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Tim ReidyMarch 02, 2012

Bishop William E. Lori, the chairman of the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committeee on Religious Liberty, has sent a response to America's editorial "Policy, Not Liberty." The letter will also appear in an upcoming issue of the print edition:

The March 5th America editorial takes the United States Bishops to task for entering too deeply into the finer points of health care policy as they ponder what the slightly revised Obama Administration mandate might mean for the Catholic Church in the United States. These details, we are told, do not impinge on religious liberty. We are also told that our recent forthright language borders on incivility.

What details are we talking about? For one thing, a government mandate to insure, one way or another, for an abortifacient drug called Ella. Here the “details” would seem to be fertilized ova, small defenseless human beings, who will likely suffer abortion within the purview of a church-run health insurance program.

What other details are at issue?  Some may think that the government’s forcing the Church to provide insurance coverage for direct surgical sterilizations such as tubal ligations is a matter of policy. Such force, though, feels an awful lot like an infringement on religious liberty.

Still another detail is ordinary contraception. Never mind that the dire societal ills which Pope Paul predicted would ensue with the widespread practice of artificial contraception have more than come true. The government makes the rules and the rules are the rules. So, the bishops should regard providing (and paying for) contraception as, well, a policy detail.  After all, it’s not like the federal government is asking bishops to deny the divinity of Christ. It’s just a detail in a moral theology—life and love, or something such as that. And why worry about other ways the government may soon require the Church to violate its teachings as a matter of policy?

More details come to mind. Many if not most church entities are self-insured. Thus, Catholic social service agencies, schools, and hospitals could end up paying for abortifacients, sterilizations, and contraception. If the editorial is to be believed, bishops should regard it not as a matter of religious liberty but merely policy that, as providers they teach one thing but as employers they are made to teach something else. In other words, we are forced to be a countersign to Church teaching and to give people plenty of reason not to follow it. The detail in question here is called “scandal”.

Then there is the detail of religious insurers and companies that are not owned by the Church but which exist solely to serve the Church’s mission. The new “accommodation” leaves them out in the cold. And if I really wanted to get into the weeds I’d mention the conscience rights of individual employers.

Have I forgotten any other details we bishops shouldn’t be attending to? Well, I guess we’re policy wonks for wondering if the government has a compelling interest in forcing the Church to insure for proscribed services when contraception is covered in 90% of healthcare plans, is free in Title X programs, and is available from Walmart (generic) for about $10 a month. Pardon me also for wondering whether the most basic of freedoms, religious liberty, isn’t being compromised, not by a right to health care, but by a claim to “services” which regard pregnancy and fertility as diseases.

And didn’t President Obama promise adequate conscience protection in the reform of healthcare? But maybe it’s inappropriate for pastors of souls to ask why the entirely adequate accommodation of religious rights in healthcare matters that has existed in federal law since 1973 is now being changed.

 Oh, and as Detective Colombo used to say: “Just one more thing.” It’s the comment in the editorial about when we bishops are at our best. Evidently, it’s when we speak generalities softly and go along to get along, even though for the first time in history the federal government is forcing church entities to provide for things that contradict church teaching. Maybe Moses wasn’t at his best when he confronted Pharaoh. Maybe the Good Shepherd was a bit off his game when he confronted the rulers of his day.

But those are just details.

Most Reverend William E. Lori

Bishop of Bridgeport

Chairman, Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty  


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12 years 2 months ago
Spot on, Bishop Lori.  Vivat Jesus!
Nora Bradbury-Haehl
12 years 2 months ago
So sad to hear such a sarcastic cynical tone coming from the Bishop's pen. Would love to see the American bishops saying ''Health care? Finally? Great, we've been working towards this for a long time. Now let's work out the problems.'' rather than the current ugly instransigence.

Rather than add more shouting to echo chamber of the extreme right I would love to see some thoughtful nuanced conversation about how we can make healthcare work.

It still surprises me that so few bishops seem to realize the impact of the sexual abuse scandal on their moral authority in this country (and in the world). We are far too close to the scandal yet for the bishop's to be playing the victims on anything.

Michael Caputi
12 years 2 months ago
Nora, thank you and AMEN!
12 years 2 months ago
I am both saddened and amazed by the lack of common street smarts the current generation of bishops is displaying on this issue. Granted, Bishop Lori makes some good points. And let me stipulate I was not going to vote for the re-election of Barack Obama before the uproar, so I can't decide to not vote for him now.

