USCCB Media Blog reacts to Dept. of Health and Human Services

In missed this post by Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, RSM, the other day on the USCCB’s media blog.  Even though the blogosphere can sometimes move fast enough that people forget about what happened just a few days ago, it is good to circle back and review.  I had posted about this issue via my note about a piece from the Catholic League.

My emphases and comments:

HHS Makes In-Your-Face Effort to Undermine Constitution’s Religious Freedom

Health and Human Services must think Catholics and other religious groups are fools.

That’s all you can think when you read HHS’s recent announcement that it may exempt the church from having to pay for contraceptive services, counseling to use them and sterilizations under the new health reform in certain circumstances. As planned now, HHS would limit the right of the church not to pay for such services in limited instances, such as when the employees involved are teaching religion and in cases where the people served are primarily Catholic.

HHS’s reg conveniently ignores the underlying principle of Catholic charitable actions: we help people because we are Catholic, not because our clients are. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?] There’s no need to show your baptismal certificate in the hospital emergency room, the parish food pantry, or the diocesan drug rehab program. Or any place else the church offers help, either.

With its new regulation, HHS seeks to force church institutions to buy contraceptives, including drugs that can disrupt an existing pregnancy, through insurance they offer their own employees. This is part of HHS’s anticipated list of preventive services for women that private insurance programs must provide under the new health reform law.

The exemption is limited, to say the least. The pastor in the Catholic parish doesn’t have to buy the Pill for his employees, but the religious order that runs a Catholic hospital has to foot the bill for surgical sterilizations. And diocesan Catholic Charities agencies have to use money that would be better spent on feeding the poor to underwrite services that violate church teachings.

Whatever you think of artificial birth control, HHS’s command that everyone, including churches, must pay for it exalts ideology over conscience and common sense.

Perhaps HHS is unduly influenced by lobbyists. No surprise there. Certainly a major lobbyist is Planned Parenthood, the nation’s chief proponent of contraceptive services. Contraceptive services make a lot of money for Planned Parenthood clinics, which (again no surprise) provide the “services” HHS has mandated.

HHS and Planned Parenthood are narrow in focus. Respect for religious rights isn’t likely a key concern for them. However, it ought to be a key concern for President Obama, who last year promised to respect religious rights as [wait for it….] he garnered support from the church community to pass the health care reform act. [Did you get that?  Remember that?] To assuage concerns, President Obama went so far as to issue an executive order promising that the health care reform act would not fund abortion or force people and institutions to violate their consciences. HHS is on its way to violating that promise. [What a surprise.] For the sake of basic integrity – the President’s keeping his word and for the protection of the right to religious freedom – President Obama needs to speak up now.

WDTPRS kudos to Sr. Walsh.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. markomalley says:

    Father, I wish I could concur with your kudos, but reading this reminds me of the old proverb, He that lies down with dogs shall rise up with fleas. (Yes, I realize that this is not the precise interpretation of the proverb, but it works)

    As memory serves, with the exception of a few conscientious bishops who discussed how Obamacare was a grievous violation of the principle of subsidiarity, the almost universal position taken by the USCCB curia was that Obamacare was a good thing (if only it would not pay for abortions).

    When I read her blog post, I don’t see any repentance, I just see somebody scratching from some flea bites.

  2. Supertradmum says:

    Why do any Catholics believe in the post-modernist government politicians, who only work on the principle that they can do what they like, when they like? The philosophy behind these laws, either overtly or covertly, is the complete destruction of religion in the working place and public life. When the present people in power use the term “freedom of worship” as opposed to “freedom of religion”, they, including Obama, mean one can go to one’s church on Sunday, or Saturday, or Friday, but that the Church has no rights to have opinions or beliefs contrary to those in power. We have moved a very long way from Constitutional rights for the insuring of the independence of both the private conscience and the Catholic Church. Sadly, this is the beginning, if not a further step, in the persecution of the Catholic Church in the public sphere, and eventually, in the private.

  3. LisaP. says:

    This is an excellent column. I don’t necessarily get the impression the sister herself was a supporter of the health care reforms, whether or not she was the column can stand by itself.

    What will be interesting is whether push will come to shove in this and other areas, and how this will affect Catholics in America. Sometimes things have to be pushed to their extremes before there is clarity, so that people who seem unwilling to “stand up” on small issues suddenly find their courage when it comes to the big things.

  4. Fr. Frank says:

    Do none of our bishops remember that Kathleen Sibelius forthrightly stated that there would be no protection of conscience? In a press conference she specifically stated that pro-life doctors and pharmacists should choose a different profession (or perhaps that those who are pro-life should reconsider before entering those professions). I wonder how many of our bishops really believe that a life configured to the Gospel really works. Their actions in this regard remind me of nothing so much as those who cynically categorize moral issues as either “religious sentiment” or “life-in-the-REAL-world.” Dancing with the devil, indeed. When bishops end up looking like a bunch of dopes, sometimes it’s because they are being, well, a bunch of dopes.

  5. Hawklets 87 says:

    Bravo, Sr. Walsh! I am confident that our bishops will stand firm on the promises of Christ, rather than yield to Caesar what does not belong to him. And I hope that many hearts will be turned back to Jesus and the Church He founded by this bold witness.

  6. robtbrown says:

    Fr Frank,

    Your excellent comments raise another question: Does Kathleen Sibelius receive Communion? If so, why?

  7. wmeyer says:

    It seems abundantly clear that we are in the end times. Not those described in the Bible, but the end of our country. History records, and our founders clearly knew, that democracies have a short life. They attempted to avoid that trap by making this a republic, but their descendants, less well educated than themselves, have perverted it into what seems now to be nothing more than a democracy. A democracy that is bankrupt, financially and morally.

    Nothing evil, stupid, or incompetent is a surprise, if it emanates from Washington, D.C.

  8. SonofMonica says:

    Wmeyer – you’ve got it exactly right. Adults in this country have got to stand up for the grand experiment that is this Republic. Freedom is a young idea. Free markets, private ownership and recognition of inherent human rights are young ideas. And we barely began to try them before Washington DC took over and the tyranny of a system where a simple majority can take away the rights and property of others began to strangle those ideas. I’m trying something different this election cycle. I’m voting for Ron Paul. He seems to be the only presidential candidate who recognizes that enslavement to welfare and warfare only fuels the growth of the monstrous Nation-State. I grew up being taught to distrust republicans, but Dr. Paul’s platform and ideas seem consistent and very solid. So this year I will be voting for him regardless of what the media says about him. I’ve grown up enough to trust myself to evaluate his ideas without the media’s help. And I think there are many other young people like me. We’ve got to stop ceding power to people who seek power and are willing to use it. We’ve got to stop all this transfer of power to the executive branch and it’s rulemaking agencies. As it stands, America is all but electing a dictator every four years.

  9. dad29 says:

    Markomalley gets it right.

    The Bishops fled from the fight early on, and only now are circling back to observe the crucifixion.

  10. jaymcnally says:

    It makes no sense for professional Catholics on the bishops’ payroll to complain about ObamaCare, since it passed only aftr USCCB lobbyists huddled past midnight with Pelosi the day of the vote in her office hammering out a deal that gave Bart Stupak the cover he wanted to allege that the agreement of the Catholic Church showed it was a pro life program.
    Sincere prolifers al along warned that the plan would force contraception, abortion and euthanasia on the country.
    Fr. Z, you are confusing the faithful by ignoring the crucial fact that the USCCB’s complicity in this evil is the only reason these policies move forward.
    You would do the world a great service by lobbying the faithful to cut their funds the Church as long as the USCCB exists.

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