Skip to comments.Six Things the Bishops Must Do Now (The battle over the HHS mandate has just began)
Posted on 03/01/2012 8:34:21 AM PST by SeekAndFind
President Obama’s proposed revisions to an HHS regulation requiring health insurance plans to cover contraception, abortifacient, and sterilization procedures has met none of the objections of Catholic, Evangelical, Jewish, and Muslim leaders, and in some respects even made matters worse. A committee of Catholic bishops (headed by Cardinal Timothy Dolan) responded with a strongly worded critique. Meanwhile, over 170 bishops publicly decried the HHS rule, and a coalition of Catholics and Evangelicals has issued a joint call for protection of religious liberty.
The administration underestimated the breadth of this reaction. The palpably superficial, even presumptuous character of their proposed revisions merely underscored their deep commitment to regulation by administrative fiat. The HHS rule, clearly, was not an aberration by bumbling bureaucrats. It is the cutting edge of a wide-ranging agenda that seeks to empower politically unaccountable, self-styled “experts.” The recently enacted health care law is only the most sweeping and potent expression of this disposition.
When it comes to women’s health, the president’s agenda is essentially one with Planned Parenthood’s, backed by government force. In Obamaspeak, “health” means the full array of new found women’s “reproductive rights,” including mandatory insurance coverage. HHS Secretary Sebelius is the most visible official advancing this agenda, but she has the support of many other senior White House and agency officials, including the EEOC, which says that employers who fail to provide insurance coverage for morally objectionable services may be violating their employees’ civil rights.
This reproductive rights program dovetails with a broader political strategy that seeks to narrow the scope of religious activity in the public square, qualified by this distinction: religious opinion that supports the president’s programs is to be encouraged; but religion that takes exception to his policies is intrusive. If the recent HHS controversy did nothing else, it should have alerted Catholic bishops to the full extent and gravity of the administration’s efforts to silence religious opposition. Even if the bishops succeed in whittling back the HHS rule (an unlikely event), they should not delude themselves that the battle is over. In truth, it has only begun.
What, then, should the bishops do in the weeks and months ahead? Six things:
(1) They must make every effort to control the terms of debate. The president will continue to say, disingenuously, that HHS is only trying to protect the right to use contraceptives. The public reacted favorably when the bishops focused instead on the threat of government coercion, but that favor will quickly evaporate unless the bishops deploy their strongest weapon, which is, and always has been, the people in the pews. Most Catholics will side with the president on contraceptive use, but if the bishops cannot rally them to oppose Obama’s brazen assault against religious liberty, the HHS rule will be the least of their worries.
USCCB president Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan
(2) The people in the pews, however, will remain passive if all they have are formal statements or church bulletin inserts. They must be instructed and exhorted to act, not merely as Catholics, but as Americans who take their First Amendment liberties seriously. Many bishops today have no experience in fighting battles of this sort, and some will refuse to do so. But those who are willing can learn. Virtually every diocese has hundreds, if not thousands, of laypeople experienced in the political arts, who can render useful advice. The bishops need not, and should not, do all the heavy lifting; but they can, and should, instruct, inspire, and lead.
(3) The USCCB leadership should be wary about getting drawn into extended negotiations over the administration’s proposed revisions. They need to move the argument beyond obtaining an exemption for church-related institutions, which end up being so narrowly defined as to be useless. Besides, an exemption strategy may prove counter-productive in the long run by conceding that the government is constitutionally empowered to grant or withhold religious privileges. The only safe negotiating position is to make clear from the get-go that the HHS rule must be withdrawn. Only then can good-faith negotiations begin.
(4) The bishops also need to distance themselves from the “seamless garment” rationale that has animated many Catholics since the 1970s. The principal effect of that rationale has been to give Catholic politicians a free ride when they support pro-abortion measures. It is beyond scandal that so many prominent office-holders have been allowed to avert their gaze from the rights of unborn children. Just how many politicians like John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, and Kathleen Sebelius do the bishops wish to tolerate? It is time to say good-bye to all that, and deep-sixing the “seamless garment” argument is the place to start.