That said, is it surprising that a politician in a democracy would come down on the side where most of his base is and where public opinion supports him, as against the side that was not going to vote for him anyway? If Obama had dissed his base by coming out against its so-called "reproductive rights," it would have been inexplicable in the annals of democratic elections.

We hear and read a lot about how the bishops were badly treated in the run-up to the HHS rule-making. Catholics seem to have forgotten that before Mr. Obama took office, they were exhorted by Bishop Lori and his peer group to send postcards rather stridently warning Mr. Obama against signing into law a bill that to this day has not had its first congressional hearing. That was followed by a flap over Mr. Obama's appearance at the University of Notre Dame. His predecessor came and went from Catholic institutions after issuing torture orders without invoking hierarchical wrath. Mr. Obama might, reasonably, think the Notre Dame flap was all about him.

An earlier generation of prelates would never have painted themselves into a corner with the RNC, FoxNews and the birther movement, but that is where Bishop Lori is vigoruously applying a second coat.
Daniel Kane
12 years 2 months ago
Congratulations to Bishop Lori for re-taking the high spiritual and intellectual ground in this discussion. The scandals of our era include not only the abuse of minors but the ongoing abuse of children and women via this scurrilous mandate so aptly described by Bishop Lori. Clearly, this is not about who pays for a little pill - many, many pharmaceuticals are routinely excluded from health care plans and all of them treat something.
This is a raw attempt to bend the will of the Church to the whim of a tyrant abetted by elected and appointed Catholics.

The details of this debate have been deliberately muddled and it is easy to understand the confusion of the average reader in light of the confusion of the editors. The most curious thing about this mandate is that it was never requested by anyone. It was simply imposed.

Contraception is only healthcare if one presumes that pregnancy is a state of disease. These agents are the only drugs that by design and intent distort a normally functioning body.  The surgeries paid for are the only procedures that mutilate a normally functioning organ.

Kudos too for the Bishop to illustrate the prophecy of Humane Vitae 17.
Ronald Grace
12 years 2 months ago
Thank you, Bishop Lori!  It truly is astonishing to see the snide reesponses here to a bishop who is doing exactly what Christ has called us to do: procliam the Gospel which, to the frustration of some, is a God given right protected under the first amandment. 
Vince Killoran
12 years 2 months ago

I would love to read something by a bishop in which they were specific about the limits to a religious denomination's demands in our pluralistic secular republic.

Nora's right:this was a sarcastic letter from the bishop and one that doesn't present the HHS compromise accurately. 

His line, "if I really wanted to get into the weeds I’d mention the conscience rights of individual employers," demonstrates yet again that the USCCB is after much more in their culture war. 
Stephen SCHEWE
12 years 2 months ago
If he wants to be persuasive beyond his Amen Corner, I'd encourage Bishop Lori to study the interview clips with Professor Kaveny in your blog today.  Her informed, balanced, and civil tone with Jon Stewart sets a great example of how to teach and to persuade.  Even if you're on the side of the angels, using sugar rather than vinegar helps when you're trying to build trust and to show empathy, two critical prerequisites to persuading others.  The conduct of Professor Kaveny (and Sister Keehan of the CHA)  in the recent debate on the HHS mandate demonstrate why building up women in policy leadership would help the Church be more influential in the public square.
Bill Collier
12 years 2 months ago
I'm surprised Bishop Lori used such a sarcastic tone to make his points, some of which I happen to agree with. Perhaps I could have excused the cynicism in his missive if he had fired it off during the real-time give-and-take of a debate on a blog, but I have to believe that the letter was vetted by several people in addition to the bishop before it was forwarded to America. IMO the tone of the letter detracts from the force of its argument. A shame.
ed gleason
12 years 2 months ago
We all know and so does Bishop Lori, that not one dime of bishop or diocese dimes will go and is not going now, toward Catholic University or hospital employees health insurance. Both Catholic and non Catholic employees now paying in toward  spousal and children [till age 26] health insurance, so please tell me where the bishops are forced to do anything.. it all borders on silly..Cdl Dilan's blog cites Gov. Huckabee as supporting the 'wide' religious exemption with him,  w/o mentioning HUCKABEE SIGNED THE ARKANSAS LAW MANDATING BC COVERAGE.
PBS had a program on the Amish this week. . The Amish refused to send their children to high school in Pa. and Wisconsin in the 1970s for religious reasons.  .. the Amish fathers were all jailed .. no Catholic bishops were jailed with them in solidarity.
12 years 2 months ago
I think Bishop Lori's tone reflects his exasperation that some influential Catholics, like the editors at America Magazine, are not supportive of the efforts of the bishops.  I am feeling the same way.   In fact so much of what I read in your magazine, to which I have subscribed for many, many years, and on your blog, which I visit frequently, is beginning to disappoint me.  A lot of the commentators annoy me, too.  My husband is retiring today, and we are going to have to look carefully at our budget to learn how to live on a fixed income.  It's looking more and more to me like America Magazine will have to go. 
C Walter Mattingly
12 years 2 months ago
Thank you, Bishop Lori, for your candid and prescient response. It is comforting for me to know that you are fully aware that our current president, so firmly committed to elective abortion and against providing the opportunity of poor inner city children to escape their chronically failed public schools by providing them the opportunities that vouchers would offer them, is known not by what he says, which has proven unreliable to you and to so many others, but by what he does. He is shrewd, and has seized upon a wedge issue within the Church as an opportunity to advance his abortion agenda of which he is so fond by attempting to force you and our Church to subsidize it. Divide and attack is his mode regarding our populace, and likewise it is divide and attack the Church here. His enemy is solidarity. 

