Category Archives: ObamaCare

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.

‘This is tyranny’: Tens of thousands decry HHS mandate in 146 nationwide protests

Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally in New York
From LifeSiteNews.com, a report on yesterday’s Stand Up for Religious Freedom rallies nationwide:

Tens of thousands of men and women gathered in 146 protests on Friday, joining a grassroots effort that organizers say grew far beyond expectations. The rallies were held to protest the Obama administration mandate forcing religious universities, charities, and other groups to pay for abortifacient drugs and other birth control for students and employees. …

According to the Friday rallies, the HHS mandate is not a birth control issue, but a religious freedom issue, and a challenge to fight that won’t be ignored.

One fulcrum of the national protests was Washington, D.C., where about 1,500-2,000 gathered on a hot and sunny afternoon before the Health and Human Services building. Beneath the windows of HHS offices was heard the chanting of “We will not comply,” car horns honking in solidarity, and the rallying cries of several prominent speakers, including Pat Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition, Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life, conservative activist Star Parker, and Lila Rose of Live Action.

Hawkins put the issue in blunt terms, stating simply, “This is tyranny.”

“We are being told that our beliefs, our conscience, no longer matters,” said the pro-life youth leader. “What stops them from targeting someone else next?”…

Read it all.

Protests against Obama mandate to take place in 129 cities


From LifeNews.com:

Thousands of pro-life advocates across the country will take part on Friday in “Stand Up for Religious Freedom” rallies taking place in more than 129 cities.

The rallies are meant as a public demonstration against the Obama mandate that requires religious organizations, churches and other objecting employers to pay for birth control and drugs that may cause abortions.

This makes this event one of the largest in American history with respect to simultaneous rallies occurring in cities across the nation and the main rally in the nation’s capital will be on the plaza of the HHS (Hubert Humphrey Building) on March 23, at 12:00 noon

“The HHS mandates and the issue of religious freedom have now ignited a political firestorm that will be a major issue in the 2012 Presidential Elections. In an odd way, President Obama’s forcing Christian institutions to violate their conscience and core beliefs has energized the faith community in a way that none of the republican candidates have yet been able to accomplish,” said [the Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition and one of the organizers of the rally in Washington, DC].

Polling data shows Americans are strongly opposed to the Obama mandate. A February Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds 38 percent of likely voters think health insurance companies should be required by law to cover the morning after pill without co-payments or other charges to the patient. But 50 percent of Americans disagree and oppose this requirement while 13 percent are undecided….

Read it all, and check here for rally locations.

WSJ: ObamaCare’s costs are soaring

An op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI):

…Now, two years out, I would like to focus on the budgetary disaster.

As a candidate, Barack Obama repeatedly claimed that his health-care plan would lower annual family health-insurance premiums by $2,500 before the end of his first term as president. But the Kaiser Family Foundation recently reported that the average family premium has increased $2,200 since the start of this administration.

Then there is the higher cost to taxpayers. The CBO’s initial estimate in March 2010 of ObamaCare’s budget impact showed it saving money, reducing the federal deficit by $143 billion in the first 10 years. But that positive estimate was largely the product of gimmicks inserted into the bill by Democratic leaders to hide the law’s true cost.

Sure enough, the administration last October announced it would not implement one of those gimmicks, a long-term care program called the Class Act, because it was financially unworkable. The loss of the premiums that would be collected to finance the Class Act wiped out $70 billion of the supposed deficit reduction projected by CBO. And last month the administration’s proposed fiscal 2013 budget included $111 billion in additional spending for the premium subsidies in the health law’s insurance exchanges—further eroding any confidence in the original ObamaCare projections.

The CBO originally estimated that one million Americans would lose their employer-sponsored care and be forced into the exchanges.

But a McKinsey & Co. study in June 2011 showed that 30%-50% of employers plan to stop offering health insurance to their employees once the health law is implemented in 2014. Last week the CBO breezily dismissed this and other studies on the ground that “it is doubtful that any survey conducted today could provide very accurate predictions of employers’ future decisions.”

As someone who purchased group health insurance for over 31 years, I fully understand why the McKinsey study is more credible than the CBO.

Why? Because the decision employers face under ObamaCare is straightforward: Do they pay $20,000 per year for family coverage, or do they pay the $2,000 penalty to the government?…

In reality, as government assumes a greater share of health-care costs, pressure to cut payments to providers will be enormous. Reduced government reimbursements to providers will cause massive cost-shifting to those remaining in the private health-insurance market. More employees will lose coverage. Before long, we will have what the left has long sought—a single payer health-care system modeled after Medicaid….

Read it all.

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.

