On the HHS Mandate, We’re Approaching the Line of Departure REVISITED

On the HHS Mandate, We’re Approaching the Line of Departure REVISITED May 18, 2016

Crossing the LD, the old fashioned way…

I didn’t know it at the time this was originally written, but the Little Sisters of the Poor were our other secret weapon, aside from prayer. Their stand against the Administration was the ultimate “soft tactic” in a hard war.  In a nutshell, see,  of all of the groups that filed suit against the HHS Mandate, they were the target that could fell the giant.

Here’s the post published on June 4, 2012 in which I described the way that we could win the day against the HHS Mandate. As I recall, it wasn’t very popular among the armchair Catholic warrior types. C’est le guerre.

Here’s the original post. It’s long, so you might want to linger over it with your favorite adult beverage…

Currently, the bulk of our forces are  still in the Assembly Area, marshalling troops, building logistics trains, and communication networks, etc.  The dozen lawsuits that were launched a few weeks ago? Probes, really, looking for areas of strength and weakness. They crossed the line of departure a few weeks back as a reconnaissance-in-force.

Over at NRO Online, Mark L. Rienzi gives a recap of what we know so far. Basically, it’s the tale of a media blackout, which we are all familiar with,

It was all too predictable that the filing of twelve different lawsuits by 43 different Catholic entities was almost completely ignored by traditional news outlets. One would think that this type of strong, coordinated legal attack in federal court, filed by one of the nation’s leading law firms (Jones Day) on behalf of the nation’s largest single religious denomination, would be deemed a top news story. The networks apparently disagreed — as did the New York Times, which ran the story on page A17.

But then the editorial writers at the Times eventually did grant the lawsuits prominent coverage — to criticize the Catholic Church for defending its rights. Their lead editorial on May 27 concludes that the mandate doesn’t present any actual threat to religious liberty. In their view, the “real threat to religious liberty” instead “comes from the effort to impose one church’s doctrine on everyone.”

The Times is wrong in every conceivable way about the mandate, religious-liberty law, and the lawsuits.

First, of course the Church’s lawsuits do not seek to “impose one church’s doctrine” on anyone, much less “everyone.” The question is not whether contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs will remain legal and available — it is whether religious organizations can be forced to provide free access to them. No one is forced to work for a Catholic institution. And those who do are perfectly free to get these drugs on their own, for free from the government, or from the many sources that willingly distribute them. Indeed, in no other context has anyone ever suggested that an employer’s failure to distribute an item for free is “imposing doctrine” on anyone. Catholic institutions also do not give out pornography, Big Macs, or trips to Disneyland. Failure to provide these things for free does not impose anything on anyone or restrict anyone’s freedom in any way. Overheated claims to the contrary cannot be taken seriously.

Second, the Times suggests there is something impermissible about the lawsuits’ asking for exemptions from “generally applicable” laws. It is hard to imagine anyone calling Obamacare “generally applicable” with a straight face.

Read the rest of Rienzi’s brief for more on points #2 and #3.

To be victorious in this fight,  we must be soft. And smart. In direct confrontations, we must “be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.” And we must never, ever, do things that will help us be perceived as the bad guys, especially not with all the scandal baggage we’re carrying.

Teddy Roosevelt’s famous saying, “Speak softly, and carry a big stick,” is not what our leaders have in mind, either. Because quite frankly, we don’t have any big sticks.  Forget talk about winning the culture war.  We have to win the next battle first, and then the one after that. Though it has been building for some time now, our opponent launched their attack last fall. It was an open declaration of war.

Like Sgt. Joe Friday of Dragnet, let’s talk about the facts.We are not going to win the fight against the HHS Mandate, or any other assaults we face in the public square, by trying to “go hard.”

True, we aren’t wired this way. When confronted by an attacker, see, no one thinks of using the soft option. Instinctively, our response is to stand our ground, or run like hell. Unless you have had some experience in say akido, where you’re trained to use an attackers own momentum against them, you’re more likely to pursue an approach that pits strength against strength. Instead of being patient, and looking for weaknesses to exploit, you instead attempt to go head to head with your opponent in a slugfest where might will likely carry the day instead of right.

News flash! That is what attrition warfare is, and it isn’t going to work for us. We’re going to have to use unconventional methods instead.  And while our shepherds engage the Administration at a high level through the courts, they will also need to plan a strategy where our “we will not comply” tactic is engaged in via soft methods that do no harm to those whom we serve through our ministries. We have to keep the collateral damage to the innocents at a minimum, while protecting our troops lives as well.

Splash of cold water in the face, time. Truth be told, the hardest way to go is paradoxically via following this soft way. Soft like a whisper. This particular way of the warrior is not thought of very highly in Western culture. No, we want to paint ourselves blue like William Wallace, strap on our kilts, grab our broadswords, and go to town on the Godless enemies of all that is true, good, and beautiful. We want to re-enact the events at Lexington and Concord and face down our oppressors like our patriot forebears, holding our fire until we can see the whites of our enemies’ eyesballs, etc., etc.

And so we get our dander up and shout down our enemies while they give commencement addresses (while getting unceremoniously escorted out of the building to the applause of everyone in attendance). Our we “go hard” and thereby play right into our opponents’ hands by up and canceling all of the health insurance policies for our students, for example. Or we start closing hospitals, soup kitchens, etc., and the next thing you know, “Your move, Mr. President!” looks more and more like, “Gee, those Catholics sure talk a good game, but look at what they are doing to the poor, and the weak.” Checkmate.