This attempt to wall off the church from its mission to succor the hungry, the poor, the infirm by forcing it to act against its religious beliefs is, as even his supporters Mark Shileds and E. Dionne have written, a cynical power grab to consolidate all power and resources possible into the hands of a federal bureaucracy. He has slyly and cynically selected a dissenting Catholic woman to his bidding.

I'm relieved that you are aware of what he is up to as well as his failure to live up to his word to you, Father Jenkins, and other Catholic leaders. Perhaps such as Mark Shields and other liberal Catholic supporters of the president are now aware of his agenda. Hopefully he has been outed. Best of luck in your efforts to restore the practice of our faith and our constitutional right as citizens to exercise our right to practice our faith. 

The multitude of our Church support you in your efforts. 
rebecca de anda
12 years 2 months ago
THANK YOU, BISHOP LORI! If they had been speaking up years ago we would not be in this mess now. God Bless him!
DB Lesperance
12 years 2 months ago
I understand Bishop Lori's exasperation with those should know better. Sin does darken the intellect and it would appear that the editors of America are, if not in the deep of the night, at least experiencing twilight.

How is it that the editors can confuse policy and liberty? When I am commanded to violate my conscience in a matter of morals, as birth control certainly is, then we have left the realm of policy.  By definition, I have lost the liberty to obey my conscience. I must obey the conscience of Mr. Obama.  If this isn't an attack on liberty, then what, dear brothers and sisters, is?

This is NOT a debate about healthcare. The bishops are for healthcare reform (you know, the kind that helps living beings thrive, not the kind the strives to prevent living humans).

This is NOT about birth control. Women and men across this country already have access to plentiful and cheap birth control. Is there really a doubt that anyone who wants access to birth control can obtain it?

This is about LIBERTY.  This is about the freedom to not participate in any way with acts that I consider immoral.

Is this really so hard to understand? Really?

Lord have mercy on us.
rebecca de anda
12 years 2 months ago
12 years 2 months ago
Crystal Watson
12 years 2 months ago
Lori's letter is sarcastic and also inaccurate in a number of places.  One  example of inaccuracy is the turning of a contraception issue into an abortion issue -  Lori mentions "an abortifacient drug called Ella". Here's what Wikipedia has on Ella ...

"It is unlikely that Ellaone could effectively be used as an abortifacient, since it is used in much lower doses (30 mg) than the roughly equipotent mifepristone (600 mg), and since mifepristone has to be combined with a prostaglandin for the induction of abortion.[19]"

The bishops cannot reasonably give advice to others on moral choices and conscience when they've so obviously shown themselves incapable  of making moral choices or exhibiting formed consciences with their  covering up of sex abuse and avoidance of recompense to victims.
12 years 2 months ago
The bishops are well aware that today it is morally responsible for couples to have only the children they can psychologically, spiritually and financially raise well. For years the bishops have paid for foundations and researchers to find ''natural'' ways to help plan family size, and with some success.  When both parties are motivated and disciplined, natural family planning methods often work.  Research continues and we may one day learn less inhibiting and more effective natural ways.  In the meantime, since medical contraception exists and is reasonably safe and uncomplicated, it makes sense to use it.

