Mandate Fact #3 — Dragging Words Out of Our Mouths

One of the most common claims that we’ve heard is that the HHS mandate actually won’t be a big deal in practice, and that the Church is either “crying wolf” or being hyper-sensitive.  The argument is that the Administration’s “accommodation” means that the responsibility for paying for the offensive services has been shifted from the employer to the insurer, so religious employers and individuals have nothing to worry about.

This is not at all accurate, and fails to account for how the mandate will work in practice.

The reality is that the mandate will drag words out of our mouths that we would never freely choose to utter, and force us to do things that we would never freely do.  It will coerce direct and repeated conduct and speech by Church employees — acting on the authority of and in the name of the diocese and the bishop.

Consider how an employer selects and administers a health insurance program for their employees.  Contracts for health insurance coverage must be negotiated and signed by a diocesan official, usually a high ranking official like the director of Human Resources, the Chief Financial Officer, or the Chancellor.  These contracts are then packaged into a plan booklet, which is issued by the Human Resources office in the name of the diocese, and usually accompanied by a letter to employees from a high ranking official — or even the bishop himself.  Details about the plan are usually incorporated into the official personnel manual of the diocese, which is issued by the Human Resources department and often promulgated by the bishop himself or a high ranking official designated by him.

Officials in the Human Resources department, and every individual department and institution, will process applications for insurance coverage, and will routinely discuss the details of the plan with current and prospective employees.  In the case of any self-insured diocese, there is a further layer of involvement between the diocese and the services, since diocesan officials or their agents will have to issue checks drawn on diocesan funds, to pay for the services.

At each of these instances, a diocesan official would be taking formal and specific knowledge of the details of the health insurance plan.  They will also be required to do things — taking a action or making a statement — that specifically endorse the insurance policy as a formal act of the diocese, and thus of the bishop himself.

This strikes directly at the heart of individual and institutional freedom of conscience.  Throughout American history, we have shown by exempting people from laws that would violate their religious beliefs — for example, think of Jehovah Witnesses and the Pledge of Allegiance, or Quakers with the military draft.  Our laws contain hundreds of such exemptions.  They represent, in many ways, the best part of the American character.

This regulation, on the other hand, represents the worst part of modern America — the exercise of raw political power to deny the rights of an entire class of people, and to benefit a favored class of political supporters, all in the service of an anti-life ideology.

We must resist.

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6 Responses to “Mandate Fact #3 — Dragging Words Out of Our Mouths”

  1. Mary says:

    This is my “what is going on with the Catholic Church in America” question for today. It comes from a National Catholic Reporter story about the Easter Prayer Breakfast this morning at the White House attended by the following prominent catholics:

    Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington read from the New Testament at the prayer breakfast. Other prominent Catholcs in the room included Rev. Charles Currie, S.J., Rev. Thomas Reese, S.J., Rev. Clete Kiley, Rev. Anthony Pogorelc, S.S., Sr. Carol Keehan, Sr. Simone Campbell, Rev. Larry Snyder, and CUA Professor Stephen Schneck.

    http://ncronline.org/blogs/distinctly-catholic/easter-prayer-breakfast-white-house

    Do you suppose the prominent Catholic in attendance were part of the laughter and Amens when the President ended his comments saying:

    “We all have experiences that shake our faith. There are times where we have questions for God’s plan relative to us — (laughter) — but that’s precisely when we should remember Christ’s own doubts and eventually his own triumph. Jesus told us as much in the book of John, when He said, “In this world you will have trouble.” I heard an amen. (Laughter.) Let me repeat. “In this world, you will have trouble.”

    AUDIENCE: Amen!

    THE PRESIDENT: “But take heart!” (Laughter.) “I have overcome the world.” (Applause.) We are here today to celebrate that glorious overcoming, the sacrifice of a risen savior who died so that we might live. And I hope that our time together this morning will strengthen us individually, as believers, and as a nation.”

    And this during Holy Week? What a disgrace for our Church.

  2. Ed Mechmann says:

    As Shakespeare once said, even the devil can quote scripture for his purpose, so it doesn’t particularly trouble me when a politician does so.

    I tend to take these kinds of events for what they’re worth — an act of the “public religion”, so I view a bishop attending them merely as an “honor the emperor” kind of thing (1 Peter 2:17). Civility, and little more.

  3. Mary says:

    I’m sorry but there is something horribly compartmentalized about this….that leading Catholic dissidents (in my judgment) can give a public relations moment to the president who is leading the charge to bring down (in my opinion) the Catholic Church? Huh?

  4. Ed Mechmann says:

    I don’t think it’s really that big a deal, or that it undermines the Church’s public witness. The public stance of the bishops is very well known about the HHS mandate, legalized abortion, etc. The internal disagreements within the Church are also well known, and will have to be dealt with internally. I don’t think that joining in a public prayer event minimizes those realities. In fact, I think that it would have been a bigger story, and one that would have reflected badly on the Church, if Cardinal Wuerl had declined to attend. That would have been seen as an uncivil snub to the President and to the other religious leaders.

    I compare this situation to a pastor joining in an ecumenical prayer service. Everybody knows there are significant theological differences between the participants, and the joint effort shouldn’t pretend that these differences don’t matter. We can still pray alongside each other, and be civil to each other. A good example of this is the way Pope Benedict handled the ecumenical prayer event at Assisi — warm greetings to leaders of other faiths, respectful listening to them, but clear statements about what we believe.

  5. James Leach, MD says:

    President Obama is not bringing down the Church! The Pope and bishops are doing a good job on their own by inept handing of pedophilia in the church and reprimanding sister conscious of social justice. The HHS mandate is good public health policy.
    If you want to decrease the number of abortions, give sex education courses to high school students and provide contraception to women who want it.

  6. James Leach, MD says:

    President Obama is not bringing down the Church! The Pope and bishops are doing a good job on their own by inept handing of pedophilia in the church and reprimanding sisters conscious of social justice. The HHS mandate is good public health policy.
    If you want to decrease the number of abortions, give sex education courses to high school students and provide contraception to women who want it.