From a plea for choice to a roar of entitlement

From Debra Saunders at Real Clear Politics:

…But for the right, this is an issue of the Obama administration’s telling church-based groups that they must act against their deeply held beliefs. As House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy told me, the argument did not start with Congress. It was a response to Obama. “It wasn’t about birth control. It’s about religious freedom.”

The tables have turned. Abortion used to be a matter of choice. Ditto birth control. But now that they have considerable political power, the erstwhile choice advocates want to take away the choice of dissenters to opt out.

Choice is gone. Tolerance is musty memory. “Access” is the new buzzword — and access means free. Under Obamacare, employer-paid health plans can charge women copayments for necessary and vital medical services if they are seriously ill, but birth control is free….

What is more, Fluke asserted that if students have to go out and get their own birth control — because they chose to attend a Catholic institution — that hurts their grades. Therefore, Washington must force religious institutions to go against their deeply held beliefs and hand out birth control, if indirectly.

Washington has accomplished a great leap, from a plea for choice to a roar of entitlement.

No doubt, this approach works well with intolerant liberals who want to impose their views on others. But it is enough to cause some of us social moderates, who worry about the encroachment on religious and personal liberty, to go into the loving arms of social conservatives.

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.

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.

AUL: The con

Watch it all.

Anglican Curmudgeon: Does Obamacare negate its own insurance?

From A. S. Haley (lawyer) at the Anglican Curmudgeon, a follow-up to my link to HotAir yesterday:

A contract entered into under duress, such as threat of sanctions, retaliation or punishment, on the other hand, is unenforceable, and may be set aside in court. That is because to make a valid contract, the law requires a “meeting of the minds” — two individuals must come freely together, and freely decide and agree on the same terms for their contract. If one of those minds is under duress, it cannot meet the other in the free and voluntary sense which the law requires to make a contract.

The so-called “individual mandate” in Obamacare requires that everyone purchase a healthcare insurance policy, under threat of fines and, eventually, imprisonment for refusal to pay the fine. A more classic case of forcing people into a contract under duress could scarcely be imagined….

What I find most interesting is that I have been following a number of legal blogs which carry arguments pro and con regarding the healthcare mandate (especially The Volokh Conspiracy), but to date I have never seen any other law professor raise this fundamental argument. That they have not done so, and that many of them can entertain even the notion that the mandate is constitutional, speaks volumes about the institutional mentality that has crept over our law schools….

Read it all. Of course, the Obama Administration didn’t much care when they negated contract law for the bondholders of General Motors and Chrysler, so I don’t know if they’ll really care about this. I hope this time the judiciary doesn’t cave so easily to browbeating by the executive.

The bishops and the mandate: Principled witness vs. politics as usual

From Robert P. George, Sherif Girgis and Ryan T. Anderson, writing for the Witherspoon Institute:

…Let’s consider some facts. When national opposition to the mandate was a white-hot blaze, President Obama announced a few changes meant to satisfy critics. Hours later, the mandate was enshrined in the Federal Register without any of those changes having been made. The President’s self-imposed deadline for making good on his promises? After the election.

He claimed to be accommodating religious, especially Catholic concerns. It was a compromise, say America’s editors. That would make it history’s first unilateral compromise: The White House had secured (and promptly rolled out) the approval of longtime supporter Sr. Carol Keehan—and Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards—but not a single bishop.

In fact, the New York Times reports, the proposal was never really meant to address the bishops’ concerns. It was calculated to give cover to liberal Catholics, whose renewed support of the mandate would mute the roar of criticism of Obama from champions of religious freedom on the Left and Right both….

Well, the bishops certainly do oppose mandating this funding (and always have), for contraceptives and abortifacients are, as Cardinal Timothy Dolan and others have noted, not health care. Anovulent pills can be used for genuinely health-related purposes, which the bishops support and even cover for their own employees. But what contraception and abortion prevent or “treat”—the existence of new people—is no illness or disease. They serve, as such, no common good. And when one weighs religious liberty against what is no public good at all, it’s easy to see how the scales of justice will tip. Bishops who point this out are not flexing “political muscle” in a hyped-up “difference over policy,” as America’s editors suggest. They are drawing the plain implications of Catholic principle—to which Jesuit magazines are, we presume, editorially committed.

But suppose, for the sake of argument, that these services were forms of health care. Imagine too that the “compromise solution” were more than the election-year I.O.U. of a politician who had already revealed himself to be reckless about religious freedom (and even averse to that term). We still face the fact that the mandate would require Catholic and other religiously opposed employers to provide plans that cover services they find morally abhorrent, or else pay crippling fines. Insurance companies would be the ones to advertise (and, officially, to fund) the plans’ controversial parts, but objecting employers would in practice bear their costs. …

Freedom of conscience is hardly safer after the new proposal: Objecting employers will still have to contract for insurance plans covering what they judge to be immoral. Their employees will still have this coverage through employers’ contracts, effectively on their dime….

