Mar 10

“This is about the government coercing religious institutions to violate their own beliefs.”

So clarifies the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in their feature ‘The Truth Should Not Be A Secret’. It aims to debunk the top myths that quickly circulated out of spin control centers from the administration and their complicit media partners.

I’ve heard every one of them and have had to counter them with facts, time and again, so this post by Becket Fund helps center and ground the debate.

Take this one, for instance:

Myth #5: The federal mandate actually protects women’s health because it increases access to free birth control.

Truth: Access isn’t the issue. 9 out of 10 employer-based insurance plans already cover these services. There is no need for the government to force religious groups to provide these services against their religious convictions.

One could launch a whole debate just on component parts of that sentence in Myth #5.

And then a whopper:

Myth #6: In a recent poll, 98% of Catholic women said they already used artificial birth control anyhow. So what’s the big deal?

The ‘lie repeated often enough’ that is not only addressed succinctly here but nailed perfectly by Michael Cook here.

The government would just prefer that we focus on Catholics and their beliefs about birth control. Because that deflects attention from the far less winnable battle for the Obama administration over denying fundamental religious liberty in America for individuals and institutions.

But that’s what the controversial HHS mandate is about. Which is why so many religious leaders and scholars are speaking out.

Like Dr. Timothy George and Chuck Colson.

The Catholic bishops in America have responded quickly, decrying the Administration’s decision for what it is—an egregious, dangerous violation of religious liberty—and mobilizing a vast grassroots movement to persuade the Administration to reverse its decision.

We evangelicals must stand unequivocally with our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters. Because when the government violates the religious liberty of one group, it threatens the religious liberty of all.

And Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison, President of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, who testified by a House Committee on the mandate.

While we are opposed in principle, not to all forms of birth control, but only abortion-causing drugs, we stand with our friends in the Catholic Church and all others, Christians and non-Christians, under the free exercise and conscience provisions of the U.S. Constitution.

“Religious people determine what violates their consciences, not the federal government. The conscience is a sacred thing. Our church exists because overzealous governments in northern Europe made decisions which trampled the religious convictions of our forebearers.

They’re facing off with an overzealous government in the US with either a short memory or deliberate defiance of fundamental founding principles or both. And, as President Harrison told me at the end of the week, opponents of this mandate are not going away. There’s too much at stake.

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Feb 26

The president may have been surprised by the unusual and overwhelming unity among Catholic Americans after he issued an unprecedented threat to religious liberty most directly aimed at Catholic institutions. But he probably didn’t expect a whole movement across America to rise in solidarity with the common cause of resisting his unchecked tyranny.

Call it what it is: The Audacity of Power.

In one of the boldest, most audacious moves ever made by a President of the United States, President Barack Obama is on the brink of successfully rendering moot the very first clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” (emphasis added). If he forces the Catholic Church to comply with the Health and Human Services ruling to provide its employees with insurance that covers activities the Church has long held sinful — abortion via the morning after pill, sterilization and contraceptives — then the precedent is clear: when religious beliefs conflict with government decrees, religion must yield.

The story line that President Obama miscalculated in picking this fight with the Catholic Church vastly underestimates the man’s political skill and ambition. His initial approval of the ruling requiring the Church pay for abortion drugs and sterilization was but the first step in a calculated strategy to further his goal of transforming America.

President Obama chose to pick this fight with the Catholic Church by choosing to release the regulations first, and then, as he explained in last Friday’s statement to the press, spend “the next year (before the new regulations take effect) to find an equitable solution that would protect religious liberty and insure that every woman has access to the care that she needs.” The alternative would have been to find the “equitable solution” before announcing the regulations. In other words, this entire political fire storm is a set-up by the Administration.

This is an excellent article. Consider what he posed as ‘choices.’

Option A: The Church complies with the law and violates its own teachings and principles of faith. Such a choice would strip the Church of its legitimacy and make it a de facto vassal of the state. In this case, the ability of the Church to challenge the government’s political power is vastly reduced, if not completely destroyed. Faith, charity and civil society are marginalized. Government wins.

