Archive for the ‘Health Care Reform’ Category

The Sisters of Life Speak Out

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Today, the Sisters of Life issued a statement against the iniquitous HHS mandate that all health insurance plans cover sterilization and contraception (including drugs that cause abortions).  This is an important contribution to the discussion, because it presents a problem with the mandate (and with the health care reform law in general) that has not adequately been considered — the effect on individual religious sisters, brothers and priests.  Here is the statement, with a particularly important passage emphasized by me:

The Sisters of Life join with the Catholic Bishops of the United States, and leaders of many other religious communities, in strongly objecting to the Department of Health and Human Services rule for “preventative services,” and the “compromise” announced by President Obama regarding religious liberty.  This mandate will gravely violate the individual and collective religious liberties of the Sisters of Life and millions of others by forcing us to pay for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and artificial contraception against our conscience.

The Sisters of Life is a religious community of consecrated women, founded in 1991 by John Cardinal O’Connor. Ours is a religious community founded in the United States of America by a priest who dearly loved this country, and served as a Rear Admiral and Chief of Chaplains in the United States Navy. We, too, love our country. We are grateful to be a part of its proud history, for the generosity and valor of so many who call this nation home, and for the possibilities that arise from living authentic freedom within a pluralistic society. Yet now we are faced with a government decision that is not only a grave affront to the religious liberty and rights of conscience of every citizen of the United States, but also an offense to each Sister of Life in a particular way. Every professed member of our community takes a special vow “to protect and enhance the sacredness of human life.”

In response to a call from God and to the sheer beauty and goodness of the gift of life, each Sister dedicates herself to God that all people might come to know the precious gift of his or her life, and that every human life be protected and received as an unrepeatable icon of the living God. To this end, we defend vulnerable human life in the womb from the moment of conception, supporting and upholding mothers in need through emotional, spiritual and material support during and after their pregnancies.  Because the gift of life is intrinsically linked to love, we also affirm and fully support the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church regarding marriage and sexuality. This includes an understanding that sterilization and contraception are gravely against God’s plan for human life and love, and we believe, in the end, are false promises that undermine the peace and freedom in commitment that are fruits of authentic human love.

Our special fourth vow, made in a solemn and sacred ceremony and binding on us in conscience and in the laws of the Church, is at the heart of our identity as a religious community, and is a profound expression of the religious and spiritual commitment of each of our Sisters. This new rule pays no heed to our right to live according to our vows.  Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act each of us will be required by law to obtain health insurance, or face fines.  Since this HHS mandate will require every insurer to include abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and artificial contraception, we will not be able to obtain any coverage that is free from those “services,” and we will be forced to pay for them directly.  Since we are neither employers, nor employees, of any religious institution, we cannot even take advantage of the “religious exemption” contained in the new regulations or the “compromise.”

As a result, this mandate would coerce each and every individual Sister of Life to betray her religious vows.  We will be forced to pay for “services” that attack human life and deny the truth and beauty of human sexuality.  This would directly contradict our special religious vow to “to protect and enhance the sacredness of human life,” and go against everything we believe in and have devoted our lives to.  To us, it would be comparable to a law requiring a spouse to violate their marriage vows — an unthinkable intrusion upon a sacred promise.

This mandate is an offensive and dangerous infringement upon the natural and Constitutional rights of American citizens. The only just solution to this infringement of rights is to rescind the HHS rule.  We call upon members of Congress and the Executive Branch to reverse this decision as soon as possible, and we invite our fellow citizens to join with us in prayer and fasting that our Nation may be protected from this great threat against liberty.

The statement can be found at the Sisters’ website.  While you’re there, check out the wonderful work being done by the Sisters, and consider — what kind of society have we become, where our government would seek to force such women to be unfaithful to their vows? Can any of us think of a more egregious violation of the fundamental human right to religious freedom?

