I have read with interest the thunderous proclamations of sanctimonious outrage from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in response to Obama’s order that conscience protection does not apply to his mandatory birth control coverage in health insurance plans. I find the USCCB’s hand-wringing rather disturbing. After all, history teaches that Obamacare and its progeny might never have become law if the bishops, united in their resolve, had opposed it from the start and pointed out the specific flaws in what is now the law of the land.
The backstory on this most recent government requirement goes like this: Obamacare first came to the public’s attention in 2009 as a proposal introduced in both houses of Congress. At the time, American Life League sent out a warning aimed at Catholic charitable organizations including Catholic Charities, the Society of St. Vincent DePaul, and the Catholic Health Association—three major Catholic groups that were not only supporting the newly introduced Obamacare but that were rallying their troops to contact Congress and get involved in helping pass the proposal.
Try as we might to convince those organizations—including the USCCB—that Obamacare was fraught with problems, their support continued with the single caveat that the healthcare proposal must be “abortion neutral.” The USCCB has argued for years that every American has a right to healthcare and that the government should be providing it, though the current law is flawed.
In August of 2009, “The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) . . . ruled that a small Catholic college must include coverage for artificial contraceptives in its employee health insurance plan, raising new concerns about the need for conscience protections and religious exemptions in America’s health care policies.” The college, Belmont Abbey, stood up to the federal agency, arguing that its religious liberty must be protected and that if it were not, the president of the college would prefer to shut it down.
Still, few Catholic leaders seemed to see the problematic nature of supporting Obamacare!
Sister Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association, took a very public position in favor of Obamacare early on and, for a time, stood at odds with the Catholic bishops on some aspects of the proposal. Our documentation aside, Sister Keehan would not publicly address fundamental Catholic healthcare principles as evidenced in her 2010 debate with me. In fact, the bishops themselves avoided these principles, never pointing out that the only way the USCCB could support Obamacare would be if the proposed law eliminated all funding for abortion, contraception, in vitro fertilization, human embryonic stem cell research, sex education, and euthanasia. In other words, any attack on human dignity would have to be specifically eliminated from healthcare reform proposals if Obama wanted USCCB support.
The USCCB never made that case.
Fast forward to today and the unadulterated gall of President Barack Obama, who personally called Cardinal-designate Dolan, Archdiocese of New York, “to inform the archbishop he had decided to move ahead with the federal sterilization-contraception-abortifacient mandate despite pleas from Dolan, the Catholic bishops, and prominent Catholic lay people that the mandate was an unambiguous and unprecedented attack on the free exercise of religion that is expressly guaranteed by the 1st Amendment.”
In a USCCB media release following the Obama administration announcement, we find Sister Carol Keehan voicing “disappointment” at the administration’s strong-arm tactics.
Cardinal-designate Dolan is also quoted as saying, “The Obama administration has now drawn an unprecedented line in the sand. . . . The Catholic bishops are committed to working with our fellow Americans to reform the law and change this unjust regulation. We will continue to study all the implications of this troubling decision.” In fact, the USCCB is even considering a lawsuit.
But wait a minute. Where have these people been for the past four years? Why didn’t they work with other Americans four years ago to stop this draconian law from ever being passed in the first place?
Now that the horse is out of the barn, they are screaming? Give me a break! What else can you expect when you sit down with the devil?