Will HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Representative Nancy Pelosi and VP Joe Biden, all professed Catholics, become examples of virtue or examples of duplicity?
The US Catholic Bishops and Obamacare: Some Options
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Barack Obama’s ability to attract the Catholic vote helped him get elected US President in 2008. “Nationally, Obama captured 53% of the Catholic vote, a 13-point swing from 2004 and the largest advantage among the group for a Democrat since Bill Clinton…” (Link)
The 2012 election may hold something different for Obama. The Catholic vote, or at least some of it, may abandon him. The Catholic voter may abandon Obama because the Pope and the American Catholic Bishops may ask Catholic voters to do just that.
“ABC News, reports, “The leading voice of Roman Catholic Bishops opposing a contraception mandate in the Obama administration’s health care law was named Tuesday as the 16th archbishop of Baltimore, the nation’s first diocese…”
“Bishop William E. Lori, 60, comes from the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., and has testified before Congress several times in the past few months on a proposed measure to make religious employers cover contraception for their employees.” (Link)
Add to Lori’s appointment the words of Cardinal Dolan of New York, and we have a growing Catholic opposition to Obamacare. Peter J. Boyer, writing for The Daily Beast, thinks that Cardinal Dolan’s contraception fight with Obama may be Obama’s downfall. Boyer writes, “It may turn out that President Obama’s most formidable opponent next fall will not be the Republican nominee, but the jolly archbishop of New York.”
“In mid-March, the bishops’ group led by Dolan forcefully reasserted its position…Dolan…made clear his commitment to the fight against what he called, “an unwarranted, unprecedented, radical intrusion into the integrity of the church, the internal life of the church.” (Link)
Supporting Dolan’s comments, the head of the Catholic League, Bill Donohue, “...warned that the nation’s 70 million Catholics are ready to go to war with the Administration’s dictates, saying, “Never before, unprecedented in American history, for the federal government to line up against the Roman Catholic Church. This is going to be fought out with lawsuits…maybe even in the streets.’” Strong talk, but Donohue was careful not to say Catholics ought to vote Republican over this issue. (Link)
Others besides the Catholic Bishops have spoken out against the administration’s move. Mark Brownfield writes in The Foundry that, “The Catholic Church is not alone in its opposition to Obamacare’s onslaught against religious freedom. David Addington, The Heritage Foundation’s vice president…details the growing ranks of the faithful who say the Obama Administration has crossed a very dangerous line. The National Association of Evangelicals commented that ‘The HHS rules trample on our most cherished freedoms…’”
Brownfield continues, “The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America stated, ‘In declining to expand the religious exemption within the healthcare reform law, the Obama Administration has disappointingly failed to respect the needs of religious organizations such as hospitals, social welfare organizations and more.’”
Likewise, “The Agudath Israel of America stated its opposition, as did the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America.” (Link)
All that said, other observers of the Catholic Bishops think the Bishops have more complex motives for their battle against Obamacare. Jerry Slevin, in a non-verified blog entry questions their motives. He asks:
“Is the pope and bishops’ strategy to replace Obama with a pliable Republican…who will not prosecute vigorously bishops and priests for crimes related to child sexual…I am of the opinion the answer is YES.” (Link)
The cynicism Selvin express would not be so cutting if many of the US Bishops had not gone along with a Obamacare in the beginning. Leona Salazar, in her article, “Another Deal with the Devil—What Did the Catholic Church Expect,” writes about that deal.
“... the Catholic Church was in favor of Obamacare… In November of 2009, for example, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops had ‘delivered a critical endorsement’ to Pelosi ‘by signing off on a late-night agreement to grant a vote on an amendment barring insurance companies that participate in the exchange from covering abortions.’”
“...so long as abortions would not be covered, the Bishops were officially in favor of a bureaucratic plan that could spell the end to freedom of choice in health care and the eventual bankruptcy of the U.S.”
Leona Salazar continues, “... Kevin Appleby, a representative of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, explained why the Bishops were so desperate to pass the health care bill. He said that the Bishops wanted a federal health plan to absorb the costs being borne by the nation’s 600 Catholic hospitals to cover illegal aliens.” (Link)
Salazar’s editorial opinions aside, for other observers, it looks like the Obama administration is going after the Catholic Church for political and ideological reasons. This accusation takes on meaning when it becomes known that the Amish have received exceptions to the Obamacare mandates, so why not Catholics?
According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “The Amish are exempt from the entire health care reform law…Yet, when the Catholic Church asks for a religious exemption from just one regulation issued under the law…the Administration balks.” (Link)
Why would the Obama administration single out the Catholic Church? For some, the answer is simple—all collectivist regimes must oppose organized religion. The state must fulfill the needs of men, not religious institutions. The Catholic Church has been and always will be a threat to Marxist and collectivist regimes.