Option B: The Church as a matter of conscience refuses to obey the law, and stops offering health insurance to its employees. In this case, the Church gets crushed by hundreds of millions of dollars in fines. As a consequence, its ability to fulfill its religious mission by funding hospitals, schools and charities is sharply reduced if not destroyed. As the Church is forced to withdraw from its active role in civil society, those who believe in government will rush to fill the void. Faith, charity and civil society are marginalized. Government wins.

The risk to President Obama was the Church would create “Option C” and engage in a broad political battle to force the full repeal of the ruling or, if that fails, the defeat of President Obama in the November election followed by the repeal of ObamaCare. Under Option C, government’s power is reduced. Faith, charity and civil society win.

However…

President Obama’s political skill is demonstrated by his anticipation and preparation for just this outcome. First, he has used the issue to energize his political base by positioning his Administration as the defender of “women’s health” and attacking his opponents for taking him up on his implicit dare to make it an issue in the Presidential campaign.

Okay, stop right there. Ultimately, read the entire article, it’s so well done and incisive.

But let’s look at that claim, heard from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and President Obama, to be the defender of “women’s health”. That’s Orwellian.

Let’s be honest.

Advocates of President Obama’s contraception mandate should admit that its main purpose is sexual liberation and not “women’s health,” according to a feminist author who supports the mandate.

“The phrase ‘women’s health’ in the birth control dispute is the latest nimble euphemism,” author and blogger Pamela Haag wrote in a Feb. 17 essay published on the “Marriage 3.0” blog.

Access to contraception, she said, “isn’t really about my ‘health.’ It’s not principally about the management of ovarian cysts or the regulation of periods.”

“Birth control isn’t about my health unless by ‘health’ you mean, my capacity to get it on, to have a happy, joyous sex life that involves an actual male partner,” wrote Haag, criticizing White House supporters for discussing contraceptives mainly as “preventive services” for women’s health.

“The point of birth control is to have sex that’s recreational and non-procreative,” wrote Haag approvingly. “It’s to permit women to exercise their desires without the ‘sword of Damocles’ of unwanted pregnancy hanging gloomily over their heads.”

Just to be brutally clear.

Women are speaking up alright, and many of them against the mandate.

Despite claims that only male clergy and politicians oppose the Obama administration’s contraception mandate, Catholic women across the nation are objecting strongly to the federal rule.

In recent posts on CNA’s Catholic Womanhood page, columnists attacked the mandate from various angles – some addressed the issue of religious freedom while others questioned the validity of abortifacients, sterilization and contraception being labeled as “basic medical care” for women.

But the main remains religious liberty.

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 allencompassing, extreme form of secularism…

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?

And that’s precisely the central question drawing religious leaders and organizations into this maelstrom. It has become a coalition of the concerned, and it is growing.

The Evangelicals.

We evangelicals must stand unequivocally with our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters. Because when the government violates the religious liberty of one group, it threatens the religious liberty of all.

Many bishops have already declared that they will not obey this unjust law. The penalty for such a move would be severe. Catholic hospitals, universities, and other organizations would be forced to pay punitive fines ($2,000 per employee) for refusing to purchase insurance that violates the teaching of their church….

But Catholic institutions aren’t the only ones affected by this mandate. Prison Fellowship, for example, which employs 180 people, could not purchase insurance for its employees that covers abortifacients. Nor could the world’s largest Christian outreach to prisoners and their families afford the fines we would incur.

 Three years ago, when we co-authored the Manhattan Declaration, we predicted that the time would come when Christians would have to face the very real prospect of civil disobedience—that we would have to choose sides: God or Caesar.

Certainly for the Catholics and for many of us evangelicals, that time is already upon us.

Lutherans have sounded the alert.

Lutherans generally have some differences with Catholics. That was the point of the Reformation. Lutherans believe that the Bible alone has the ability to determine doctrine, for instance, while the Catholic Church invests doctrinal authority in its bishops and tradition.

But on Thursday afternoon in Washington, the Rev. Matthew Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, told a panel of lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives that the St. Louis-based denomination “stand(s) with our friends in the Catholic Church” in opposition to a recent government ruling on contraception.