But it gets worse. All these threats—to conscience, to witness, to religious freedom, to pluralism and civic virtue—would take their toll for no good reason, whatever one’s view of the services at stake. The cause of subsidized contraception and abortion has, again, no share in the common good. But suppose it were a public good, and important enough to justify risks to conscience and witness and religious freedom; suppose Obama’s revision really would be implemented as promised; and would, so implemented, diminish all these risks. The case for the mandate would still fail, for whatever risks remained would be unnecessary.

For one thing, contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortion-inducing drugs are widely available—not just at drug stores but also (to cite the administration’s own announcement) at “community health centers, public clinics, and hospitals with income-based support.”

But even more tellingly, the administration has on nonreligious grounds granted exemptions from the mandate to employers that account for an estimated 88 million employees in 2013. If coverage of contraceptives and abortifacients is indispensable, why is it not guaranteed for these tens of millions? If, on the other hand, the administration can afford to exempt employers for other reasons, why not show the same solicitude for employers with moral and religious objections? HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebellius, who promulgated the mandate, may have let the reason slip when she declared herself at “war” with those she cast as enemies of—you guessed it—“women’s health.”…

The administration’s dubious record on religious freedom, its selective intransigence on the insurance mandate, indeed the weakness of its position from every vantage-point leave only one explanation. Against people seeking to keep and share their faith, the Obama administration has chosen to give shining witness to its own dogmas—for which it would risk one-term martyrdom; before which it would bend every pillar of society, make every last man and woman bow. The Catholic bishops remain standing in bold resistance, and somehow it is this—and not their own, rather awkward posture on the matter—that embarrasses the editors of America magazine.

Read it all.

HotAir: Does the ObamaCare individual mandate make contracts unenforceable?

From Ed Morrissey at HotAir:

I must admit that until I heard this argument from the Institute for Justice, I never considered the implications of ObamaCare requiring individuals to sign contracts for insurance coverage.  In any other context, signing a contract under threat of force constitutes duress, which negates the contract under centuries-old legal standards.  What happens when government applies the threat of force, through fines and presumably an eventual jail sentence for non-compliance?…

[Constitutional law professor Elizabeth Price] Foley’s point in the video is well taken.  If the individual mandate passes muster because duress does not apply when the federal government applies it, then the courts will have given carte blanche to tyranny.  Where does that power end?  Buying cars certainly implicates interstate commerce; will the government have the power to force us to sign purchase contracts for Chevy Volts?  What would be the difference between that and health insurance?…

If coercion negates these contracts, as it should, then the insurance company won’t be under any obligation to pay for your health care, either.  After all, ObamaCare forces them to accept all applicants now, regardless of pre-existing conditions, so they too are under duress….

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.

Promised objectivity, Americans receive Planned Parenthood ideology

From HLI America, part of Human Life International, a report on how the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) used information provided by the Women’s Preventive Services committee of the Institute of Medicine (IOM, part of the National Academy of Sciences) to further their political pro-abortion agenda by insisting that including contraceptives in government-mandated health care is medically necessary, when objective evidence shows that it isn’t.

Virtually all of the Women’s Preventive Services committee members are affiliated in some way with Planned Parenthood or NARAL.

From HLI America:

… But these eleven members—out of a total of sixteen—demonstrate a more than casual commitment to the furthering of the abortion lobby. In fact, according to information available from the public record, a total of $116,500 has been donated to pro-choice organizations and candidates by these committee members. What is more, public records show that not one of the sixteen committee members has financially supported a political candidate who is politically anti-abortion. Whatever one thinks of the relevant issues, one would be hard pressed to argue that this IOM committee is politically non-partisan. This committee was purportedly assembled for the very purpose of providing outside, objective, and expert advice to the policy-making HHS; as the above roll call demonstrates, however, the committee was anything but a balanced sampling of experts….

The committee held three “open information-gathering sessions” to receive expert testimony regarding the preventive services that should be mandated and funded. However, nearly all the invited speakers were known advocates of contraception and abortion on demand. In a press release, Michael O’Dea notes:

At both meetings, the invited speakers represented organizations which advocate coverage of contraception, without cost sharing of expenses. Those organizations include the Guttmacher Institute, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, Planned Parenthood, The Kaiser Family Foundation and the Society for Family Planning.

