Category Archives: Roman Catholic

When in Rome: Team America shut down

From George Weigel at National Review Online:

… Still, the point is that at their press conferences, the American cardinals leaked precisely nothing. The discussion focused on issues, emotions, states of mind, and conclave process; there was no violation of the confidentiality of the General Congregations whatsoever. What there was, however, was a real exchange, with journalists from all over the world — an exchange that helped develop stories of a positive character. What was happening was the New Evangelization, in an extended sense of that term.

So in order to try to solve a problem caused by the unscrupulousness of the Italian press acting in tandem with unscrupulous leakers who had nothing to do with the American cardinals, the Americans’ press conferences — the most refreshing and media-friendly source of positive information and commentary on a story that has riveted the world’s attention, and an extraordinary opportunity to explain what the Catholic Church is — were shut down….

Read it all.

USCCB responds to inaccurate statement of fact on HHS mandate

Whoops, guess the Catholic bishops are not too happy about Vice President Biden’s dissembling during the debate last night (although, strangely, they don’t say who said this–trying to be politically neutral? Hey, a fact’s a fact: Biden said it, he needs to own it):

Last night, the following statement was made during the Vice Presidential debate regarding the decision of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to force virtually all employers to include sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortion, in the health insurance coverage they provide their employees:

“With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear. No religious institution—Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital—none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact.”

This is not a fact. The HHS mandate contains a narrow, four-part exemption for certain “religious employers.” That exemption was made final in February and does not extend to “Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital,” or any other religious charity that offers its services to all, regardless of the faith of those served.

HHS has proposed an additional “accommodation” for religious organizations like these, which HHS itself describes as “non-exempt.” That proposal does not even potentially relieve these organizations from the obligation “to pay for contraception” and “to be a vehicle to get contraception.” They will have to serve as a vehicle, because they will still be forced to provide their employees with health coverage, and that coverage will still have to include sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients. They will have to pay for these things, because the premiums that the organizations (and their employees) are required to pay will still be applied, along with other funds, to cover the cost of these drugs and surgeries.

USCCB continues to urge HHS, in the strongest possible terms, actually to eliminate the various infringements on religious freedom imposed by the mandate.

For more details, please see USCCB’s regulatory comments filed on May 15 regarding the proposed “accommodation”: www.usccb.org/about/general-counsel/rulemaking/upload/comments-on-advance-notice-of-proposed-rulemaking-on-preventive-services-12-05-15.pdf

Check it out.

Protecting consciences, or what I found in my church bulletin today

From the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

USCCB Nationwide Bulletin Insert June 2012
WHY CONSCIENCE IS IMPORTANT

During the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, Americans shone the light of the Gospel on a dark history of slavery, segregation, and racial bigotry. The civil rights movement was an essentially religious movement, a call to awaken consciences.

In his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail” in 1963, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. boldly said, “The goal of America is freedom.” As a Christian pastor, he argued that to call America to the full measure of that freedom was the specific contribution Christians are obliged to make. He rooted his legal and constitutional arguments about justice in the long Christian tradition: “I would agree with Saint Augustine that ‘An unjust law is no law at all.’… A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.”

Some unjust laws impose such injustices on individuals and organizations that disobeying the laws may be justified. Every effort must be made to repeal them. When fundamental human goods, such as the right of conscience, are at stake, we may need to witness to the truth by resisting the law and incurring its penalties.

The church does not ask for special treatment, simply the rights of religious freedom for all citizens. Rev. King also explained that the church is neither the master nor the servant of the state, but its conscience, guide, and critic.

Catholics and many other Americans have strongly criticized the recent Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate requiring almost all private health plans to cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs. For the first time in our history, the federal government will force religious institutions to fund and facilitate coverage of a drug or procedure contrary to their moral teaching, and purport to define which religious institutions are “religious enough” to merit an exemption. This is a matter of whether religious people and institutions may be forced by the government to provide such coverage even when it violates our consciences.

What we ask is nothing more than the right to follow our consciences as we live out our teaching. This right is not only about our ability to go to Mass on Sunday or pray the Rosary at home. It is about whether we can make our contribution to the common good of all Americans. Can we do the good works our faith calls us to do, without having to compromise that very same faith? Without religious liberty properly understood, all Americans suffer, deprived of the essential contribution in education, health care, feeding the hungry, civil rights, and social services that religious Americans make every day.

What is at stake is whether America will continue to have a free, creative, and robust civil society—or whether the state alone will determine who gets to contribute to the common good, and how they get to do it.

What can you do to ensure the protection of conscience rights?

  • The U.S. Bishops have called us to get informed, pray and advocate. To send your message to HHS and Congress telling them to uphold religious liberty and conscience rights, go to www.usccb.org/conscience today! Thank you for joining the effort to end this unprecedented government coercion.
  • The Bishops have called for a Fortnight for Freedom – June 21-July 4. Please go to www.fortnight4freedom.org for more information on this important time of prayer and action!

Cardinal Burke explains: Catholic employers cannot provide contraceptive coverage because they would be materially and formally cooperating with sin

From Renew America, on Thomas McKenna’s interview with Cardinal Raymond Burke on EWTN’s Catholic Action Insight:

Thomas McKenna: “It is beautiful to see how the faithful have rallied behind the Hierarchy….How does your Eminence comment on the union of solidarity of our bishops?”

