Posted by Christopher Johnson | Monday, February 27th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 22 Comments

You Roman Catholic bishops have had your fun and put on your little temper tantrum, the editors of The REAL Magisterium Wannabe Episcopalian Weekly America write.  But the adults are here now so why don’t you all just look liturgically impressive, babble a little Latin and keep your stupid opinions to yourselves.  We’ll take it from here: 

For a brief moment, Catholics on all sides were united in defense of the freedom of the Catholic Church to define for itself what it means to be Catholic in the United States. They came together to defend the church’s institutions from morally objectionable, potentially crippling burdens imposed by the Obama administration under the Affordable Care Act. Catholic journalists, like E. J. Dionne and Mark Shields, and politicians, like Tim Kaine and Robert P. Casey Jr., joined the U.S. bishops in demanding that the administration grant a broad exemption for religiously affiliated institutions from paying health care premiums for contraceptive services. Then, on Feb. 10, President Obama announced a compromise solution by which religious institutions would be exempt from paying the objectionable premiums but women would not be denied contraceptive coverage. A confrontation that should never have happened was over. But not for long.

Every single time we let the hierarchy think it’s in charge, the idiots completely screw things up.  Every.  Single.  Time.

After a nod to the White House’s retreat as “a first step in the right direction,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops rejected the president’s “accommodation” as insufficient. Their statement presented a bill of indictments on the fine points of public policy: It opposed any mandate for contraceptive coverage, expanded the list of claimants for exemption to include self-insured employers and for-profit business owners and contested the administration’s assertion that under the new exemption religious employers would not pay for contraception. Some of these points, particularly the needs of self-insured institutions like universities, have merit and should find some remedy. Others, with wonkish precision, seem to press the religious liberty campaign too far.

“Some of these points…have merit and should find some remedy?”  From where?  From the same people who wrote the initial rule and the transparently fraudulent “compromise?”  I can’t for the life of me understand why the bishops might be reluctant to take that offer.  Foxes, hen houses and all that.

And it’s difficult for me to see how the objections of the bishops constitute “press[ing] the religious liberty campaign too far” since forcing Church ministries to facilitate the acquisition of free contraceptives by any employee who wants them is the only option left on the table.  The idea of not being forced to provide free birth control at all seems no longer to be possible.

The bishops have been most effective in influencing public policy when they have acted as pastors, trying to build consensus in church and society, as they did in their pastorals on nuclear war and the economy. The American public is uncomfortable with an overt exercise of political muscle by the hierarchy. Catholics, too, have proved more responsive to pastoral approaches. They expect church leaders to appeal to Gospel values, conscience and right reason. They hope bishops will accept honorable accommodations and, even when provoked, not stir up hostility. In the continuing dialogue with government, a conciliatory style that keeps Catholics united and cools the national distemper would benefit the whole church.

I think you all know what’s going on there.  It’s the age-old story.  As long as the bishops are commenting on the issues that are important to the America editorial staff the right issues, we’re behind them 100%.  But once they move on to those…other issues(you know the ones America means), they are exercising “political muscle” and contributing to the “national distemper.”

On issues like nuclear war and the economy, the bishops should certainly take no prisoners and accept no compromises.  But on those relatively trivial issues that the laity constantly insists on whining about, Roman Catholic bishops need to “accept honorable accomodations,” they need to “not stir up hostility,” and, most importantly, they need to be “conciliatory.”

After all, we have the example constantly before us of the Author and Finisher of our faith Who was always willing to accept honorable accomodations, Who never stirred up hostility and Whose first name was Conciliatory.  Actually, we don’t have that at all.  What the heck was I thinking?

The campaign also risks ignoring two fundamental principles of Catholic political theology. Official Catholic rights theory proposes that people should be willing to adjust their rights claims to one another. It also assigns to government the responsibility to coordinate contending rights and interests for the sake of the common good. The campaign fails to acknowledge that in the present instance, claims of religious liberty may collide with the right to health care, or that the religious rights of other denominations are in tension with those of Catholics. But as Pope Benedict XVI wrote in “Deus Caritas Est,” the church does not seek to “impose on those who do not share the faith ways of thinking and modes of conduct proper to the faith.” Furthermore, the campaign fails to admit that the administration’s Feb. 10 solution, though it can be improved, fundamentally did what Catholic social teaching expects government to do—coordinate contending rights for the good of all.

Um…nuh-uh.  I have no idea what “Catholic rights theory” really consists of but I seriously doubt that “adjust[ing] their rights claims to one another” obligates Catholics to commit sins themselves or acquiesce in their commission. 