An Analogy May Help Us Understand

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

It continues to mystify me that some people just don’t seem to understand the idea that religious liberty is directly impacted by the HHS mandate that all insurance plans cover contraceptives (including abortion-causing drugs) and sterilization.

Let me try an analogy.

The status quo for health insurance prior to the health care law and the HHS mandate was very much like having an all-volunteer army.  In that situation, if you supported the war, you were free to join and fight, to buy and sell war bonds, and to advocate for the war.  If you didn’t support the war, you could just stand aside and let others serve.  You weren’t forced to advocate for the war, tell anyone about where the recruiting stations were, or pay their expenses when they were flying over to the war zone.  Yes, even those who oppose the war have to pay taxes, but the connection between them and the war expense was so remote as to be negligible.

In fact, if you joined the military but later developed moral scruples about the war, you could apply for a discharge as a conscientious objector.   Indeed, even during times of national emergency, when there is a military draft, ample accommodation is given to conscientious objectors (e.g., the Amish) who cannot serve in conscience.  Everybody understands that involuntarily enlisting those folks in the military is a terrible violation of their religious liberty.  Of course, nobody is ever required to speak in favor of the war or buy war bonds, and nobody would ever suggest that the government could force them to do so.

Compare this now to the situation with the HHS mandate for contraception and sterilization coverage.

Prior to the mandate, it was just like the all-volunteer military.  If you were an employer and you wanted to offer coverage for contraceptives, you were free to do so.  If you were an employee who wanted contraceptives, you could either buy them yourself, work for a company whose insurance plan covered it, or obtain a private insurance policy that covered it.  If you were an insurance company that wanted to provide that coverage, you were free to do so.

But, if you had objections to contraception, you also had lots of freedom to be a conscientious objector. If you were an employer and you didn’t want to offer coverage, you didn’t have to pay for it.  Your employees could just go out and get them on their own.  You didn’t even have to tell your employees anything about contraceptives, where to get them, etc.  If they wanted to know these things, they can look them up online.  If you were an employee who didn’t want anything to do with contraceptives, you could sign up for a policy that didn’t cover them.  And if you were an insurance company that didn’t want to pay for them, you were free not to do so (in most states).  In fact, even in the states that mandated contraceptive coverage, there were ways that employers and insurance companies could avoid it.

So, prior to the mandate, there was lots of freedom for everybody to act according to their consciences.

Under the mandate, though, all this freedom is lost.  Employers will not only have to pay for contraceptives, they will have to tell their employees all about them — in other words, money will be pulled directly from their pockets to pay for this stuff, and words will be pulled out of their mouths to promote it.  Individuals will have to obtain this insurance or have to pay a fine to the government (remember the individual mandate), whether they like it or not — so money will be pulled directly from their pockets to pay for this stuff for others.  Insurance companies will also have to offer it — pay for it and promote it.

There is virtually no way out of this mandate — the mandate is very, very broad, and the “religious liberty” exemption is very, very narrow.  Very few employers — and no individuals or insurance companies — will be able to claim conscientious objector status.

Think of how this will play out in the real world.

Imagine you’re a religious sister, working in a home for unwed mothers.  You firmly believe in the sacredness of human life and oppose contraception.  Prior to the mandate, you could obtain health insurance or not, depending on how you and your religious community felt about the economics of the deal.  If you did get coverage, you could shop around and find a policy that reflected your moral objections to contraception, abortion and sterilization.  But now, under the mandate, you have to get an insurance policy or risk paying a fine to the government.

Surely, you can see the loss of religious freedom.  This sister will have to pay for and promotes practices that are directly against her religious beliefs.

Now imagine that you’re a Church. Imagine that you self-insure — in other words, you collect money from employees and put it in an account, pay some more yourself into that account, and you use that money to cover the medical expenses of the employees.  Your own staff sets up this arrangement, issues and signs all the checks, tells the employees what services are covered or not, etc.  Your HR department will tell all your employees all about the health care plan, including what is covered.  Your HR department will issue fancy brochures with the name of your church all over it (and probably the signature of your bishop someplace in there), telling them what is covered.