Cardinal Burke: “Yes, I have received emails and other communications from lay faithful who say that they are supporting their bishops 100% and they have communicated to their bishops their gratitude and assured them that they want them to continue to be courageous and not to be deceived by any kind of false accommodations which in fact continue this same kind of agenda which sadly we have witnessed for too long in our country which is totally secular and therefore is anti-life and anti-family. I admire very much the courage of the bishops. At the same time I believe they would say it along with me that they are doing no more than their duty. A bishop has to protect his flock and when any individual or government attempts to force the flock to act against conscience in one of its most fundamental precepts then the bishops have to come to defend those who are entrusted to their pastoral care. So I am deeply grateful to all of the bishops who have spoken about this and who are encouraging the members of their flock to also speak up because our government needs to understand that what is being done with this mandate is contrary first of all to the fundamental human right, the right to the free exercise of one’s conscience and at the same time contrary to the very foundation of our nation.”

Thomas McKenna: “So a Catholic employer, really getting down to it, he does not, or she does not provide this because that way they would be, in a sense, cooperating with the sin…the sin of contraception or the sin of providing a contraceptive that would abort a child, is this correct?”

Cardinal Burke: “This is correct. It is not only a matter of what we call “material cooperation” in the sense that the employer by giving this insurance benefit is materially providing for the contraception but it is also “formal cooperation” because he is knowingly and deliberately doing this, making this available to people. There is no way to justify it. It is simply wrong.”…

Read it all, and check out the entire interview here.

Test of Fire: Election 2012

From Catholics Called to Witness:

Cardinal Dolan: “‘radical,’ ‘unprecedented’ and ‘dramatically intrusive'”

From James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal:

The president of the U.S. Conference of Bishops is careful to show due respect for the president of the United States. “I was deeply honored that he would call me and discuss these things with me,” says the newly elevated Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York. But when Archbishop Dolan tells me his account of their discussions of the ObamaCare birth-control mandate, Barack Obama sounds imperious and deceitful to me….

“So you can imagine the chagrin,” Archbishop Dolan continues, “when [the president] called me at the end of January to say that the mandates remain in place and that there would be no substantive change, and that the only thing that he could offer me was that we would have until August. . . . I said, ‘Mr. President, I appreciate the call. Are you saying now that we have until August to introduce to you continual concerns that might trigger a substantive mitigation in these mandates?’ He said, ‘No, the mandates remain. We’re more or less giving you this time to find out how you’re going to be able to comply.’ I said, ‘Well, sir, we don’t need the [extra time]. I can tell you now we’re unable to comply.'”

Archbishop Dolan explains that the “accommodation” solves nothing, since most church-affiliated organizations either are self-insured or purchase coverage from Catholic insurance companies like Christian Brothers Services and Catholic Mutual Group, which also see the mandate as “morally toxic.” He argues that the mandate also infringes on the religious liberty of nonministerial organizations like the Knights of Columbus and Catholic-oriented businesses such as publishing houses, not to mention individuals, Catholic or not, who conscientiously object.

“We’ve grown hoarse saying this is not about contraception, this is about religious freedom,” he says. What rankles him the most is the government’s narrow definition of a religious institution….

“We find it completely unswallowable, both as Catholics and mostly as Americans, that a bureau of the American government would take it upon itself to define ‘ministry,'” Archbishop Dolan says. “We would find that to be—we’ve used the words ‘radical,’ ‘unprecedented’ and ‘dramatically intrusive.'”

It also amounts to penalizing the church for not discriminating in its good works: “We don’t ask people for their baptismal certificate, nor do we ask people for their U.S. passport, before we can serve them, OK? . . . We don’t serve people because they’re Catholic, we serve them because we are, and it’s a moral imperative for us to do so.”…

The archbishop sees a parallel irony in his dispute with Mr. Obama: “This is a strange turn of the table, that here a Catholic cardinal is defending religious freedom, the great proposition of the American republic, and the president of the United States seems to be saying that this is a less-than-important issue.”…

Read it all.

U.S. bishops set March 30 as day of prayer, fasting for religious liberty

From the Catholic News Herald (Diocese of Charlotte):

The U.S. bishops have urged Catholics and “all people of faith” across the nation to observe March 30 as a day of prayer and fasting for religious freedom and conscience protection.

The bishops announced the daylong observance in a statement titled “United for Religious Freedom” that was approved March 14 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Administrative Committee.

They asked Catholics and others to join them in “prayer and penance for our leaders and for the complete protection of our first freedom — religious liberty — which is not only protected in the laws and customs of our great nation, but rooted in the teachings of our great tradition.”

The bishops said that among current threats to religious liberty is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate that forces employers, including religious ones, to provide coverage of contraception/sterilization in their health plans.

Prayer resources have been posted on the USCCB website, www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/resources-on-conscience-protection.cfm….

Read it all and check out the resources available.

Catholic entities undermine U.S. bishops’ authority

From the National Catholic Register:

Recent headlines have told the story “Catholic Hospitals, Bishops Split on Health Care” and “Catholic Bishops Fight for Authority Over U.S. Flock.”

These volatile headlines refer to the fact that some Catholic individuals and organizations publicly disagree with the U.S. Bishops about provisions of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. This opposition from within the Church makes the bishops’ effort to preserve religious freedom much more difficult, for the Obama administration and some Democrat Congressmen have been quick to use a “divide and conquer” strategy by invoking these dissident groups as if they are legitimate Catholic authorities.

The most prominent Catholic supporter of Obamacare has been the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA), led by its president and CEO, Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity. Playing a supporting role for her have been the officers of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and the conference’s lobbying arm, Network. Sister Carol declined to be interviewed for this story….

Nevertheless, Sister Carol and the other high-profile sisters who have publicly opposed the bishops’ position have been hailed by Obamacare supporters as having legitimate moral authority in the Church to counter the bishops. For example, on March 8 — International Women’s Day — Sister Carol was named by the Center for American Progress as one of “13 Religious Women to Watch in 2012 Changing the World for Good” because: “She was instrumental in garnering support for the Affordable Care Act in 2010, when CHA broke with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to publicly support the act. As a result, Keehan gave moral permission to legislators who were conflicted about supporting the bill.”