As for the “contending rights” that America believes were coordinated by the Administration’s “compromise,” we have the long-established Constitutional right of Christian churches to order their own affairs versus the newly-created “right” to free birth control pills, a “right” which remains in place by means of an accounting trick.

Once again, there is no possibility of the Catholic Church not being forced to provide free birth control at all; the default position is the liberal one.  And that is not coordination of contending rights at all; it is soft tyranny.

By stretching the religious liberty strategy to cover the fine points of health care coverage, the campaign devalues the coinage of religious liberty. The fight the bishop’s conference won against the initial mandate was indeed a fight for religious liberty and for that reason won widespread support. The latest phase of the campaign, however, seems intended to bar health care funding for contraception. Catholics legitimately oppose such a policy on moral grounds. But that opposition entails a difference over policy, not an infringement of religious liberty. It does a disservice to the victims of religious persecution everywhere to inflate policy differences into a struggle over religious freedom. Such exaggerated protests likewise show disrespect for the freedom Catholics have enjoyed in the United States, which is a model for the world—and for the church.

What are you mackeral snappers complaining about?  It’s not like anyone’s burning down your churches or anything.  And you don’t have to pay for anyone’s abortion so chill out. 

But here’s the problem.  A government that thinks it has the right to determine what are or are not Christian ministries is a government that can(and probably one day will) not only order Christian hospitals to provide free birth control but also order Christian hospitals and churches to provide free abortions for any staff member who wants one.

Were that to happen, what would America say?  That the bishops shouldn’t be so “wonkish” because this is yet anothern policy difference that doesn’t rise to the level of religious persecution?  That the bishops shouldn’t “provoke hostility” and need to take the lead toward cooling the “national distemper” over the fact that the Church is now being forced to participate in one of the greatest evils it is possible to conceive simply because somebody claims a right to access to it?

And does America seriously believe that Catholic episcopal protests over Administration health policy “show disrespect for the freedom Catholics have enjoyed in the United States?”  How does exercising one’s Constitutional rights show disrespect for freedom?

America seems to be saying that the bishops may provoke a political, legal and cultural backlash and, given Administration hostility to the Church, they may well be right.  But I think something else is in play here.  This journal also seems to implicitly suggest that if this country’s Roman Catholic bishops continue to raise too much of a fuss, such a backlash ought to happen.

22 Comments to EPISCOCATS

February 27, 2012

Counselor to Wife:

He promised to stop hitting you in the face. I don’t know why you are complaining about the stomach punches. This is a good compromise and you don’t want to make him mad.

[…] here to read the brilliant rest.  For the Jesuits of America, when it comes to choosing between the […]

February 27, 2012

Good for you Catholic business owners to know that America considers defense of your religious consciences “press[ing] the religious liberty campaign too far.” They might, maybe, defend self-insured Catholic institutions, but individuals — feh.

Michael Berry
February 27, 2012

I must admit to being stunned by the illogical on the liberal/progressives that is being offered with a straight face and (apparently) with all sincerity. To wit: Your refusal to pay for something that I want, amounts to you forbidding me to buy it for myself.

The assault on freedom of religion is blatant to anyone who has the courage to see and is not willfully refusing to see it.

However this would never have come to pass had not Congress and the President violated the Constitution by claiming that the Commerce Clause gives the government the power to require people to buy things in the first place.

Dale Matson
February 27, 2012

“The American public is uncomfortable with an overt exercise of political muscle by the hierarchy.” I would agree with this statement IF it was a reference to our government and not the church.The state of Wyoming has legislation pending that would allow them to operate as an independent entity should the federal government collapse. Is this the canary in the mine?

Allen Lewis
February 27, 2012

I just love the contortions that LibCats have to go through to keep supporting the Obama Administration. It is amusing, to say the least.

But this is dangerous thinking when it comes to what the Constitution of the United States of America actually says about the limits of the federal government in religious matters.

That is the Bishops purview, not the governments.

February 27, 2012

With Catholics like America, who needs mainline Protestants?

February 27, 2012

“Official Catholic rights theory proposes that people should be willing to adjust their rights claims to one another.”

I believe, Christopher, what the gentleman in question thinks he means is by reference to the principle of subsidiarity.

However, the notion of competing rights only works if you assign the value of a right to the idea of access to contraceptives (whether it be free or not) or even, for us Pope-worshippers, the very idea of preventing conception in the first place by artificial means. And being led around by the nose by the Tyrant of the Seven Hills, some of us as a matter of fact do swallow the notion that artificial sterility (whether permanent or induced for a period of time) is not an actual human right with which we were endowed by our Creator. Shocking, I know!

