Skip to comments.Obama’s Contraception Spin Machine (Administration misreads the Catholic Church yet again)
Posted on 03/09/2012 5:52:43 AM PST by NYer
The Obama White House just doesn’t get the Catholic Church in the United States these days. That blunt fact of public life was demonstrated once again by an anonymous “administration official close to the negotiations” over the Health and Human Services “contraceptive mandate.” The official was speaking off the record to the pliant David Gibson of Religion News Service, whose March 6 story took the administration’s latest prevarications at face value.
“The White House has put nearly every issue requested by the bishops on the table for discussion and has sought the views of the bishops on resolving difficult policy questions, only to be rebuffed,” said the official. “Unfortunately, it appears that some bishops and staff are more interested in the politics of this issue than resolving any underlying challenges faced by Catholic social service providers.” The official, Gibson wrote, was “responding” to the March 2 letter to his brother bishops by Timothy Cardinal Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“Responding” is not quite the mot juste here.
Nothing that is of the keenest concern for the bishops’ conference has been “put on the table” by the administration, in any forum. The HHS mandate has been published in the Federal Register, without changes. The administration-controlled Senate rejected efforts to amend the law to accommodate the bishops’ criticisms. Bishops’-conference negotiators asked White House officials whether the bishops’ religious-freedom concerns — which extend both to Catholic institutions and to employers of conscience of any creed — were off the table; yes, replied the White House negotiators. Well, then, what about the administration’s ridiculously stringent four-part test for who qualifies as a “religious employer” able to claim exemption from the HHS mandate? The day Gibson’s story ran on the Religion News Service wire, the bishops’ conference was informed that any discussion of the four-part test was also off the table.
Which leaves one wondering precisely what is on the table, beyond a tacit agreement by the administration to stop acting as if leftist America magazine and the HHS-dependents at the Catholic Health Association are the Catholic Church in the United States, in exchange for the bishops’ conference rolling over and asking to have its belly scratched.
As for the White House complaint that the bishops’ conference has been politicizing this argument, well, Leo Rosten, call your office. It takes a certain kind of chutzpa(which the great popular lexicographer of Yiddish defined as “gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, presumption-plus-arrogance”) for the administration to accuse men who have been calmly and intelligently defending a classic understanding of the First Amendment’s free-exercise clause of playing politics. For the administration has been playing politics 24/7, assiduously trying to turn the entire debate into a bogus referendum on “women’s health” while deploying Senate henchmen such as Frank Lautenberg to imply that the bishops, as supporters of the recently defeated Blunt Amendment (which would have restored the religious exemptions contained in Hillarycare), are misogynists determined to send the women of America back to “the Dark Ages . . . when women were property that you could easily control, even trade if you wanted to.”
Indeed, the entire White House strategy in this affair — however successfully it may have conned progressive Catholics and much of the mainstream media — suggests that the administration has failed to reckon with the sea change that has taken place in the religious leadership of the Catholic Church in the United States. The administration announced the HHS mandate without any prior consultation with the bishops’ conference, seemingly confident that the conference would acquiesce. When that didn’t happen, the administration consulted Catholic collaborationists in order to come up with an “accommodation” it was confident that the bishops would buy. And when that bit of fakery was rejected by the bishops’ conference for the shell game it clearly was, the administration was caught off guard yet again. Thus the White House was left with a strange Catholic Lite coalition — small-circulation magazines like America and Commonweal, a trade association with a deeply vested interest in keeping HHS happy (the CHA), thoroughly implausible characters like Pepperdine’s Douglas Kmiec, and administration-friendly liberal Catholic journalists — as its allies in selling the spin that a) the HHS mandate had nothing to do with religious freedom, b) the mandate was all that stood between the Republic’s women and medieval sexual peonage, and c) the bishops were being sectarian and unreasonable.
What the administration seems to have missed is that, while the bishops’ conference was being generally supportive in 2009 of health-care reform aimed at universal care (as the bishops had been since 1919), another tide was rising among the Catholic bishops of the United States: a deep concern about the attenuation of Catholic identity over the past two generations. The leader in framing this issue was the immediate past conference president, Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., the archbishop of Chicago; his steady, scholarly insistence that the bishops reclaim responsibility for being the custodians of authentic and robust Catholic identity struck a chord with the generation of bishops whose model of leadership is Blessed John Paul II. And it was those bishops who elected Timothy Dolan as their leader when Cardinal George’s term was finished — an election that had far more to do with the issue of Catholic identity (and the willingness to defend it vigorously) than it had to do with Dolan’s effervescent personality (although the latter didn’t hurt).
