it comes to Bishops lobbying issues could help them get better outcomes.

            • Mark Shea

              Yes. Everything is always wrong and nothing is never enough and we should always complain. Got it.


  • Ivan

    The USCCB and all Catholics should insist that no health insurance plan cover contraception, for the simple reason that contraception has nothing to do with health, and that the very idea that it does–that pregnancy is a disease–is obscene and evil.

    IT’s a simple slogan that should be repeated over and over again: “Pregnancy is not a disease.”

    • Marthe Lépine

      Plus: It has not been proven yet that contraception itself does not bring diseases with it. I have never been able to understand how chemically interfering with the human body’s normal functioning can ever be safe. And there are a lot of indications about the side-effects of contraceptives.

  • Vincent

    Color me a pessimist if you like, it seems that the line is going back to to the way it was left vs right Catholics right before the mandate. The way I see it is that for people don’t see this as an freedom of conscience, it is difficult to change their mind. Especially those who regard the State as the sole instrument for social justice.

    For the bishops, I would hope that they would back up by having their priests reading another letter before the pulpits.

  • Chris

    Pray for the Bishops. Pray for the Church. As Cardinal Burke prophesied, the persecution is coming. We have to fight this at every step.

    So keep your heads up. We’re all here because God knew from the beginning of time we would defend His Church. And we already know Who wins.

  • “They took a whole eight hours to respond.”

    That made me laugh. I mean, we’re bothered that they took that long? I’m bothered that they said it that fast. But that’s our modern Internet age. We already know the answers; we’re just waiting for the first person to say what we already knew to be the case anyway. Thus many folks saying ‘that does it, case closed, let’s move on’ probably wanted to say that anyway. Obama could have said ‘mares eat oats and does eat oats’, and their response would have been the same. So I doubt if the Bishops had responded in 8 hours or 8 minutes, it would have mattered.

    I understand what Wryman is saying. But we live in an age of pundits, not principles. Folks are going where they want on this. What was shocking at all is how many, despite overwhelming desire to support Obama at all costs, nonetheless felt he had overstepped the line.

    • Margaret

      Through this whole brouhaha, I’ve actually been repeatedly grateful that we now live in an internet age. I don’t think our bishops (aided and abetted by numerous laity like our kind host here and many others) could have possibly gotten the word out and rallied the opposition prior to the ‘net. There would have been moans and groans from various quarters, a blurb or two in the newspaper, and perhaps some kind of postcard campaign, but that’s it.

      8 hours was just fine by me, for such a solid response.

      • Oh it has its good parts. My point was, speed is the fact of the Internet age: quick response, quick conclusion. The fact that Obama had barely finished speaking when folks were already drawing their conclusions. That’s why, in the end, the bishops taking 8 hours to have a response is, IMHO, no big deal.

  • freddy

    God bless our bishops. They are in my prayers.

  • Cutting CHA and Catholic Charities loose seems like a pretty drastic measure. And if the Church’s dealings with Catholic universities (most of which are religious in name only) is any indicator as to its future dealings, I’d say the likelihood of the Church excommunicating key Catholic institutions is very slim. Any rightfully so.

    I can understand cutting off a Catholic institution that actively supported the mandate (i.e. which would be supporting moral evil). But this is clearly becoming a matter of prudential judgment that is going to come down to details. Having “serious concerns” about a law is not the same thing as having to reject it out of moral necessity.

    I respect the Bishops’ position and hope that they continue to press for a stronger exemption. But, frankly, I think the proposal to excommunicate any individual or institution who doesn’t fall into line with the bishops on a matter of prudential judgment is itself a bit tyrannical. The last I checked right-wing Catholic weren’t being excommunicated for supporting the Iraq War and the death penalty.

    • Mark Shea

      Who said anything about excommunication. Michael Voris was (rightly, in my view) told he couldn’t call “Real Catholic TV” Catholic by his bishop. That doesn’t mean Voris is excommunicated.