The Missouri Synod has not traditionally embraced the notion of pluralism, at least when it comes to what the church calls “altar and pulpit fellowship.” But in an interview Friday, Harrison, who lives in Ballwin with his family, made it clear that the Missouri Synod has “large consensus with the Roman Catholic Church on moral issues.”

“The Christian church is a billion times beyond the Missouri Synod,” Harrison said. “Without the Roman Catholic Church in this country, our way would be infinitely more difficult.”

So earlier this week, when Harrison received an invitation to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, he reluctantly agreed. He sat on a panel with other religious leaders and scholars, including Roman Catholic Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., and Rabbi Meir Soloveichik of Yeshiva University in New York.

“I was minding my business three days ago,” he said, “and then I got pulled into the monkey cage.”

By the time Harrison left the cage, he would deliver a fiery indictment before lawmakers, venturing past the issue of contraception and deep into broad issues of intolerance and righteousness.

Evangelical leaders Chuck colson and Dr. Timothy George struck a nerve with their call to action.

We do not exaggerate when we say that this is the greatest threat to religious freedom in our lifetime. We cannot help but think of the words attributed to German pastor Martin Niemoeller, reflecting on the Nazi terror:

First they came for the Socialists, and I
did not speak out —
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists,
and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did
not speak out — Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me — and there was
no one left to speak for me.

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Feb 08

Enough was already enough with this administration trampling conscience rights and religious liberties protected in the Constitution. Than he clamped down on speech rights of Army chaplains, for crying out loud.

And this man wrote a book about audacity.

Obama silenced chaplains last weekend.

In Catholic churches across the country, parishioners were read letters from the pulpit this weekend from bishops in their diocese about the mandate from the Department of Health and Human Services giving Catholics a year before they’ll be required to start violating their consciences on insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization, and abortifacient drugs. But not in the Army.

A statement released this afternoon — which happens to be the 67th anniversary of the sinking of the USS Dorchester, on which four chaplains lost their lives – from the Archdiocese for Military Services explains:

On Thursday, January 26, Archbishop Broglio emailed a pastoral letter to Catholic military chaplains with instructions that it be read from the pulpit at Sunday Masses the following weekend in all military chapels. The letter calls on Catholics to resist the policy initiative, recently affirmed by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, for federally mandated health insurance covering sterilization, abortifacients and contraception, because it represents a violation of the freedom of religion recognized by the U.S. Constitution.

The Army’s Office of the Chief of Chaplains subsequently sent an email to senior chaplains advising them that the Archbishop’s letter was not coordinated with that office and asked that it not be read from the pulpit.  The Chief’s office directed that the letter was to be mentioned in the Mass announcements and distributed in printed form in the back of the chapel.

Archbishop Broglio and the Archdiocese stand firm in the belief, based on legal precedent, that such a directive from the Army constituted a violation of his Constitutionally-protected right of free speech and the free exercise of religion, as well as those same rights of all military chaplains and their congregants.
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Following a discussion between Archbishop Broglio and the Secretary of the Army, The Honorable John McHugh, it was agreed that it was a mistake to stop the reading of the Archbishop’s letter.  Additionally, the line: “We cannot — we will not — comply with this unjust law” was removed by Archbishop Broglio at the suggestion of Secretary McHugh over the concern that it could potentially be misunderstood as a call to civil disobedience.

The AMS did not receive any objections to the reading of Archbishop Broglio’s statement from the other branches of service.

So not only were chaplains told not to read the letter, but an Obama administration official edited a pastoral letter . . . with church buy-in?

Didn’t people flee across an ocean-sized pond to be free of this kind of thing?

The news got around a bit, though not widely, that the military was telling chaplains what they could and couldn’t say about the administration.

All the bishops in the country sent out a letter to be read in their parishes promising that the Church “cannot-and will not-comply with this unjust law.”

Even Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who is in charge of Catholic military chaplains sent out the same letter. 

