What is Pres. Obama’s attack on the 1st Amendment really about?

I’ve been thinking about how Pres. Obama is no longer even pretending to seek “common ground”, as he said when he duped Notre Dame against the will of the American Bishops.  Pres. Obama, through his surrogate catholic Sec. of HHS, Kathleen Sebelius, is warring on the 1st Amendment.  He is attacking religious liberty.  There is no way around this.

Here’s the point of this little rant.

Pres. Obama probably won’t succeed.  This attack will probably be struck down by the Supreme Court.

He has to know that.

Therefore, he is really after something else.

He is doing this now so that it won’t be a campaign issue later.

He probably wants to make sure his supporters in his Democrat Party and the far left know that he is on record promoting their agenda.  He wants them to know that he tried.

Fine.  He is, indeed, trying.

But, regardless of his long game, in the short game everyone must close ranks against Pres. Obama’s attack on the 1st Amendment.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. We have to start by living rightly. Repent, convert, persevere. We have reached this point because we quit doing these things.

  2. JP Borberg says:

    I still reckon the bishops should encourage Catholic employers to strike. If all Catholic business shut down for a day or to someone would probably notice.

    I’m not American, so there a couple of things I don’t quite understand (and 15 minutes on google haven’t helped):
    1/. Someone told me it isn’t complusary for the companies to offer health cover, but the government gives them tax breaks if they do. Is this true? So couldn’t Catholic employers just drop health cover and take the tax hit?
    2/. If it isn’t true, what will be the penalty for not complying with the new law?


  3. Papabile says:

    Father, it may be true, but precedent from the Court seems to indicate that if it is not targeted against one specific religion, a restriction like this may pass muster. Employment Division v Smith is the precedent. (It was the famous peyote case.) It said something like a neutral law of general applicability allows for restrictions on religion, thus setting aside the strict scrutiny test that existed before. Scalia wrote the majority opinion.

    God help us if SCOTUS doesn’t reverse.

  4. Supertradmum says:

    JP Borberg

    We have lost our freedoms under Obamacare which comes into fullness of evil being in 2013, hence the year delay. Some of us knew universal health care would end religious freedom of conscience, but we had a hard time convincing the priests, laity and some bishops of this fact. Now, perhaps, people will wake up to the demon they wished for in Obamacare. He was open about his stance for “women’s reproductive health care” all along and Hillary is just as bad. If she makes a stand against Obama for the nomination, it will not be any better. Just read the Democratic Party Platform which has upheld abortion and contraception since 1999. Here is a snippet: “The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.

    The Democratic Party also strongly supports access to affordable family planning services and comprehensive age-appropriate sex education which empowers people to make informed choices and live healthy lives. We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions.”

    These words are not and have never been in the GOP Party Platform.

  5. crifasi says:

    The Supreme Court may strike this down, but he has just handed his political opponents a major weapon during an election year, which defies common sense. He knew that the USCCB would declare war over this, and that this type of issue might even eat into the Hispanic Catholic vote for the first time. So there’s only one explanation I can think of for why they’re doing this now: I’m getting the distinct impression that Pharaoh’s heart is being hardened.

  6. Supertradmum says:

    By the way, the third level of persecution of religions, as I have noted here and elsewhere, in vilification of the enemy, which is the Catholic Church. And, as mentioned, if he doesn’t run, Hillary will and she is just as anti-Church. As to the Hispanic vote, no, this will not make a difference in most states. Obama, the Post-Modernist, first Black president, wants to go down in history as being for all the minorities. Remember which groups have the highest abortion and contraception rates. Check this out: 2011 article–http://www.blackgenocide.org/black.html

    “Minority women constitute only about 13% of the female population (age 15-44) in the United States, but they underwent approximately 36% of the abortions.

    According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, black women are more than 5 times as likely as white women to have an abortion

    On average, 1,876 black babies are aborted every day in the United States.

    This incidence of abortion has resulted in a tremendous loss of life. It has been estimated that since 1973 Black women have had about 16 million abortions. Michael Novak had calculated “Since the number of current living Blacks (in the U.S.) is 36 million, the missing 16 million represents an enormous loss, for without abortion, America’s Black community would now number 52 million persons. It would be 36 percent larger than it is. Abortion has swept through the Black community like a scythe, cutting down every fourth member.”

    This is what this is all about. Obama plays to his race and his pragmatic atheist supporters.

  7. wmeyer says:

    Obama is indeed trying, very trying.

    I agree with your analysis, Fr. Z, with the exception that I am less sanguine regarding a possible verdict from SCOTUS. After all, they face no elections, so they are isolated from any political backlash. And frankly, the record of the Court in the last century has been a very sad on in which they have, time and again, ratified things which are clearly unconstitutional.

    I realized some time ago that the strength among progressives is that they vote as a bloc, taking incremental victories along the way. What Obama has done provokes less hue and cry than it might, because the citizenry are in the frog’s position: having been in the water as it was very slowly raised to boiling, the change was too subtle for most to discern.

    One of my favorite SF authors, decades ago, wrote a thin volume called Take Back Your Government. It is a notion which has become ever more appropriate. The lesson all must learn is that politicians normally receive so little correspondence from their constituents that the few letters which do arrive are given disproportionate weight. Consequently, we can, in fact, do something. We can be determined, persistent, and vocal. Calls and letters to the local office, so the staff knows your name.

    Brick by brick, as someone is fond of saying.

  8. Supertradmum says:


    Agree, and I find it interesting that the oldies in this combox are more realistic about big govt. and the nasties in Washington than the younger ones. Is it because we grew up in the era of suspicion of govt. and that the younger ones cannot see the trend towards anti-Catholicism in all three branches of govt.? You are absolutely spot-on with regard to local, grass-roots politicking. Must be done now.