Is it similar to our awareness that high blood pressure kills and affected individuals should do everything they naturally can in terms of diet and exercise to reduce it?  If one is faithful, learned and determined, such effort often pays off.  Other times individuals need medical intervention.  Perhaps we will one day discover a safer, more natural way to manage hypertension but in the meantime we're grateful for the pills.

I don't know what this magazine's editors envision as bishops at their best but when bishops mirror the love of Jesus,  and show us how to grow in that direction, we learn what we need to know.
Marie Rehbein
12 years 2 months ago
The term abortifacient is being thrown around as if everyone understood the term the same way.  However, they do not.  Most people who produce, prescribe, and use IUDs and hormonal contraception understand abortifacient to mean that it would cause an established pregnancy to miscarry.  Others, however, believe that preventing implantation is the same as causing a miscarriage, and so they call the above listed products abortifacient.  The fact is, though, that these products are no more abortifacient than breastfeeding is. 

Livia Fiordelisi
12 years 2 months ago
Bishop Lori is free and welcome to expresses his strongly held opinions, with which I disagree. It is disheartening to me that he chose to use a communication style similar to my fourteen year old daughter's, minus the "whatever." America's editors and all adult Catholics deserve a mature response.
Amy Ho-Ohn
12 years 2 months ago
I concur with all the commenters who lament the puerile tone of the letter. Didn't bishops used to write in the third person and call themselves "The Church?" Perhaps that would be a salutory practice to recover; it's hard to imagine anybody writing "Has The Church forgotten any other details She shouldn’t be attending to? ... Well, I guess The Church is a policy wonk for wondering ... Pardon Her also for wondering ..."

Not a very edifying spectacle. America should resist the temptation to respond in kind.

But I am especially surprised to find His Excellency saying things like " ... for the first time in history the federal government is forcing church entities to provide for things that contradict church teaching."

This is really one of the oldest stories in Church history: the Church owns a lot of property or has lucrative privileges like exemption from taxation or prosecution; a secular government decides to sieze some property or abolish a lucrative privilege; the Church protests vehemently, and tries to enlist God on Her side by citing Church doctrine; a small party of reactionaries rallies to the Church's standard, the rest of the population tepidly supports the secular government; a big political struggle or even a war ensues; the Church occasionally wins, but usually loses.

Huge diocesan and monastic estates, the right to select bishops, exemption from taxation, exemption from prosecution, exemption of their serfs from the draft, honorary votes in parliaments, government-funded departments of theology at universities, government-collection of a church tax. The Church won one of these (bishops) and has lost or is losing the rest. 

His Excellency should resist the temptation to burn his bridges behind him.
sandra griffith
12 years 2 months ago
Bishop Lori:

2 Peter 1 (5-8)
5 With this in view, do your utmost to support your faith with goodness, goodness with understanding,
6 understanding with self-control, self-control with perseverance, perseverance with devotion,
7 devotion with kindness to the brothers, and kindness to the brothers with love.
8 The possession and growth of these qualities will prevent your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ from being ineffectual or unproductive

Thank you
Anne Chapman
12 years 2 months ago
It is hard to believe that this response was written by a bishop. Any logic and reason he might offer is buried under the sarcastic. If his intent is to persuade, his tactics are all wrong. People stop listening when confronted with a sarcastic, angry man. This kind of approach more often alienates than persuades.

The anger apparent in this letter is more likely to shut down communication than to increase mutual understanding of the range of important concerns involved in these related and complex issues (health care and freedom of religion), issues that require reasoned discussion. The approach so far has only served to drive the political partisans to extremes, halting real discussion.

