If Pres. Obama can tell the Church what to cover, he can tell the Press what to cover

Fourth EstateWhat’s next?

Pres. Obama has attacked the 1st Amendment. He is trying to tell the Church what it must do in a matter of conscience based on natural law, reason, and doctrine.

The first clause of the 1st Amendment concerns freedom of religion.

The second clause concerns freedom of the press.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

If the Obama Adminstration can, though the erosion of the 1st Amendment, tell churches what to do and what to pay for, then eventually the press will be subjected to the same treatment.

How long before the Obama Administration makes a play for the press?

On news reports and from the shills of the Administration you will hear polling numbers about the number of Catholic women who have used artificial contraception. Sure, people sin all the time. Doctrine is based on reason and revelation, not polls and our propensity to do things that are wrong. On new reports and from shills of the mainstream media, you will read about how enlightened Pres. Obama is and how partisan the Church is. Sure, the liberal mainstream media pants after Obama like lickspittle sycophants. But there is a difference between being stupidly naive and therefore willingly giving the Administration cover and being told what you can or cannot publish.

Editors of papers and news programs should think long and hard about how they are covering this story.

They would do well do drop the shallow presentation of this as a fight between Pres. Obama and the Church about contraception and start defending the freedom of the Fourth Estate.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Dogs and Fleas, Emanations from Penumbras, Our Catholic Identity, Religious Liberty, The future and our choices, The Last Acceptable Prejudice and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. ContraMundum says:

    But Father, by your reasoning the fact that smoking used to be popular would not disprove that smoking increases the risk of cancer! By the same reasoning, the fact that more Americans are obese than ever before would not disprove that obesity is a health risk!

  2. dep says:

    Sad to say, and based on my experience in the industry, the situational ethics of the current mainstream media will cause them to go willingly to the slaughter. We have more Walter Durantys now than we have patriots in the media. Which is part of the reason that when in publications the establishment clause is often mentioned, the free exercise clause never is.

  3. JonPatrick says:

    Why would he bother? The press already acts like it is part of his campaign. The only remaining free media is talk radio, and no doubt in his second term we will see the so-called fairness doctrine reimposed.

  4. JonPatrick: As I wrote, above, there is a difference between willingly doing something because you are naive, and being forced to do it.

  5. NoTambourines says:

    The media is already a lost cause. The choice of language can be subtle, but is used to shape the argument on their terms. MSNBC might as well be to Obama what Rodong Sinmun (Labor Daily) is to North Korea, and there are other party propaganda organs as well.

    The celebration over 8-odd percent unemployment reminds me of the bit about chocolate rations in 1984 (it’s been a few years since I read it, so I hope I remember this right). They get cut, and people take to the streets to celebrate the “increase.”

    The internet and blogosphere go a long way toward trying to keep them honest, and are the one major gap in the mainstream media monopoly against dissent, even more than talk radio used to be. I can’t imagine the mobilization we’ve seen against the HHS directive without the internet.

  6. wmeyer says:

    JonPatrick: Ignoring the 1st Amendment is tyranny, which the Constitution and Bill of rights were designed to prevent. Limiting what the press can say while they are happy lap dogs, and may tolerate it opens the door for O to elevate himself to dictator, with the press unable to disagree.

  7. jilly4ski says:

    Indeed Father, the President already agrees with the “Fairness Doctrine” for radio. As this policy was never ruled unconstitutional it could be brought back. However, I would suggest that Obama would wait until he gets reelected to try and force the press to do his bidding. He can’t have them turning on them before the election, and he doesn’t want to give an opponent the power over the press.

  8. Supertradmum says:

    I predict that in the next year we may lose three of our Constitutional rights: freedom of speech, which, as you rightly point out, Fr. Z is also freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and the right to bear arms.

    We may also see some issue trumped up, like a war in the Strait of Hormuz or Arabian Sea, to create more laws which supersede Congress and give more power to the Executive Branch. The man is on record for saying that he could govern better on his own. I agree with you 100% and take the argument a bit further, as the momentum is in that direction. I am glad, Father, that you are pointing these things out, as then I do not feel quite like the Cassandra people make me out to be. It has all been done and seen before.

  9. TravelerWithChrist says:

    Don’t think it’s not already happening. They’re already influenced by charm or fear.

  10. Amyjo says:

    Just take a look at the Orwellian language the mainstream media uses. I see very few sources of relatively unbiased media.

  11. JohnE says:

    I agree. The debate about whether or not contraception is good or evil or whether or not 99% of Catholics have at one time or another used contraceptives — these are red herrings. An analogy is asking Alcoholics Anonymous to require all meetings be catered by the local bar. And Obama’s “compromise” is to say that the catering is only for food, but the bar must let the members know that the drinks are “on the house”. Regardless of whether the AA members have abused alcohol in the past or are abusing alcohol now, or even if 99% of them deny they’re alcoholics and want to continue drinking, or even if most people think there’s nothing wrong with getting drunk from time to time, AA should be able to run their organization consistent with their mission.