So, what gives these sisters and the CHA authority to grant “moral permission” for disagreement with the nation’s bishops?

Nothing. Neither the sisters nor the CHA hold any authority to speak for the Church on faith and morals: That authority belongs to the bishops alone, as Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., told Catholic News Service during his recent ad limina visit to the Vatican. He said that his group of Midwestern bishops also spoke with Vatican officials about the public support of the CHA and LCWR for the so-called “accommodation” in the HHS mandate. The bishops have rejected the “accommodation” because it still requires religious institutions to provide insurance that covers immoral services.

“Those efforts are really undercutting the Church and trying to divide it again by setting up two teaching authorities when there’s only one within the Church,” Archbishop Naumann said. “It’s a very serious issue, I think, particularly when religious try to insert themselves in the role of trying to be the teachers within the Church. They have important roles to play but they are not the ones to teach on these matters.”…

Read it all.

N.C. Catholic bishops react to President Obama’s statement on marriage

In response to President Obama’s public opposition to the North Carolina Marriage Protection Amendment, Bishop Peter Jugis of the Diocese of Charlotte and Bishop Michael Burbidge of the Diocese of Raleigh have issued the following letter:

March 21, 2012

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Last week, President Barack Obama took the unusual step of commenting on a state ballot initiative. His stated opposition to the referendum on the marriage amendment in North Carolina is a grave disappointment, as it is reported to be the first time that the President has entered into this issue on the state level, further escalating the increasing confusion on the part of some in our society to the very nature of marriage itself.

As Catholics, we are FOR marriage, as we believe it is a vocation in which God calls couples to faithfully and permanently embrace a fruitful union in a mutual self-giving bond of love, according to His purposes.  It is not only the union itself that is essential to these purposes, but also the life to which spouses are called to be open, the gift of children.  Children have the right to the indispensable place of fatherhood and motherhood in their lives as they grow, are loved, nurtured and formed by those whose unique vocation it is to be a father and a mother through the bond of one man and one woman in marriage.  As our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI,  has stated, children have the fundamental right to grow up with the understanding of the proper place of sexuality in human relationships.  He recently emphasized that “Children are the greatest treasure and the future of every society: truly caring for them means recognizing our responsibility to teach, defend and live the moral virtues which are the key to human fulfillment.”

In his comments on the upcoming referendum in our State, the President regrettably characterized the marriage amendment as a matter of discrimination.  While we are respectful of the Office of the President, we strongly disagree with this assessment.  As Cardinal Timothy Dolan, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, recently stated, “The Catholic Church recognizes the immeasurable personal dignity and equal worth of all individuals, including those with same-sex attraction, and we reject all hatred and unjust treatment against any person.  Our profound regard for marriage, as the complementary and fruitful union of a man and a woman does not negate our concern for the well-being of all people, but reinforces it.  While all persons merit our full respect, no other relationships provide for the common good what marriage between husband and wife provides.”

Join us in our support FOR the sacred vocation of marriage and what it means for us and for the future of our great State.  We urge you to visit our Catholic Voice NC website for more information and to vote FOR the referendum on May 8th.

Sincerely in Christ,


The Most Reverend  Michael F. Burbidge
Bishop of Raleigh


The Most Reverend Peter J. Jugis
Bishop of Charlotte

Check it out.

USCCB: United for religious freedom

From the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, a further response to the Obama administration’s mandate against religious freedom:

…One particular religious freedom issue demands our immediate attention: the now-finalized rule of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that would force virtually all private health plans nationwide to provide coverage of sterilization and contraception—including abortifacient drugs—subject to an exemption for “religious employers” that is arbitrarily narrow, and to an unspecified and dubious future “accommodation” for other religious organizations that are denied the exemption….

Second, we wish to clarify what this debate is—and is not—about. This is not about access to contraception, which is ubiquitous and inexpensive, even when it is not provided by the Church’s hand and with the Church’s funds. This is not about the religious freedom of Catholics only, but also of those who recognize that their cherished beliefs may be next on the block. This is not about the Bishops’ somehow “banning contraception,” when the U.S. Supreme Court took that issue off the table two generations ago. Indeed, this is not about the Church wanting to force anybody to do anything; it is instead about the federal government forcing the Church—consisting of its faithful and all but a few of its institutions—to act against Church teachings. This is not a matter of opposition to universal health care, which has been a concern of the Bishops’ Conference since 1919, virtually at its founding. This is not a fight we want or asked for, but one forced upon us by government on its own timing. Finally, this is not a Republican or Democratic, a conservative or liberal issue; it is an American issue.

So what is it about?

An unwarranted government definition of religion. The mandate includes an extremely narrow definition of what HHS deems a “religious employer” deserving exemption—employers who, among other things, must hire and serve primarily those of their own faith. We are deeply concerned about this new definition of who we are as people of faith and what constitutes our ministry. The introduction of this unprecedented defining of faith communities and their ministries has precipitated this struggle for religious freedom. Government has no place defining religion and religious ministry. HHS thus creates and enforces a new distinction—alien both to our Catholic tradition and to federal law—between our houses of worship and our great ministries of service to our neighbors, namely, the poor, the homeless, the sick, the students in our schools and universities, and others in need, of any faith community or none. Cf. Deus Caritas Est, Nos. 20-33. We are commanded both to love and to serve the Lord; laws that protect our freedom to comply with one of these commands but not the other are nothing to celebrate. Indeed, they must be rejected, for they create a “second class” of citizenship within our religious community….