I hope that you can see how this mandate will impact the freedom of speech and religion here — not only will the church be forced to directly pay for contraceptives, but church officials (including the bishop, ultimately) will be forced to tell employees that he will pay for their birth control pills or sterilization.  That’s a pretty huge impact on the religious liberty of that Church and it’s employees.

So, we’re basically in the situation of the conscientious objector/pacifist who not only is being forced to serve in the military, he’s being forced to buy and sell war bonds, write pro-war propaganda, and help other soldiers do what he morally objects to.

Is there any wonder, then, that the Catholic and Orthodox bishops, leaders of many Jewish and Protestant organizations, members of Congress, state officials, and (at last count) over 200 professors, legal experts, pundits and intellectuals, along with millions of the faithful, have raised their voices in outrage over this mandate?

A Time for Unity

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

The HHS  mandate has now been confirmed and implemented, in the same precise terms as were announced last year.  Under this regime, all individuals will be required to obtain health insurance that will provide free coverage for sterilization, contraception and some abortion-causing drugs.  The exemption for religious employers continues to be extremely limited, and all we have is the President’s promise that he will provide something more expansive at some undefined point in the future.

So, where do we go from here?

It’s very important that we not allow this issue to be understood solely in terms of election year partisan politics.  That’s unavoidable, of course — it is an election year, and it is already an issue in the campaign.  But for us, this is an issue that far transcends the current political climate.  This is an existential question for Catholics.  What does it mean to be a Catholic in America at this point in time?  What are we to do when our government enacts laws that we cannot, in conscience, obey?  How do I remain a good, law-abiding citizen, while also preserving my soul?

We have to recognize that we have reached a critical point of decision, both as a Church and as individual Catholics.  The political forces out there — the Administration and their opponents, along with all the pundits and spin-doctors — are seeking to divide us into opposing camps, in order to win votes or to advance policy goals.  Our bishops are trying to keep us united in the Body of Christ.

Listen for a second to what Cardinal George said the other day, during his periodic (ad limina) visit to the Holy Father — an event that enhances the universal unity of the Church.  He said (the emphasis is added by me):

Even in the midst of this strengthened unity, news of attempts to weaken the unity between the bishops and the faithful have been reported.  This is the first time in the history of the United States that a presidential administration has purposely tried to interfere in the internal working of the Catholic Church, playing one group off against another for political gain.  What isn’t always understood is that the Bishops of the Church make no attempt to speak for all Catholics; they never have.  The Bishops speak for the Catholic and apostolic faith, and those who hold that faith gather around them.  Others disperse. 

Just so.  Unity with our bishops has always been the hallmark of the Church.  As St. Ignatius of Antioch said in the early second century, “Wherever the bishop is, there let the people be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.”

Our bishops are calling us to rally around them, behind the standard of Christ.  It is sad that some people will disperse, and choose to follow a different standard — they will decide instead to accommodate themselves to the spirit of the age, with the Administration’s contraceptive anti-life ideology, or with various political forces.  Just as it was in Gethsemane, so also it is today.  Some will remain faithful, others will not.  Clearly, we need to conduct a prayer campaign to foster unity in the Church and a greater respect for human life (like this one, or this one, for instance).

All this is not to say, however, that we are to stand by and disengage from the public policy struggle.  Although it appears that the Administration is absolutely intransigent on this issue, there are still two other branches of government.  Court cases have already been filed, and more will follow, to challenge this violation of our religious freedom.  We can’t leave things to the courts, though — we need to work together and redouble our efforts to influence Congress to pass legislation to protect the right of conscience.  Bills like the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2012 deserve our support.  We should all be flooding Congress with emails and letters in support of them (an easy way is to go here).