  9. Dennis Martin says:

    I think the key to this is a matter of language. For a long time the pro-aborts have defined “contraception” to include abortion up to the point of implantation. Their goal is to move abortion out of the bricks-and-mortar death mills and into the drugstores. Sebelius’s regs focus on contraception.

    The pro-life movement’s achilles heel has always been the difference between Catholics and Evangelicals on contraception. Evangelicals hear this news (if they do) and think, “doesn’t affect me, I’m not one of those Catholics who thinks contaception is wrong. Catholic hospitals have only themselves to blame on this one, for being so unreasonably opposed to contraception.” Most of them may not stop to think about what “contraception” has come to mean. That, it seems to me, needs to be the hammering point: in Orwellian terms, “contraception” now means abortion. When you hear the word “contraception,” think “abortion.”

    It doesn’t help that far too many Catholics de facto say, “sure, I’m against abortion but I just don’t understand why the Church is so adamant about contraception.” The wedge between the two runs right down the Catholic heart as well.

    Contraception underlies ALL of our problems. Separating sex from procreation is the fundamental problem. Were it not for that, the gay movement would never have exploded the way it did in the 1970s. Were it not for widespread contraception (and the ensuing sexual activity outside and before marriage), divorce rates would not have skyrocketed. And with skyrocketing divorce we get fatherlessness and with fatherlessness we get prolonged adolescence even into the ’50s and ’60s, which only produces more immaturity as people attempt marriage . . . and more divorce and more fatherlessness.

    The bishops’ strategy of insisting adamantly on opposition to abortion but letting contraception slide, which seemed to have worked insofar as even a lot of relatively liberal Catholics have continued to oppose abortion, is now circling round to bite us in the heel.

    We need to get the word out: “contraception” now simply means abortion. Under the label “contraception,” the abortionists want to make chemical abortions widely available (and that means that the “contraception/abortion pill” will be used in cases long past implantation, but shoot, we [Sebeliuses] can’t stop people from using the “contraception” pill abortifaciently, now, can we?).

    Secondly, the main education focus needs to be that contraception causes huge evil in and of itself, not merely when it’s a code word for abortion.

    We have to bust up the unexamined assumption among even well-meaning, “loyal” Catholics that “abortion is bad, bad, bad” but “contraception is, well, sorta, kinda, not so good” that should be opposed if we have a little bit of time left over from opposing abortion.

    Contraception is what got us into this mess.

  10. Supertradmum says:

    Dennis Martin
    You are so right and many so-called Catholics who contracept are Dems. I know this is true in my generation. My closest friends with big families, 6-9 or so are all GOPs.

    This issue separated the men from the boys and the women from the girls. When many in the Church opposed Humanae Vitae, they struck the death knell for the West. There is no difference in mind-set between abortion and contraception.

    A section from that grand document:

    “Unlawful Birth Control Methods

    14. Therefore We base Our words on the first principles of a human and Christian doctrine of marriage when We are obliged once more to declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of regulating the number of children. (14) Equally to be condemned, as the magisterium of the Church has affirmed on many occasions, is direct sterilization, whether of the man or of the woman, whether permanent or temporary. (15)

    Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means. (16)

    Neither is it valid to argue, as a justification for sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive, that a lesser evil is to be preferred to a greater one, or that such intercourse would merge with procreative acts of past and future to form a single entity, and so be qualified by exactly the same moral goodness as these. Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good,” it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it (18)—in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general. Consequently, it is a serious error to think that a whole married life of otherwise normal relations can justify sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive and so intrinsically wrong.”

    We are committing suicide in the Church and in the West by contraceptives, and POTUS is firmly on the anti-life side. I can name another person, a spirit, who is anti-life and pro-death. No Catholic can vote Democrat. And, the bishops may, I only say, may be beginning to see this…

  11. Dennis Martin says:

    Crifasi wrote: “he has just handed his political opponents a major weapon during an election year, which defies common sense.”

    Maybe, maybe not. Because the regs focus on “birth control” and “family planning” “services,” as I noted in my first comments, the vast majority of the (only-paying-attention-with-that-part-of-their-ears-not-covered-by-headphones) electorate will think, “what’s the fuss about”? What’s not to like about family planning services? Prevents abortions, don’t it? (None of which is true, but since when did truth matter in elections?)

    Yes, we can counter with “but under family planning they include sterilizations and even some abortions.”

    And the well-meaning, moderately pro-life, middle-of-the-roaders will think, “what’s the problem with sterilizations, if you’re sure you don’t want any more kids?” And “so what if some times the ‘birth-control pill’ prevents implantation. Most of the time it avoids conception so, what’s your problem, you Catho-o-licks? Do you have to impose your extreme views (not just opposing abortion but also ‘family planning’ and “birth control” on the rest of us simple folk just trying to survive)?”

    Yes, we can counter that it tramples on First Amendment freedom of religious expression. And they think, “well, if you Catho-0-licks weren’t so darn anal-retentive about good things like “family planning,” you’d still be free in your religious expression. Get a life.”

    As long as it’s couched in “family planning services” language, I’m not so sure this hands Obama’s opponents a slam-dunk campaign message. Not even among your average g0-to-Mass Cath-o-licks, including Hispanics.

  12. Dennis Martin says:

    A slightly different tack for analysis: for 40 years now, pro-aborts have, largely successfully, portrayed opposition to abortion as a matter of religious beliefs. It is, of course, a matter of simple universal justice/injustice, but we’ve failed to convince people, perhaps through their fault, perhaps through ours.