These same John Paul II bishops were also shaken by the 2009 Notre Dame affair, when the flagship university of U.S. Catholic higher education gave an honorary doctor of laws degree to an unapologetic proponent of the abortion license, while simultaneously offering him the bully platform of its commencement address. That President Obama took that occasion to suggest that he would be the arbiter of Catholic identity hardened the conviction, among what was now becoming a critical mass of bishops, that the new administration was likely to be unfriendly to the bishops’ core concerns in an unprecedented way.
The administration missed all of this: not least, one suspects, because its Catholic Lite interlocutors were assuring the White House that the bishops had diminished credibility — and in any event could be rolled, politically, through an “accommodation” that pretended to meet their concerns.
The administration also seems to have misread the conference leadership. Cardinal Dolan is one of the few U.S. bishops ever to have done doctoral work in U.S. Catholic history. The new cardinal studied at Catholic University under John Tracy Ellis, dean of the classic historians of American Catholicism; the Catholic defense of religious freedom in full is a facet of the U.S. Catholic heritage in which Dolan, like all students of Ellis, takes immense pride. The administration is also likely to have underestimated Bridgeport’s bishop, William E. Lori, chairman of the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, who combines a keen theological intelligence, a sharp wit, and an understanding of Washington gained from years of service in the nation’s capital. When Dolan appointed Lori to be the conference point man on religious-liberty issues, he put in play someone who knows the religious-freedom argument far better than anyone the administration has deployed to defend the indefensible — as Bishop Lori has demonstrated in two impressive recent appearances before congressional committees.
All of this has had an effect. I have been a member of the same Catholic parish in suburban Washington for almost 28 years. But never, until last Sunday, did I hear a sermon applauded. Yet that is precisely what happened when our permanent deacon (a retired scientist at the National Institutes of Health) gave a vigorous, thoughtful defense of religious freedom and called the entire congregation to intensified prayer, penance, and reflection on the defense of that first of American liberties during Lent. Friends around the country report similar experiences with similar sermons.
This, too, the administration did not expect.
David Gibson’s Religion News Service story further quoted “Church officials familiar with the negotiations” who “privately” worried that some bishops’-conference staffers were “veteran cultural warriors” who “often take a harder line than the bishops themselves.” Like Gibson’s anonymous official in the White House, these anonymous representatives of Catholic Lite just don’t get it. They imagine that accusing the bishops of partisanship is going to spook them into acquiescence; they are wrong, because in this debate we are down to first principles. They imagine that accusing the bishops of being at the beck and call of “cultural warriors” will cause the bishops to blunt the sharpness of their critique of the administration’s “accommodation”; they are wrong on this, too, for the bishops know quite well who declared war on whom in this affair.
And while they will doubtless continue to press their points with the administration and in Congress, most bishops know, as the conference leadership knows, that an administration as deeply committed to the abortion license as this one is not likely to back off on its determination to impose the dictatorship of moral relativism through HHS regulations. The bishops are also fully aware that the White House, in good cop/bad cop fashion, will try to mask what it’s doing with the soothing language of “accommodation” while occasionally resorting to further efforts at intimidation from more Anonymous Officials. The administration’s divide-and-conquer tactics will also, in all likelihood, continue; but even the White House must eventually recognize that there is only so much mileage to be gotten from America editorials.
As Cardinal Dolan indicated in the March 2 letter that clearly got under the White House’s corporate skin, the issue of the HHS mandate will almost certainly be decided in the federal courts, where, there is good reason to believe, the administration will lose, badly. The interesting political question to be posed to those who falsely accuse the bishops of “politicizing” the mandate issue is, What else will they lose along the way?
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When Pope Benedict gets up and reads an encyclical declaring it a mortal sin to vote for Barack Hussein Obama...THEN I will agree he has misjudged the Church. Not until then.
