Policy, Not Liberty

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.

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.


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.

The religious liberty campaign seems to have abandoned a moral distinction that undergirded the conference’s public advocacy in past decades: the contrast between authoritative teaching on matters of principle and debatable applications of principle to public policy. The natural law tradition assigned application to the prudent judgment of public officials. Writing of policy differences in 1983, the bishops wrote, “The Church expects a certain diversity of views even though all hold the same universal moral principles.” Contemporary Catholic social teaching has spoken of policy in terms of “a legitimate variety of possible options” for the faithful and the wider public; it has urged that differences over policy be tempered by charity and civility.

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.

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.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Peter Ruggere
5 years 10 months ago

This editorial is clearly on point.

In an election year the bishop's avoiding an honorable compromise can be interpreted as an unwarranted intrusion into partisan politics.
Carlos Orozco
5 years 10 months ago
“For those who say to me, ‘stick to civil rights,’ I have another answer.  That is that I’ve fought too long and too hard now against segregated public accommodations to end up segregating my moral concerns.  I’m not going to do that.  Others can do what they want to do. That’s their business.  Other civil rights leaders for various reasons refuse or can’t take a stand or have to go along with the administration, that’s their business! But I must say tonight that I know that justice is indivisible; injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Charles Erlinger
5 years 10 months ago
Overall, this issue presents a well-rounded commentary by both the editors and the guest authors on the problem presented by the controversy between the USCCB and the Administration.  This was a good editorial job.
5 years 10 months ago
First, religious liberty belongs to the individual as much as to the religions, and that includes the liberty of our conscience;
Second, it is because of our policies that employers somehow have a right to decide for their employees what health insurance package they will be offered; this denies the employee the right to make their own choices. Can you not see how public policy driven by good intentions has rendered employees the serf subjects of their employers by exactly such well intended policies?
Enough is enough!
Colin Donovan
5 years 10 months ago
"It profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world... but for Wales?" (A Man for All Seasons)

Its beginning to be easier experientially to understand why the English hierarchy, except for Fischer, and most of the leading clergy, capitulated to King Henry VIII. But for affordable health care?
Tom Maher
5 years 10 months ago

Against all legal and governeing principles of the U.S. Conststution, history and legal precedents this editorial's central agrument is the government has the supreme and exclusive right and power to decide what the "common good" is and enforce it arbitary will on everyone in disregard of definite Consitutional limits on the power of governement.
Policy making is superior to the Constitution and our laws.

The editorial states: "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."

In other words forget the Consistution law, legal and historic precendents and the courts the all wise and  knowing governemnt knows best what the "common good" is.  The editorial states some mysterious Catholic theology tellis us the government has god like moral powers of discernment we must submit to never mind religious liberty rights they are unimportant and subordinate.  Is this the divine rights of kings theology modified for Presidents?  

In this disoute the governement is the source of the problem in exceeeding it authoirity under the Constitution. a party to this dispute of law. 

The governement is limited by and morally and legally  subordinate to the U.S. Constitution.

C Walter Mattingly
5 years 10 months ago
As our editors clearly indicate in the first paragraph of this editorial, President Obama's initial attempt to attack the church by taking advantage of a wedge issue between existing divisions among Catholics backfired, with liberal Catholics closing ranks with the bishops and the priests and nuns and others who provide the schools, hospitals, and soup lines that many non-Catholics as well as Catholics participate in and benefit from. Regrouping from the crass overreach of this power grab, President Obama modified his proposal without substantively changing it in such a way as to give him needed cover. America's editorial suggests, overall, best leave well enough alone, and it may well be right. Yes, it probably is a constitutional violation. That can be challenged in court.
What we all should be mindful of, however, was the original intent of the Obama administration, which is consistent with its several other efforts to cordon off the contribution the Church and other religious organizations make to the life of the nation, such as denying a poor inner city child a voucher which would enable him to obtain a good rather than mediocre or worse education, reducing Church revenues by curtailing the deductibility of charitable donations, and other moves on his part, sweeping those powers and resources into the hands of the federal government and out of the hands of the individuals and religious life of the country.
We should all remember the intent of his original proposal, at least through November. 
Frank Caveney
5 years 10 months ago
All workers in the USA are free to seek employment with the employer of their choice. Any woman who wants her employer to provide contraception as part of its employee health insurance coverage is free to seek employment elsewhere if her employer declines to provide such coverage. For that reason, President Obama's faux concern for women's health is an assault on liberty, not merely a difference of opinion on policy. The bishops are correct to reject the President's "compromise" because it is no compromise at all, but a not-so-clever manipulation of verbage to mask the issue. Requiring insurance companies to provide free contraception in all health insurance plans will result in all purchasers of health insurance coverage to pay for contraception regardless of whether they believe contraception to be sinful. The HHS mandate and the President's lame "compromise" are, therefore, assaults on Americans' freedom to choose whether to support contraception (or any other procedure they may consider sinful, such as abortion) with their financial resources.
5 years 10 months ago
We always get into nebulous areas when churches and religions want to extend their reach and influence. Some churches today, as in the past, provide medical care as a service, free of charge. Perhaps that can be interpreted as charity, a religious function, and a component of faith.