But after he did, the Army’s Office of the Chief of Chaplains sent out another communication forbidding Catholic priests to read the letter, in part because it seemed to encourage civil disobedience, and could be read as seditious against the Commander-in-Chief.

More than one Catholic chaplain who spoke to us off the record confirmed that many chaplains disobeyed this instruction and read the letter anyway. Others sought further instructions from their Archbishop.

Now after much behind-the-scenes bureaucratic wrangling, a new version of the letter will be read, one that was edited of the language about “unjust laws.”

A new statement issued this afternoon from Archbishop Broglio’s office acknowledged the interference this way:

“Archbishop Broglio and the Archdiocese stand firm in the belief, based on legal precedent, that such a directive from the Army constituted a violation of his Constitutionally-protected right of free speech and the free exercise of religion, as well as those same rights of all military chaplains and their congregants.

“Following a discussion between Archbishop Broglio and the Secretary of the Army, The Honorable John McHugh, it was agreed that it was a mistake to stop the reading of the Archbishop’s letter.  Additionally, the line: “We cannot-we will not-comply with this unjust law” was removed by Archbishop Broglio at the suggestion of Secretary McHugh over the concern that it could potentially be misunderstood as a call to civil disobedience.

It’s an issue that Catholic chaplains are taking very seriously in private. We obtained a confidential letter sent to the chaplains that  prepares priests to contact the Military Archdiocesan lawyer in case of more interference or any punishment.

“The Archdiocese believes that any attempt to keep a chaplain from freely teaching and preaching the Catholic faith, for which you were endorsed, is a violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution.”

This story reached a higher profile in the news on Tuesday.

The Obama administration has been accused of telling Catholic military chaplains what they can and cannot say from their pulpits after the Army ordered Catholic chaplains not to read a letter to parishioners from their archbishop.

The Secretary of the Army feared the letter could be viewed as a call for civil disobedience.

The letter called on Catholics to resist the policy the Obama Administration’s policy that would force institutions affiliated with religious groups to provide coverage for birth control, sterilization and “abortifacients.” The Catholic Church believes the mandate represents an unconstitutional violation of freedom of religion.

This is blowing up on the Obama adminsitration. It’s ‘a bridge too far.’

“Archbishop Broglio and the Archdiocese stand firm in the belief, based on legal precedent, that such a directive from the Army constituted a violation of his Constitutionally-protected right of free speech and the free exercise of religion, as well as those same rights of all military chaplains and their congregants,” read a statement provided to Fox News from the Archdiocese of the Military Services.

According to the AMS, Archbishop Broglio had a telephone conversation with Secretary of the Army John McHugh.

The issue raises a question among critics: did administration official tell the Catholic Church what it could and could not say in the pulpit?

It follows suit, after telling the Catholic Church what it could no longer do in practice according to its moral beliefs.

There were late reports Tuesday that the administration was starting to think about walking this back, after the blowup. That has yet to be determined. But this is going to loom large in the elections. Obama is losing the friends he had in the Church, and he can’t afford that.

The president of the Catholic Health Association, a trade group representing Catholic hospitals that defied church bishops to provide critical support for Obama’s health care law and is now fighting the birth control requirement, said she thinks the administration is starting to feel the pressure.

“I do know many people who care about this administration and this president and the good works that Catholic organizations have done are raising this issue,” said Sister Carol Keehan. “I do know the administration is concerned. This was never done with the intent of creating a huge problem for the Catholic Church, but it certainly ended up doing that.”

Stay tuned.

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Jun 26

Let’s look at the state of the union…

There are those who define and defend marriage as an institution, and a sacred one, between one man and one woman. Individual states have had a vested interest over the years in upholding  that definition. But those who have redefined marriage and mobilized a movement to change the nation’s laws governing it have won a big victory in New York.

Late Friday night, in an eleventh-hour vote on the issue, the Republican-led Senate voted to legalize same-sex marriage.

The Democratic-led state Assembly had already signed off on the bill, so after the Senate vote, the only remaining piece of business required to turn the bill into law was for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign it. He did so just before midnight, making the Empire State the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage, joining Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire. (Same-sex marriage is also legal in Washington, D.C.)