Scorched earth policies are dumb, and meaningless, especially when you don’t own much of the acreage involved. It looks more like arson, and throwing folks under the bus to the disinterested parties out there. And the disinterested parties, the masses of the citizenry, who we need desperately to sympathize with our side, are, in a word, legion.

So in this battle that we face against the HHS Mandate, etc., we must be soft. Not weak and worthless, or flaccid, no. But instead of getting all excited and flooding our Facebook pages with pictures like this one complete with “We will not comply!” slogans,

You gotta admit, it’s a really cool photo!

if civil disobedience is our lot, and our bishops say this just may be the case, then we need to prepare to be like the folks with the flowers below instead,

The bad guys have the guns, see?

Checking in with the Tao Teh Ching, the wisdom of Lao Tzu beckons with the following assertions,

Under heaven nothing is more soft and yielding than water.
Yet for attacking the solid and strong, nothing is better;
It has no equal.
The weak can overcome the strong;
The supple can overcome the stiff.
Under heaven everyone knows this,
Yet no one puts it into practice.
Therefore the sage says:
He who takes upon himself the humiliation of the people
is fit to rule them.
He who takes upon himself the country’s disasters deserves
to be king of the universe.
The truth often seems paradoxical.

Ain’t it so? Actually someone did put this “into practice.” Jesus the Nazarean. Also known as Christ the King. You know,  I AM.

Remember the scene when St. Peter whacks the right ear off Malchus when the authorities came to arrest Our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane?

“Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus.” (John 18:1-10 )

Obviously Peter was attempting to protect Jesus by cleaving the head of this Malchus fellow in two. Quick reflexes saved Malchus, while costing him his ear. In his last recorded miracle before being crucified, Jesus heals Malchus by restoring his ear to him,

Healing the ear of Malchus

But Jesus said in reply, “Stop, no more of this!” Then he touched the servant’s ear and healed him. (Luke 22:51 )

Our Lord then explained that if He were about to take over the world at that time by force of arms, He wouldn’t need the help of us humans to do it:

“Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot call upon my Father and he will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels? But then how would the scriptures be fulfilled which say that it must come to pass in this way?” (Matthew 26:52-54)

“Sir, I’m going to have to blow the whistle on you. You’re just trying to proof text pacifism on us.”

Um, not quite. If anything, I’m just trying to help us understand what works when we don’t have a Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) at our disposal. Or we can continue to pretend that we’re going to re-fight the Battle of Bull Run, like a bunch of arm chair generals. Honestly, that’s a Walter Mitty fantasy that is destined to fail.

Regardless, there are plenty of military geniuses who will testify to the high success rates of the soft approach. Remember the water analogy of Lao Tzu? Sun Tzu, the Chinese general (who would have made a great Christian, except that he was alive around the time the Book of Malachi was written [440-400 B.C.], and the Peloponnesian War was raging) noted in his classic The Art of War (translated by Samuel B. Griffith, USMC) in the chapter on strengths and weaknesses (Chapter VI) the following.

Subtle and insubstantial, the expert leaves no trace; divinely mysterious, he is inaudible. Thus he is the master of his enemies fate.


Now an army may be likened to water, for just as flowing water avoids the heights and hastens to the lowlands, so an army avoids strengths and strikes weakness.

And as water shapes its flow in accordance with the ground, so an army manages its victory in accordance with the situation of the enemy.

And as water has no constant form, there are in war no constant conditions.

Thus, one able to gain the victory by modifying his tactics in accordance with the enemy situation may be said to be divine.

Of the five elements, none is always predominant; of the four seasons, none lasts forever; of the days, some are long and some short, and the moon waxes and wanes.

The methods that will work best for us are of the kind pioneered by civil rights leader, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. As our shepherds are wise to do, they have studied his strategies and tactics, and are adapting them to our struggle. Success with the 40 Days for Life campaigns have been helpful to prepare us for the fight as well.  Organized, peaceful, charitable, and armed with no more than our rosaries, we’ll need to ramp up the size of these events, possibly to March for Life proportions.

Another role model to emulate is Mahatma Ghandi, and of course, St. Francis of Assisi’s meeting with the Sultan sheds light upon this well worn path towards the freedom that we have been given by God. From Christ the King to the present day, these peaceful, and nonviolent methods are the standard for us to follow.

In preparation for the struggle to come, we’ll be holding a Fortnight of Freedom prayer vigil from June 21 through July 4th. Some of you may not know, but prayer is our secret weapon in this fight. General George S. Patton once held forth on it’s importance, and the omnipotent power that it channels. The entire Church will be engaged in these prayers, both here at the front, and abroad across the entire Kingdom, to include all of the saints in the Church Triumphant as well.

To recap, we must be smart, soft like water, charitable, and filled with grace from the Holy Spirit through the power of prayer. I’ll now turn this briefing over to James Breig from HQ. He’s got a little presentation on Catholic heroes who have fought for, and secured for us, religious liberties that we will defend with our lives if necessary, as they themselves did.

Lights out at 23:30. The smoking lamp is lit until then, and the slop chute is open as well. That is all.


In Kenneth Branagh’s version of Shakespeare’s Henry V, the troops sang this after the victory at Agincourt. It seems appropriate now, too.




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