Regardless of what the eventual outcome is as far as contraceptive coverage goes, it seems highly risky to allow any employer of any 'religion' to opt out of covering whatever he or she wants to not cover, which can include immunizations for children and adults, blood transfusions,  or even any medical care at all if one is employed by a Christian Scientist, or anything else an employer might decide is against his 'religion'.  The bishops should think twice about the possible consequences of opening this Pandora's box.
Alexander Larkin
12 years 2 months ago
 Here the “details” would seem to be fertilized ova, small defenseless human beings, who will likely suffer abortion

I am perplexed. A fertilized ovum can divide into multiple fetuses, resulting in twins, triplets, etc. Does the bishop believe that human beings can be divided into multiple persons?a332d3 
12 years 2 months ago
Bishop Lori could not have said it better.  I did not see his remarks as ''sarcastic,'' simply an effective way of responding to the issues.
lazaro alvarez, jr. esq.
12 years 2 months ago
C Walter Mattingly
12 years 2 months ago
Marie (#20),
To most bioethicists your understanding of when human life begins is simply mistaken. When the egg is fertilized, the new entity now has the same chromosomal makeup in its few cells as it will have in every cell in its adult body. Its potential is in the process of becoming fully actualized. It is, as one of our contributors here has stated with such clarity, an embodied human career. That career may be cut short naturally by any number of events prior to its parting from its mother, or any time thereafter.
For a very clearly written understanding of the issue, I recommend our own Fr Cavanaugh's book, Who Counts as Persons. I guarantee you if you refer to his book you will be able to distinguish between a newly conceived human being and breast milk. 
Marie Rehbein
12 years 2 months ago
Walter, you apparently have not understood my point that breastfeeding causes fertlized eggs to fail to implant. 
Adam Beauchamp
12 years 2 months ago
Crystal (#18),

?''The applicant [Laboratoire HRA Pharma, developer of Ellaone] proposes several different mechanisms of action of the compound in humans: 
• ability to block, disrupt or delay ovulation 
• ability to block or delay ovulation even after the onset of the LH surge 
ability to delay maturation of the endometrium likely resulting in prevention of implantation'' (See bottom of page 9 of the European Medicines Agency CHMP Assessment Report at http://www.ema.europa.eu/docs/en_GB/document_library/EPAR_-_Public_assessment_report/human/001027/WC500023673.pdf)''
John Cunningham
12 years 2 months ago
The good Bridgeport Bishop Lori's comment uses needless sarcasm, which always diminishes any argument.  We expect that from Rush Limbaugh, but not from our Roman Catholic spirtual leaders.  Sarcasm is from the Greek word meaning "tear flesh".   I would recommend that Bishop Lori go to www.thejesuitpost.org and read Joe Simmons, SJ's recent series on the dangers of sarcasm.  Enough said. 
Marie Rehbein
12 years 2 months ago
Here's some more information, Walter.

Published in 1992, a study done at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile determined that prevention of ovulation “does not account for all the contraceptive efficacy of lactational amenorrhea” and hypothesized that “interference with implantation associated with luteal phase defects seems the most plausible explanation".

This means that breastfeeding prevents ovulation to some degree, but that it also works to make the uterine lining inhospitable to fertlized eggs, given that ovaries do produce eggs in breastfeeding women and yet fertility rates are much lower than would be expected in light of the rate of egg production.

Furthermore, Walter, human life is not necessarily a human person entitled to human rights.  As others have pointed out, the fertilized human egg is a potential human person or persons, but not the equivalent in entitlement to the mother who is a fully formed human person.  While it is nice to be open to bringing forth new life, it is not mandated that women in all circumstances make themselves into a growing medium.  Denying the fertilized egg a place to develop is not the moral equivalent of murder.

That said, Walter, it would be immoral to look at fertilized human eggs as a medical resource to be harvested and turned to a profit.  There is a middle ground where the potential life has more rights to be left alone than researchers or enterprenuers have to exploit it as a raw material.
ed gleason
12 years 2 months ago
Cardinal Dolan welcomes Gov Huckabee's support on opposing BC mandate quoting on his blog this week  "It was a Baptist minister, Governor Mike Huckabee, who observed, “In this matter, we’re all Catholics.”
In this matter Cardinal Dolan does not mention that Huckabee supported and signed into law BC mandates in Arkansas. 
Taco Bell arguments, Huckabee, Rush Limbaugh looks to me like amateur night at HS politics. 
Tim O'Leary
12 years 2 months ago
Excellent synopsis from Bishop Lori. It is amazing that this Jesuit magazine has lost its way, both as real Catholics and real Americans. They have abandoned both religious freedom and freedom of conscience, as understood by the first amendment and Vatican II. And this all in the name of dropping a co-pay for abortifacients, when everyone else still has to pay $10-20 co-pays for real medicines (for diabetes, high cholesteral, etc.). Who would have thought that liberal Catholics could be bought so cheaply. But they should realize that their pro-abortion allies on the left will not respect them if they do not respect themselves
Joan Sheridan
12 years 2 months ago
I know a lot of liberal Catholics and they seem angry at the Church so many of the comments in America I have heard before.  But what surprises me is how little these people know about our constitution.  They seem to have given up not only being Catholic but being American.  Go on the Becket amendment web site and read what the courts have said about Religious freedom.  Just recently an inmate in jail in Massachusetts said he wanted a kosher meal because he was Catholic.  Read what the Court said and be proud to be an American
Marie Rehbein
12 years 2 months ago
Tim, it's not just contraceptives that will be offered without co-pays.