A mandate to act against our teachings. The exemption is not merely a government foray into internal Church governance, where government has no legal competence or authority—disturbing though that may be. This error in theory has grave consequences in principle and practice. Those deemed by HHS not to be “religious employers” will be forced by government to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions. This is not only an injustice in itself, but it also undermines the effective proclamation of those teachings to the faithful and to the world. For decades, the Bishops
have led the fight against such government incursions on conscience, particularly in the area of health care. Far from making us waver in this longstanding commitment, the unprecedented magnitude of this latest threat has only strengthened our resolve to maintain that consistent view.

A violation of personal civil rights. The HHS mandate creates still a third class, those with no conscience protection at all: individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to act in accordance with their faith and moral values. They, too, face a government mandate to aid in providing “services” contrary to those values—whether in their sponsoring of, and payment for, insurance as employers; their payment of insurance premiums as employees; or as insurers themselves—without even the semblance of an exemption. This, too, is unprecedented in federal law, which has long been generous in protecting the rights of individuals not to act against their religious beliefs or moral convictions. We have consistently supported these rights, particularly in the area of protecting the dignity of all human life, and we continue to do so….

Read it all.

Dolan blasts White House contraception plan as ‘freedom of religion battle’

From the New York Post:

Cardinal Timothy Dolan ramped up the battle with the White House today, blasting the government for a controversial new regulation that would require providing free contraceptive services to workers of religious institutions.

“Don’t impose your teaching upon us and make us do as a church what we find unconscionable to do!” the freshly minted prince of the church told a roaring crowd of 1,000 at Holy Trinity Diocesan HS in Hicksville.

In a blistering attack interlaced with humor, Dolan never mentioned President Obama by name — only his policies….

He told the crowd of church leaders that the battle over the US Health and Human Services regulation is bigger than contraception.

“It is a freedom of religion battle,” Dolan said. “We are talking about an unwarranted, unprecedented radical intrusion into the interior life of integrity of a church’s ability to teach, serve and sanctify in its own.”…

“We live in an era that seems to discover new rights every day and then expects government and culture and society to pay for it. The church emphasizes responsibility more than rights.”

Read it all.

New questions, challenges confront Fr. Jeffrey Steenson, Episcopal-turned-Catholic leader

As the Anglican Ordinariate (officially known as the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter) becomes a reality, thoughts from its head, Fr. Jeffrey Steenson, former Episcopal bishop of the Rio Grande, who was ordained a Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, N.M., in February 2009, from Catholic News Service:

Q: Are there special challenges to governing a church jurisdiction that covers so large a geographical area?

A: I’m sure there are going to be many, and it’s primarily going to be for the clergy to be able to build relationships with each other. We’re going to be virtual in so many respects. We’re going to really depend on technology to keep communication open. Our formation program for the clergy is going to be run via a really high-tech Internet system that will allow real-time, two-way communications, which I’m told has never been attempted before in any kind of a theological exercise. So that will be hard, and I’m concerned that a small group — I mean, this church (Mount Calvary) is not going to have any problems — but a small group that is out in the middle of nowhere doesn’t feel isolated and forgotten. So we will have to work really hard on that….

Q: Has the formation of the ordinariate given a new impetus or prompted a renewed interest in joining the Catholic Church among new groups of Episcopalians?

A: Oh yes, there has been. Probably maybe 30 extra priests have contacted us at some level. It’s not an easy journey, even the ordinariate, because the priest really has to be willing to make the journey to the Catholic Church and not just escape from his own. So it requires commitment and a lot of prayer to think through and a lot of sacrifices have to be made. And it’s very hard to start all over again. So I do expect that it will grow, but my goal has been that as we form these guys they will be able to stand equally with their Latin Catholic counterparts, that they’ll be as well formed and be able to function in the priesthood at the same level.

Q: Why is the ordinariate needed when individual Episcopalians and even married Episcopal priests have been able to join the Catholic Church through other routes for years?

A: When the apostolic constitution was published, there was an explanation written by (Jesuit) Father (Gianfranco) Ghirlanda, who’s the canon lawyer at the Gregorian University, that’s kind of the official commentary on it. And he answered that question by saying that the reason for the ordinariate is to guarantee the existence of the liturgical identity and patrimony. So whereas in the pastoral provision for an individual converting, they just kind of merge into the local Catholic culture, we’re expected to keep this patrimony, these traditions alive, because the pope said there is something precious about them that is worthy to be shared with the rest of the Catholic Church. So Father Ghirlanda said the ordinariate is to guarantee the freedom to keep this liturgy alive. I mean liturgy in the broadest sense of the word — the music, all that constitutes the Anglican tradition.

Q: Why is the process different for groups of Anglicans than for individuals who want to become Catholic?

A: Of course if it is an individual layperson they go through RCIA in their own parish. If it is an individual clergy person or priest, they would go through the pastoral provision which is administered by Bishop Kevin Vann in Fort Worth. And that will continue. The pastoral provision basically uses the same program of priestly formation that exists for the seminaries, only it’s kind of tailored to an individual, so it’s whatever Father So and So needs in order to do it….

When we became priests in the Anglican Church, we became priests in an ecclesial tradition that permitted married clergy. So the Holy See is simply recognizing that and allowing us … it’s an ancient principle from the early church. Whatever stage of life you are in when you come into the ministry, that’s where you stay. So if a man came as a celibate, he would be required to maintain that discipline. If one came as a married man, he would be expected to be a good husband. And if he should ever be widowed, then he would embrace the discipline of celibacy. It’s not a new rule, it’s basically the old Eastern discipline about married clergy….

Q: If you had the opportunity, what would you say to the Holy Father?

A: Thank you, first of all. This wouldn’t have happened without him. This was not an idea that developed in one of the dicasteries of the Curia. This came right from the top and he had to convince a lot of people. So I feel that Pope Benedict put himself out on the line on this, and I want to be sure we don’t let the Holy Father’s words fall to the ground. I want him to be proud of us and see that we are making a fruitful contribution to the church….