  12. HyacinthClare says:

    Why is this man not impeached?

  13. Supertradmum says:

    HyacinthClare, Because most of Washington agrees with him. Power seeks power, poor dupes that they are.

  14. Flattery and access are the first approaches in the drive to control. That makes sense: if you can hold out a carrot, you’re not attracting the kind of negative attention from the public that you would if you came out straight away with the stick. The carrot has been tried with great success on many, many Catholics, or why would so many put on frowny faces and talk about the importance of not being a single-issue voter? Fearless Leader, who may have been good at law school but doesn’t know squat about the American voter, has rashly assumed that the last little bit of Church independence could be cleared away over this birth-control question at small political cost. On the surface, it was a reasonable assumption: most putative Catholics don’t even agree with Church teaching on contraception, so who’s going to fight it? It’s blown up in his face, however. I don’t understand how anybody could start his political career in Chicago and not understand more about the temper of Irishmen.

  15. amenamen says:

    “…you will hear polling numbers …”

    Morality is not decided by polling numbers. But even so, where does the “99 percent” number keep coming from?

    The claim of “99 percent” is always questionable.

  16. mike cliffson says:

    Cf Venzuela.
    (Whose regime , originally deriving from elections, has been aided and abetted by expresidents and presidents of yours of a particular political persuasion)

  17. wmeyer says:

    amenamen: in connection with contraception use by Catholics, the numbers come from the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a very liberal outfit in California. Not what I would call a reliable source.

  18. ASD says:

    If Obama and the federal bureaucracy have enough power to make citizen A pay citizen B’s doctor bills, then Obama and the feds have enough power to say what doctor bills B must pay, what counts as a legit doctor bill that B must pay.

    In order for the analogy with the press to work, it would have to go something like this:

    Citizen A is entitled to be informed with news. Therefore citizen B will have to pay. Therefore we need a new bureaucracy to manage the news, and those bureaucrats will need the power to say what counts as legitimate news that citizen B will be paying for.

  19. dep says:

    wmeyer: and Michael New notes today that “[M]any defenders of the HHS mandate have been citing a Guttmacher study from 2011 which claims that 98 percent of Catholic women have used birth control. This is misleading for several reasons. First, as social scientists know, categorizing people by their self identified religion can produce misleading results. If they had surveyed Catholic women who are active in their faith and attend Mass consistently, the results would have likely been different. Second, this statistic provides the percentage who have ever used birth control, not the percentage who currently or consistently use birth control. In fact, Guttmacher’s own findings indicate that when one analyzes current usage of contraception, the percentages decline.” It’s here:

  20. Fr. Frank says:

    Cdl Wuerl was just on Fox News about 10 minutes ago saying if the administration would exempt Catholic institutions that are self-insuring maybe the “compromise” would work. What step in the logic am I missing here? [If the Cardinal said that, then he may have left something out. This is about the 1st Amendment, and not just the particulars of what Catholics would be forced to pay for. It is about religious liberty.]

  21. tealady24 says:

    Everything we hold dear and free in this country, will be out the window, if this hhs mandate goes forward as is!
    The media have been doing the emperor’s bidding for so long, they believe he won’t come for them; but that is a lie, because he is a lie; everything he says is a lie; everything he says he stands for, is a lie!
    There will come a day when you will be jailed for smoking, for using a cell phone outside of your alloted time, for not signing on to a government mandate, for going on the Internet! What about this socialist president is so hard to fathom?
    He already thinks he’s god; so what do all the rest of us need with our God, when we can have him? (Shudder).

  22. Bryan Boyle says:

    Fr Frank: +Cdl Wuerl is located in DC, right? He hasn’t held out that any of these craven pro-death politicians NOT present themselves for Communion, right?

    ‘Nuff said. If you are not part of the solution (and are more interested in ‘dialogue’ than speaking the truth to power….), you ARE part of the problem.

    Just sayin’. Contrast that to +Abp Chaput’s statement. There are those who go along to get along, and those who, like the good Philly archbishop, ARE willing to put on the gauntlet. Time to take the velvet glove off the iron fist.

  23. Joseph-Mary says:

    I think this is already happening.

    But when it is REALLY opening mandated….then what? Will the journalists roll over? Or are there enough with integrity to say they won’t tow the party line any more?

  24. Jim Dorchak says:

    It sounds like Rush Limbaugh is trawling your blog today as well as this very issue. [It’s about time.]