As laypeople, we also need to remember that this is an election year, and that every member of the House of Representatives, one-third of the Senators, and the next President will all be elected in November.  This issue, as much as any in our lifetimes, should serve to remind us of our duty as Catholic voters.

Elections matter.

An Open Letter on the “Compromise”

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

(The following is an open letter signed by several prominent intellectuals, in response to the Administration’s “compromise”.  It is an important and cogent summary of the significance of that proposal, so I offer it to you in its entirety.  It was originally posted here.)

Today the Obama administration has offered what it has styled as an “accommodation” for religious institutions in the dispute over the HHS mandate for coverage (without cost sharing) of abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception. The administration will now require that all insurance plans cover (“cost free”) these same products and services.  Once a religiously-affiliated (or believing individual) employer purchases insurance (as it must, by law), the insurance company will then contact the insured employees to advise them that the terms of the policy include coverage for these objectionable things.

This so-called “accommodation” changes nothing of moral substance and fails to remove the assault on religious liberty and the rights of conscience which gave rise to the controversy.  It is certainly no compromise.  The reason for the original bipartisan uproar was the administration’s insistence that religious employers, be they institutions or individuals, provide insurance that covered services they regard as gravely immoral and unjust.  Under the new rule, the government still coerces religious institutions and individuals to purchase insurance policies that include the very same services.

It is no answer to respond that the religious employers are not “paying” for this aspect of the insurance coverage.  For one thing, it is unrealistic to suggest that insurance companies will not pass the costs of these additional services on to the purchasers.  More importantly, abortion-drugs, sterilizations, and contraceptives are a necessary feature of the policy purchased by the religious institution or believing individual.  They will only be made available to those who are insured under such policy, by virtue of the terms of the policy.

It is morally obtuse for the administration to suggest (as it does) that this is a meaningful accommodation of religious liberty because the insurance company will be the one to inform the employee that she is entitled to the embryo-destroying “five day after pill” pursuant to the insurance contract purchased by the religious employer.  It does not matter who explains the terms of the policy purchased by the religiously affiliated or observant employer.  What matters is what services the policy covers.

The simple fact is that the Obama administration is compelling religious people and institutions who are employers to purchase a health insurance contract that provides abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization.  This is a grave violation of religious freedom and cannot stand.  It is an insult to the intelligence of Catholics, Protestants, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslims, and other people of faith and conscience to imagine that they will accept as assault on their religious liberty if only it is covered up by a cheap accounting trick.

Finally, it bears noting that by sustaining the original narrow exemptions for churches, auxiliaries, and religious orders, the administration has effectively admitted that the new policy (like the old one) amounts to a grave infringement on religious liberty.  The administration still fails to understand that institutions that employ and serve others of different or no faith are still engaged in a religious mission and, as such, enjoy the protections of the First Amendment.

Signed:

John Garvey
President, The Catholic University of America

Mary Ann Glendon
Learned Hand Professor of Law, Harvard University

Robert P. George
McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University

O. Carter Snead
Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame

Yuval Levin
Hertog Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center

That’s a “Compromise”? Seriously?

Friday, February 10th, 2012

So now the Administration has offered what they call a “compromise” on the HHS contraception and abortion mandate.

In their initial comment, the Bishops have said that they need to study the proposal, and are hoping that it is a first step towards a genuine resolution of this problem.

Of course, as I’ve noted before, the whole notion of “compromise” means that you actually consult with others and come to a mutually agreed-upon settlement.  But the President apparently thinks that “spending months hammering out a solution was not going to be an option”.  So, instead, we have yet another ukase from our rulers, dressed up in the guise of a “reasonable accommodation”.

But it is nothing of the kind.

There are no details available that would allow us to evaluate the actual content of the proposal.  The Administration says that it will publish rules later today, and will defer some decisions until some time in the future.  Instead, we have a press release plus lots of political spin, where all the usual suspects are trotted out to try to put out the political fires that the Administration has brought upon itself.