Furthermore, there was not one representative from the Catholic health care system, despite the fact that, taken together, it constitutes the single largest provider of health care in our country. Representatives of the pro-life and pro-family organizations (who were forced to seek for themselves permission to speak) were relegated to the brief public comments portion at the end of the day.

This relegation is not insignificant, for though the use of contraception by American women during child-bearing years is nearly universal, support for publicly funded contraception is not. As indicated by a recentRasmussen poll, 46% of Americans do not support the committee’s recommendation, while only only 39% of Americans believe that contraception should be covered free of charge. This diversity in viewpoints should have been reflected both in the makeup of the committee and of the speakers invited to testify at the hearings. Instead, there was a built-in bias in support of the provision of contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs….

The central claim of the report, as it is bears on Recommendation 5.5, is “that greater use of contraception within the population produces lower unintended pregnancy and abortion rates nationally” (pg. 92). In support of this claim, the report cites only two sources—one of which is a non-peer-reviewed advocacy report. This spurious source was published by the Guttmacher Institute, the former research arm of Planned Parenthood, and a strong advocate for abortion and contraception. One reason for this dearth of evidence is simple: numerous studies show that greater access to oral contraception and emergency contraception does not in fact reduce unintended pregnancies or abortion….

Read it all. (H/t Stand Firm)

Feds ask for delay in Belmont Abbey College’s lawsuit against HHS mandate

When you got nothin’, you stall. From LifeSiteNews.com:

Days after saying the birth control mandate was “final,” the Obama administration has told a federal court it shouldn’t rule on a lawsuit against the new rule because the administration may decide to change it at an unspecified later date.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing Belmont Abbey College in the case, said Friday that the administration’s response lacked any constitutional defense of the mandate, which would force religious organizations, including charities, hospitals, and even religious orders, to cover birth control, sterilizations, and abortifacient drugs.

“Apparently, the administration has decided that the mandate, as written and finalized, is constitutionally indefensible,” said Hannah Smith, senior counsel at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “Its only hope is to ask the court to look the other way based on an empty promise to possibly change the rules in the future.”…

And you would trust this administration why? So read it all, and check out the news from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

My bishop writes another letter–will I hear it at Mass this weekend?

From the Catholic News Herald, a copy of the letter Bishop Jugis has asked be read at all masses this weekend (I’ll let you know what I hear at my church):

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I write to you today regarding the healthcare regulations that would require religious institutions to provide contraception for their employees. Since the HHS guidelines were released in January, a great many people in the Diocese of Charlotte have contacted my office to express their concern. More recently, President Barack Obama offered a compromise in the administration of the regulations.

Unfortunately, the compromise does not address the fundamental concern of conscience protection and religious liberty that the original regulations threaten.

The compromise retains the nationwide mandate of insurance coverage of sterilization and contraception, including some abortifacients, for all religious employers. This remains a grave moral concern.

Additionally, it appears that the regulations will still mandate that all insurers include coverage for the objectionable services in all the policies they would write. At this point, it would appear that self-insuring religious employers, including the Diocese of Charlotte, are not exempt from this mandate.

The lack of clear conscience protection for key stakeholders is unacceptable and must be corrected.

The bishops in the United States therefore continue – with no less vigor, no less sense of urgency – the efforts to correct this problem. We urgently need legislation to correct the mandate’s threats to religious liberty and conscience rights. The Respect for Rights of Conscience Act has been introduced in Congress (H.R. 1179, S. 1467) to ensure that those who participate in the market for health insurance “retain the right to provide, purchase, or enroll in health coverage that is consistent with their religious beliefs and moral convictions.”

As a community of faith we must commit ourselves to prayer and fasting that wisdom and justice prevail, and that religious liberty be restored. Without God, we can do nothing; with God, nothing is impossible. I ask you to visit CatholicVoiceNC.org to learn more about this severe assault on religious liberty, and to contact Congress in support of legislation to reverse the Administration’s decision.

Assuring you of my prayers, and asking God’s blessings upon you, I am

Sincerely yours in Christ,

The Most Reverend Peter J. Jugis

Bishop of Charlotte

And check out Concerns remain among local Catholics over HHS contraception mandate, also in the Catholic News Herald.

Obama’s overreach: Is anybody listening?

From Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post:

…But let’s for a moment accept the president on his own terms. Let’s accept his contention that this “accommodation” is a real shift of responsibility to the insurer. Has anyone considered the import of this new mandate? The president of the United States has just ordered private companies to give away for free a service that his own health and human services secretary has repeatedly called a major financial burden.

On what authority? Where does it say that the president can unilaterally order a private company to provide an allegedly free-standing service at no cost to certain select beneficiaries?

