TOWNHALL: Will Obama Destroy Franciscan University of Steubenville?

This is an excellent piece from Townhall.

Will Obama Destroy Franciscan University of Steubenville?

Ken Blackwell

Daniel Webster was the most famous lawyer of his day. In 1819, the “Godlike Daniel” stood before the U.S. Supreme Court and argued passionately for the right of Dartmouth College to govern itself, and not to be brought under the rule of the New Hampshire legislature. Webster appealed to the Constitution, arguing that New Hampshire’s actions would violate that provision that forbade states to “impair the obligations of contract.” But the emotional power of his argument caught the attention of Chief Justice John Marshall, Justice Joseph Story, and in truth, captured the hearts of the country.

Richard N. Current gives us a gripping description of Daniel Webster’s defense of Dartmouth College in a 1963 American Heritage article.

Sir, you may destroy this little institution. It is weak. It is in your hands! I know it is one of the lesser lights in the literary horizon of the country. You may put it out. But if you do so, you must carry through your work. You must extinguish, one after another, all those great lights of science which, for more than a century, have thrown their radiance over our land. It is, Sir, as I have said, a small college, and yet, there are those who love it. …

The Dartmouth College case became one of the pillars of American jurisprudence. And Webster’s powerful appeal propelled him to a brilliant career in the U.S. Senate.

The Supreme Court that year ruled in favor of Dartmouth College. It recognized not only the supremacy of the Constitution, but it showed that it valued the signal role played by colleges and universities in American life.

[NB] The Obama administration is showing it values that role not at all. It is attempting to crush The Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio. Mr. Obama’s HHS Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, is trying to force Steubenville to dispense abortion-producing drugs and pay for sterilizations. This is a Roman Catholic institution. Such things are strictly proscribed by the Catholic faith.

Sec. Sebelius [catholic] may be aware that Catholic institutions are required by faith and fidelity to their mission to uphold these principles. It is an indispensable part of their mission and their reason for being. To force a Catholic institution to violate the consciences of its faculty, students and alumni in this fashion is like forcing a Yeshiva to serve pork to Orthodox Jewish students. [Why not use the example of a Muslim school?  Say, perhaps, one sponsored by a sister school in Indonesia?]

This attempt to crush The Franciscan University of Steubenville is, tragically, not an isolated example. From the first days of the Obama administration, there has been a kulturkampf (culture clash) against Catholic institutions not seen since the days of the Iron Chancellor of Germany, Otto von Bismarck. It was Bismarck who attempted to put all churches and universities in Prussia under his hobnailed boot. [All repressive regimes seek control of existing schools and hospitals.]

Writer Charlotte Allen wrote of the “Persecution of Belmont Abbey” by the Obama administration in 2009. There, too, liberal zealots were demanding that the Catholic school, founded in 1876, provide contraception, abortifacients, and sterilizations or face federal sanctions. This, according to the institution’s president, could lead to closing down the historic little college.

Chai Feldblum is a tenured professor at Georgetown University Law School. This is the oldest Catholic university in the country. Ironically, Feldblum, is also a homosexual legal activist. She was Barack Obama’s choice for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She told a panel at Family Research Council that if it came to a clash between what she calls gay rights and religious liberty, religious liberty must give way. [NB] In other words: “Be Amish, or be quiet.

We have already seen this as the most anti-Israel administration in U.S. history. Never before has an American president and secretary of state stooped to counting Jews in Jerusalem.

The Obama administration is also the most anti-Catholic administration in American history. [Indeed?  There is a long history of anti-Catholicism in the USA which hasn’t been talked about for long time.] Never before have tens of millions of Catholic Americans been forced to subsidize the killing of unborn children with their taxes—as they are under ObamaCare. But now they are also forcing Catholic institutions to take part in the destruction of innocent human lives and the maiming of others by paying for abortifacients and sterilizations. As Americans, we must defend our religious liberties–while we still have them. Steubenville is a little college, but there are those who love it!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. chcrix says:

    “Chai Feldblum is a tenured professor at Georgetown University Law School. This is the oldest Catholic university in the country.”

    Perhaps we should also be asking why this is true?

  2. frjim4321 says:

    From my reading of this the “crushing” of FUS and “sanctions” against Belmont Abbey have to do with the fact that both of them accept some federal funding, thus they must operate in accordance with the requirements of the federal government specifically with regard to employment practices.