    Just as opposition to abortion began to capture the majority of American’s minds, as more and more people began to oppose it, not so much because they understand the simple justice issue (taking of innocent human life is wrong, an unborn is an innocent human) but because we’ve succeeeded at making the unborn child visible, tangible, empathizable and so more people just intuit that killing that child is wrong,

    just at that point, by focusing on “family planning services,” Sebelius and her ilk succeed at returning the issue to being primarily a matter of religious beliefs. Catholics have this quirky religious opposition to contraception (again, it’s not a matter of quirky religious belief but a matter of simple reason about the innately proecreative meaning of the sexual act, alongside the unitive meaning) so the rest of the pro-life people shouldn’t worry about these regulations. After all, look who’s screaming about them! A bunch of Catholic bishops.

    Catholics are isolated on contraception. Even the Orthodox are mixed/blunted/silent on the issue.

    There’s some hope in that some Evangelicals are beginning to rethink their acceptance of contraception. Perhaps the Orthodox will do so as well. But right now, Catholics stand alone on this issue. Divide and conquer. If Catholics had remained solidly, well-informed, enthusiastically opposed to contraception, Planned Parenthood and it’s allies might not have been able to use “family planning services” as a Trojan horse for abortion. But, of course, Catholics have been feckless about opposing contraception, compared to much clearer and more closed-ranks opposition to abortion.

    But even had we been solid on this issue, we’d have been isolated on it. Alinsky: isolate your enemy, mock him, make his positions seem ludicrous (what could be more ludicrous in the eyes of most sexually liberated folk today than being opposed to something so innocuous as the Birth Control Pill?), then crush him.

    No, they can’t destroy us on this. The gates of hell will not prevail. But they can and will crush, press, winepress us.

    We need to make clear to ourselves and Evangelicals and Orthodox that this is their fight too, that they have to take a really careful look the Darkness at the heart of contraception.

    Are their bishops prepared to revamp their catechetical and “Defend Life” offices to get the message out on contraception, and not merely “contraception when it’s abortifacient”?

    Okay, I’ll shut up now.

  13. Dennis Martin says:

    I meant “are there bishops prepared” not “are their bishops”
    In other words, “are our Catholic bishops prepared to . . .”

  14. Philangelus says:

    Father Z, my spousal unit and I were discussing exactly this last night, and this was the conclusion reached by my spousal unit in the morning. That it’s just about grandstanding to the folks Obama wants to convince hey I’m really on your side yay see what i did vote for me don’t stay home. :-b

    Because 90% of Catholics are using contraception and it’s probably going to get reversed by the SCOTUS, it’s a politically safe action to take. The Democrats certainly aren’t going to say “Hey! You’re violating Freedom of Religion, and conscience protection is very important to us!” So the only people Obama is going to really torque off are the people who probably weren’t going to vote for him anyhow.

    All the same, given that this morning’s readings were about Jonah bringing Nineveh to its knees in prayer and penance, I’m praying for the country. Maybe this will interest some people in Humanae Vitae and they’ll realize why we believe what we do.

  15. Dan G. says:

    I also have been wondering whether this is a great distraction, a red herring, meant to divert our attention and energy away from… what? What does the president want to slip through as we fail to notice and oppose it?

  16. Supertradmum says:

    I am so sorry to disagree with such good and intelligent people here, but I do not think Obama is grandstanding. I lived in Illinois when he was, ugh, “my”senator (I did not vote for him). He is being totally consistent with his anti-life philosophy that he has had in his political career. He is not calling anyone’s bluff. Obamacare is the law, folks. It is happening and will happen unless there is a miracle of grace through SCOTUS. Obama got a huge endorsement when Obamacare was passed, and those of us who watched the entire debate and vote knew this was the turning point for American moral life. Roe v. Wade was a court decision. Voters wanted Obamacare. Some bishops wanted Obamacare. Some priests wanted Obamacare. People are getting what they voted for and may still vote for yet. Do not underestimate the power of this man’s support system.

    I do not think he really wants to be president, but he is being shadowed by Hillary. And, how many Catholics will vote for her, simply because she would be (does this sound familiar) the first woman president, and because she is a Dem, if he does not want the nomination?

  17. Maltese says:

    The problem lies in the fact that most people simply will not see this as a violation of the 1st Amendment, or problematic in the least. Think on the fact that 95% of catholics contracept (a mortal sin, btw.) And 99% of protestants contracept (all protestant creeds stopped believing it a sin in 1930). The vast majority of presumed catholics and protestants are nonplussed by early-term abortion.

    Truthfully, if a Republican wins the WH, it will be for fiscal reasons. People voted-in Obama because they though he could fatten their wallets.

  18. NoTambourines says:

    Dennis Martin– your comments reminded me of how I heard a pro-life commentator last year, during the legislative battle in the Philippines, discuss how contraception is a gateway to abortion: People will engage in behavior they otherwise wouldn’t have in reliance on the “protection” of contraception. However, it is a statistical reality that contraception will fail some of the time due to material failure and user error. There will be “unplanned pregnancies,” and that is where contraception peddlers will step in with the next phase, to “compassionately” offer “options.” That is, abortion.

  19. Maltese says:


    Contraception is indeed the seed of abortion.

    The fictitious privacy penumbra used in Griswold (which nationalized contraception) was used in Roe v. Wade (the plaintiff in that case, interestingly, and as most readers here probably know, became a Catholic and staunch advocate against abortion).