CatholicEducation.org gives the example of Nazism in Germany and its attack on the Catholic Church last century. The Nazi’s attempt to eliminate all organizations supported by the Church may turn out to be one of the consequences of Obamacare, today.
“Though Hitler felt a particular urgency—and hatred—when dealing with Jews and Communists, he viewed the Catholic Church as a pernicious opponent, a deeply-entrenched threat that must be controlled and eventually uprooted from German life…”
“The most important strand of Nazi policy was, essentially, to strangle Catholicism by eliminating all organizations supported by the Church, from schools and children’s groups to Catholic Trade Unions..’”
Given the complexity of the ideological, pastoral and political situation Catholic leaders find they are in because of the healthcare law, what are some of their possible options? It looks to be that they have at least four choices.
Option One: The Catholic Church can go along with Obamacare’s mandates and move on to other issues. This seems highly unlikely, however, even if the majority of Catholic women use contraceptives. The issue that Obama has let loose is a moral one, not just a political one. If the Bishops back off from their opposition to Obamacare, they do so at their own peril.
The problem the Catholic Church now faces is that the issue of Omabacare has become, perhaps unintentionally, an existential issue. Furthermore, it has become an issue that calls into question the entire Democrat Party project and the Catholic Churches involvement with that project. Church leaders cannot simply walk away from this confrontation and keep their integrity.
Option Two: The Church hierarchy can try again to seek some compromise with the Obama administration and try to divert the Obamacare mandates. Perhaps this might have been an option earlier, but now it is clear that many of the US Bishops do not trust Obama. The deal they made with the devil is in reality a deal made with a liar.
Why the Catholic Church hierarchy would trust Obama in the first place is a question that now must be asked. According to Jack Cashill, “In 2002, as an Illinois state senator, Obama voted against the Induced Infant Liability Act and twice helped kill it in committee. This bill would have protected those miracle babies that somehow survived late-term abortions.” Obama’s position on abortion should have signaled the Bishops what was to come.
Option Three: Failing a compromise or an agreement, the Church can close their institutions. Hospital, schools, agencies that serve the poor, and universities will be ordered to shut their doors in stead of consenting to the Obamacare mandates.
Archbishop Nolan put it this way, ““I’m eager for some type of principled resolution…but if forced to give up our work, or get out of them—the running of Catholic schools, charities, and health facilities—“or do civil disobedience and pay the fines, those might be options that I’d have to look at…” This drastic action may indeed happen, especially if the US Supreme Court upholds the healthcare law, but before that happens, there may be another option.
Option Four: The Church and its leaders can work against the Democrats and against the reelection of Obama. They can also campaign for the repeal of Obamacare. This option may split the Church in the United States between liberal Catholic Democrats and conservative Catholics.
Some conservative Catholic theologians argue that a showdown between liberal and conservative Catholics is overdue. In their view, the secular, liberal United States furthers anti-Christian vales just as much as the Communists do. The defeat of Obama would be a victory for traditional morality and values in their eyes.
Can the Catholic Church be successful in defeating Obama’s bid for reelection? The Bishops certainly can count on most of the US hierarchy to follow the orders of Pope Benedict, if the Vatican decides to work against Obama. The laity is another matter.
Thomas Peters, writing in CatholicVote.org argues that Obama is in danger of losing the Catholic vote. He claims, “The Obama administration is treading on dangerous water here. Catholics don’t vote as a straight bloc, but winning the Catholic vote is critical to winning elections.”
Stephanie Simon, in a column for Reuters agrees with Peters. She thinks Obama risks the Catholic vote with the birth-control mandate. She writes, “Many Catholics—including key Catholic supporters of Obama—said the president gravely miscalculated, on both the moral issue and the political implications.”
Simon’s article continues, “These are questions that go to the heart of who we are as a people and as a church,” said Douglas Kmiec, a conservative legal scholar who broke from his fellow Republicans to campaign for Obama in 2008 as part of an influential group called Catholics for Obama. ‘There’s no question this will cause complications for Obama.” (Link)
The complications may extend beyond Obama. They may signal the failure of Catholic liberalism all together. James Hitchcock claims, “In the end, modern liberalism…has to do with control in the name of freedom. The bitterness that now suffuses the once-optimistic liberal movement is a belated awareness that—at least in the Catholic Church—that program has failed. (Link)
The Catholic Bishops have drawn a political line by their vocal opposition to Obamacare. Catholics, and especially Catholic politicians, cannot ignore that line. These politicians will stand on one side or the other. They will stand with the Bishops or stand against them.
We will see if the pundits are correct about some US Catholics, that these Catholics are liberals first and Catholics second. Will HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Representative Nancy Pelosi and VP Joe Biden, all professed Catholics, become examples of virtue or examples of duplicity?
If ten to fifteen percent of Catholic Democrats can be persuaded to vote Republican, then the Bishops just might be able to swing the November election in their favor. The Catholic Bishops may find a Mormon US President is preferable to a Marxist one.