Given the lack of details, we can’t tell if the key questions have been addressed:

  • How will they define a “religious employer”?  If there are any conditions on what kind of organizations will qualify as “religious”, based on the purpose of the organization is or the religious beliefs of the employees or clients, then it is still clearly unacceptable.
  • What kind of information will have to be provided to the employees? Will the employer be forced to refer people directly to contraception providers?  Will they be required to inform employees about what kind of contraceptive services are available from the insurance company?  Either way, it would force religious organizations to say things that are contrary to their beliefs.
  • Is there any provision for non-religious employers or individuals who do not want to subsidize abortion, sterilization or contraception?  Individuals have rights under the First Amendment and the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act — will they be ignored?
  • Given the Administration’s track record in this area, I personally expect that none of these questions will be answered in a way that is favorable to respect for human life and religious liberty.

    Perhaps the most cynical part of the proposal is the economics.  I cannot believe that anyone in the Administration is so naive about fundamental principles of economics that they think there is any such thing as a free lunch.  And yet, they claim that individuals will be able to obtain services free of charge, without the religious employer paying for them, because the insurance company will have to foot the entire bill.

    What, can insurance companies print money now, just as the government does, to cover deficits?

    Don’t they understand that the insurance companies will just pass the costs of these “free” services on to the employers, other employees, doctors, and ultimately taxpayers?  This is not that hard a concept.  In the real world, religious employers and individuals will still be compelled to pay for offensive services like sterilizations and early abortions — but the Administration is asking us to look the other way and pretend that it’s not happening.

    Since the Administration has shown no real interest in “compromise” in any meaningful sense, we may have reached a point where there is really no alternative.  All people who care about religious freedom and the defense of human life should unite in pressing Congress to pass an authentic conscience protection bill (like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2012). And we need to support either repeal or fundamental changes to the tainted tree that has borne this ugly fruit — the health care law as a whole.

    A Strange Notion of “Compromise”

    Thursday, February 9th, 2012

    I’ve been following politics my whole life.  I understand the politicians live in a different world than the rest of us.  But is still surprises me when they work from a different dictionary.

    We’re talking now about the Administration and their mandate that all employers, including Catholic institutions, will be forced to offer their employees health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception — free of charge.

    Having inadvertently dragged the Church into electoral year politics, the Administration has now started talking about “compromise” to take some of the heat off.  To most normal people, the word “compromise” means that people sit down, talk to each other as equals, and try to work out something that will respect each other’s beliefs and values.  An online dictionary defines it as “a settlement of differences by mutual concessions”.

    But the Administration seems to think that the word means “surrender your values, be quiet, and do what we tell you”.

    We’ve seen some of these “compromise” laws in other states, and they don’t resemble anything a normal person would consider to be a genuine “settlement of differences by mutual concessions”.  All of them run roughshod over religious liberty, and merely dress up the morally offensive mandate in slightly different clothing, in hopes that people won’t recognize it.  Here’s why:

  • The government cannot be in the business of defining what is a church and what is not.  The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment specifically forbids the government from picking its favorite churches and rewarding them, while penalizing those churches that are in official disfavor.  Yet all of these “compromise” laws would give the government the sole authority to determine who is a “religious employer” and who is not — and impose mandates on the unfavored, with potentials for onerous fines for those who don’t conform.
  • The government has no business investigating religious organizations or the religious beliefs of workers or clients.  In order to enforce these “compromise” laws, the government will have to poke around in the internal operations of churches, asking questions about their “primary purpose”, and even asking about the religious beliefs  of employees or clients.  It’s hard to imagine a more offensive intrusion on religious liberty.
  • The government cannot force people to say and do things that violate their religious and moral beliefs.  One of the “compromise” laws being talked about (Hawaii’s) requires religious employers to provide “written information describing how an enrollee may directly access contraceptive services” — in other words, it requires them to give people a direct referral to the local Planned Parenthood clinic.  Essentially, the government will be forcing words out of our mouths — words we find deeply offensive.
  • We’ve been down this road before.  We know the playbook.   Now that the Administration is facing some political heat, they’ve started talking about “compromise” — without being open to conceding anything real.  Next, we’ll see the release of polls that purport to show that the bishops are “out of touch” with Catholics — as if our constitutional rights are disposable, based on the shifting whims of public opinion.  Dissenting Catholics will be trotted out, to talk about their disagreements with Church teaching.  Then, there will be “gotcha” moments where the advocates will lead the media to agencies that are already complying with similar mandates under protest, and imply that we don’t really mean what we say.  The bishops and their supporters will be labeled “heartless” and “anti-woman”, and will be on the receiving end of protests and heart-rending “human interest” stories.  It will be unpleasant and personal, with sharp elbows thrown in the corners — that’s the way that ideological politics is played by the devotees of the Culture of Death.