(5) More broadly, the bishops need to re-address their long-standing support for “universal” health care. Many well-meaning prelates seem not to understand that once universal coverage is mandated, the government is necessarily empowered to decide what services are covered, for whom, and how. Unless they rethink health care reform from top to bottom, the bishops will be fighting morally obnoxious regulations for the rest of the time, with little prospect of success. Alternative reform proposals (there are many) deserve the bishops’ most serious moral consideration. It is time, in short, for the bishops to move beyond feel-good slogans.
(6) Finally, the bishops should not rely solely on the courts. Litigation is essential, but this battle must be, and in any event will be, fought in the political arena. It is not a battle of the bishops’ choosing, but they’re in it nevertheless. The Obama administration seems to believe that its religious opponents lack the courage or the resources to resist.
It is time for the bishops to prove them wrong.
Michael Uhlmann served in the Reagan White House and now teaches American politics at the Claremont Graduate University
Excommunicating these heretics is a good place to start.
Allowing those murderers to participate in Holy Communion is an insult to Catholic Faithful who don't try to lead others astray.
When they repent and return to the Faith we will forgive and accept them back. But not before.
It is going to have to be very bold, simple and direct.
“If this policy stands, any Catholic who casts his vote to re-elect Barack Hussein Obama is committing a mortal sin.”
I frankly don’t think they have the guts to do it.
Doyle is a Catholic.
Doyle was instrumental in convincing Bart Stupak and his group that "State-financed abortions would never be part of the Healthcare law."
He knew it was a lie.
I saw somewhere that the general statement that the Catholics would close their health-care facilities.
Quite the opposite, I would continue to run them - and not allow a single one to comply with the HHS mandate.
Of course, the Bishops will then find out quickly which nuns, clergy and lay people within their health-care structure are truly on the side of the Bishops and the Magisterium, and which are on the side of the Leftists and Statists.
Perhaps that is what God intended all along.
Many well-meaning prelates seem not to understand that once universal coverage is mandated, the government is necessarily empowered to decide what services are covered, for whom, and how.
My first thought: excomunicate the so-called Catholic politicians that have supported abortion, the health-care law and this new HHS mandate. Forgiveness should be conditioned upon their agreement to spend the rest of their days in service as repentence at a Leper colony.
Indeed. “Social justice” issues have been at the forefront for at least a generation, to the detriment of the U.S. Church at large. The bishops can only be reminded that we are reaping what they, themselves, have fervently sown.
They must not close down the hospitals and medical centers. They should stay open in defiance while the lawsuits go on and NOT provide the coverage. Even if they lose the lawsuits they should stay open. At armed guard expense against police and federal authorities as far as I am concerned.
There are many goals the left is trying to get all at once through this one issue. Removing Christian facilities from the healthcare system is just one of them. Getting them to ignore their own teachings/consciences is another.
But if they close the hopsitals and such, they take themselves out of a sphere of influence and power on the issue. Which is exactly what the administration wants. Why listen to the Christians on medical issues, they aren’t in the healthcare field anymore.
It’s a trick to get us to take ourselves out of the fight so they don’t have to get dirty attempting to do so.
I would make their penance resignation from political office and promising never to run for office ever again.
If they are serious then they will reverse the 160 years of Catholic history in America, and get Catholics to start voting against the Democrats, not for them.
If that is not the result of their actions, then they are not serious, we have seen these big issue scenes before, many, many times, and the Catholics march out of the church and go pull the lever for the Clintons, and the Al Gores, and the Obamas.
You’re right. I hope the Bishops are aware of this.
And considering how much Barry loves Islam and hates true Christianity, one can see a third reason for him doing this. It will promote Islam by removing a huge area where Christians still have a sizeable stake in the service community they were the first ones in - before secular governments and private businesses.
And just remember Obama exempted muslims from all this crap because ‘they don’t believe in insurance’. Their religious views get them exempted.
Christians views don’t. Why? He’s a freaking muslim. Has been since he grew up in it. Went to a “black liberation theology” “church” for 20 years that just filled him up with more hate and racism and general hate of this country.
And if he gets a second term he has nothing to lose in going 100 times farther than he’s gone so far. Not exaggerating. Think of the Supreme Court. He will put three young uber liberals on it.