Catholic Health Ass.’s proposal (about what a religious institution is) could make things worse, not better.

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I am sure you have heard that Sr. Carol “GIVE BACK THAT PEN!” Keehan of the Catholic Health Ass., which gave cover to pro-abortion catholic Democrats so they could vote for Obamacare, pushed back at the First Gay President’s HHS mandate.

Here is some analysis of the CHA’s reverse course from the Cardinal Newman Society:

Sister Keehan, CHA Push Dangerous Compromise on HHS Mandate (Again)

No, it’s not all great news.

The Catholic Health Association (CHA) and its leader, Obamacare advocate Sr. Carol Keehan, DC, have apparently reversed their position and now stand in opposition to the Obama administration’s inadequate “accommodation” on the HHS contraceptive mandate. Kudos for that!

[NB] But as is becoming a tiresome habit for CHA, they aren’t standing entirely with the bishops. CHA says in today’s letter to HHS that it wants the contraceptive mandate’s exemption “broadened to cover all ministries of the Church,” just as the bishops have argued. Yet in direct contradiction to the bishops, CHA is pushing for a new definition of religious organizations that could prove even worse than the Obama administration’s current language. And if accepted, the CHA definition could be a disaster for the cause of religious liberty and for Catholic higher education.

The Cardinal Newman Society has been warning about this since last December, after CHA and the University of Notre Dame both recommended to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius similar solutions, drawing on language in Section 414(e) of the Internal Revenue Code that exempts church-related pension plans from the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

We explained in our press release last December:

Under Section 414(e), exemption from federal law is available only to an organization that is “controlled by or associated with a church or a convention or association of churches,” meaning that the organization must at least share “common religious bonds and convictions with [its] church or convention or association of churches.”  In 2001 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit said that three factors bear primary consideration when deciding whether an organization shares “common religious bonds and convictions” with a church:

1) whether the religious institution plays any official role in the governance of the organization; 2) whether the organization receives assistance from the religious institution; and 3) whether a denominational requirement exists for any employee or patient/customer of the organization.

[NB] We warned that such a definition of religious organizations could exclude many Catholic institutions, depending on how strictly the courts apply the Fourt Circuit test, and would certainly exclude nondenominational Christian schools, colleges, charities and other organizations that are not affiliated with a recognized “church.”

Nevertheless, CHA is at it again. Today’s letter to HHS states:

We reiterate our suggestion contained in our September 22nd letter that the concepts contained in Section 414(e) be used instead to develop a broader and more appropriate religious employer exemption to the contraceptive mandate. Under those principles, an organization would be covered by the exemption if it “shares common religious bonds and convictions with a church.”

[And here we get to the part where I add that Sr. Keehan and the CHA are acting as the Magisterium of Nuns… setting themselves over and against the US Bishops…] Never mind that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops clearly rejected the 414(e) languagein its own letter to HHS last September:

…[S]uch an exemption would be inadequate, because it would fail to protect many stakeholders with a moral or religious objection to contraceptives or sterilization, including individuals, insurers, and even many religiously affiliated organizations.

[So, is the 414(e) language really that bad?] For further explanation, today we asked religious liberty expert Matt Bowman of the Alliance Defense Fund what is so dangerous about the Section 414(e) language?

In the courts, “bonds and convictions” involve asking “(1) whether the religious institution plays an official role in the governance of the organization, (2) whether the organization receives assistance from the religious institution, and (3) whether a denominational requirement exists for any employee or patient/customer of the organization.” See, e.g.Lown v. Cont’l Cas. Co., 238 F.3d 543, 547 (4th Cir. 2001). There are lots of religious and probably even Catholic colleges that would share convictions, but not bonds, with a church. And that’s not to mention other kinds of religious non-profits, much less any religious stakeholder.

A “religious employer” definition limited to only entities with “bonds and convictions” of a church is actually smaller in significant ways than the “accommodation” and “safe harbor” proposed by the Obama administration itself, which only specify the kind of organization that qualifies by whether it is a non-profit with religious beliefs. Granted, their “accommodation” doesn’t actually accommodate in how it treats those organizations. But the standard for who is and who isn’t such an organization includes organizations even if they don’t share “bonds and convictions” of a church.

Truly it’s exciting news that CHA finally is opposing President Obama’s hairbrained “accommodation” that would make things even worse for the Catholic Church. Kudos for that.

But CHA’s own solution could worsen matters beyond the President’s worsened plan. [QUAERITUR:] One has to wonder why the CHA would continue to press for a solution that might protect its own institutions but would leave many others out in the cold.

Indeed, why?

I am sure that none of you readers will have any opinions.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. cwillia1 says:

    Religious freedom is an individual right. The rights of every religious institution flow from it. If the state grants a waiver to religious institutions without recognizing the right for all Catholic employers, we have an establishment of religion.