  20. NoTambourines says:

    Personally, I hadn’t ascribed such calculation to Obama & Co. At least, not with regard to the election except the timing, to ensure this still happens in case Obama is a one-term president. I think this is the culmination of years of positioning to attempt to corner the Church. They think this is their moment, and they’re going for it in hopes that Catholic (and “catholic”) institutions might be beyond resisting.

    It is also an opportunity to attempt to weaken and distract the Church by trying force divisions over who welcomes their new totalitarian overlords (liberals ironically committing their own capital sin of “legislating morality”), and who stays faithful to the Church.

    They expect the latter to be rather small, I think, but they may find themselves saying, like Admiral Yamamoto Tora! Tora! Tora!:

    “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”

  21. NoTambourines says:

    *In* the movie Tora! Tora! Tora!, that is. I promise I really do speak English!

  22. pfreddys says:

    As I said before and as is proven by Cardinal Mahony’s statement: The HHS edict has the advantage of making it crystal clear that to anyone to whom the designation Catholic means anything whatsoever that they cannot support President Obama.

  23. amenamen says:

    You are right, Dennis Martin. “Contraception underlies all of our problems.”
    In fact, we could add massive immigration, legal and illegal, to the list of the fruits of contraception. If not for contraception and abortion, we would not need millions of immigrants to keep our aging and decrepit society from disintegrating entirely. In fact, we might have been able to reverse the flow of immigration, exporting American workers and American technology to the poorer nations.

  24. Gil Garza says:

    Catholic Charities is the largest recipient of Federal Aid in the US. The Catholic Healthcare System is the largest recipient of Federal Medicaid funds in the US. In total, Catholic charitable institutions receive billions in Federal aid every year. The Democrats either want to fully control these institutions and bring them into Federal alignment or they want to close them and reallocate the funds (as they have already done elsewhere).

    The US bishops have been playing nice with the Democrats for decades because it means billions in Federal dollars for Catholic institutions. Now, however, their time of reckoning has come.

    Perhaps the US bishops will realize that the Democrats mean to strip them of their very Catholic identity and cause. There are a few bishops who do realize this already and are unafraid. Most, however still labor under the haze of a misplaced hope.

  25. rcg says:

    This is very dangerous and is neither a loss nor gain for them, but is true progress toward their goal. This is a test of their progress in converting American society to being more dependent on Government. They knew this was not likely to succeed but it was far easier to get this far than it ever has been. It is also part of the inculcation by showing more and more Catholic leaders firmly pro abortion and showing more clergy waffling. The clergy that hold firm, the Catholics that say ‘NO!’ will eventually be reduced to the same, finite, number every time. Once we are at that point direct attacks against the Church and Catholics will be a clear and safe path. They could not care less about the Church living or dying as long as they have the votes they have liberated through a promise of loveless sex, money in lieu of family, and no responsibility. All they want are the votes and taxes from people free to work and not chained to raising children.

  26. poohbear says:

    If this passes, would the Bishops choose to shut down Catholic hospitals, Catholic Charities, Catholic schools, etc? If they did, it would leave a huge hole in the care of the community, especially the low income communities. It would also send millions of Americans into the unemployment line.

    This would give Obama just what he is looking for– a reason to increase government spending in these areas which would lead to increased taxes and, more importantly increased infringements on our freedoms. He could arge we now need Obamacare even more, and lets set up ObamaSchools as well. Can’t have the little ones home schooled, now could we? I can just imagine how much he would love to see all the Catholic organizations overtaken by big government.

  27. BarefootPilgrim says:

    “Pres. Obama probably won’t succeed. This attack will probably be struck down by the Supreme Court. He has to know that. Therefore, he is really after something else… He probably wants to make sure his supporters… know that he is on record promoting their agenda. He wants them to know that he tried.”
    Spot on, Padre! And looking ahead a Few.More.Moves on the chessboard, I see his thugs dissolving the tax-exempt status of those “certain non-profit religious employers” who DARE TO DEFY HIM. That will be quite acceptable to his supporters. Pharoah will give the word – no more straw for Christians’ bricks!

  28. wmeyer says:

    Let it be said clearly: Obama is a man of principle. Of course, most here would be inclined to reject most of what he holds most dear, but despite that, he is acting from his own (scandalous) beliefs.

    I have read (though I have no idea of its veracity) that half our bishops voted for Obama. If even one did so, it is a scandal. Obama has done, in office, as he said he would do in his campaign. Let those with ears hear, as they apparently did not during his speeches. I have attempted discourse with some who supported him, and still support him, and their selectivity in observation is amazing. It may even rightly be considered clinical.

    To the degree that current societal practice is attributable to secularism, I must agree with Pope Benedict that secularism is the most dangerous factor in our daily lives.

    However, I would be remiss if I overlooked the failure of many (most?) Catholics to read their Catechism. I lack the training that might allow me to declare that a willful lack of study prevents the possibility of divine ignorance as a defect, but I suspect it to be the case.

    Our public education system has been all but destroyed, owing largely to the theories of John Dewey, who saw public education as a vital tool of indoctrination, to create compliant citizens (serfs.) But only lately, I have read that his influence has also had grave impact on our own catechists in the wake of Vatican II.

    We must pray for our bishops, for their continued and increasing strength of conviction in the battle against all the ills of our culture, and for our pope, that he may take ever stronger steps to return us to the traditions of our faith. To the truth of our faith.

  29. Papabile says:

    I hope and pray that SCOTUS does find this unconstitutional. But, first, one will have to find standing to challenge it, and be defeated at the circuit court level. If the circuit courts are annoying, they will deny standing on the basis that it is not directed at any particular religion viz. Employment Division v. Smith.

    More likely they will grant cert., however, and then rule against the Church in accordance with that opinion. There will be no strict scrutiny test here. Then it gets kicked back to SCOTUS.