On the other hand, is a fee for service hospital really a religious function, or is it a secular business operated by a religious organization to extend their beliefs and values to others? Technically, I would argue that running a fee for service hospital is a business operated or managed by a church. As such, every employee’s freedom of religion and civil rights are equal in importance to that of the institution.

Your editorial makes sense. I believe the Church would lose a legal battle, were it to continue the fight.
E.Patrick Mosman
5 years 10 months ago
The Jesuits who are in charge of a number of "Catholic" universities were a major supporter of "Liberation theology", the redistribution of wealth at gun point, and their magazine America was supporter of Obama. the following letter was posted recently posted on another America editorial.

Before the 2008 election which "Catholic" magazine provided cover for Catholic voters to support candidate Obama by ignoring his available record and statements on "culture of death matters" abortion, contraception and end of life medical treatment? Which "Catholic" magazine provided space for Obama supporting Professors Kmeic and Kavanaugh, one being awarded with the Ambasssdorship to Malta, who sought to assure readers that it was possible to negotiate with the ONE on matters considered evil by the Catholic Church. Even Jesus Christ rejected negotiating with the devil three times in the desert but the editors and opinion authors failed to follow His example, leading many Catholics astray.

Is there a pang of buyer's remorse today?
5 years 10 months ago
It saddens me to se the jesuits and outstanding teachers like Fr. Kavanagh attacked because  some posters don't agree with them.
This is part of the sad partisan divisivenes ion the Church and the country today that is leading us into more real perdition.
I think the Editors her ehave done a fine job of attempting to present balance dviews, unlike the "fair and balanced" views some puport to present.
E.Patrick Mosman
5 years 10 months ago
"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 above effort at some modern day political theology, who is the authority of this "theology",  contradicts everything that I was taught by Sisters in grade school and Jesuit priests and brothers  in high school that one's duties were to God, Family, Country in that order.

It was Marxist non-theological doctrine to eliminate God and the Family and leave only the State that one owed not only allegiance but also his/her soul.  Francis Cardinal George described it as, "Freedom of worship was guaranteed in the constitution of the former Soviet Union," Cardinal George wrote in a column in the Catholic New World. "You could go to church, if you could find one. The church, however, could do nothing except conduct religious rites in places of worship — no schools, religious publications, health care institutions, organized charity, ministry for justice and works of mercy that flow naturally from a living faith. We fought a long Cold War to defeat that vision of society."