    Does not FUS have the option of not receiving federal funds?

    The comparison with the Yeshiva is disingenuous. First, I doubt that the Yeshiva accepts federal funding. Second, and more importantly, the Yeshiva only offers its services to orthodox Jews, thus qualifies for the exemption under the law.

  3. relee54 says:

    Obama clearly has no respect for religion. He also has no respect either for the letter of the law, or for human life. His killing of radical muslin cleric and American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, without any type of trial shows this. He has crossed an inviolate line by going after this terrorist without a trial. Now that he got away with it once, what religious cleric may be the next person on Barack Obama’s personal hit list? And when the rest of the world sees America going after political enemies and murdering them without trying them under the law, you can bet they will react in the same manner towards us.

  4. benedetta says:

    The administration could easily carve out exceptions on this. There is nothing that says that the religious schools must be forced to do various things. To force Catholic institutions into this would be an anomaly when it comes to the symbiotic relationship in law with religious educational institutions and would amount to singling out one specific religious group for this treatment. The fact that the admin has taken this step in the first place does have a place in the history of treatment of Catholics in America unfortunately and it reveals that societally we have not become so enlightened or tolerant really of people who may have different beliefs after all. There are examples of recognition in law of religious conscience. One example that comes to mind would be the public schools in the Hasidic neighborhoods in nyc which are not required to be co-ed out of respect for the culture and religious practices of the Hasidim.

    Also as a general matter Catholics have contributed to the humanizing of health care in this country and all over the world. Catholics in nursing, medicine, psychology, social work and teaching treat others with the dignity of God and according to Christ’s commands concerning “Love one another”, “Love your neighbor as yourself” and “Whatsoever you did to the least of these my brothers and sisters you did it to me” and others. Catholics in all these fields have endeavored to bring this light into their professional relationships for centuries in this country and Catholic institutions, Georgetown and others included, realized the “success” they did because they brought this standard of care to their treatment of everyone regardless of ethnicity, culture or creed. It does happen and people recount experiences daily of encountering professionals in these fields who, far from recognizing those they are called to serve in the dignity of God but instead as a number, as one who can do something for them, as a means to an end, as a case, as a problem, as a cost, as dollars, and some even quite angrily and with great bitterness treat the most helpless with a personal agenda stemming from their own issues and the standard of care will vary depending upon how much the professional manages to “like” the one coming to them for help. Clearly that is not a Christian envisioning and overall detracts from the level of care received and the overall standard of care of a profession even if the professional goes by “the book” and carries out the minimum required all the while (arguably these are undermined or destroyed in effects due to the way the professional negates the other’s dignity).

    In fact Catholics have served in all times and places to establish that the patient need not be likable or desirable at all to the professional in terms of playing a role in the service provided, and further that one’s actions as a professional are not only comprehended as a transaction. That is why Catholic this or that, education or health care, while we may argue about what is going on in some of those places today, still what these institutions provide are in great demand and they are sought out by Catholics and non-Catholics alike as being able to provide something different or special.

    There is an overall lack of dialogue or respect here, a refusal or inability to recognize the mission (which is historic in this country and informs the practices of professionals in all fields explicitly or implicitly) of the Catholic institution. The Catholic conscience is what contributed to these in America in the first place (I guess we could start with John Carroll?) and for a political administration to now say, we will regulate religious conscience itself is beyond the pale. Hard to understand when people will reap the benefits (of Catholic higher ed or institution) themselves but disrespect the very conscience which made them happen in the first place. If there will be no Steubenville then of course there will be no ND, no Georgetown, no Catholic hospital. The administration’s actions will cut down all or none ultimately. One or two might be in their good graces for a time, perhaps, but that will not substitute for the guarantee of the non discriminatory fabric of society and if an institution gives over its regulation to the government it gives over its conscience to it as well.

  5. Iowander says:


    The HHS contraception mandate will apply to all employers who provide health insurance plans to their employees. It has nothing to do with whether or not it receives federal funds.

  6. digdigby says:

    “Photographs obtained by Operation Rescue show that Sebelius hosted a lavish secret party for Tiller and his entire abortion clinic staff at the official governor’s mansion, Cedar Crest, in April, 2007. The source of the photos, who actually attended the party, told Operation Rescue that it was an “invitation only” party to honor Tiller and his staff for their abortion work.”