    I am only hopeful that this gets reversed if one of the liberals sees it’s chance to reverse Employment Division v.Smith and then reapply strict scrutiny.

  30. Joseph-Mary says:

    The American people, including a majority of Catholics, voted in an obamination. They will reap what they sowed.

    I met with the director of a crisis pregnancy center this week. She was telling me about a 15 year old girl pressured by her girlfriends to have an abortion “because they have all had them”.

    Contraception was a gateway but sex education forced on children is what brings 15 year olds to the aboriton mills.

    There is a slight downturn in surgical abortions, the director said, because of Plan B.

    The evils are like a tsunami coming at us. The president is busy doing things on the sly but his amoral determination never wavers. And our tax dollars are funding death here and all over the world,

    We each need to be doing something more than just complaining. Pray and fast, most assuredly. Be active too–the 40 Days for Life and other endeavors are worthy of support. The generations that have killed their babies will find that the survivors will be killing them off in euthanasia; that is coming, folks.

  31. redselchie says:

    well, is there an option of “not providing” ANY health insurance? If I read it correctly, the mandate is for those religious institutions that “provide” health insurance.

    Then, set up a religious institution that meets the qualifications for exclusion of the rule, and have it offer health insurance to any Catholic who needs/wants health insurance.

    With as many lawyers as we have in the Church, surely we can find some loophole while we look to get this outragousness, overturned.

  32. ContraMundum says:

    Even if Fr. Z is right, it means that Obama now thinks that openly attacking not just the Catholic Church, but a broad swath of American Christians may be a net win for him. This is a trial balloon, or else there would be no provision of a year before capitulation.

    If he becomes FULLY convinced that attacking believing Christians is popular, look out!

  33. JordanH says:

    IANAL, but since implementation for religious institutions has been delayed until 2013, I don’t believe SCOTUS will hear a case before the election on this. You have to be harmed by an act to have standings in the courts.

    I think this will have little negative effect on Obama’s election chances. Those who are outraged about it already wouldn’t vote for him anyway. More Catholics who see their Schools and Hospitals affected might be upset by it eventually, but they probably won’t really wake up until after it’s implemented, safely after the election.

    It was a calculated move on the administration’s part. The pro-abortion folk will be energized to get out the vote now to protect this move and the Catholics will probably largely vote (more than 50%) for Obama like they did last time.

  34. Peggy R says:

    I don’t have complete faith in our courts. I don’t think O is just showing that he tried. (I think he showed that he tried on amnesty, however.) O has shown himself completely willing to do what he thinks needs to be done to achieve the social justice revolution, regardless of the constitution, the law, the roles of congress and the courts. He has shown himself to be radically pro-abortion and with little regard for life. He mocked the Church at Notre Dame.

    As for IL, Supertradmum is right. Look at how Quinn the “Catholic” governor has ignored his bishops on adoption/foster care and how Quinn used a pro-abortion rape victim to win the election. He has had nothing to say to them about the arbitrary decision of DCFS to end contracts w/Catholic Charities agencies. But then Quinn is an idiot on many fiscal matters and appears to be the tool of unions and The Machine. The Church is under attack, not just for show.

  35. Fr. Frank says:

    Gil Garza is absolutely correct. It might be good to scroll up and reread his comment. Would it even be possible for Catholic institutions to divest themselves from dependency on govt funds? For 50 years the USCCB and its subsidiaries have sown to the leftist wind. Now the Church as a whole in the U.S. is reaping the whirlwind.

  36. Fr. W says:

    Two points:
    1. I believe that Catholic Charities in California already was forced to provide contraception in their health insurance by California; they went to court and the courts said they had to do it, as I recall. That’s a precedent I believe, and not a good one.

    2. I believe that the Church will fight hard, and if this prevails, give in – sadly – arguing perhaps rightly that this is Material Cooperation with sin, but not Formal. Sadly.

    I hope the Obamster is de-throned and all of this problem disappears however.

  37. I was thinking about this yesterday as well. Here’s my take–which largely agrees with our genial host’s:

    > As Fr. Z noted, this is a play to one of his constituencies; “see, I went all the way!”
    > He knows full well this faces likely–if not certain–demise in the courts. Yes, the courts *can* do anything, but there isn’t any particular likelihood they will deviate from existing law and precedent, which bodes very ill for this. Recall the Supremes voted 9-0 against Obama on religious liberty just last week.
    > Yes, he figures he won’t lose much; I’m not sure that’s correct. He will lose some folks, but it probably won’t affect his re-election chances, which I rate very high. This may be a sign he thinks so, too; if he’s given up on re-election, he’d try something that has more promise of being upheld.
    > I was thinking the one-year delay is to keep a court case until after the election, but who cares? Actually, if he lost in the courts now, it would help him. Those of us who are steamed would be less steamed–threat ended; those who love this would be *really* angry and motivated all the more. No, if I’m Obama, if this will be struck down, I want that before the election.
    > So what is the one-year delay for? Maybe it’s just tone-deaf; they thought that would mean something. Or else they wanted to offer a concession that wouldn’t anger their friends.