Read it all.

Obama risks $100 billion if Catholic hospitals close

From Ed Morrissey writing for the Fiscal Times:

Perhaps Barack Obama assumed that religious leaders would simply offer a token protest to his new mandate for religious organizations to provide free birth control, even when contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization violate the core doctrines of their faith. The president might have had reason to expect that Catholic bishops wouldn’t put up much of a fight, considering their support for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), commonly known as ObamaCare, from which Health and Human Services derives the authority to dictate their coverage requirements to employers….

The strongest statement of opposition came this week from President Obama’s home town of Chicago. Francis Cardinal George sent a message to parishioners in the archdiocese that the Catholic Church would shut down its various institutions in the community before violating the core doctrine of Humanae Vitae by providing contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients to its employees, free or otherwise. In a lengthy missive, George remarked that Catholic bishops are fighting for a separation of church and state, and that the mandate represents an unprecedented arrogance in Obama’s attempt to have government define the boundaries between faith and works….

If the Obama administration insisted on enforcing its mandate on Catholic organizations, George concluded, then “two Lents from now” their listing of Catholic hospitals and health-care institutions would be empty.

What would that mean to the U.S., and to Obama’s health care reform mandate? Put simply, it would create a disaster for the delivery of health care in the country, and rapidly escalate the public costs of health care….

The Catholic Church has perhaps the most extensive private health-care delivery system in the nation. It operates 12.6 percent of hospitals in the U.S., according to the Catholic Health Association of the U.S., accounting for 15.6 percent of all admissions and 14.5 percent of all hospital expenses, a total for Catholic hospitals in 2010 of $98.6 billion. Whom do these hospitals serve? Catholic hospitals handle more than their share of Medicare (16.6 percent) and Medicaid (13.65) discharges, meaning that more than one in six seniors and disabled patients get attention from these hospitals, and more than one in every eight low-income patients as well. Almost a third (32 percent) of these hospitals are located in rural areas, where patients usually have few other options for care.

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….

Read it all.

Cardinal Dolan gives an update

From Timothy Cardinal Dolan:

…This has not been a fight of our choosing.  We’d rather not be in it.  We’d prefer to concentrate on the noble tasks of healing the sick, teaching our youth, and helping the poor, all now in jeopardy due to this bureaucratic intrusion into the internal life of the church.  And we were doing all of those noble works rather well, I dare say, without these radical new mandates from the government.  The Catholic Church in America has a long tradition of partnership with government and the wider community in the service of the sick, our children, our elders, and the poor at home and abroad.  We’d sure rather be partnering than punching.

Nor is this a “Catholic” fight alone.  As a nurse from Harrison emailed me, “Cardinal, I’m not so much mad about all this as a Catholic, but as an American.”  It was a Baptist minister, Governor Mike Huckabee, who observed, “In this matter, we’re all Catholics.”

And it is not just about sterilization, abortifacients, and chemical contraception.  Pure and simple, it’s about religious freedom, the sacred right, protected by our constitution, of any Church to define its own teaching and ministry.

When the President announced on January 20th that the choking mandates from HHS would remain — a shock to me, since he had personally assured me that he would do nothing to impede the good work of the Church in health care, education, and charity, and that he considered the protection of conscience a sacred duty — not only you, but men and women of every faith, or none at all, rallied in protest.  The worry that we bishops had expressed — that such government control was contrary to our deepest political values — was eloquently articulated by constitutional scholars and leaders of every creed.  Even newspaper editorials supported us!

On February 10th, the President announced that the insurance providers would have to pay the bill, not the Church’s schools, hospitals, clinics, or vast network of charitable outreach.  He considered this “concession” adequate.

Did this help?  We bishops wondered if it would, and announced at first that, while withholding final judgment, we would certainly give it close scrutiny.

Well, we have — and we’re still as worried as ever.  For one, there was not even a nod to the deeper concerns about trespassing upon religious freedom, or of modifying the HHS’ attempt to define the how and who of our ministry through the suffocating mandates.

Two, since a big part of our ministries are “self-insured,” how is this going to help us?  We’ll still have to pay!  And what about individual believers being coerced to pay?

Three, there was still no resolution about the handcuffs placed upon renowned Catholic charitable agencies, both national and international, and their exclusion from contracts just because they will not refer victims of human trafficking, immigrants and refugees, and the hungry of the world, for abortions, sterilization, or contraception.

So, we have given it careful study.  Our conclusion: we’re still very worried.  There seem far more questions than answers, more confusion than clarity.

Now what to do?…

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….

Read it all.

Freedom of religion abolished in Scotland

From CNA, shades of what’s coming to the United States under Obamacare?

Two Catholic midwives from Scotland have lost their legal battle to avoid taking part in abortion procedures on grounds of “conscientious objection.”

“I view this judgment with deep concern,” said Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow. “I wish to put on record my admiration for the courage of the midwives who have, at very great cost to themselves, fought to uphold the right to follow one’s conscience.”

Mary Doogan and Connie Wood were previously told by the state-run National Health Service in Glasgow that they had to supervise and support fellow midwives who perform abortions. As senior staff, they were also expected to be on standby to help in abortion procedures in certain medical situations.

On Feb. 29 Scotland’s highest civil court ruled that the women’s religious liberties were not being infringed because “the nature of their duties does not in fact require them to provide treatment to terminate pregnancies directly.”

No, they don’t have to terminate them directly, just be party to an act they consider inherently evil.

Doogan said they were “very disappointed” by the verdict and that it would have “very grave consequences for anyone of conscience who wishes to choose midwifery as a career.”