  7. JohnE says:

    This is happening in Colorado where the contraception mandate is already state law. Regis University is being forced to provide or refer for contraceptives in their student health plans. So far they are not caving. Nice to hear, especially from a Jesuit university.

  8. Gail F says:

    As a Cincinnatian I am not a big fan of Ken Blackwell, whose wife practically ran our public school system into the ground (she was superintendent). But he is good on some things and this is one of them. Oddly, many of the commenters on the Huffington Post — like the one up above — said that if FUS didn’t like it they could stop accepting federal funds. That is wrong. The issue is a new regulation that would apply to every employer and every health care plan in the country, it has nothing to do with federal funds. Many people are rightly concerned about Catholic hospitals, schools, and so on, but the regulation applies equally to me, the Catholic owner of a small business. According to this rule I would not be allowed to choose a health plan that excludes services I think are immoral. This regulation is designed, like so many regulations coming out of the Obama administration, to fundamentally change the way our country works by making changes in regulations and bypassing legislation. These folks think they know best and don’t want to bother with enacting laws that might be voted down. Wake up, people! Even if you think they’re right about insurance policies, what will you do when you think they’re wrong? If they have their way: Not one damned thing.

  9. Mike says:


    Per a WSJ article run yesterday, our Supreme Court ruled in 1942 that Germans with American citizenship are not shielded from military responses for their belligerency…see “Ex parte Quirin”.

  10. robtbrown says:

    frjim4321 says:

    From my reading of this the “crushing” of FUS and “sanctions” against Belmont Abbey have to do with the fact that both of them accept some federal funding, thus they must operate in accordance with the requirements of the federal government specifically with regard to employment practices.

    Although federal funding might make it easier for the EEOC to interfere, the Commerce clause is the true leverage. And just one interstate phone call opens the door to the feds.

    Does not FUS have the option of not receiving federal funds?

    The individual mandate of Obamacare would trump that option.

  11. Juergensen says:

    Georgetown is Catholic?

  12. ContraMundum says:

    I think this is a waiting game. If the implementation of these policies can be dragged out for another 16 months, the new administration will probably change the policy.

  13. relee54 says:

    The United States officially declared war on Germany. Anwar al-Awlaki was not a combatant bearing arms in a war. He was a cleric preaching a brand of radical Islam. No matter how distasteful were his preachings to his minions, there can be no justification of Obama unilaterally deciding to kill him without a legal mandate or declaration of war.

  14. isnowhere says:

    What does “counting Jews in Israel” have to do with Obama and Franciscan University? While I found that particular linked article interesting… I was not able to understand the tie in with the rest of the article.

  15. KevinSymonds says:

    As an alumnus of FUS, I have a question about this article:

    Why single out Franciscan University of Steubenville?

  16. Mike says:

    I would respond this way: no one in bin Laden’s group wears a uniform. By the Geneva Conventions, they forfeit a lot of rights by doing so. Anwar al-Awlaki was specifically incited others to commit acts of violence on Americans. In my view, and I think, the Supreme Court’s, his death was justified.

    Also: one can’t declare war on individuals, only states.

    I would remind you that it was bin Laden who started this war on flight attendants, unarmed pilots, and 2200 office workers.

    That’s not to say anything goes, on our side. I am adamantly opposed to torture, ie, water boarding, etc.

  17. benedetta says:

    Of course as to Amish as well there is a great deal of legislative recognition of religious conscience.

    And interestingly recent history has shown that certain Amish communities are enabled to lead with even the most difficult precepts of the Gospel, putting the relativized notion of tolerance, in a whole new light. They attribute their ability to show tolerance and mercy based upon their faith in the first place, not because of their faith in the government’s practices or regulations or system of justice, even if comparatively a better system than others.

    The difficulty is that what some call “lowest common denominator” or “secularizing” is no longer merely that but the government is taking steps to lead with a “denominator” which is not “lowest” or “shared” but the province a few elites, namely that there is no God and proceeding on this basis as to everyone, that there is no God and to regard everyone as soulless a mirror of a government system is somehow desirable or ideal or a good. In fact, history has shown that this way of proceeding, as if no one has a conscience before God, is the very wrong way to go. Americans themselves, while they might want secularized world, and they do want pluralism, I don’t think are ready to give over conscience entirely to the structures, regimes and regulations of a government which itself is of course not holy or special or anything other than the representation of the people, to serve the people. The American people should be permitted to determine, with free will and conscience, whether they wish to put all of their faith in governmental systems, in place of, religious conscience. If an administration can’t openly put that up to the electorate for consideration then it ought not take steps based on the denial of human dignity and make that decision for them. Just as Americans don’t want others’ religions imposed upon them, they also don’t seem to be interested in state imposed atheism. Legislation with a starting point that disrespects freedom of conscience assumes religious conscience shouldn’t exist, and imposed atheism is neither called for at this time by the electorate or has resonance in our history or system of laws.