The following is from the HHS website:

"The Affordable Care Act ensures Americans have access to quality, affordable health insurance. To achieve this goal, the law ensures health plans offered in the individual and small group markets, both inside and outside of the Affordable Insurance Exchanges (Exchanges), offer a comprehensive package of items and services, known as “essential health benefits.” Essential health benefits must include items and services within at least the following 10 categories: 1. Ambulatory patient services 2. Emergency services 3. Hospitalization 4. Maternity and newborn care 5. Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment 6. Prescription drugs 7. Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices 8. Laboratory services 9. Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management, and 10. Pediatric services, including oral and vision care.

"Cost sharing (including copayments, co-insurance, and deductibles) reduces the likelihood that preventive services will be used.... The Affordable Care Act – the health insurance reform legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010 – helps make prevention affordable and accessible for all Americans by requiring health plans to cover recommended preventive services without cost sharing."
Marie Rehbein
12 years 2 months ago

I thought you made a mistake when you wrote that a Catholic man was expecting to receive Kosher meals.  Keeping Kosher, as you know, is not a Catholic custom.  However, I found what I believe is the case to which your refer.  The court did not support the plaintiff and did support the defendants, which included a rabbi. 

I try not to be proud, believing instead that we are called upon to be humble, but I am happy that the court did not fall for the prisoner's bogus claim.

While trying to find the case to which you refer I also found the following: "While governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney refused to allocate an extra $5 a day to provide kosher meals for poor Jewish nursing-home residents.

Read more on Newsmax.com: Jews Rap Romney for Kosher Cuts ."

Carol Miesch
12 years 2 months ago
Thank you Bishop Lori for speaking the Truth.  As a mother of a child with cerebral palsy and seizures I have yet to meet ONE parent of ANY race, socioeconomic or educational background who believes that the government can do a better job raising his/her own child.

In case you have forgotten, we already have government healthcare:  medicare and medicaid and it does not work.   

The issue at hand is LIBERTY vs. government control.  Governments are not benevolent and caring entities.  Yes, the Catholic church has made mistakes throughout for the past 2,000 years but it also has done many fantastic things for western civilization such as provide healthcare to those who would otherwise not be able to afford it.   

ed gleason
12 years 2 months ago
Marie Rehbein  is right; 'This means that breastfeeding prevents ovulation to some degree, but that it also works to make the uterine lining inhospitable to fertlized eggs'

We had seven well spaced pregnancies in our marriage by breastfeeding for about 12-16 months after birth. . But we { we also knew the CFM Chicago Crowleys who knew better than the bishops too] 
12 years 2 months ago
Thank you, Bishop Lori. for clearly expressing the truth.  Conscience rights trump "convenience" rights.  Comments lacking this discernment typify a condition of impulse overriding right reason.

America Magazine has lost its way.  It currently has no inner dynamic that can resuscitate it. 
Carlos Orozco
12 years 2 months ago
So much bashing towards the Church by many Catholics reminds me of ''The Grand Inquisitor'' chapter of Dostoyevsky's The Karamazov Brothers. The chapter is a gem and can be read apart from the rest of the novel. In it, Jesus Christ returns to walk among men at the height of the Spanish Inquisition (not the place for a Black Leyend debate) and is arrested as a ''heretic'' after adoring crowds immediately recognize Him. During a private interrogation, the Grand Inquisitor recognizes the mysteriously mum prisoner as the Son of God and is furious because He has returned before Final Judgement. The Inquisitor specially attacks Jesus because of His rejection of the devil's temptations in the desert. He considers inexcusable denying turning stones into bread, thus leaving unresolved the problem of world hunger. Also, why did He refuse to throw Himself from the top of the temple and perform a public miracle, leaving humanity no option but to worship Him?