The midwives had maintained that their right to opt-out of providing abortions for reasons of conscience was upheld by Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Section 4(1) of the U.K.’s 1967 Abortion Act.

The two midwives previously told the Court of Session that “they hold a religious belief that all human life is sacred from the moment of conception and that termination of pregnancy is a grave offense against human life.”

But the National Health Service in Glasgow rejected their appeals, claiming that their rights are being respected because the midwives are not compelled to administer abortion-inducing drugs. The Court of Session today agreed with that argument.

The court ruled today that the 1967 Abortion Act allowed only qualified conscientious objection, and that the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights in relation to freedom of conscience and religion were not absolute….

“Qualified conscientious objection” means no allowance for any conscientious objection.

Both Doogan and Wood have worked for over 20 years at Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital and have always made clear their conscientious objection to abortion.

In 2007, however, the National Health Service in Glasgow decided to send more women undergoing late-term abortions to labor wards, instead of admitting them to gynecological departments. This change in policy led to the current dispute between the health service and the midwives….

Wow, so the National Health Service (NHS) sends women “undergoing late-term abortions” to labor wards?? So their babies can be “terminated” right next to a baby being born? How truly, truly bizarre. . .

Read it all. H/t to MCJ

Chaput: A thread for weaving joy

From Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Diocese of Philadelphia, speaking at the Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life in Washington, DC:

…In practice, medical professionals can now steer an expectant mother toward abortion simply by hinting at a list of the child’s possible defects.  And the most debased thing about that kind of pressure is that doctors know better than anyone else how vulnerable a woman can be in hearing potentially tragic news about her unborn baby.

I’m not suggesting that doctors should hold back vital knowledge from parents. Nor should they paint an implausibly upbeat picture of life with a child who has a disability. Facts and resources are crucial in helping adult persons prepare themselves for difficult challenges. But doctors, genetic counselors, and medical school professors should have on staff – or at least on speed dial – experts of a different sort.

Parents of children with special needs, special education teachers and therapists, and pediatricians who have treated children with disabilities often have a hugely life-affirming perspective. Unlike prenatal caregivers, these professionals have direct knowledge of persons with special needs. They know their potential.  They’ve seen their accomplishments. They can testify to the benefits – often miraculous – of parental love and faith.  Expectant parents deserve to know that a child with Down syndrome can love, laugh, learn, work, feel hope and excitement, make friends, and create joy for others.  These things are beautiful precisely because they transcend what we expect.  They witness to the truth that every child with special needs has a value that matters eternally.

Raising a child with Down syndrome can be demanding.  It always involves some degree of suffering.  Parents grow up very fast.  None of my friends who has a daughter or son with a serious disability is melodramatic, or self-conscious, or even especially pious about it.  They speak about their special child with an unsentimental realism.  It’s a realism flowing out of love – real love, the kind that forces its way through fear and suffering to a decision, finally, to surround the child with their heart and trust in the goodness of God.  And that decision to trust, of course, demands not just real love, but also real courage.

The real choice in accepting or rejecting a child with special needs is never between some imaginary perfection or imperfection.  None of us is perfect.  No child is perfect.  The real choice in accepting or rejecting a child with special needs is between love and unlove; between courage and cowardice; between trust and fear.  That’s the choice we face when it happens in our personal experience.  And that’s the choice we face as a society in deciding which human lives we will treat as valuable, and which we will not….

The Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer once wrote that, “A man is truly ethical only when he obeys the compulsion to help all life which he is able to assist, and shrinks from injuring anything that lives.” Every child with Down syndrome, every adult with special needs; in fact, every unwanted unborn child, every person who is poor, weak, abandoned or homeless – each one of these persons is an icon of God’s face and a vessel of his love.  How we treat these persons – whether we revere them and welcome them, or throw them away in distaste – shows what we really believe about human dignity, both as individuals and as a nation.

The American Jesuit scholar Father John Courtney Murray once said that “Anyone who really believes in God must set God, and the truth of God, above all other considerations.”

Here’s what that means.  Catholic public officials who take God seriously cannot support laws that attack human dignity without lying to themselves, misleading others and abusing the faith of their fellow Catholics.  God will demand an accounting.  Catholic doctors who take God seriously cannot do procedures, prescribe drugs or support health policies that attack the sanctity of unborn children or the elderly; or that undermine the dignity of human sexuality and the family.  God will demand an accounting.  And Catholic citizens who take God seriously cannot claim to love their Church, and then ignore her counsel on vital public issues that shape our nation’s lifeGod will demand an accounting.  As individuals, we can claim to believe whatever we want.  We can posture, and rationalize our choices, and make alibis with each other all day long — but no excuse for our lack of honesty and zeal will work with the God who made us.  God knows our hearts better than we do.  If we don’t conform our hearts and actions to the faith we claim to believe, we’re only fooling ourselves.

We live in a culture where our marketers and entertainment media compulsively mislead us about the sustainability of youth; the indignity of old age; the avoidance of suffering; the denial of death; the nature of real beauty; the impermanence of every human love; the oppressiveness of children and family; the silliness of virtue; and the cynicism of religious faith.  It’s a culture of fantasy, selfishness, sexual confusion and illness that we’ve brought upon ourselves.  And we’ve done it by misusing the freedom that other — and greater — generations than our own worked for, bled for and bequeathed to our safe-keeping.

What have we done with that freedom?  In whose service do we use it now?

Catholics need to wake up from the illusion that the America we now live in – not the America of our nostalgia or imagination or best ideals, but the real America we live in here and now – is somehow friendly to our faith.  What we’re watching emerge in this country is a new kind of paganism, an atheism with air-conditioning and digital TV.  And it is neither tolerant nor morally neutral.