  25. dbqcatholic says:

    JohnE: Love your analogy comparing the Obamacare universal contraception coverage to requiring AA meetings to be catered by bars, with all drinks “on the house”! Perhaps a better twist would just require that all catering services must include a full bar “on the house”, and not just AA meetings, but business meetings (including pharm-sponsored doctors’ office spreads and lunches catered for factory workers,) birthday parties for 5-year olds, etc… There’s plenty of circumstances where indulgence in alcohol is detrimental to a person’s health, just like there’s occasions where indulgence in sex (i.e. out of marriage) is detrimental to a person’s (spiritual) health. The problem is that secularists don’t recognize the risk.

  26. dep says:

    An even better takedown of the Guttmacher phoney-baloney “98 percent of Catholic women use birth control” lie is here:

  27. wmeyer says:

    This article is not a pleasant read, but was written by a Catholic professor from Hillsdale College who appears well qualified to present the case. To the degree that his presentation is factual, I think that the bishops’ only hope now is to stiffen their spines (yes, I know some are quite wonderful, but there are also some who are quite disappointing) and return to the full teaching of the Church of Rome, discarding the local peculiarities.

    Specifically, to the degree that the American church has cooperated with the Democrats in pursuit of public healthcare, they need now to fully disconnect. Government taking cannot ever substitute for our individual obligation to charity. I cannot find anywhere in scripture the slightest suggestion that we should foster in government the extraction of taxes for redistribution, much less for funding of healthcare, foodstamps, or any of the dozens of other damnable programs with which we are currently saddled.

    Social justice is a phrase I detest roughly as much as pro-choice. Both have been used as licenses to part us from our treasure, with little to no choice as to the application of funds.

  28. Theodore says:

    wmeyer @ 1310. Roger Kimball carries the same theme, that American Catholicism has thrown in with the left in this country in misguided belief that (quoting Paul Rahe):

    The leaders of the American Catholic Church fell prey to a conceit that had long before ensnared a great many mainstream Protestants in the United States — the notion that public provision is somehow akin to charity — and so they fostered state paternalism and undermined what they professed to teach: that charity is an individual responsibility and that it is appropriate that the laity join together under the leadership of the Church to alleviate the suffering of the poor. In its place, they helped establish the Machiavellian principle that underpins modern liberalism — the notion that it is our Christian duty to confiscate other people’s money and redistribute it.

    Full article http://pjmedia.com/rogerkimball/2012/02/13/limited-government-religious-liberty-and-joe-bidens-rosary/

  29. MichelleP12 says:

    Excellently written article; Thank you, Fr. Z for writing it! However the governmental control of our American media has been going on for quite some time, although subtle. Just as smaller news outlets have been swallowed up by larger ones, it makes it even easier for the gov’t to do its job at whittling away our free speech, so quietly that we don’t realize it’s gone, until it’s gone.

    The govt vs. the Catholic church reminds me sadly of the situation in early 20th century Mexico, which forced the Church underground and led to the wholesale massacres of thousands of Catholic priests (think Bl. Miguel Pro), bishops and laypersons. This went on for decades.

    When a country’s citizens and leaders won’t listen to the right reason of God, could that be the “sign? And if there are enough lukewarm Catholics in the mix, here we go. The forecast doesn’t look promising. We may already be there.

  30. Father Z – Bishopp Lori will be on at 5PM EST on Ave Maria Radio. Al Kresta is dedicated the full two hour block to talking about the HHS mandate for the full two hour block 4-6 pm.

    People can listen online here, and the show is on right now http://avemariaradio.net/catholic-online-radio.php

    There will be an audio archive later. I’ll probably put that up later tonight.

  31. nanetteclaret says:

    Many in the Fourth Estate are part of the Fifth Column.

  32. Dan says:

    The erosion of First Amendment freedoms by this Administration must be challenged. I’m glad to see that the Church’s resistence up to this point at least gotten the government’s attention. Lawsuits filed by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty are also helping to resolve the issue at the judicial level.

    Nevertheless, the kind of apocolyptic rhetoric that equates this situation with the persecutions of old or a wholesale dupming of the Constitution may be going too far. Using this language tends to make us look less credible in the eyes of the left, who can all the more easily label Catholics who oppose the mandate as “fanatics.”

    Honestly, if we keep our focus on the solid legal and moral bases for our objections, and clearly articulate these points in the public square without necessarily demonizing Obama (as tempting as that may be, and I’ll admit he makes it easy at times), then I think we would continue to garner support from those who, while not necessarily Catholic, have stood by the Church because they realize that her position implicates legal and moral principles that affect all Americans.

    The more we stray from that, the less and less support we will get from the vast majority of the public who, while probably disagreeing with the Church on contraception, see problems with the HHS mandate nonetheless.

