While Obamacare has been a topic of debate and discussion for the last four years, the Obama/Sebelius contraceptive mandate—complete with the recent vapid compromise—really raised the stakes for Catholics, as United States Conference of Catholic Bishops president Cardinal Timothy Dolan recently pointed out. In his statement, the cardinal enumerated the three main concerns that the bishops have with this mandate. He said the latest proposal “appears to offer second-class status to our first-class institutions in Catholic health care, Catholic education, and Catholic charities,” meaning that because these organizations are an integral part of the Church’s ministry they should be on an equal footing with the institutional Church when it comes to the mandate and similar regulations. For example, if we were discussing the tax exempt status of nonprofits, a parish as well as a Catholic Charities organization would be accountable under the same set of regulations.
The cardinal further pointed out that contraceptive and sterilization coverage could still be problematic because the regulation does not clarify how the separate policy is to be funded. Perhaps the Catholic entity will be paying for both. Add to this the obvious fact that private employers are receiving no protection or exemption if they have moral objections to providing such coverage, and what’s left is a totally unacceptable proposal.
Even though lawsuits against this mandate and Obamacare itself are ongoing, the fundamental question of whether or not it is ethical for the government to impose such mandatory requirements for coverage even when Christian ethics are being violated is not being addressed by the White House and its surrogates in the media. Obama and his cohorts see no reason to do so when their point person, Sandra Fluke, argues that no woman should be discriminated against by having to buy her own birth control! Inane, of course, but fundamental to the Obama way of forcing religious institutions to abide by “the law.”
The fundamental arguments in favor of religious liberty and protection of conscience are summarily ignored in the process.
Addressing this very thing, Archbishop Charles Chaput cited scholar Yuval Levin:
Levin has stressed that the new HHS mandate proposal, “like the versions that have preceded it, betrays a complete lack of understanding of both religious liberty and religious conscience.” In reality, despite the appearance of compromise, “the government has forced a needless and completely avoidable confrontation and has knowingly put many religious believers in an impossible situation.”
Chaput further asked for our prayers saying, “One of the issues America’s bishops now face is how best to respond to an HHS mandate that remains unnecessary, coercive, and gravely flawed. In the weeks ahead the bishops of our country, myself included, will need both prudence and courage—the kind of courage that gives prudence spine and results in right action, whatever the cost.”
Indeed, this shepherd has pointed out what is required, but to my mind this is a little bit late in the game.
At a time when the bishops are confronted head on with an administration that despises the Catholic Church—as witnessed by its actions—one has to point out that four years ago the USCCB did not adamantly oppose the first whispers about Obamacare, but rather worked with the White House to help make it somewhat acceptable. Recall its demand that the law merely be “abortion neutral.”
Today we are reaping what our bishops, perhaps in their naïveté, sowed in Obama’s political fields of weeds. Only time will tell, of course, but for the sake of all those babies silently killed by various birth control chemicals and devices, we will pray, we will fast, and we will seek the Lord’s guidance for our Catholic bishops.