      • Okay, maybe I botched the terminology — I suppose that only an individual can be excommunicated. But my point stands that the revised HHS ruling seems like a relatively trivial reason to cut loose major Catholic institutions — especially given how lenient the Church has been with Catholic colleges.

        I do think the devil’s in the details (so to speak) and that the final offer may turn out to be as unacceptable as the original offer. If so, then my case that this is a matter of prudential judgment would go out the window.

        In the meantime, though, I think the total war mentality you’re espousing here is absolutely the wrong approach. As much as I admire your critiques of Catholic tribalism, I think you’re falling prey to it in this instance. There is a way to make a forceful critique of Obama without accusing him of malice and ill will, etc. In fact, I think if we as Catholics are serious about religious liberty, mud slinging is the last thing we should be doing.

        • Marion (Mael Muire)

          Let us not provoke Mr. Obama.

          Peace in our time!

  • Micaela Swift

    who the hell do these government officials think they are “GOD”? forcing contraception which is BAD MEDICINE onto its people….screw this bullshit! Im sick of this agenda based friggin communism grounded in population control, sexual addiction, and the distortion of health. This government is asking us to go to war, and this is what they are getting. The can eat their own contraceptives, sterlize their own bodies, and get the hell out of the publics life with their bad medicine and bullshit distorted/perverted sexual philosophy. …and excommunicate those whores in the white house who call themselves Catholic and the first thing they do is mutilate their own reproductive organs for the sake of sex without its natural consequence, sex for pleasure.

  • Becky

    “But we note at the outset that the lack of clear protection for key stakeholders—for self-insured religious employers; for religious and secular for-profit employers; for secular non-profit employers; for religious insurers; and for individuals—is unacceptable and must be corrected. And in the case where the employee and insurer agree to add the objectionable coverage, that coverage is still provided as a part of the objecting employer’s plan, financed in the same way as the rest of the coverage offered by the objecting employer. This, too, raises serious moral concerns.”

    I was extremely glad to read this as part of the Bishops’ statement. This mandate is so broad every employer and employee is effected and that can’t be stated enough!

    Thanks for all the links Mark- you sure save me tons of time!

  • mike

    Hope the Bishops continue to fight this fake concession by Obama. There is good information and articles about this issue by Deacon Dan Gannon on

  • Joseph

    Thanks, Nancy Pelosi… er… um… Dale Rudiger, for your input. Get your Nationalist Socialist Catholic Church membership card today!

    • Ronald King

      Joseph, you are starting early. It is going to be a long day. God Bless.

  • Hezekiah Garrett

    “The rhythm method”?

    That wing of the Church really is the AARP at prayer, isn’t it?

    • Marion (Mael Muire)

      Ensure. Splattered on keyboard.

      Thanks, Hez.

  • Dale, infallibility is not a popularity contest. At least get that part right first.

    • Dave

      What? Statistics from the Vatican II commission are in the CCC? That’s bizarre.

      Anyway, I’d say that yes, the teaching is infallible, based on the fact that it has been the constant teaching of the Church for 2000 years, not necessarily just because of Humanae Vitae.

      The popularity of a teaching at any given time has nothing to do with its truth.

      • Dave

        Well, yes, but the culpability of many of the people is very likely reduced. For some, it may be almost eliminated as a priest may have advised them that it was licit to use artificial contraception.

        The Dutch Bishops could be right (though I strongly disagree in this case) that teachings may not be convincing “on the basis of the arguments set forward.” Christ never said, “He who hears you (if you make a sufficiently strong argument), hears me.”

    • Here is an article by Fr. Hardon, a very learned priest who died in 2000, and whose cause for sainthood has been opened.

      • Dave

        NFP is to the rhythm method as a 747 is to the Wright Flyer.

        If you want to call periodic abstinence a method of contraception, I guess you can, but that is not condemned by the Church (unless it is done without a sufficiently serious reason) The difference between NFP and artificial contraception can be likened to the difference between a normal person dieting by decreasing their caloric intake and a bulemic who eats uncontrolledly but then takes care to vomit everything up afterwards.