    And, they won’t stop with contraceptives and sterilizations.  Forcing insurance plans to cover surgical abortion is clearly next — a bill to that effect is moving forward in Washington State, and one has been introduced in the New York Legislature.  And once they’re finished with gutting our religious liberty, they’ll move on to someone else’s freedoms.

    The best solution to this problem is to eliminate this awful mandate.  There is no compelling need to provide sterilization and hormonal contraceptives, free of charge to users, while all the rest of us — including those of us who consider those services to be dangerous and immoral — pick up the tab in higher insurance premiums.

    There is no compelling reason — outside of anti-life ideology — to throw out the First Amendment, all in the name of a phony “compromise”.

    The Strange World of Nancy Pelosi

    Friday, October 14th, 2011

    I have written before of the exasperating public statements of the former Speaker of the House, now House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi.  Ms. Pelosi continually touts her status as a “devout Catholic”, yet equally often allows the strangest statements to emit from her mouth.

    Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed a bill called the Protect Life Act.  This bill would amend the health care reform law to ensure that no federal funds are used for elective abortions, that no insurance plan covering elective abortion receives federal funds, and that conscience protection laws are strengthened.  A wide majority of the House supported the bill — the vote was 251-172 — and opinion polls show broad support in the general public for its provisions.

    Enter Ms. Pelosi.  She opined on the floor of the House that “Under this bill… they will be voting to say that women can die on the floor and health care providers do not have to intervene if this bill is passed.”

    The specific part of the bill that she was apparently referring to would ensure that any health care worker who has religious or moral objections to abortion would not be required to participate.  That is already guaranteed to a certain extent under other provisions of federal and state laws, but it was necessary to extend it to the health care law.

    Of course, there is no evidence whatsoever that any woman has ever died as a result of a conscience objection by a health care worker.  In fact, as far as anyone can tell, the only women who have died in connection with abortion are the millions of unborn ones, the unfortunate mothers who go into unsafe and unsanitary clinics, or those who take dangerous abortion drugs dispensed by the likes of Planned Parenthood.  Does the name Kermit Gosnell ring a bell, Madam Minority Leader?

    But in this area, the mind of Ms. Pelosi is apparently impervious to the truth and to reason, and she occupies a strange world of her own invention.  She demonstrates the wisdom of St. Paul’s observation about those who ignore how God reveals Himself to us in creation: “they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. ” (Rom 1:21)

    This is yet another occasion to recall one of my favorite statements by Cardinal Egan, in response to an earlier set of absurd comments by Ms. Pelosi:

    We are blessed in the 21st century with crystal-clear photographs and action films of the living realities within their pregnant mothers. No one with the slightest measure of integrity or honor could fail to know what these marvelous beings manifestly, clearly, and obviously are, as they smile and wave into the world outside the womb. In simplest terms, they are human beings with an inalienable right to live, a right that the Speaker of the House of Representatives is bound to defend at all costs for the most basic of ethical reasons. They are not parts of their mothers, and what they are depends not at all upon the opinions of theologians of any faith. Anyone who dares to defend that they may be legitimately killed because another human being “chooses” to do so or for any other equally ridiculous reason should not be providing leadership in a civilized democracy worthy of the name.