WSJ has a bunch of links to other articles there, including the interesting snips from Reuters:

When New York became the sixth and by far the largest state to legalize same-sex marriage, following a grueling overtime session in the state Legislature on Friday, it immediately transformed the national debate over the issue, legal experts said.

With a population over 19 million — more than the combined population of the five states that currently allow gay marriage, plus the District of Columbia, where it is also legal — New York is poised to provide the most complete picture yet of the legal, social and economic consequences of gay marriage.

Which is to say this is a huge social experiment.

If a significant portion of those couples choose to marry, it could provide a wealth of new information about the practical economic effects of such legislation, from employment and retirement benefits to divorce rates and wedding and tourism industries, said New York Law School professor Arthur Leonard.

Added Leonard: “It becomes less of an experiment the more information we have.”

But how information is handled is another thing. Truths about marriage are relative for some, absolute for others, which is why these social battles have been so passionately engaged. The difference is very revealing in the different reactions.

 The Catholic Church:

Within minutes of the result…the following statement was released by the New York bishops, who provided the measure’s lead institutional opposition:

The passage by the Legislature of a bill to alter radically and forever humanity’s historic understanding of marriage leaves us deeply disappointed and troubled.

We strongly uphold the Catholic Church’s clear teaching that we always treat our homosexual brothers and sisters with respect, dignity and love. But we just as strongly affirm that marriage is the joining of one man and one woman in a lifelong, loving union that is open to children, ordered for the good of those children and the spouses themselves. This definition cannot change, though we realize that our beliefs about the nature of marriage will continue to be ridiculed, and that some will even now attempt to enact government sanctions against churches and religious organizations that preach these timeless truths.

We worry that both marriage and the family will be undermined by this tragic presumption of government in passing this legislation that attempts to redefine these cornerstones of civilization.

Our society must regain what it appears to have lost – a true understanding of the meaning and the place of marriage, as revealed by God, grounded in nature, and respected by America’s foundational principles.

Meanwhile, at the Gay Pride Parade

Two days after the State Senate voted to legalize same-sex marriage, participants in New York’s 42nd annual gay pride parade on Sunday came to shout, dance, cheer, strut, hug and shed tears of joy, knowing that on July 24, when the law takes effect, the season for tears will begin in earnest.

It was a noisy, and jubilant, day in the West Village.

Much of the cheering was aimed at Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, who made legalization of same-sex marriage a part of his election campaign and then led the fight for its approval in the Republican-controlled Senate.

It’s a social moral issue, fundamentally human. But ultimately political. Every time this was put to a vote by the people, all 33 times, the people voted to uphold laws that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The politicians they elected decided otherwise.

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Mar 26

Back to that point Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput made in a recent column analyzing ‘A bad bill and how we got it’

In counting the ways, he went through several lessons we need to draw from what happened to give us legislation that is not grounded in moral fundamentals. I wanted to come back to his final one.

Fourth, self-described “Catholic” groups have done a serious disservice to justice, to the Church, and to the ethical needs of the American people by undercutting the leadership and witness of their own bishops.  For groups like Catholics United, this is unsurprising.  In their effect, if not in formal intent, such groups exist to advance the interests of a particular political spectrum.  Nor is it newsworthy from an organization like Network, which – whatever the nature of its good work — has rarely shown much enthusiasm for a definition of “social justice” that includes the rights of the unborn child.

In his role as teacher and pastor, Archbishop Chaput is being instructive about the confusion certain organizations are causing the lay faithful these days.

But the actions of the Catholic Health Association (CHA) in providing a deliberate public counter-message to the bishops were both surprising and profoundly disappointing; and also genuinely damaging.  In the crucial final days of debate on health-care legislation, CHA lobbyists worked directly against the efforts of the American bishops in their approach to members of Congress.  The bad law we now likely face, we owe in part to the efforts of the Catholic Health Association and similar “Catholic” organizations.