As the historian Gertrude Himmelfarb observed more than a decade ago, “What was once stigmatized as deviant behavior is now tolerated and even sanctioned; what was once regarded as abnormal has been normalized.”  But even more importantly, she added, “As deviancy is normalized, so what was once normal becomes deviant.  The kind of family that has been regarded for centuries as natural and moral – the ‘bourgeois’ family as it is invidiously called – is now seen as pathological” and exclusionary, concealing the worst forms of psychic and physical oppression.

My point is this:  Evil talks about tolerance only when it’s weak.  When it gains the upper hand, its vanity always requires the destruction of the good and the innocent, because the example of good and innocent lives is an ongoing witness against it.  So it always has been.  So it always will be.  And America has no special immunity to becoming an enemy of its own founding beliefs about human freedom, human dignity, the limited power of the state, and the sovereignty of God….

Read it all.

Cardinal George: No Catholic hospitals in 2 years unless HHS mandate is rescinded

Hey, for the administration, that’s a feature, not a bug. From Catholic New World (archdiocese of Chicago), a column by Francis Cardinal George:

Catholic hospitals, universities and social services have an institutional conscience, a conscience shaped by Catholic moral and social teaching. The HHS regulations now before our society will make it impossible for Catholic institutions to follow their conscience.

So far in American history, our government has respected the freedom of individual conscience and of institutional integrity for all the many religious groups that shape our society. The government has not compelled them to perform or pay for what their faith tells them is immoral. That’s what we’ve meant by freedom of religion. That’s what we had believed was protected by the U.S. Constitution. Maybe we were foolish to believe so.

What will happen if the HHS regulations are not rescinded? A Catholic institution, so far as I can see right now, will have one of four choices: 1) secularize itself, breaking its connection to the church, her moral and social teachings and the oversight of its ministry by the local bishop. This is a form of theft. It means the church will not be permitted to have an institutional voice in public life. 2) Pay exorbitant annual fines to avoid paying for insurance policies that cover abortifacient drugs, artificial contraception and sterilization. This is not economically sustainable. 3) Sell the institution to a non-Catholic group or to a local government. 4) Close down.

In the public discussion thus far, efforts have been made to isolate the bishops from the Catholic faithful by focusing attention exclusively on “reproductive” issues. But the acrimony could as easily focus next year or the year after on assisted suicide or any other moral issue that can be used to distract attention from the attack on religious liberty. Many will recognize in these moves a tactic now familiar in our public life: those who cannot be co-opted are isolated and then destroyed. The arguments used are both practical and theoretical.

Practically, we’re told that the majority of Catholics use artificial contraception. There are properly medical reasons, in some circumstances, for the use of contraceptive pills, as everyone knows. But even if contraceptives were used by a majority of couples only and exclusively to suppress a possible pregnancy, behavior doesn’t determine morality….

Bishops are the successors of the apostles; they collectively receive the authority to teach and govern that Christ bestowed upon the apostles. Bishops don’t claim to speak for every baptized Catholic. Bishops speak, rather, for the Catholic and apostolic faith. Those who hold that faith gather with them; others go their own way. They are and should be free to do so, but they deceive themselves and others in calling their organizations Catholic….

The provision of health care should not demand “giving up” religious liberty. Liberty of religion is more than freedom of worship. Freedom of worship was guaranteed in the Constitution of the former Soviet Union. You could go to church, if you could find one. The church, however, could do nothing except conduct religious rites in places of worship-no schools, religious publications, health care institutions, organized charity, ministry for justice and the works of mercy that flow naturally from a living faith. All of these were co-opted by the government. We fought a long cold war to defeat that vision of society.

The strangest accusation in this manipulated public discussion has the bishops not respecting the separation between church and state. The bishops would love to have the separation between church and state we thought we enjoyed just a few months ago, when we were free to run Catholic institutions in conformity with the demands of the Catholic faith, when the government couldn’t tell us which of our ministries are Catholic and which not, when the law protected rather than crushed conscience. The state is making itself into a church. The bishops didn’t begin this dismaying conflict nor choose its timing. We would love to have it ended as quickly as possible. It’s up to the government to stop the attack….

Read it all.

Of course, I happen to think that the Obama Administration would be perfectly happy if all religious institutions closed their hospitals, charities, etc. It leaves an empty field for the state to take over and increase their hold on the economy and their control over all people’s options and actions. (And that the Catholic Church helped create this debacle by their perception that the government was a good faith partner and the best solution, through taxes, for things like universal healthcare. They forgot their own principle of subsidiarity and that whoever pays the bills, sets the rules.)

H/t to New Oxford Review.

Timothy Cardinal Dolan issues strongest statement yet against the HHS mandate

It’s all over the Internet today, a letter dated February 21, 2012, to the bishops of the United States from Timothy Cardinal Dolan, President of the USCCB, and the Most Reverend William E. Lori, Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty (all emphasis is mine):

Dear Brother Bishops,

Since we last wrote to you concerning the critical efforts we are undertaking together to protect religious freedom in our beloved country, many of you have requested that we write once more to update you on the situation and to again request the assistance of all the faithful in this important work. We are happy to do so now.

First, we wish to express our heartfelt appreciation to you, and to all our sisters and brothers in Christ, for the remarkable witness of our unity in faith and strength of conviction during this past month. We have made our voices heard, and we will not cease from doing so until religious freedom is restored.

As we know, on January 20, the Department of Health and Human Services announced a decision to issue final regulations that would force practically all employers, including many religious institutions, to pay for abortion inducing drugs, sterilizations, and contraception. The regulations would provide no protections for our great institutions—such as Catholic charities, hospitals, and universities—or for the individual faithful in the marketplace. The regulations struck at the heart of our fundamental right to religious liberty, which affects our ability to serve those outside our faith community.