     

    Secularism in Action

    Friday, September 23rd, 2011

    In my last post, I proposed that many of our social and political disputes stem from a fundamental conflict in how one views the human person — the Secularist view versus the Incarnational view.  That may or may not be an interesting point, but how does it play out in the real world?

    To see the impact of this conflict, we need look no further than the recently-announced regulations by the federal Department of Health and Human Services.  The Department was acting pursuant to a provision in the health care “reform” law that mandates coverage of “preventive services”, a term that would ordinarily encompass medical care that prevents diseases.  The Department, reflecting the Administration’s contraceptive mentality, has decided that pregnancy is a disease to be prevented, and has mandated that every private health insurance plan cover — without any charge to the insured person — contraceptive drugs and devices (including some that clearly have the effect of causing an abortion) and sterilization surgery.

    I’m not going to discuss the absurdity and iniquity of this proposal.  Those should be self-evident.  I want to focus for now on how it demonstrates the impact of  Secularism on religious liberty.

    HHS has proposed an exemption from this rule for “religious employers”.  Note this — not religious individuals, who will be forced to pay premiums for immoral drugs and procedures.  Not religious insurance companies, which will be forced to pay for them.  Only religious employers can be exempt, if they satisfy HHS’s view of what that term means.

    It is in this definition that we find the Secularist attack on religion and on human liberty.   HHS has defined “religious employer” to mean only an organization (a) whose purpose is the inculcation of religious values, (b) that primarily hires persons who share the  organization’s religious tenets, and (c) that primarily serves person who share those tenets.  So, you only count as a religious institution if you are solely religious in your activities, and you refrain from interacting with anyone else — in other words, if you keep your religion entirely in the private sphere, and dare not step out into society as a whole.

    Think of how narrow this definition is.  Every Catholic social service or health care agency serves the needy, regardless of their faith.  Every Catholic parish has many purposes, including the celebration of liturgy and sacraments and the salvation of souls.  Every Catholic school has multiple educational purposes beyond just inculcating religious values.

    Jesus himself  wouldn’t qualify for this exemption.

    The regulation raises many disturbing questions for the future of religious liberty in our nation.  How will HHS determine whether an organization qualifies?  How will they determine what the purpose of the institution is?  How will they tell if the employees or clients share our religious tenets?  Will there be a test given by HHS?  Will people be asked about their beliefs by a government official?  Will a government agency, perhaps called the State Administration for Religious Affairs, be set up to make these determinations or to issue certificates or licenses to religious groups?

    The point here is not just the reflexive hostility that this regulation displays for religion and religious believers.  Rather, it is that the government considers itself authorized or qualified to define what an authentic religious organization is.  And that in their mind, the only acceptable religion is the one that keeps to itself, keeps quiet, and follows orders.

    This is the impact of Secularism on our society, with all the coercive power of the government at its disposal.

    What He Really Means

    Friday, August 5th, 2011

    In May 2009, the President went to Notre Dame University to receive an honorary degree, and to address the graduating class.  Many of us believed that this was a profoundly scandalous invitation by the administration of the University, which purports to be Catholic.

    In response, we were tutted and shushed by those who, like the gullible priest who heads the University, thought that it would be the beginning of a “dialogue” between the pro-abortion President and the pro-life community, particularly with the Church.

    Indeed, on that day, the President said this:

    When we open our hearts and our minds to those who may not think precisely like we do or believe precisely what we believe—that’s when we discover at least the possibility of common ground….  Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded not only in sound science but also in clear ethics as well as respect for the quality of life.

    Two years later, we have yet another demonstration of what it means when the President speaks about issues of life and death.  It means this — his words have the exact opposite meaning from what he says, and  you can always expect that he will do everything in his power to advance the Culture of Death.