  33. Dan says:

    Also- we need to remember that the President cannot simply decree the First Amendment out of existence. The PPACA delegated the task of deciding what constitutes “preventive care” to HHS. HHS adopted the recommendations from the National Institute of Medicine, which advocated the coverage of prescription contraceptives as “preventive care.” Frankly, Congress is more responsible for this than Obama. They’re the ones who delegated HHS this authority to begin with, and the legislative history shows that certain senators clearly wanted contraceptives to be included in “preventive care.”

    The President cannot make law. Only Congress can, and then the courts blow the whistle when they go out of bounds (or at least that’s how its supposed to work).

  34. wmeyer says:

    “Nevertheless, the kind of apocolyptic rhetoric that equates this situation with the persecutions of old or a wholesale dupming of the Constitution may be going too far.”

    Actually, Dan, the failure of anyone in Congress or the courts to defend the Constitution from being ignored sets a precedent. And if we the people also fail to rise up, then actually, a wholesale dumping of the Constitution is very likely.

  35. Dan says:


    Your concerns regarding the unwillingness of some in the other two branches to live up to their constitutional responsibilities are well-founded. One only has to read Griswold v. Connecticut, Roe v. Wade, or Lawerence v. Texas to understand that the Courts will not always be faithful in their interpretation of the Constitution.

    I’m not saying that people shouldn’t stand up. I’m saying that when we do (and we must!) we should think carefully about the language we use and be forceful, but prudent, in our arguements. You cannot go into federal district court with a complaint that reads “Obama is an anti-Catholic wannabe communist dictator who hates the Constitution.” That will get us nowhere. We need to research and understand the legal issues at stake before we open our mouths.

    To that extent, we should focus on the cause of action that Church institutions have under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. Or we could support current congressional initiatives to repeal the mandate. Or we could support the non-for-profit legal organizations like the Becket Fund who are challenging the mandate in court.

    While sensational language may rally the base, it will do nothing in the long run to repeal this assault on religious liberty. As people of faith who seek to preserve our rights in the public square, we need to make rational arguments that people of good will will actually listen to, not just sneer at.

  36. Dr. Eric says:


    Your articles against the Guttmacher Institute’s findings, which aren’t the only ones that show that the vast majority of Catholics do not follow Holy Mother Church’s teaching on contraception, use either the Genetic Fallacy or the “No True Scotsman” Fallacy.

    The Guttmacher Institute is liberal therefore its findings are wrong: http://www.logicalfallacies.info/relevance/genetic/

    Well, the reason that 98% of Catholics use contraception was because they polled people who claim to be Catholic who didn’t even go to Church, and we know those aren’t “real Catholics”: http://www.logicalfallacies.info/presumption/no-true-scotsman/

  37. EXCHIEF says:

    Hey Rush used Life Site News as a reference a lot last week. Fr Z may be next. We’ll know for sure if Rush references “Save the Liturgy, Save the World” :)

  38. GregH says:

    Is religious liberty really what this is about? This is a direct attack on the Catholic Church. I don’t remember the ancient martyrs or the Church Fathers fighting for “religious liberty”. Quit trying to defend the constitution and defend the Church instead.

  39. Athanasius says:

    Whatever happened to the thinking of the great 19th century champion of the American Church, Archbishop Hughes of New York?

    “Catholicism will convert all pagan nations, and all Protestant nations, even England with her proud Parliament. Everybody should know that we have for our mission to convert the world-including the inhabitants of the United States- the people of the cities, and the people of the country, the Officers of the Navy and the Marines, the commander of the Army, the legislatures, the Senate, the Cabinet, the President and all.”

    Not we’ll defend our religious liberty.

  40. Paul M says:

    Father Z,

    I happened to find the dailycaller.com expose on Media Matters late last night and a chill ran up my spine. You called it. The Daily Caller is reporting that the White House has a weekly strategic call with Media Matters: http://ow.ly/94jpg .

    Let’s get this straight, the Executive Branch has a weekly strategic conference call with a group that has an enemies list and has made no secret about trying to take down a news organization and others in media with whom they disagree.

    Alinsky’s a chump, this stuff is out of the Geobbels handbook.

  41. Marcus de Alameda says:

    The left demonizes Catholic teaching on a daily basis through education, media, entertainment, the lower courts, and now proliferating throughout the federal government. They show little restraint in painting Catholic teaching as bigotry. The Obamanist machine IS anti-Catholic to its very core. This they have proven without a doubt. It’s very difficult to stay calm, collective and offer good lawful arguments in the hope to appeal to good reason when a known hostile and ‘untrustworthy’ entity is forcing your back to the wall with an ultimatem. Catholics have been snoozing for too long and taking their faith for granted. It’s time to stand up with a good straight backbone and bring it from the pulpit to the street across the land. The time is now – this is it!

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