    That said, I do not see this doing him any good. He’s batting for the fences, either he’ll get a home run or an easy out. Most likely easy out. But his allies in Congress can’t be happy. Unless the courts make this go away, it will be a ticklish issue for some Democratic Congressmen. It wouldn’t be too hard to figure out who. But President’s usually don’t act as if they care about their party controlling Congress; they say it, but they don’t often do much to help their friends. Obama sure hasn’t!
    > He may be banking on the bishops’ anger fizzlng out, or being expressed in not-so-harmful ways. Let’s see how that plays out. This will be a test of Dolan in particular. He may have underestimated the bishops. Let us pray he has. (Side note: I believe it’s urgent we support our bishops, and tell them so, right away. We need them to be strong.)
    > I think he has underestimated the reaction to this. The bishops can–and should–form a broad coalition. Are their Muslims and Jews and, most importantly, Evangelicals who see the peril here? This isn’t about contraception–it’s about conscience. Heck, the Amish are few in number, but they would be “good optics”: a Rabbi, an Imam, an Amish farmer, a Jain priest (?), a Hindu cleric, some Evangelicals and a Cardinal–all lined up shoulder to shoulder. “This is not about contraception, it’s about conscience. Today it’s Catholic conscience; who’s next?”
    > It may be he has a last-minute concession planned to defuse the protest; he grandly steps in, as if he’s above the fray, and proposes an additional exemption. Can he buy off the opposition that way? It might work. If so, it won’t happen right away, it may be a few weeks or months before it shows up. Or it may not happen.
    > He has no interest in the spiritual effects, which I think can be excellent. This could be a huge blessing to our Faith. It occurred to me–it may occur to other priests–that this is an excellent justification for quite a lot more teaching on contraception from the pulpit. I have done several homilies on it, but now I have good reason to do more, soon. I’m already thinking about when and how. I will probably suggest it to my Archbishop.
    > The Mahony and Winters (of NcR)’s reactions are noteworthy. If it holds, it suggests some folks will wake up, if not about their politics, then at least about the threat. Again, this is something I think Obama could not anticipate.

    As part of the broader front, this is not the main avenue of attack on us. So-called “same sex marriage” is the main threat. Our defiance doesn’t mean folks can’t get contraceptives; but our defiance on marriage means–as it’s framed–that people can’t be happy. That’s the main front of the battle, and we’ll have a harder time there.

    But…(here’s why I’m encouraged)…

    This fight, coming first, can only help us for that other battle. In that sense, Obama has done us a great service. We’ve been warned. It’s real. They’re coming. This is no drill. A lot of folks get that.

  38. gambletrainman says:

    I made this comment the other day. I thought the supreme court already voted (or ruled) unanimously that the Federal Government CANNOT infringe on the rights of religious concientious objectors. In other words, if Saint So-and-so Catholic Hospital says they cannot perform abortions because that goes against their faith, then the federal government cannot step in and say, you WILL do it or else! This was not the case that was brought up, but that is the way I interpreted the ruling. Will someone PLEASE help me out on this?

  39. gambletrainman says:

    JP Borberg

    I. too. am perplexed about this healthcare stuff—and I am an American. Yes, he tells you on one side of his mouth that you can opt out of the healthcare plan, but the other side of his mouth says that if the employer doesn’t accept the plan, there will be consequences. What are the consequences? Just a tax hike? Or a tax hike and a fine? Or a tax hike, a fine AND jail time? I’m with you. If it were just the tax hike, I would take the tax hike just to get out of paying for someone’s “right” to abortion.

  40. JMody says:

    Everywhere that communism and progressivism and other “-isms” we generically call “the Left” have advanced, they sooner or later get around to persecuting the Church. There is a definite reason for this — the Church teaches us that life is precious, that man derives this worth from his likeness to God, whereas “the Left” says that man derives his worth from the State (Commies, Nazis, Italian fascisti, republican Spain, Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, etc etc etc). The Church teaches that the family is the cell of society, and that traditional morality as directed by God is the cell of civil society. The Left teaches that society is everyone joined to the State, and that civility and morality are whatever the State decrees it to be.

    So yes, there are a host of tactical political reasons around this rule in this year for this cretin politician, but at the strategic level, it was bound to happen sooner or letter — politically speaking, it is congenital to the “progressive” or “liberal” worldview of the Left.

    Pray for their conversion, but also that their plans are confounded, their efforts wasted, and that they don’t need too much pain to see the error of their ways …

  41. Dan says:

    Supertradmum et al.,

    The news on the legal front is better than you may think. While Obamacare may be the law (wait until SCOTUS considers it in the spring, but at most it will invalidate the individual mandate and find the rest of the act severable, as did the 11th Circuit), federal courts are empowered to grant exemptions to generally applicable, facially neutral laws under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (42 U.S.C. § 2000bb et seq.).

    The act, passed by congress in 1993, stipulates that any federal law that burdens religious exercise must pass a two pronged test. First, it must be in furtherence of a “compelling governmental interest.” Second, it must employ the least intrusive means of furthering that interest. The contraceptive mandate fails on both counts.

    First, it does not further a compelling governmental interest because the act leaves appreciable holes in the contraceptive regulatory scheme. “Grandfathered” health plans are exempted from the mandate, as are employers who employ less than 50 full time employees. This oversight means the mandate will not apply to tens of millions of Americans. While the administration has argued that it is a compelling interest to provide “preventive services” to all women, the Supreme Court has held that a government initiative cannot further a “compelling interest” when “it leaves appreciable damage to that supposedly vital interest unprohibited.” Furthermore, the mandate only applies to employers. The majority of women who “cannot afford” birth control, and thus, in the administration’s eyes, need it the most, are unemployed. How can mandating employers pay for their employees’ contraceptive pills further an interest of making contraception more widely available to the poor and unemployed? Quite simply, it does not.