    Earlier this week, the President’s Secretary of Health and Human Services announced that, pursuant to the health care “reform” law, all health insurance plans in the United States would be required to cover — free of charge to the insured person — all forms of contraceptives, under the rubric of “preventive care”.

    This includes hormonal contraceptives, which corrupt women by treating their healthy fertility as if it were diseased.  It includes “intrauterine devices” which are early mechanisms of abortion.  It includes “ella”, a “morning after pill” that is acknowledged by its own manufacturer to work as an abortion pill.  And it writes into law a powerful anti-life message, which teaches people that a new human life is an enemy to be poisoned at its earliest stages — to be “prevented”, and not welcomed.

    For those individuals who object to this?  Nothing.  No chance of opting out.  No “choice”, to use a favored word of the President’s.

    For those religious institutions that object to this?  Nothing — just an “exemption” that is so transparently phony that it is an insult.

    This has been yet another important lesson.  When the President speaks, it’s important that we translate his words into plain English.  By “common ground”, he means “I will compel you to agree with me or face the consequences”.  By “honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion”, he means “ignore their concerns and force them to pay for abortions and abortifacient contraceptives”.  By “draft a sensible conscience clause” he means “enact a fig leaf of a provision that everyone will know to be bogus”.  And by “grounded in clear ethics as well as respect for the quality of life” he means “pushing policies that advance the culture of death and the agenda of those who worship it, regardless of the cost in human lives or souls”.

    And by “dialogue”, he really means “force you to surrender your beliefs and buy into the killing of children and the degradation of women”.

    Varia

    Sunday, February 20th, 2011

    The following are some of the highlights from the daily email briefing about news and events, which I send out to some of my friends and contacts (if you’re interested in subscribing to the daily mailing, leave your email address in the comments box):

  • Robert George weighs in on the Live Action debate.
  • Philosopher Christopher Tollefsen responds to those who disagreed with his moral critique of Live Action’s tactics.  Other response here and herePeter Kreeft defends Live Action,  as does Hadley Arkes.
  • As a charter member of the Kathryn Jean Lopez Fan Club, I give you three of her pieces: on the power of pro-life witness, the suffering of women, and the culture of death; an interview with Maggie Gallagher on the current status of the defense of marriage; and an interview of Brad Wilcox on the overall health  of marriage.
  • The forces of “tolerance” refuse to brook any dissent.  Now the “gay rights” crowd is going after the iPhone app that helps people prepare for Confession, because it has the audacity to state that homosexual acts are sinful.  Note the chilling term they use — “anti-gay spiritual abuse”.  In 1984, Orwell used the term “thoughtcrime”.
  • An amendment to the federal budget will cut funding from abortionists.  Also, the Protect Life Act, which will remove abortion funding from the health care law, has been approved by committee and sent to the full House for consideration.  The Democrats in Congress, however, continue to rally behind Planned Parenthood and resist measures to defund them.
  • A positive initiative in Kansas to support pregnant women.  Here in New York, of course, our Governor cut all funding for the pro-life Maternity and Early Childhood Foundation, while continuing unlimited Medicaid funding for abortion and tons of money for Planned Parenthood.  Red states, blue states.
  • Wesley Smith explains how to fight against the evil thoughts of Peter Singer, the Princeton philosopher who justifies infanticide.  Smith warns that we must oppose this now, lest infanticide become as accepted as abortion is now.
  • Why is our government funding an international program that is making it easier to carry on the exploitation of “sex workers”, including minors?
  • The Brave New World, Northern Chapter — a Canadian court will permit doctors to remove life support from a gravely ill baby, against her parent’s wishes; the court rejected the parents’ request to bring her home so she can die among her family.
  • The fight to keep Ireland pro-life continues.
  • (Please note that these links will take you to websites that are not affiliated with the Archdiocese.  We neither take responsibility for nor endorse the contents of the websites.)