This is government by presidential fiat. In Venezuela, that’s done all the time. Perhaps we should call Obama’s “accommodation” Presidential Decree No. 1.

Consider the constitutional wreckage left by Obamacare:

First, the assault on the free exercise of religion. Only churches themselves are left alone. Beyond the churchyard gate, religious autonomy disappears. Every other religious institution must bow to the state because, by this administration’s regulatory definition, church schools, hospitals and charities are not “religious” and thus have no right to the free exercise of religion — no protection from being forced into doctrinal violations commanded by the state.

Second, the assault on free enterprise. To solve his own political problem, the president presumes to order a private company to enter into a contract for the provision of certain services — all of which must be without charge. And yet, this breathtaking arrogation of power is simply the logical extension of Washington’s takeover of the private system of medical care — a system Obama farcically pretends to be maintaining….

Third, the assault on individual autonomy. Every citizen without insurance is ordered to buy it, again under penalty of law. This so-called individual mandate is now before the Supreme Court — because never before has the already hypertrophied Commerce Clause been used to compel a citizen to enter into a private contract with a private company by mere fact of his existence.

This constitutional trifecta — the state invading the autonomy of religious institutions, private companies and the individual citizen — should not surprise. It is what happens when the state takes over one-sixth of the economy….

Read it all.

Catholic Charities walks it back . . . a little


The initial statement released by Catholic Charities after Pres. Obama’s so-called “compromise” of February 10 was presented as a positive by the administration and the media (but I repeat myself):

Rev. Larry Snyder, President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA), responds to the Administration’s announcement on religious freedom.  While CCUSA is not prepared to endorse the accommodation, we believe it is a step in the right direction. Fr. Snyder says:

“Catholic Charities USA welcomes the Administration’s attempt to meet the concerns of the religious community and we look forward to reviewing the final language.

We are hopeful that this is a step in the right direction and are committed to continuing our work to ensure that our religious institutions will continue to be granted the freedom to remain faithful to our beliefs, while also being committed to providing access to quality healthcare for our 70,000 employees and their families across the country.”

Once they realized their position had been skewed, they released a clarification:

Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) is in the process of carefully reviewing the revised language released by the Administration and intends to take full advantage of the comment period to express our questions and concerns. As such, we have not taken a position endorsing the Administration’s proposed “accommodation.” Our focus remains on our ability to maintain our Catholic identity and religious liberties as an organization and to ensure continued access to quality care for our 70,000 employees and their families across the country.

CCUSA shares the goals of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in preserving the religious freedom that is essential for us to do our work and will continue our work with them to that end….

And have even  stronger wording on the first page of their website:

In response to a great number of mischaracterizations in the media, Catholic Charities USA wants to make two things very clear:

1. We have not endorsed the accommodation to the HHS mandate that was announced by the Administration last Friday.

2. We unequivocally share the goal of the US Catholic bishops to uphold religious liberty and will continue to work with the USCCB towards that goal.

Any representation to the contrary is false.

HHS mandate and indirect cooperation with evil

From Elizabeth Scalia at The Anchoress:

…How does this work? How does the illiberal language of the HHS Mandate — proposing unprecedented intrusion by the government into church matters — language that, pretty much all Catholics agreed in the first week could not stand, become codified in the next week with the approval of some of those same Catholics? Is this president’s word so trustworthy that it was enough for him to merely say he would change something he did not change and clearly has no intention of codifying?

Were some Catholics simply looking for a face-saving cover? Why, then? Because unity with their party was worth helping to set a bad precedent? What, specifically, in the codified language (or in Obama’s subsequent statement) has assuaged any conscience sufficiently to bring about an endorsement?

Much more importantly, with some Catholics now on board and making a variety of arguments supporting the administration, they are — intentionally or not — helping to distract people from the crux of the matter, which is simply this: when the CDC itself admits (as it did in 2009 [pdf]) that contraception is so widely available that fully 99% of women report using it at some point (so much so that, as Shea notes traces of birth control residue are found in our water supply), why did the administration find it necessary to even go where it went on the issue of contraception; why is it intruding on the churches own rights and abilities to own their conscience and define their missions?

That’s the question; it’s the ball we must keep our eyes on, and some are happy to get distracted, swing and miss.

It’s a political wedge issue, I get that, meant to divide and conquer, and the administration has clearly managed to do that, but this is also a genuinely bad precedent — so bad that I just cannot understand anyone’s willingness to support it, when this administration has demonstrated more than once that it means to put the churches in their places, and that their places are to be within the government’s mandates (hello Hosanna Tabor), or outside the public arena, altogether.

That anyone is willing to overlook the question of constitutionality for the sake of political expediency, I just don’t get….

Read it all.