The Inquisitor answers himself that Jesus does not wish to destroy LIBERTY. That every man and women is to freely choose Christ not because of the power of miracle or cohersion of human necessity . At the end, it is clear that the Inquisitor is not working to spread the Gospel, but has his own agenda and is in fact an atheist. The Inquisitor is to busy building a future Super State that will end ''human suffering'' to follow the true path of love and justice. Doestoievsky wrote the mentioned novel in the 1870s. Is it not truely prophetic?
Samuel Pry
12 years 2 months ago
I suppose everyone is complaining about the good Bishop's tone because they cannot assail his logic.  Typical, if disappointing for AMERICA and its Amen corner.  Let remind you that the Founder of the Faith did not always speak sweetly himself, especially when dealing with hypocrisy, e.g. Matthew 23:27.  Speaking of which, when did the editors of AMERICA ever complain about the Bishops' getting too involved in the details of policy on social justice, immigration, nuclear weapons, welfare, taxes, war & peace, foreign policy, and, of course, health care?  When dealing with AMERICA, indeed, WWJD?
Samuel Pry
12 years 2 months ago
To Marie at 20 & 23, have you ever heard of the Principle of Double Effect, not to mention the difference between, in the moral sense, the natural and the non-natural?
Bill Mazzella
12 years 2 months ago
What at ghastly turnaround. The Grand Inquisitor was always commissioned by the bishops. Now those critical of the bishops are at fault. The temptations of Jesus was about free will. Something the bishops have never been a fan of. Feeding the hungry has always been at the heart of Christ. What else does Matthew 25:36-41 mean. Among other things. 

America Magazine has not lost its way. It is those who live in mansions and covered up the abuse of children that have lost it. And they are doing their best to forget that gargantuan abuse by looking for every red herring possible.
Bill Mazzella
12 years 2 months ago

How you can equate the Inquisitor with the State when he is clearly representing the RCC is a mystery indeed. It is the church who has always taken away freedom and replaced it with security. Just as Dolan has favored employing "articulate, attractive and intelligent women" to foster security while foregoing their freedom. At any rate whose point are you making. The laity or the hierarchy?

"We are not with Thee, but with him, and that is our secret! For centuries have we abandoned Thee to follow him."  The Grand Inquisitor tells Christ that he cannot allow him to do his work on Earth, because his work is at odds with the work of the Church. The Church is taking away freedom of choice and replacing it with security. Thus, the Grand Inquisitor must keep Christ in prison, because if Christ were allowed to go free, he might undermine the Church’s work to lift the burden of free will from mankind.

Further, the Jesuits seem to be on a different side in our times.
C Walter Mattingly
12 years 2 months ago
Marie (#30),
Thank you, I had always considered pregancy to begin when the human life begins when the fertilized eggs potential for that embodied human career begins, but it is disputed by others who do not address whether or not a human life is exterminated, but rather when a pregnancy begins. Therefore it is possible to argue that although the day after pill may terminatel a human life, that embodied human career, it is not technically an abortion because the definition of pregnancy has not been met.
Not sure that makes much of a moral distinction though, as to most of us the question is whether or not an abortion exterminates a developing human life.
Breastfeeding can inhibit pregnancy two ways: by preventing ovulation, and also making the lining less receptive to the fertilized egg.
Yet despite both of these factors women commonly get pregnant when breast feeding. It is more accurate to say a side effect of breast feeding could result in delaying ovulation or preventing the egg from attaching. Therefore your statement that breast feeding a child to nurture him that might have the side effect of preventing the attachment of the fertilized egg is no different than a drug whose sole and efficient purpose is to prevent that attachment are no different appears to be an invalid equation.
Beth Cioffoletti
12 years 2 months ago
"...even though for the first time in history the federal government is forcing church entities to provide for things that contradict church teaching."