As to the perils of (a) making contraception and access to same a right (b) enforced, not merely safeguarded, by the government of the state, some obscure prelate or some such by the title in religion of Paul VI issued a little-known documentto some insignificant churches way back in the mists of time:

“Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.”

Compulsory sterilisation and abortion programmes by the state? No, it could never happen!

Paula Loughlin
February 27, 2012


“You keep using that word, I do no think it means what you think it means.”

Paula Loughlin
February 27, 2012

It is not part of Catholic teaching on “rights” that contraceptives are part of health care (unless used for legit medical reasons other than birth control.

Nor is the “right” of health care along the same lines as the right to religious liberty. One is a natural, God given right with which we are endowed by virtue of being created by God. The other is viewed as a “civil” right being our Christian duty to provide(“our” being not necessarily the Government’s)by virtue of Christian charity.

Also the author forgets that religious liberty is not a provision but a condition of our personhood already “owned” by us which is to be preserved and protected by ourselves and others including government. The right to health care must be provided by another and to force someone to provide this is far different than a act of mercy grounded in charity.

Once again I am brought to mind of “What do they teach in school these days?”

Scott W.
February 27, 2012

I think you all know what’s going on there. It’s the age-old story. As long as the bishops are commenting on the issues that are important to the America editorial staff the right issues, we’re behind them 100%. But once they move on to those…other issues(you know the ones America means), they are exercising “political muscle” and contributing to the “national distemper.”

Indeed. When did you ever see a commenter invoke the sexual abuse crisis when a bishop advocated a liberal immigration policy?

John Andersson
February 27, 2012


Schools teach what the goverment tells them to teach. Department of Education and all that. This country is raising generations of people who think like this author because this is what is being fed to our students. Private and independent schools have been able to resist some of this crap but sadly even they are not totally free of it.

Allen Lewis
February 27, 2012

@John Andersson –
Sadly, most so-called “Liberal Arts” institutions are the leaders in this kind of confused thinking that you mentioned in your post.

Of all places, you would think that Liberal Arts Colleges would see the inhernet danger. But you would be wrong to think that way. Academe drank the hemlock long ago and is still thrashing about in the death throes.

February 27, 2012

Letter to the editor: “Dear America, CATHOLIC FOREVER, DHIMMI NEVER!”

Kathleen Lundquist
February 27, 2012

Spot on, Chris – well done.

FWIW, here’s Cardinal George of Chicago on the HHS mandate:

“The strangest accusation in this manipulated public discussion has the bishops not respecting the separation between church and state. The bishops would love to have the separation between church and state we thought we enjoyed just a few months ago, when we were free to run Catholic institutions in conformity with the demands of the Catholic faith, when the government couldn’t tell us which of our ministries are Catholic and which not, when the law protected rather than crushed conscience. The state is making itself into a church.”

Daniel Muller
February 27, 2012

All those wasted doctorates. The reform of the Jesuits cannot come one day too soon.

M. L. Martin
February 27, 2012

Allen–Not all of academia. I’m currently at a university whose president was up on Capitol Hill a couple weeks ago testifying against this nonsense, IIRC.

Allen Lewis
February 27, 2012

@ M. L. Martin –
Well good for him! But how many college and university presidents did not show up to testify against this nonsense? I very much doubt that Harvard or Yale were represented in the number of university presidents who testified against this nonsense.

February 27, 2012

As a longtime reader of AMERICA I was profoundly disappointed with their editorial. This time the Jesuits have been too “smart” by half. They’ve honored their intellectualism over what is true.

[…] gumshoe and can recognize the telltale sign of incipient (and insipid) Episcopalianism a mile off. Here he is, throwing a spotlight with his own inimitable verve on the alternative Magisteria crowd i… This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.← Realpolitik Decrees…A […]

February 28, 2012

These bearers of Progressive Enlightenment to the “out of date and out of community contact” bishops have earned the loght to be called by their Latin name: Lucifers!

It is impossible to uphold what is right by compromising in such a way as to alos approve/permit/concede of what is evil, regardless of how trivial that evil may be. The end never jastifies the means.

And why should the Bishops, or any other citizen for that matter, ever accept any diminuition of what is guaranteed to them by the very Constitution. Indeed Freedom of Conscience goes beyond even the Constitution. It is a Natural Human Right.

And “But as Pope Benedict XVI wrote in “Deus Caritas Est,” the church does not seek to “impose on those who do not share the faith ways of thinking and modes of conduct proper to the faith.” does not translate into “however we should concede the right of everybody else to impose on those of us who share the faith, ways of thinking and modes of conduct not proper to the faith”.

Daniel Muller
February 28, 2012

Here is the freedom of religion of the future.

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