Obama and his anti-religious bureaucrats seek to impose Marxist theology on all religious faithful through administrative mandates, rules and regulations. It is shocking how many 'Catholics' have bought into his openly defiant effort to subvert or eliminate the First Amendment's constitutional protection of religious liberty.
Cliff Kirchmer
5 years 10 months ago
I think the core of the argument against the bishops opposition to the Obama administration's policy compromise is contained in the following sentence from the editorial: "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," Nothing more need be said. 
John Calabro
5 years 10 months ago
Jesus said He is the way, the truth, and the life.  He came to testify to the truth.  Satan is the father of lies.  The Holy Father is the vicar of Christ, and he, together with the Bishops, teach authentic truth.  Mr Obama has amply demonstrated that he is a liar.  Anyone who believes what he says is quite naive.  (To put it politely.)  
I would much prefer to follow the Holy Father and the Magisterium rether than to put my faith in a lying, eogtistical, rejoicing-to-be-a-celebrity politician.  You can do as you will, with your excellent theoligical expertise, boys. Good luck.  
E.Patrick Mosman
5 years 10 months ago
The editors and Obama supporting Catholics may want to read St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, and his Principle and Foundation of faith, which informs Catholics on the priority of salvation. The first task of mankind, according to St. Ignatius, is to serve God and “save his soul,” and “other things on the face of the earth” should be used only as long as they serve that purpose. When they become a hindrance to salvation, St. Ignatius warns to “rid himself of them.”

There is no support for Obamacare mandates or support for negotations with the administration bureaucrats for a compromise in the words of the founder of the Jesuit Order.
Anne Lawinger
5 years 10 months ago
Thank you, dear Bishop Lori!
Tom Maher
5 years 10 months ago
Bishop Willaim E. Lori in his comments above (# 66) directly present the views the Catholic Bishops that the Church does indeed have a serious Religious Liberty problem with the unprecedented impostion of regulation's on Church institutions that would force the Church to provide  and pay for services in violation of Church's moral ethics.  Bishop Lori details what is being focred on the CHurch and why these service are are morally objectionable to the Church.

Of course it is well known the Church objects to abortion and most contraceptives.  It is therefore extremely strange that any governemnt of a democracy with a Constitution specifically protecting Religious Liberties would force a religion to act against it own well known moral principles. 

Since when is any American government into the business of heavy-handed corecion of a religion to act against its own beliefs on the say-so of the government?   Yet yesterday at a Congressional hearing United States Attorney General Eric Holder said he would enforce these regulation on Catholic institutions.  This is not a trivail matter as this editorial would have the reader beleive.  This is de-facto a fundemental redefinition of the relation of the relationship of the state and church back to the aborant history of the past where the state is supreme and dictates what the Church may or may not do and otherwise endlessly infringe on religion to advance the political inbtrests of the state. 

But the Constitution says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ..."  This is a most profound, sacred and fundemental right that has always strongly enforced and supported by the U.S. Supreme Court.  It is wonderful that a Bishop of the Catholic Church can cut through all the theological sophistry of this editorial and say yes Religious Liberties in the Constitution are very important to Catholics and the Catholic Church in America and they are under attack by the federal government.
E.Patrick Mosman
5 years 10 months ago
I sincerely appreciate and very thankful for Bishop's Lori's clear statement of the Church's position on the Obama administration's attack on the freedom to practice one's religion as guaranteed by the First Amendment.
5 years 10 months ago
I have been disappointed with the media and editorial coverage of this issue on two counts.

First, the issue has too often been framed as a "contraception" or a "women's health" issue.  Whether or not one accepts the teaching by Church officials on artificial contraception or whether or not one accepts that access to contraception should be elevated to the same "rights" status as voting-that's really not the point.  The crux of this issue is the extent of government power in our constitutional system-a First Amendment issue.  This is not about whether artificial contraception is moral or not (reasonable minds differ) or whether women should have access to artificial contraception (they do).  This is about whether our federal government has the power to compel employers to pay for a medication or procedure to which they have conscientious objections.  If a Church holds that artificial contraception is immoral, does the government have the power to force that Church or its affiliated institutions (i.e., hospitals, schools, etc.) or its members (i.e., private employers who accept the official teaching) to pay for its employees' access to artificial contraception? The free exercise clause of the First Amendment surely should prohibit the government from doing so.  Just substitute "abortion services" or "euthanasia" for "artificial contraception" in this discussion.  In our system, if the government has the constitutional power to mandate non-government employers to pay for artifical contraception despite conscientious objections, it also has the power to mandate non-government employers to pay for, say, abortion services despite such objections.  (This limitation on government power would not of course limit the right of the government to pay for access to artificial contraception itself, thereby making it available to those women who choose to use it.)