  2. Cathy says:

    I’m praying that the entirety of this Healthcare Bill be thrown out by the Supreme Court. I don’t understand, I am not employed by a religious institution and I don’t understand how this reconciles the individual Catholic or person of good will who is opposed to paying for abortion and birth control in individual employee healthcare plans. I am not an institution, I am a Catholic. I don’t understand, am I supposed to quit my job and look for employment in a Catholic institution?

  3. Johnno says:

    Methinks the CHA are ‘double agents’ trying to purposely destroy any semblance of ‘religious liberty.’ Either that, or they’re really that stupid.

    Anyway, the problem is indeed about the immorality of contraception! Not just religious liberty. If the Church insists on making it only about religious liberty, it is going to lose. Your exercise of religious liberty entirely depends on credibly arguing why you believe contraception is wrong. Otherwise you will be seen in the same light of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ who refuse blood transfusions, or the ‘Church of Marijuana’ who want drugs to be legal. A society that is ‘secular’ will only be accommodating of so much, and if it convinces itself that contraceptives are a natural and life-dependent right like food and water, then they are going to not allow Catholics such religious freedom because they will deem that Catholic belief as being dangerous to individuals. If the Church is so frightened of preaching about how contraceptives are immoral, you might as well give up now and cede to the enemy, because you don’t have any case.

    This is why Catholic Schools in Ontario now belong to the homosexuals. They should have been arguing why homosexuality is immoral and dangerous. But no…. they wanted their religious exemption and they wanted Caesar’s coins and they wanted to play pleasant politics and use nice words. Well that worked out so well didn’t it?

    The U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights etc. are man-made documents subject to the scrutiny and will of man. For the longest time these people have been willing to reinterpret God’s unchanging, inerrant Word to mean whatever they want. You think that’s going to stop them when it comes to these things? This is the same Protestant mindset in action now applied to the constitutional documents of America.

  4. Traductora says:

    Very sneaky they are. Essentially, this is a way of setting it up so that ND and other “Catholic” institutions that are not directly controlled by the Church or do not specifically require all the employees to be Catholic can go and revel in Obamacare to their heart’s content and still claim that they are defending the rights of the Church.

    The only threat that might work would be if the Church authorities forbade them to use the name “Catholic” or portray themselves Catholic in any form – and withdrew any funding contributions or in-kind cooperation they may have been receiving (such as use of Church-owned space). They’d probably all leave or abandon any pretense of being Catholic, but maybe that would be better than having such a deceitful, wily element working day and night to undermine the Church.

    One of the complicating things, unfortunately, is that many of these institutions are owned or controlled by religious orders, not all of whose members are dissidents. There are, after all, good Jesuits…

  5. Giuseppe says:

    LOL re. Catholic Health Ass.’s
    Just got that one!

  6. AvantiBev says:

    Kill the whole D**M bill! What part of “he who pays the piper, calls the tune” is alluding these “Jesus loves big government” types? You cannot just tweek it. KILL IT.

    I just had a cosmetic procedure done which I priced just over 10 years ago. It is of course not covered by insurance, i.e., it is governed by market forces and personal choices. I paid $165 for a procedure which I priced at over $1800 a decade ago.
    This idea that it is more noble and Christian to take the big, bad free market and individual choices out of medical care and have instead a one-size-fits-all administered by the geniuses of Nanny State fries me more than that lovely laser did last week!!!!!

  7. wmeyer says:

    “Kill the whole D**M bill!”

    Yes! The “problem” with health care costs having been created by government regs (and lack of tort reform) in the first place, the notion that it can be fixed by adding regs is beyond ludicrous.

    They love to talk about “market failure”, but never acknowledge that the market hasn’t been free since the Interstate Commerce Act was passed into law.

  8. LisaP. says:

    I think Johnno has a good point. Since the issue had to come to a head for the bishops to recognize and address it, invariably it came down to a point that is distinctly a Catholic one (these days), contraception being immoral. It’s a shame the bishops didn’t draw the line somewhere on more common ground, like on the grounds of subsidiarity — lots of nonCatholic Americans could have gotten behind the idea that an important thing like health care that can be handled best at the level closest to the individual shouldn’t be removed to the distant federal government. But they didn’t, so here we are, and this is the beach we’ve chosen to storm. We don’t have to make it “about” contraception, but if we don’t at least add in a brief note of explanation for why we call contraception immoral, we give our friends little to work with in supporting us.

    I also think cwillia1 and Cathy are right on point — rights are for individuals. Even I have less sympathy for “the diocese of X is being forced to Y” than I do for one bishop with a face standing in front of an interviewer saying, “I can’t do it, I believe it is wrong, I can’t sign that paper” — as well I should. I would like to see the Catholic bishops recognize that there are individual Americans all over the place being forced or being pressured to go against a conscience formed by their Catholic faith, many times due to government regulation or at least the culture within government bureaucracies. Think there are any public health nurses getting big promotions after refusing to oversea administration of condom distribution programs? They wouldn’t even have to make it a fight — just a recognition of sacrifice.

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