Moral relativism is so ingrained in the minds of Obama and his ilk that they actually don’t understand the mindset of those who actually have abiding core principles. The Catholic Church does not, will not, and never has condoned abortion.
No amount of threatening, cajoling, or any other implementation of the methodology of Chicago thugs and community organizers will ever change that.
“These same John Paul II bishops were also shaken by the 2009 Notre Dame affair, when the flagship university of U.S. Catholic higher education gave an honorary doctor of laws degree to an unapologetic proponent of the abortion license, while simultaneously offering him the bully platform of its commencement address.”
Is Mr. Obama scheduled to return to Notre Dame during this campaign?
George Weigel is a very informed man. He writes also for the “Inside the Vatican” magazine. He knows all the ins and outs of the issue.
Take this article for what it is - the absolute truth of the matter.
Despite the seriousness of this issue, there is a bit of irony here in that his reference to the new clergy and bishops who are followers of Blessed John Paul II, may actually take down this administration much like their mentor did with the Polish Communist regime.
Never forget, however, JPII had wonderful allies to help him - Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, plus a pro-American German government at that time headed by Helmut Kohl. So, all Americans who fear the dictatorship of an ever increasing Federal government, take heed. We all need to resolve to assist in this fight to retain our First Amendment rights which are guaranteed to us. As Cardinal Timothy Dolan has stated, our right to freedom of religion is not negotiable!
I don’t think this is a big thing. Contraception will not be needed in more than 70% of the population within the next few years anyway.
Since the early 70’s our culture has woosified, sissyfied, domesticated, feminized and psychologically castrated the American male to the point that within a few years they will have breasts and periods. /sarc
anonymous representatives of Catholic Lite just dont get it. They imagine that accusing the bishops of partisanship is going to spook them into acquiescence; they are wrong, because in this debate we are down to first principles.
It looks like Obama's moral relativism didn't see the line drawn in the sand.
Here is a perfect example, the above says :
Obama is trying his best to compromise and work out a solution but those no good Bishops won't give an inch. Poor Obama has been trying his best to compromise but he is the only reasonable one in the room.
This is VERY consistent messaging.
Republicans counter strategy of just 'say no' publicly then watch the polls, then cave, is a great way of getting Obama re-elected. In fact it looks like they are starting to skip the 'no part and jumping right no the'cave' part. Romney will be great at that.
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Obama reminds me of the retard hadjis of the market in Afghanistan.
When they asked me why I was not married, I thought it keen to tell them that I served God and the military mission at the time and not a woman, and it was fine with me. They could not understand and they asked me: “why? Why? Sex good! No?”
But with zero, it is worse, it is a question of liberal envy, this liberal approach to lebens-raum fascism. If they think you have something they do not and they cannot understand, they will destroy and restrict your maneuvers, extorting you for the things you do or like to do. These people are demonic.
YEp. I remember that CPS agent saying to a dad who lost custody to an ex-wife and her live in pedo-muslim-boyfriend: “but you still have visitation and eat at Denis, no?”
These retarded people think they own everything and will even extort food, fun time, anything. THey are emotional-demonic driven.
I was actually quite surprised this weekend when I was out of town and went to mass at a big suburban church in the place I was visiting. The church was ugly, the music was horrible 1970’s “folk” and the bulletin was full of feel-good “social justice” stuff.
But then the young priest, who didn’t really seem the type, got up and gave a homily in which he talked about how the real issue here was not contraception in itself, but that the state was simply using this as an issue on which to demonstrate who was master here. He said we were being called to make a choice on who was going to be our master. Wow!
Draw cards,ante up,and fold
Ditto that at my parish (only it was the priest reading the letter and not one of the deacons). And the priest followed up the next Sunday with his own remarks (he's a former military chaplin just retired from the Air Force and taking over in our parish), which were even stronger than the bishop's letter.
Sound like this President has chutpazh take on Cathoic vote Gee louize NYER
I’d love to know what parish in the DC area Mr Weigel belongs to. Our main pastor does his level best to avoid controversy (since the parochial vicar drew unwelcome attention to the parish last autumn by actually stating in a homily that homosexual activity and gay marriage were wrong, and then by creating an international firestorm in sticking to his principles last week). It would be nice to go to a parish where someone else was not afraid to speak out. Does any other Freeper know where Weigel worships?
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