    Second, the mandate’s narrow exemption for “religious employers” does not further the government’s interest in the least intrusive manner. The Supreme Court has consistently extended a broad definition to constitutionally-protected religious exercise. This includes the activities of church-affiliated communal and civic organizations. See Corporation of the Presiding Bishop v. Amos, 483 U.S. 327, 341-42 (1987) (Brennan, J., concurring) (acknowledging that “religion includes important communal elements for most believers. They exercise their religion through religious organizations and these organizations must be protected by the [Free Exercise] Clause.”).

    Because the mandate’s limited exemption does not offer protection to this form of religious exercise (ie, that of Catholic schools, hospitals, charities, etc), it cannot be the “least restictive” means of furthering a governmental interest. Additionally, the narrow exemption runs afoul of the establishment clause because it attempts to measure the religiosity of an institution by evaluating whether “inculcating religious values” is a primary purpose of the organization. This type of statutory metric for religiosity has been consistently condemned by the federal courts.

    In University of Great Falls v. NLRB, 278 F.3d 1335 (1st Cir. 2002), for example, a Catholic University argued that it was not subject to NLRB regulations because it was a religious institution. The NLRB argued that it was not “sufficiently religious” for an exemption. Because the NLRB’s “substantial religious character” test boiled down to the question of whether or not an institution is “sufficiently religious,” the court denounced it as an inquiry into religious views that is “not only unnecessary but also offensive.” Deciding that this test would create the same constitutional concerns that the Supreme Court has sought to avoid, the court roundly denounced the NLRB’s practice of “trolling through the beliefs of the University, making determinations about its religious mission, and that mission’s centrality to the “primary purpose” of the University.

    Sorry this was so long- but I hope it can put some of the legal issues in context. To sum up, the mandate is NOT CONSTITUTIONAL under the RFRA because it does not further a compelling gov’t interest and does not employ the least restrictive means (i.e, it infringes on constitutionally protected religious exercise) of doing so. That should give us hope. But remember, judges are important…we can’t let Obama appoint any more!

  42. S. Murphy says:

    Gil Garza is right. It might be good if our bishops began to get the Church in the US off Caesar’s teat. Can we, as the laity, support them in this – I mean, pony up and tithe like Evangelicals? It does look pretty tacky to take Caesar’s money and then cry when he says what you can and can’t do with it. I mean, sure, we assumed a certain set of common values at the start; so it’s not *really* tacky to be upset when Caesar says “I’m altering the bargain…pray I don’t alter it any further;” but that is why we shouldn’t have done business with Caesar to such an extent that we can’t live without his largesse.

    Somebody suggested a strike, or shutting down Catholic healthcare… the thing is, dothe bishops really have enough legal control of the corporate aspect of Catholic healthcare? Couldn’t hospitals just shrug, and change the sign on the front of the building? We might have to start all over again.

  43. Dan says:

    Fr. W,

    I just saw your comment on the Catholic Charities case from California. You’re right that the California Supreme Court found that Catholic Charities would be compelled to obey the California Contraceptive Mandate (very similar to what Obama is now pushing on the entire country).

    But, there’s a big difference. The California case was not decided under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and any challenge to the Obamacare mandate in federal court will be. The RFRA does not apply to the states, only to the federal gov’t. Hence, any federal mandate will (unlike the California law) have to satisfy a very rigid “strict scrutiny” analysis. For the reasons I outlined above, such an analysis will not come out in the gov’t’s favor.

    As such, federal courts can, and probably will, grant exemptions to Catholic Institutional Employers who challenge the mandate in district court. Belmont Abbey currently has a case in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia. This is an important test case. We should all have our eyes on it.

  44. gambletrainman says:


    Thanks. You’ve mostly answered my question.

  45. Dan says:


    The RFRA, as a congressional act, supercedes Employment Divison v. Smith at the Federal Level(although not at the state level, hence the judgment against Catholic Charities in the California Supreme Court case). This was confirmed by the Supreme Court in O Centro v. Gonzales.

    Also, for those who have doubted the Church has standing-

    There are three standing requirements:

    Injury: The plaintiff must have suffered or IMMINENTLY WILL SUFFER INJURY—an invasion of a legally protected interest that is concrete and particularized. The injury must be actual or imminent, distinct and palpable, not abstract. This injury could be economic as well as non-economic.

    Causation: There must be a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of, so that the injury is fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant and not the result of the independent action of some third party who is not before the court.[15]

    Redressability: It must be likely, as opposed to merely speculative, that a favorable court decision will redress the injury.

    The current state of affairs satisfies these requirements. We have a year, so we know that the Church will suffer injury. It is not hypothetical. Second, the mandate violates the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment as interpreted by the RFRA and the Supreme Court in O Centro v. Gonzales. Finally, federal courts are empowered to redress the issue by granting individual exemptions to facially neutral and generally applicable laws under the RFRA.

    We have standing, and we will likely win. Pray hard.

  46. Papabile says:


    Understand what RFRA does, by enshrining the compelling interest test as outlined in Employment Division. I remember when we were writing it in House Judiciary Committee after the initial fail. With that said, I am not convinced they will not be able to fulfill the compelling interest test under the statute. Additionally,you cite Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal. The problem here is the carve out in the law specifically for peyote on Schedule 1 that influenced the finding of no compelling interest.

    The carve outs in the executive order mimic the carve outs everywhere else in the health law. Those very carve outs can easily be cited as mandatory carve outs to protect overall economic well being. It is not a singular carve out like peyote.