        • melissa

          Awesome description. Thank you for giving a great analogy for arguing this cause.

  • Marion (Mael Muire)

    Dale: One option for trying to maintain a healthy weight is to eat all you want, when you want, then when you know you’ve eaten too much, take a feather and go into the bathroom to pray to the porcelain god.

    The other option is to join Weight Watchers (TM) and stick to the program. You get to eat well, but not necessarily all the time, all day long, and not all you want of anything. In other words, there are limits on what you can eat. But you’ll get to a healthy weight.

    Which is the godly way to maintain a healthy weight?

    Contraception is option one. NFP is option two.

  • A Philosopher

    Hypothetical question: suppose the following revised policy was proposed. No employer was required to provide/cover contraceptive services as part of employee health insurance. However, the federal government would directly fund contraceptive services for all citizens.

    I assume that many people would continue to be opposed to this policy, holding that contraception was morally wrong and should not be funded by taxpayer dollars. However, I wonder if some of the specific objections to the Obama proposal would be removed. Since religious organizations would no longer be asked to pay for health insurance policies covering contraceptive services, the threat of encroachment on religious liberties would seem to me to be greatly reduced.

    (Of course, tax dollars from non-tax-exempt religious individuals and organizations would, under the revised policy, still be used for ends that those individuals and organizations would regard as immoral. However, I take it that it’s already an accepted feature of having a collective state that all of us see that some of our tax money is used for things we disapprove of.)

    • R. Howell

      Philosopher, you point up the real problem behind all this mess: the absurdity of a healthcare system that depends on employer-provided insurance. It was always ridiculous that what kind of insurance people have should depend on who they happen to work for. That people’s choice of job should be influenced by what insurance some company offers, or that they would hesitate to leave a job because of fear of losing their insurance and so on, never made any sense. It’s also a grossly inefficient system financially. It only came about in this country because of some historical accidents that were not duplicated anywhere else.

      But the problem just becomes more acute to the extent that health insurance comes to be regarded as a public good whose provision ought to be guaranteed by the government. (A philosophical position which the Catholic Church does share with the Democratic Party, which was the basis for most of the church supporting Obamacare.) If the government is going to guarantee that everybody get something, the government should just provide the thing. Trying to force the thing to be provided by employers creates monstrous political complexity, massive financial inefficiency, and moral conflicts of which the current is just one example and will by no means be the last.

      Imagine if when grade school education came to be regarded as a universal right, it had been implemented by requiring that all employers provide “school insurance” to employees who could then use that insurance to pay for selected private schools. But if you happened to lose your job your kids might have to change schools. And there was a big bureaucracy devoted to regulating what kinds of education insurance were acceptable. You’d have something like what Obamacare is bringing us (and it’s only starting).

  • Jack

    Disregarding some illegal edict by a thug who chooses to abuse his office to threaten (extortion by definition) is not civil disobedience; it’s justice.

  • Abigail

    My husband works for a Catholic school. The school pays $21,000 a year for our health insurance, and we contribute an additional $3000. What would happen if the school dropped our insurance? They’d have to pay a $2000 fine. That would leave $22,000 for us to buy our own insurance policy, as we will be required by law to do. And because of government subsidies, we would pay much, much less than $22,000 (in fact, we have a big family, and Catholic teachers are notoriously underpaid, so we’d be 100% subsidized). The government subsidies for the uninsured under Obamacare are very generous. All but the rich are covered at least partially.

    So, here is my proposal. Let all Catholic institutions and Catholic business-owners announce: you’re not holding us hostage–we’re holding you hostage. We will drop all our workers’ insurance policies if they include immoral drugs and services. We will save a ton of money. Our workers will save a ton of money. Everyone will still have insurance. But the strain on the Obamacare system will be tremendous.

    • Dave

      I like your way of thinking, Abigail!