On the other hand,

many thousands of ordinary, faithful Catholics, from both political parties, have worked hard over the past seven months to advance sensible, legitimate health-care reform; the kind that serves the poor and protects the rights of the unborn child, and immigrants, and the freedom of conscience rights of health-care professionals and institutions.  If that effort seems to have failed, faithful Catholics don’t bear the blame. That responsibility lies elsewhere.

This all reminds me of something I came across and bring up occasionally in writing and giving talks, always to a surprised audience. It quotes a religion writer:

Several years ago, I did an analysis on the pro-life voting records of members of Congress correlated with religious affiliation. I no longer have it and we have a different Congress today, but the main finding still holds – If there were NO Catholic members of Congress, the body would be significantly MORE pro-life.

Think about that.

If, God willing, the abortion regime someday ends and historians looking back in horror on the period make their report, two things will be true: 1. The Catholic Church was the strongest voice in the defense of life. 2. The abortion regime would have been impossible without the active encouragement of many individual Catholics.

This is even clearer now than it was when I first discovered it, one year ago.

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Mar 26

Days after the Senate version of the health care bill was ceremoniously and victoriously signed into law, media people are still writing about the man who made it happen. Besides President Obama…

Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak had been the determined pro-life boy with his finger in the dike holding back the flood of new abortions that would happen under health care law that provides federal funds and wider access to them. Or so it seemed.

Jim Geraghty at NRO examines the person who portrayed himself one way, and turned out to be another…

now that the dramatic end to the fight over the health-care bill transformed one of the most prominent pro-life Democrats into a man without a country — disdained by national Democrats and pro-choice liberals as a man who nearly derailed health care, and rejected by pro-lifers on both sides of the aisle as a supremely disappointing leader who quit at the last minute…

Duplicity? Naïveté? A failure of nerve? Whatever the reasoning behind Stupak’s unexpected decision, it opened up a question one rarely hears about a nine-term incumbent: Who is this guy?

Good question.

“He’s in a strongly conservative, pro-life district and his only real connection was on cultural issues. But he infuriated the Left on the way to infuriating the Right. It’s hard to see who his base now is. Where he ended up on this issue was a big problem for him, but the way he got there was just incomprehensible.

Kathleen Parker calls it a “fall from grace”.

Ultimately, he was weak and overwhelmed by raw political power. History is no stranger to such moments, but this one needs to be understood for what it was. A deception.

The executive order promising that no federal funds will be used for abortion is utterly useless, and everybody knows it…

Stupak, too, knew that the executive order was merely political cover for him and his pro-life colleagues. He knew it because several members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops explained it to him, according to sources. The only way to prevent public funding for abortion was for his amendment to be added to the Senate bill.

Clearly, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the president didn’t want that. What they did want was the abortion funding that the Senate bill allowed.

Thus, the health care bill passed because of a mutually understood deception — a pretense masquerading as virtue.

And, as she notes, a lesson in human frailty. What a tragedy if his fall broke the best barricade we had to protect many thousands more frail humans.

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Mar 24

Well-intended and necessary as health care reform is, just expanding government programs to make more Americans insured to access a government controlled industry is not enough to affirm human dignity and serve the common good. At least not as mandated in the newly passed legislation, say the U.S. bishops.

Cardinal Francis George looked at it carefully, along with thorough analyses, and issued this statement.

Christian discipleship means, “working to ensure that all people have access to what makes them fully human and fosters their human dignity”… We are bishops, and therefore pastors and teachers. In that role, we applaud the effort to expand health care to all.

Nevertheless, for whatever good this law achieves or intends, we as Catholic bishops have opposed its passage because there is compelling evidence that it would expand the role of the federal government in funding and facilitating abortion and plans that cover abortion. The statute appropriates billions of dollars in new funding without explicitly prohibiting the use of these funds for abortion, and it provides federal subsidies for health plans covering elective abortions. Its failure to preserve the legal status quo that has regulated the government’s relation to abortion, as did the original bill adopted by the House of Representatives last November, could undermine what has been the law of our land for decades and threatens the consensus of the majority of Americans: that federal funds not be used for abortions or plans that cover abortions. Stranger still, the statute forces all those who choose federally subsidized plans that cover abortion to pay for other peoples’ abortions with their own funds. If this new law is intended to prevent people from being complicit in the abortions of others, it is at war with itself.