    I really can’t see at the end of the day the virtue or the overall improvement of society or health care via threatening institutions’ federal funding. I grant that certain power structures may benefit in certain ways in the short term. If you look at the histories of the other places where this has or is happening, dictated by the state, the results have not been kind to the very people their propaganda pretends to serve.

  18. flyfree432 says:

    If federal funding means student access to financial aid, revoking that would probably kill the school within a year. I worked in financial aid there for 3 years as a student employee and not only was my job funded by government funds, but 4/5th of my education consisted of pell grants, scholarships and subsidized loans. Without those funds most students would not be able to attend.

  19. benedetta says:

    flyfree432, It’s true and it’s also true that the great number of students given the entry level wage neither can afford to pay back the student loans and rent, transportation in whatever form, food.

    While I recognize it seems an attractive means to an end for some to carry out this tactic, really sort of extorting people with the funding, it will really not benefit the larger society as a whole, even, without the Catholics along down the road. There are certain tactics and means that should just not be employed in civil society, and the government and leaders have to refrain from these for the good of all. And when it happens, whether through proposal of laws or through ulterior choices, they have to be denounced and seen for what they are.

  20. AnAmericanMother says:

    The Geneva Convention deals very specifically with irregulars, terrorists, mercenaries, partisani – whatever you want to call them. They are unlawful combatants, especially when not representatives of a belligerent state.
    From Ex parte Quirin, noted above (these were the German saboteurs who were landed by a submarine off Long Island in WWII):

    By universal agreement and practice, the law of war draws a distinction between the armed forces and the peaceful populations of belligerent nations and also between those who are lawful and unlawful combatants. Lawful combatants are subject to capture and detention as prisoners of war by opposing military forces. Unlawful combatants are likewise subject to capture and detention, but in addition they are subject to trial and punishment by military tribunals for acts which render their belligerency unlawful. The spy who secretly and without uniform passes the military lines of a belligerent in time of war, seeking to gather military information and communicate it to the enemy, or an enemy combatant who without uniform comes secretly through the lines for the purpose of waging war by destruction of life or property, are familiar examples of belligerents who are generally deemed not to be entitled to the status of prisoners of war, but to be offenders against the law of war subject to trial and punishment by military tribunals.

    This aspect of the laws of war is of long standing, and is obviously intended to discourage the sort of freelance secret warfare against civilians that Islamic terrorists indulge in. They are not the only offenders, of course — if the Italian partisani that my dad was acquainted with in WWII got caught by Mussolini or the Germans, the latter were within their rights to put them up before a drumhead court martial and execute them – just as was done with the Long Island saboteurs. Nathan Hale was court-martialed – and hanged – under similar circumstances. This is not anything new or surprising.

  21. robtbrown says:

    relee54 says:
    The United States officially declared war on Germany.

    So? Was there a declaration of war in 1861? Or for Korea? Or Viet Nam? Or how about the first two Iraq wars and the war in Afghanistan? Also: Declarations of war are made against sovereign nations.

    Anwar al-Awlaki was not a combatant bearing arms in a war. He was a cleric preaching a brand of radical Islam.

    Big mistake on his part. Maybe he’ll remember next time.

    Further, my understanding is that he was an active conspirator, including recruiting, training, and probably also planning.

    No matter how distasteful were his preachings to his minions, there can be no justification of Obama unilaterally deciding to kill him without a legal mandate or declaration of war.

    Obama is Commander in Chief–he had the legal mandate.

