Lifesite News, on Friday Jan. 20, 2012, reported the US episcopacy’s apparent frustration with Obama’s decision / proclamation which permits NO exemptions to contraceptive coverage. As one wag said: “Even Jesus Himself couldn’t squeeze out a conscience exemption.” The following is an excerpt of the Lifesite News article by Kathleen Gilbert; the full story can be found at:
Obama admin: birth control mandate is final; bishops vow to fight
“… Obama’s health department has dug in its heels, saying its decision to force employers to provide abortifacient birth control drugs will continue as planned – although faith-based groups will be given a year reprieve. In response, U.S. Catholic bishops have not minced words, vowing to fight the order as ‘literally unconscionable.’
… faith-based entities … will have until August 1, 2013 to provide employees with free birth control … The mandate will also force such groups to pay for sterilizations and … abortifacient drugs … as ‘contraception.’ The mandate is being implemented as part of the new health care legislation … despite vigorous opposition from U.S. Catholic bishops, who called it dangerously open to being used as a means of spreading abortion.
‘In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences,’ said Archbishop Timothy Dolan [who] indicated that the Catholic Church would not go down without a fight. … ‘ To force American citizens to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their healthcare is literally unconscionable,’ he continued. ‘It is as much an attack on access to health care as on religious freedom….’
‘It is the greatest irony, that by worshiping the cult of ‘choice’ the Obama Administration has determined that religious organizations lack the freedom to act in fidelity to their beliefs,’” said Patrick J. Reilly, President of The Cardinal Newman Society….”
The groundwork for this outrage was laid only a little over 5 years ago, and then reinforced by the abject failure of the US Bishops to lead their flock to recognize the dangers in Obama the candidate, in Obamacare, or in the many emerging moral issues being bent to the whim of an increasingly secular culture. But on the singular issue of employers of Catholic institutions being mandated to pay for contraceptives, was the failure in the USCCB more glaring than in New York State? Here is an article from the Catholic News Service in October 2006, recounting the loss: (NB: at the site cited, there was no mention of copyright, so it is reproduced in its entirety:)
Catholic groups suffer tough religious liberties loss, must provide contraception
“Albany, N.Y., Oct 20, 2006 / 12:00 am (CNA).- The New York Catholic Conference is considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court after a New York State Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that Catholic and other religious social service groups must provide contraceptive coverage through their workplace-sponsored medical insurance programs, regardless of their faith views on the matter.
New York law does exempt churches, seminaries, and other institutions with a more overt religious mission and which primarily serve followers of that religion. However, according to The Associated Press, the 6-0 decision hinged on defining Catholic Charities and the other nine religious groups suing the state as social service agencies, rather than religious organizations.
The court said: ‘We must weigh against (their) interests in adhering to the tenets of their faith the state’s substantial interest in fostering equality between the sexes, and in providing women with better health care.’ The court cited as a critical factor the fact that these religions organizations hire employees outside their faith and that those employees deserve ‘rights’ guaranteed under the law.
Dennis Poust, spokesman for the Catholic conference, said he believes this ruling demonstrated ‘a fundamental misunderstanding of Catholicism,” which holds fast to the tenet that “faith without works is dead (James 2:17).’ ‘Faith alone is not enough … and the way the Church performs its works of mercy is through its Catholic Charities, its schools and its hospitals — all of which the state has now held is secular,’ he was quoted as saying in an AP report.
Poust said his organization never believed that the court case was really about contraception. ‘We think it was to target the church and open the door for coverage of abortion,’ he said.
At issue is the 2002 Women’s Health Wellness Act, a measure that, in addition to prescription contraceptives, requires employers to provide health insurance coverage for mammograms, cervical cytology, and bone density screening. As Catholic Charities considers an appeal, it will continue to cover contraceptives for employees, under protest. If the decision stands, the organization could consider either dropping prescription drug coverage for employees or moving to a self-insurance policy, Poust said.”
Note, in particular, the prescient words shown in bold red above. And isn’t that exactly where the secular forces have pushed the Church today, and why is there any reason at all to believe this is the end of it? It isn’t. Although the case was apparently appealed to the US Supreme Court, it seems to have been done through the narrow lens of just Catholic Charities, leaving the flank exposed of all remaining Catholic entities, schools, hospitals, dioceses, etc. Within a year, the Supreme Court had refused to hear the narrow appeal. And within 5 years, the Obamacare legislation and its implementation has moved deeper into the heart of the church, and some of the “alternatives” proposed above now are not even possible.
Supreme Court rejects appeal of law requiring contraception coverage
“WASHINGTON (CNS) — The Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Catholic Charities of Albany, N.Y., Oct. 1, letting stand a state court ruling that said church agencies cannot be exempt from a law requiring coverage for contraceptives in drug benefits for employees. The New York State Catholic Conference, which represents the state’s Catholic bishops in public policy matters, said the bishops will now consider what alternatives have been left to them, ‘including the painful possibility of a loss of prescription drug benefits in employee health plans.’ In the meantime, it said in a statement, ‘Catholic institutions will continue for the immediate future providing the contraception coverage under formal protest.’ The conference’s executive director called it ‘a sad day for religious liberty’ in New York and in the U.S. In orders issued the first day of the 2007-08 term, the court without comment let stand a New York State Court of Appeals ruling that said religious groups may not be exempt from provisions of the Women’s Health and Wellness Act of 2002.”
And what further action did the NYS Bishops take? Did any act in civil disobedience? Go to jail or pay a fine for disobedience? I find it particularly appalling to read “‘Catholic institutions will continue for the immediate future providing the contraception coverage under formal protest.” Did anything further happen at all? Any more resistance? What about in other states? What’s the “rest of the story?”
One never knows how important the next skirmish will be, the next need to speak out, the implications for thousands from something in which only one small organization or person was involved. That is why faithfulness is so important, even when the matter seems decided already or unimportant or scary. One would have thought that the roosting chickens would have at least avoided aligning with a sinful administration, that the President of a noted Catholic University would have avoided inviting a person of such suspect values to address graduates, that pulpits would have been ringing out in condemnation during the 2008 election, and now too, on the issues. But perhaps the chickens are snoozing comfortably in the rafters, unaware that the fox, covered in chicken feathers, has been building a ladder to their perches? What is it that they have gained by being so impassive? Remember the early martyrs who died rather than put a single grain of incense on the fire to the Emperor. And then let’s remember again.
Hosea 2:13: “And I will punish her for the feast days of the Ba’als when she burned incense to them and decked herself with her ring and jewelry, and went after her lovers, and forgot me, says the LORD.”