This is where George the philosopher applies his reasoning skills clearly.

We share fully the admirable intention of President Obama expressed in his pending Executive Order, where he states, “it is necessary to establish an adequate enforcement mechanism to ensure that Federal funds are not used for abortion services.” However, the fact that an Executive Order is necessary to clarify the legislation points to deficiencies in the statute itself. We do not understand how an Executive Order, no matter how well intentioned, can substitute for statutory provisions.

The statute is also profoundly flawed because it has failed to include necessary language to provide essential conscience protections (both within and beyond the abortion context).

Now note this part, and the bishops’ veiled reference to the ‘polish and shine’ put on the face of the bill to get it passed.

We share fully the admirable intention of President Obama expressed in his pending Executive Order, where he states, “it is necessary to establish an adequate enforcement mechanism to ensure that Federal funds are not used for abortion services.” However, the fact that an Executive Order is necessary to clarify the legislation points to deficiencies in the statute itself. [emphasis added] We do not understand how an Executive Order, no matter how well intentioned, can substitute for statutory provisions.

The statute is also profoundly flawed because it has failed to include necessary language to provide essential conscience protections (both within and beyond the abortion context).

Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, actively engaged in public debate on social policy, calls this “a bad bill.” And he counts the ways;

First, the bill passed by the House on March 21 is a failure of decent lawmaking.  It has not been “fixed.”  It remains unethical and defective on all of the issues pressed by the U.S. bishops and prolife groups for the past seven months.

Second, the Executive Order promised by the White House to ban the use of federal funds for abortion does not solve the many problems with the bill, which is why the bishops did not — and still do not – see it as a real solution. Executive Orders can be rescinded or reinterpreted at any time.  Some current congressional leaders have already shown a pattern of evasion, ill will and obstinacy on the moral issues involved in this legislation, and the track record of the White House in keeping its promises regarding abortion-related issues does not inspire confidence. [emphasis added]

Third, the combination of pressure and disinformation used to break the prolife witness on this bill among Democratic members of Congress – despite the strong resistance to this legislation that continues among American voters – should put an end to any talk by Washington leaders about serving the common good or seeking common ground.  Words need actions to give them flesh.  At many points over the past seven months, congressional leaders could have resolved the serious moral issues inherent in this legislation.  They did not.  No shower of reassuring words now can wash away that fact.

Fourth, self-described “Catholic” groups have done a serious disservice to justice, to the Church, and to the ethical needs of the American people by undercutting the leadership and witness of their own bishops.

Now that one deserves its own treatment. Thoughts on that later…

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Mar 15

Desperate times call for desperate measures. And everyone seems desperate this week….to either enshrine the Senate health care legislation into law, or to stop it. There’s a new sense of urgency, tension and drama. The stakes are huge, the consequences profound. Both sides seem to be laying everything on the line now.

The WSJ calls it an ‘Abuse of Power’, a ‘rendezvous with liberal destiny.’

What we are about to witness is an extraordinary abuse of traditional Senate rules to pass a bill merely because they think it’s good for the rest of us, and because they fear their chance to build a European welfare state may never come again…

Reconciliation is the last mathematical gasp for ObamaCare because Democrats can’t sell their policy to Senator [Olympia] Snowe, any other Republican, or even dozens of Democrats. This raw exercise of political power is of a piece with the copious corruption and bribery—such as the Cornhusker kickbacks and special tax benefits for union members—that liberals had to use to get even this far.

Suddenly, I recalled the clip from ‘Saving Private Ryan’ building toward the climax when the rumble of tanks could be heard and felt as an overwhelming force of menacing troops descended on the town in which Ryan and a handful of squad members were defending the pivotal bridge from enemy takeover, though they were terribly outnumbered and outgunned.

This feels like that kind of week, with the risk of exaggeration but only for purposes of emphasis.

The goal is to permanently expand the American entitlement state with a vast apparatus of subsidies and regulations while the political window is still (barely) open, regardless of the consequences or the overwhelming popular condemnation. As Mr. Obama fatalistically said after his health summit, if voters don’t like it, “then that’s what elections are for.”