  47. Dan says:


    You bring up a good point. However, I believe Chief Justice Roberts answered it in his majority opinion in O Centro:

    “The Government’s argument that the existence of a congressional exemption for peyote does not indicate that the Controlled Substances Act is amenable to judicially crafted exceptions fails because RFRA plainly contemplates court-recognized exceptions, see § 2000bb-1(c). Pp. 1221-1222.”
    Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal, 546 U.S. 418, 421, 126 S. Ct. 1211, 1214, 163 L. Ed. 2d 1017 (2006)

    So, while the act does, as you note, contain a number of exemptions, the federal courts may carve out more exemptions if it can be shown that a plaintiff’s free exercise rights are being burdened. So, any Catholic institution seeking an exemption will necessarily have to file suit in federal district court.

  48. Cantor says:

    The Catholic Church long ago surrendered the moral high ground in the battle over Moses’s Ten Suggestions. And it has nothing to do with the obvious crisis of the past decade.

    How do folks dress at Mass? As they would for a formal dinner or as they would for a tailgate party? For the Lord our God? Or for the Steelers/Cowboys/our Employers/our beer etc? Scratch suggestion #1.

    Is God really so omnipresent that we honor him on the Internet? Is “OMG” short for “hOMaGe” or is it the end of Suggestion #2?

    When the “C&E Catholics” arrived at your church last month were they warmly welcomed by your priest? Was there a moment in there where he reminded them of the 50 mortal sins they had committed in the prior 52 weeks? Down with S#3.

    Honoring thy Father and Mother is a two-way street. How is it that of the families attending their children’s First Communion last November NOT ONE knew when to sit/stand/kneel and with the exception of the Our Father responded exactly zero times. How does one honor such parents? Bye bye #4.

    Killing, of course, is really bad. And we say so in the case of abortions. Except for weaselly bishops who rationalize that Plan B isn’t really abortion in Connecticut. Or that the “(public) hospital within a (Catholic) hospital” in Austin means ‘women’s rights’ are protected on the fifth floor sterilization clinic. Was there a #5 in there?

    Let’s not even look at #6. Name the last time your pastor sermonized on infidelity and pre-/extra-marital sex. That’s where the whole issue of abortion starts and ends, and we stopped trying to police that decades ago.

    Stealing? How about from our own churches? Our weekly collection last week was $28,847. Nice, eh? But divided by the 14,000 registered families in the parish that’s a whopping $2.06 per family. How many needy people out there are we hording our resources from? Thus endeth #7.

    False witness starts with “I’m doing all I can for the church and as Christ’s witness on earth.” Perhaps some are, but I’d guess the vast majority of Catholics who say so are, shall we say, exaggerating our contributions. Everybody else is to blame. J’accuse. Bye bye #8.

    Numbers 9 and 10 harken right back to 6 and 7. Covet first, take second, in whatever form that might be.

    We battle over “for all” versus “for many”, Latin versus Vernacular, facing or leading the people. Our Pope reminds us that Marriage between a man and a woman has “pride of place” in families; does this relegate it to the same “pride of place” that Gregorian Chant has in our liturgy?

    Given one exception, the line in the Creed where I remind myself that “I believe in the Holy Spirit”, I would find little faith in my Church’s survival.

  49. pjthom81 says:

    Regarding Obama…..

    What if he simply believes that he is pursuing what is true? What if he is a believer in the modern world and there really is no calculation other than he believes that any fight he starts history will vindicate him on….because this is how history is supposed to go?

    Put another way…his socialism and attack on the 1% has more European…and specifically French revolutionary resonance than American. Anti-religious attacks would be very consistent with values ultimately emanating from the French Revolution. It is completely inconsistent with the American Revolution where religious revival preceded the will for independence.

    Aren’t we witnessing an attempt to graft the French Revolution onto the American?

  50. Alan Aversa says:

    The SSPX has a very good article on the importance of making the distinction between Libertas Ecclesiae (freedom of the Church) and Libertas Religionis (freedom of religion).

    Although the Vatican II document on religious freedom Dignitatis Humanæ overall, “in typical modernist fashion,” makes the distinction between libertas Ecclesiæ and libertas religionis “become blurred and conflated;” there is a very good passage in it that summarizes exactly what the SSPX believes is missed in conflating libertas Ecclesiæ and libertas religionis: “13. […] The freedom of the Church [libertas Ecclesiæ] is the fundamental principle in what concerns the relations between the Church and governments and the whole civil order.

    Compare, e.g., §3 of Pope Pius IX’s Quanta Cura to §2 of Vatican II’s Dignitatis Humanæ, and also compare to it Pope Pius IX’s Syllabus of Condemned Errors 15 and 77-79. (Cf. Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Libertas: On the Nature of True Liberty.)

    The freedom of the Catholic Church in the United States is being severely limited. Take, e.g., Sibelius’s January 20th pronouncement to force Catholic hospitals to violate their consciences by providing “access to the full range of the Institute of Medicine’s recommended preventive services, including all FDA -approved forms of contraception” (such as “the Pill,” the combined estrogen-progestogen oral contraceptive, a, as of 17 June 2011, WHO-classified Group 1 carcinogen like nicotine, asbestos, and benzene), abortifacients, and sterilizations beginning August 1, 2013, at the latest. Archbishop Dolan said of it: “In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences.”

    Thus, “[p]rotecting the ‘freedom of [the true Catholic] religion’ is [not] as good as it’s ever been in this country,” as a commenter on this blog entry would have it.

    Our leaders have erred in their judgement of moral conduct. The causes of this are:

    1792 Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example given by others, enslavement to one’s passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church’s authority and her teaching [viz., rejection of libertas Ecclesiæ], lack of conversion and of charity: these can be at the source of errors of judgment in moral conduct.


  52. Greg Smisek says:

    One simple factor that mitigates Obama’s risk: people love free stuff. And, unfortunately, the statistics indicate that an awful lot of self-identified Catholics will be using these presidentially-ensured handouts.

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