Since January 20, the reaction was immediate and sustained. We came together, joined by people of every creed and political persuasion, to make one thing resoundingly clear: we stand united against any attempt to deny or weaken the right to religious liberty upon which our country was founded.

On Friday, February 10, the Administration issued the final rules. By their very terms, the rules were reaffirmed “without change.” The mandate to provide the illicit services remains. The exceedingly narrow exemption for churches remains. Despite the outcry, all the threats to religious liberty posed by the initial rules remain.

Religious freedom is a fundamental right of all. This right does not depend on any government’s decision to grant it: it is God-given, and just societies recognize and respect its free exercise. The free exercise of religion extends well beyond the freedom of worship. It also forbids government from forcing people or groups to violate their most deeply held religious convictions, and from interfering in the internal affairs of religious organizations.

Recent actions by the Administration have attempted to reduce this free exercise to a “privilege” arbitrarily granted by the government as a mere exemption from an all-encompassing, extreme form of secularism. The exemption is too narrowly defined, because it does not exempt most non-profit religious employers, the religiously affiliated insurer, the self-insured employer, the for-profit religious employer, or other private businesses owned and operated by people who rightly object to paying for abortion inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception. And because it is instituted only by executive whim, even this unduly narrow exemption can be taken away easily.

In the United States, religious liberty does not depend on the benevolence of who is regulating us. It is our “first freedom” and respect for it must be broad and inclusive—not narrow and exclusive. Catholics and other people of faith and good will are not second class citizens. And it is not for the government to decide which of our ministries is “religious enough” to warrant religious freedom protection.

This is not just about contraception, abortion-causing drugs, and sterilization—although all should recognize the injustices involved in making them part of a universal mandated health care program. It is not about Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals. It is about people of faith. This is first and foremost a matter of religious liberty for all. If the government can, for example, tell Catholics that they cannot be in the insurance business today without violating their religious convictions, where does it end? This violates the constitutional limits on our government, and the basic rights upon which our country was founded.

Much remains to be done. We cannot rest when faced with so grave a threat to the religious liberty for which our parents and grandparents fought. In this moment in history we must work diligently to preserve religious liberty and to remove all threats to the practice of our faith in the public square. This is our heritage as Americans. President Obama should rescind the mandate, or at the very least, provide full and effective measures to protect religious liberty and conscience.

Above all, dear brothers, we rely on the help of the Lord in this important struggle. We all need to act now by contacting our legislators in support of the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, which can be done through our action alert on www.usccb.org/conscience.

We invite you to share the contents of this letter with the faithful of your diocese in whatever form, or by whatever means, you consider most suitable. Let us continue to pray for a quick and complete resolution to this and all threats to religious liberty and the exercise of our faith in our great country.

Timothy Cardinal Dolan
Archbishop of New York
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Most Reverend William E. Lori
Bishop of Bridgeport
Chairman, Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty

Check it out.

Convincing witness in the face of radical secularism

From an address by Benedict XVI to the bishops of the United States on the occasion of their visit ad lumina Apostolorum:

At the heart of every culture, whether perceived or not, is a consensus about the nature of reality and the moral good, and thus about the conditions for human flourishing. In America, that consensus, as enshrined in your nation’s founding documents, was grounded in a worldview shaped not only by faith but a commitment to certain ethical principles deriving from nature and nature’s God. Today that consensus has eroded significantly in the face of powerful new cultural currents which are not only directly opposed to core moral teachings of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but increasingly hostile to Christianity as such….

With her long tradition of respect for the right relationship between faith and reason, the Church has a critical role to play in countering cultural currents which, on the basis of an extreme individualism, seek to promote notions of freedom detached from moral truth. Our tradition does not speak from blind faith, but from a rational perspective which links our commitment to building an authentically just, humane and prosperous society to our ultimate assurance that the cosmos is possessed of an inner logic accessible to human reasoning. The Church’s defense of a moral reasoning based on the natural law is grounded on her conviction that this law is not a threat to our freedom, but rather a “language” which enables us to understand ourselves and the truth of our being, and so to shape a more just and humane world. She thus proposes her moral teaching as a message not of constraint but of liberation, and as the basis for building a secure future.

The Church’s witness, then, is of its nature public: she seeks to convince by proposing rational arguments in the public square. The legitimate separation of Church and State cannot be taken to mean that the Church must be silent on certain issues, nor that the State may choose not to engage, or be engaged by, the voices of committed believers in determining the values which will shape the future of the nation.

In the light of these considerations, it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life. Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion….

Read it all.

What I heard at Mass this weekend

I posted earlier that my bishop (Bishop Jugis) wrote another letter on the HHS mandate debacle, with a request that it be read at each Mass this past weekend.

I did not hear it at Mass (we go to the Sunday evening Mass, probably the smallest of the weekend), but we did have a bright yellow bulletin insert with a copy of Convincing witness in the face of radical secularism, the address to the bishops of the United States by Benedict XVI on January 19, and the USCCB insert, Conscience rights, religious liberty violated by sweeping HHS contraceptive mandate. The insert also included a personal note from our interim pastor that said in part:

Our Diocese of Charlotte has taken a “wait-and-see attitude” concerning a compromise by President Barack Obama in regards to the Catholic Church and its religious liberty. I am concerned that if we “wait” too long it may be too late. Catholics compose 25% of the nation’s population and we are witnessing yet another instance of an anti-Catholic sentiment which is growing in our country. Silence could be dangerous in this case. …

I haven’t talked with my pastor to see why the letter itself wasn’t read, but we are between permanent clergy. Our pastor of two years was just reassigned and the assistant pastor is our interim priest. We also have a new temporary assistant pastor, so things are a little confusing in the front office. I hope we hear the bishop’s letter next week. . .I’ll be waiting!