In other words, he’s volunteering Democrats in Congress to march into the fixed bayonets so he can claim an LBJ-level legacy like the Great Society that will be nearly impossible to repeal. This would be an unprecedented act of partisan arrogance that would further mark Democrats as the party of liberal extremism. If they think political passions are bitter now, wait until they pass ObamaCare.

On a less lofty editorial level, pro-life media seeing the inevitable defeat of longstading  Hyde Amendment safeguards against abortion funding, and of conscience protection in health care, are calling the strategy ‘thuggery in Washington’.

All stops are being pulled to ram their health care legislation through – no matter how much the American public opposes it, no matter how much they have to lie and trash the constitution and legislative traditions, and no matter how much they have to bribe or threaten fellow Democrats who won’t go along with their corrupt program.

They’re going for broke.

And, of course, there has been an unprecedented willingness to ignore congressional rules — from the failure to appoint a “conference committee” to negotiate differences between the House and Senate bills, to their current plans to use the reconciliation process to bypass a Republican filibuster.

Expect the tactics to get even dirtier now.

These are the times that try men’s souls, so  a Catholic bishop is calling for prayer and fasting.

“Catholic teaching tells us that our support for the dignity of life includes access to affordable health care. This support, however, cannot come at the expense of the respect for life at all stages, from natural conception to natural death,” wrote [Arlington Bishop Paul] Loverde in a letter posted on the diocesan website.

Democrat leaders in the House of Representatives currently face enormous pressure from the Senate and White House to pass the entire Senate health care bill, which contains numerous pro-abortion provisions and has been deemed by pro-life leaders “the biggest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade.” A House panel is expected to begin reviewing the Senate bill on Monday.

Loverde called for prayer and fasting from members of the diocese “as negotiations that are now underway could lead to further Congressional action [on health care] very soon.” The intention, said the bishop, would be “for protecting the life, dignity, health and conscience rights of every human person in any legislation that Congress considers.”

“I firmly believe that, working together while open to God’s wisdom, the citizens of our nation can respect the dignity of each human person both in law and in practice,” he wrote. “Through our fasting and prayers, we ask the Lord to lead the hearts and minds of our nation’s leaders as they make crucial decisions concerning the protection of life.”

Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput came out Monday with a strong statement against what he warns is dangerous extremism in the Senate’s ‘bad bill’.

The Senate version of health care reform currently being forced ahead by congressional leaders and the White House is a bad bill that will result in bad law. It does not deserve, nor does it have, the support of the Catholic bishops of our country… It does not meet minimum moral standards in at least three important areas: the exclusion of abortion funding and services; adequate conscience protections for health care professionals and institutions; and the inclusion of immigrants.

Two of those provisions align more closely with conservative Republicans, while the last one lines up more closely with liberal Democrats. For the bishops, it’s not about what’s politically correct, but what the Church holds as morally correct. And it’s plunging to a climax.

As we enter a critical week in the national health care debate, Catholics need to remember a few simple facts.

First, the Catholic bishops of the United States have pressed for real national health care reform in this country for more than half a century…

Second, the bishops have tried earnestly for more than seven months to work with elected officials to craft reform that would serve all Americans in a manner respecting minimum moral standards. The failure of their effort has one source. It comes entirely from the stubbornness and evasions of certain key congressional leaders, and the unwillingness of the White House to honor promises made by the president last September.

Third, the health care reform debate has never been merely a matter of party politics. Nor is it now. Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak and a number of his Democratic colleagues have shown extraordinary character in pushing for good health care reform while resisting attempts to poison it with abortion-related entitlements and other bad ideas that have nothing to do with real health care. Many Republicans share the goal of decent health care reform, even if their solutions would differ dramatically. To put it another way, few persons seriously oppose making adequate health services available for all Americans. But God, or the devil, is in the details—and by that measure, the current Senate version of health care reform is not merely defective, but also a dangerous mistake.

Barring something like a big cinematic heroic rescue, it is also about to become law.

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