Doesn't Capital Punishment contradict church teaching?  What about the millions of dollars of tax money paid by church entities that is used to provide for that?
Marie Rehbein
12 years 2 months ago
@Samuel #44

The principle of double effect in the case of breastfeeding would allow for the birth control effects.  The further point you make, though, that all things pertaining to reproduction must be natural is not particularly strong.  First of all, it is possible to pump milk using a breastpump.  This would strengthen the contraceptive effect of breastfeeding in a case where a baby is not a strong nurser.  You might be inclined to argue that the baby's not being a strong nurser is God's way of telling us that it's time for a sibling, but this is probably not the case.  It is probably just that the baby is not a strong nurser, and might, in fact, in a different age have died.  Similarly, there are situations where a woman's life would be endangered by pregnancy, and it seems to me that it is morally unconscionable to insist that such a woman mortally sins by using contraception and require her to avoid it.

I think the problem is that people whose strong suit is knowledge of the Bible and Catholic tradition want to prescribe what is best for women, children, and families without having intimate knowledge of the circumstances of these people.  Furthermore, I don't see any reason to believe that without their general guidance in the matter of promoting reproduction versus contraception we would become a culture that does not reproduce.  The fact that this issue is brought up so often by men who are supposedly chaste makes me wonder if the subject is not an obsession with them because they are asked to deny their natures. 

In addition, most people could sympathize with the awkward position they claimed to be in when they preach against contraception but were expected to provide insurance policies that cover it.  However, that situation has been changed, and yet they continue to claim that their religious freedom is being attacked because they will not be permitted to impose their religious beliefs on people who are not their religion.

Marie Rehbein
12 years 2 months ago

The mechanism by which some contraceptives work is thought to be that they prevent implantation.  This is by no means certain.  This has the same level of uncertainty as the declaration that breastfeeding is contraceptive by two effects.  It seems a bit presumptuous to declare that we know so much that we can prohibit women from availing themselves of these products given that nature probably works the same way.   

As you say, it is the case that women can get pregnant while breastfeeding.  In most cases, as Ed (#40) points out, this leads to good child spacing.  However, the harsh reality is that many have their "careers" snuffed out as a result.  If a mother doesn't produce enough milk or the baby has a problem nursing well, a couple could conceive a child because the contraceptive effect is not present.  If they used a contraceptive that prevents implantation so that their children would be spaced as they might with breastfeeding, would they be doing something very different from breastfeeding?

I understand completely that working backward, we all started as fertilized eggs.  I also understand the idea that God might be determining which ones should implant and grow into people and which ones should not get that chance. (I'm sure you are aware that estimates are that over 60% of fertilized human eggs never implant.  It also wouldn't surprise me to learn that many are lost due to the woman's body not getting the signal that an egg has implanted.)  However, I also think that God leaves many things up to us and that having babies is one of them.  If some combination of my genes and my husband's genes do not turn into a child, this is probably not that big a deal to God.  This is my opinion and the opinion of many religious leaders of other faiths.

I believe it is a horrible thing to abort a baby that could survive if born prematurely at the same stage of development.  I believe that should be illegal, but it will never be illegal because the issue has so much baggage that people like me dare not give an inch legislatively because there are too many waiting for that opportunity to deprive women of their reproductive autonomy in order to prevent us from fully participating in society.
Juan Lino
12 years 2 months ago
Here's what the CCC says about Capital punishment (a.k.a. the Death penalty):
2267 Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.
If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity ''are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.''
Regarding the letter, most seem to be criticizing the style not the substance of the letter.
Helen Deines
12 years 2 months ago
So, just for the sake of clarification, I would like to ask a few questions:

Any religious body that employees people is thereby exempt from any legal requirement to pay for insurance coverage for anything for which they have a conscience disagreement?  So if, for example, one works for a Seventh Day Adventist Nursing Home as a nurse aid, social worker, dietary assistant, maintenance worker, or so forth, you might not be covered for blood products, even in the case of open heart surgery.  Perhaps no dialysis or chemo as frequent transfusions are sometimes needed.  Seems fair.

And what about the RELIGIOUS LIBERTIES of non-Catholic employees of the Catholic institutions, especially those who work in dietary, maintenance, security-whose wages are very low and support their families at levels close to poverty level?  I did not specify females as male employees may have family plan policies.  How does the Church's liberty serve as a barrier to individual's exercising their religious liberty? 

Poor families are also moral decision makers, who consult with their doctors, their pastors, and their God.  Their rights should not be trivialized. 

All too often, when the poor have children, they are treated as irresponsible persons,  If the parents are now the employees of Catholic institutions, I would expect the bishops to share in family support.

Or is it now a world in which only Catholics have a right to a job? 

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