  22. avecrux says:

    I think Ken Blackwell writes specifically about FUS because he is a Republican politician in Ohio. He ran for Governor when I was a student at FUS, and there was a candidate forum on campus.
    However, as many have pointed out – this mandate is not based on federal funding of anything – it is regarding the provision of health insurance, and what coverage is going to be mandated by the federal government. Sterilization and contraception (including abortafacients) will be mandated under “preventative care” according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

    According to the Cardinal Newman Society, 18 Catholic Colleges joined in protesting this – not just Franciscan University. The colleges are: Aquinas College (Tenn.), Ave Maria University, Benedictine College, Catholic Distance University, Christendom College, College of Saint Mary Magdalen, College of Saint Thomas More, DeSales University, Franciscan University of Steubenville, Holy Apostles College & Seminary, John Paul the Great Catholic University, Mount St. Mary’s University, Saint Gregory’s University, Thomas Aquinas College, Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, University of Mary, University of Saint Thomas (Tex.) and Wyoming Catholic College.

    From what I understand, even Notre Dame is now objecting.

    For this reason, among others, on September 30th (Friday) the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops formed an Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty – headed by Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport.

  23. avecrux says:

    PS – Christendom takes no federal funding whatsoever… not even federally funded student loans.

  24. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Father Zuhlsdorf,

    I hope you will forgive my putting these scenarii in your com box, but I consider that they are reasonable extrapolations from the current situation.

    1) Mr. Obama is acting completely within the perview of his office, as understood in growing terms since the days of Franklin Roosevelt. Therefore, we need to ask the question: can one be a good American and a good Catholic at the same time? Good American hospitals will follow American law and therefore betray the Church.

    2) Mr. Obama has violated his oath of office by refusing to protect and defend the Constitution and the laws of this country. However, since most members of Congress are of the same opinion that he is, 2012 may well be the last election in republican American history. Totalitarian America has been the subject of enough dystopic literature for me to say only that a “remnant” would remain faithful.

    3) Catholic colleges, and a fair number of other institutions choose to “ignore” the new regulations, until the brownshirts arrive (or the Committee of Public Safety). In this case, the Church thrives, Mr. Obama loses (because after the first few raids, we see how well implemented the 2nd Amendment is), and our country is thrown into turmoil ranging in duration from a few months to a few decades.

    I don’t like apocalyptic literature in general, but I think it only fair to call a spade a spade in this case. How many Catholic institutions will be willing to refuse to cooperate with the violation of the Church’s teaching?

    St. Thomas More, St. John Fisher,
    pray for us.

  25. Joan A. says:

    “She told a panel at Family Research Council that if it came to a clash between what she calls gay rights and religious liberty, religious liberty must give way.”

    Religious Liberty MUST GIVE WAY?

    This should be front page news in every paper and blog in the nation!

    Don’t people realize if Steubenville goes, this is a domino effect of the END of freedom of religion in the USA. The attacks are already going on in the public schools and all over as we’ve been watching for years but especially since 2008. But usually a prominent official connected with the President will not actually VERBALIZE that what homosexuals want takes priority over your Constitutional right to practice your faith!

  26. Joan A. says:

    KevinSymonds says:
    “As an alumnus of FUS, I have a question about this article:
    Why single out Franciscan University of Steubenville?”

    Kevin, I would guess because FUS is Catholic, not in name only, but well-known as an excellent Catholic institution with devout students. The govt wants to take down a prize target like that. It will scare other schools and demoralize them if FUS capitulates.

  27. GregB says:

    I wonder if what we are seeing here is an attempt to revive the old Roman cult of the emperor? The secular progressives have such an amorphous concept of We the People that raw power is the only thing that really unifies them. I don’t get the impression that these people have much, if any, capacity for valid self criticism.

  28. benedetta says:

    I don’t really agree that they are “secular” or “progressives”. Much of what is happening is not liberal nor progressives. Still, the rhetoric is all ideology which really isn’t concrete, or jobs, or wages, when you come down to it. The other day in the interview with Stephanopolous the POTUS said that Americans “will” accept his “values”. Well he didn’t say “my” he used the we (“our”). Which answers the question of why the dialogue hasn’t happened that the ND Laetare medal award supporters and the Catholic Kmeic rally-ers said would be happening to convince Catholics to set aside the infant born alive vote and the more and more abortion situation to support this administration. There does not appear to be open-mindedness as far as who and what gets to input as far as our values. It is the one way only as far as abortion is concerned.

  29. GregB says:

    @ benedetta

    Secular progressive was the closest thing that I could think of when it came to political labels. Upon further thought, perhaps the term political, intellectual and cultural elites might be a better way of referring to them.

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