Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bishops to Obama and ObamaCath Defenders of HHS Mandate: No Compromise !!!

The other day, George Weigel wrote a piece at National Review criticizing a recent Washington Post column by E.J. Dionne in which Dionne, according to Weigel, "attempts some fraternal intimidation of the Catholic bishops of the United States prior to the meeting of the bishops’ conference administrative committee on Tuesday and Wednesday".

Weigel continued:
... Dionne warns the bishops that, if they do not back off from their strong defense of religious freedom and find some way to reach agreement with an administration he insists is trying to accommodate their concerns, they risk becoming a church that no longer stands for both life and social justice. Worse, they risk becoming “the Tea Party at prayer.” ...
... and then concluded:
One of the most maddening aspects of this otherwise bracing debate has been the refusal of those who support either the HHS mandate or the bogus administration accommodation to debate honestly, in terms of the facts, and fairly, in terms of the rhetoric. This leads one to the suspicion that the administration’s defenders know that they have a losing case. The administration will likely continue its intransigence, for it cannot meet the bishops’ full concerns without enraging some of its (most well-heeled) allies. There is no remedy in Congress, thanks to Democratic control of the Senate, and the enthrallment of the Democratic party to those who would make Sandra Fluke a 21st century Joan of Arc. But the bishops have a winning case in the courts, on both First Amendment grounds and because of the provisions of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Indeed, serious constitutional scholars believe that any test of the HHS mandate in the federal courts will result in a victory for the bishops of the magnitude of the Hosanna-Tabor decision in January, where the administration lost 9–0.

The shrewder defenders of the administration know this. That is why they and their allies in the Catholic Lite Brigade, including the Lite Brigade’s journalistic regiment, are trying to roll the bishops now, before the courts get to work. Having failed even to engage the substantive arguments, they are now resorting to intimidation tactics — “You’ll seem partisan! You’ll look like the Tea Party!” — in order to soften up the ground for another “accommodation.”

All of which, in truth, is as insulting to the bishops as the intellectual contempt the administration showed in its February 10 “accommodation.” But that is the sorry state to which the administration and its Catholic apologists have come.
Today, Weigel follows up with a piece hailing the Bishops' decision to stand firm in favor of religious freedom and in opposition to Obama's HHS mandate:
... The March 14 statement of the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “United for Religious Freedom,” does not contain the kind of rhetorical flourishes that reached a dramatic coda in the Poles’ ringing “Non Possumus!” Still, the U.S. bishops have drawn an unmistakably clear line in the sand.

Resisting pressures from both within and without the Church to retreat from their hitherto firm and unified opposition to the administration’s HHS mandate and its bogus “accommodation” of religious concerns, the Administrative Committee — which includes bishops from across the spectrum of Catholic opinion and which does the conference’s most urgent business between the semi-annual meetings of the entire episcopate — strongly reaffirmed statements by the conference president, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, and by individual bishops, that both the mandate and the “accommodation” are unacceptable. Moreover, the statement affirms, against charges of exaggeration, that present administration policy represents a threat to religious freedom of “unprecedented magnitude” that must be “rejected.” And as for those who have long sought to play divide-and-conquer in this affair — from government officials to journalists to advocates of Catholic Lite — they, too, are sent an unmistakable signal in the March 14 statement: “We will not be divided, and we will continue forward as one.”

In a deft response to the spin and distortion that have characterized this debate for two months, “United for Religious Freedom” usefully clarifies just what the argument is not:
This is not about access to contraception, which is ubiquitous and inexpensive. . . . 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 . . . 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.
The Administrative Committee’s statement then crisply defines what the HHS mandate involves.

It involves an “unwarranted” and “extremely narrow” definition of who is a “religious employer “ — a definition that “creates and enforces a new distinction” between Catholic houses of worship, on the one hand, and, on the other, the Church’s charitable activities and its educational efforts. According to the administration’s regulatory scheme, the latter will become “second class” citizens, in a dramatic break with both Catholic tradition and federal law...

It involves an attempt by the government to compel Catholic institutions that serve those of many faiths and no faith to violate Catholic teachings within the Church’s own institutions, which is both an intrinsic injustice and a gross intrusion of state power into the Church’s evangelical mission.


Thus those who expected the bishops to try and find some 50-yard line of agreement with the administration, a middle ground on which the Church’s institutions would be protected while individual Catholic employers would be left to the tender mercies of HHS, were proven exactly wrong: The bishops intend to defend religious freedom in full, and that defense will be all-in.


There will be no compromise here, for there can be no compromise of first principles. Those who understand that will gather their energies and continue to defend both Catholic and American tradition.

[Read the whole thing]

Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
Cardinal Dolan: White House Lectured My USCCB Staff On How to Interpret Catholic Teaching!

George Weigel on Obama's "Divide and Conquer" Strategy: Obama, Not Bishops, Now Calling Shots for Catholic Church in U.S.

Divide and Conquer: Ross Douthat Notes Obama's HHS "Compromise" Merely a Means for ObamaCaths to Save Face


Obama Administration Gives Opponents of HHS Mandate All the Evidence They Need to Convince Court of Free Exercise Violation

Health Care Reform and the Magisterium [UPDATED]

Cardinal George: Sr. Keehan Chose Obama Over Catholic Bishops

American Papist: Obama an Enemy to Catholic Unity

The Catholic Health Association and the Future of Catholic Unity

Sister Carol Keehan Misrepresents Her Support of the Health Care Bill

Bishop Tells Pro-Life Democrat: Nuns Can’t Absolve ObamaCare Vote

Establishing the "Alternative Magisterium"

Archbishop Chaput: Those Confusing the Catholic Stance on Health Care Will Bear the Blame for Anti-Life Effects of Heath Care Bill

Catholic Obama Supporters More Interested in Providing Cover Than Holding Obama's Feet to the Fire

Catholic Nuns Urge Passage of Obama's Health Bill

Obama's Catholic Strategy: Divide and Conquer

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