Second, there has been a dearth of commentary about the way the actions of the bishops have been received by Catholics at large, by the public at large.  I would argue that the bishops suffer from a severe and tragic "credibility gap" on this and any other issue of morality on account of the stark contrast between their prompt and concerted action in this matter and their dilatory and disorganized responses to continued malfeasance by the bishops in handling continued clerical sexual misconduct.  It has been reported that 160 American bishops published letters to their people on the contraception conscience issue to be read publicly at the Masses in their dioceses.  When, for example, the bishop in Kansas City violated the bishops' own norms for dealing with a known sexual predator just in the past 2 years on account of which the predator was left free to abuse other innocents, was there even a single bishop who wrote a letter to his people criticizing the crime?  Was there even a single bishop who asked that the Kansas City bishop be criticized from the pulpit-or anywhere else in public?  Until the bishops make it a priority (at least on a par with this conscience issue) to prevent bishop misconduct in dealing with sexual predators, they will continue to suffer from their squandered credibility when they attempt to speak prophetically about poverty, war and peace, the death penalty, abortion, education and other issues of grave importance.
5 years 10 months ago
Simple; I'm cancelling my subscription. 'Nuf said. I support the bishops on this issue of religious conscience. Period.
5 years 10 months ago
David Schmitt
5 years 10 months ago
How strange to read an entire editorial on the role of the bishops, the laity, and the government... and not one single mention of God. The goal of the Church is not unity - it is discrenment of the will of God and obedience to that will. 
5 years 10 months ago
Thank you, bishop Lori, for your response to this editorial. I just cannot undertand what the editorial board was thinking publishing this. Very soon and you're going to leave the Church, "America". Well, if you haven't yet...
John Smith
5 years 10 months ago
Even if the Editors of America have no problem with paying for abortion inducing drugs with funds, donated or paid by the faithful, they should jealously guard the rights endowed by our creator and guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment is not a detail. If the federal government can ignore the Constitution in this manner, how far away are we really from a state run church?
E.Patrick Mosman
5 years 10 months ago
The Jesuit Order was founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola to be Defenders of the Faith and over many years provided great men,  many are now Saints, who spread the Word of Jesus Christ throughtout the world, some suffering martyrdom for the sake of their Faith. In recent years the Order has strayed far from their founding misson and Jesuit priests, such as Father Thomas Reese, a former editor of America, became one of the 'go to Catholic experts'  when the media needed criticism or questioning of the Catholic Church and its leaders while others armed thenselves,, not with the Word but with weapons as leaders of 'liberation theology' bands in foreign countries.
The Order urgently needs a period of prayer and reflection on its raisond'etre.  
ed gleason
5 years 10 months ago
MJW.. 14 paragraphs and an anonymous posting will get no read by me and many others.. go away..
5 years 10 months ago
Two days ago, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the USCCB, wrote a letter to his brother bishops urging them to continue to fight for the protection of religious freedom. He said, "Given the climate, we have to prepare for tough times. Some, like 'America Magazine' want us to cave in and stop fighting, saying that it is simply a policy issue." He called this editorial "hardly surprising, yet terribly unfortunate."
It is a pity and a scandal that some within the Church (like America editorial board) decided to abandon the bishops and create a shameful division within the Church on that important issue. St. Ignatius of Antioch made it clear many centuries ago: "Where the bishop is, there let the people be, as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church." 
The entire letter of Cardinal Dolan:

Tim O'Leary
5 years 10 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.
Karen Dalton
5 years 10 months ago
I would contend that this issue is actually not just about religious freedom.  It is also about health care.  Handing out free female hormones to any girl or woman who wants them is very bad medicine.  (Note that it is illegal to hand out male hormones. Why not sterilize boys?)  Our society is so addicted to the dissociation of sex from procreation that we are willing to ignore the myriad of ill health that that brings to women and girls.  Many feel really lousy when they are on the pill.  It has killed their libido, gives them migraines, raises their blood pressure, makes them gain weight, all for what??  A nice, regulated cycle in which hopefully no eggs are produced (but that's only 85% of the time...)?  Cancer, STD's, strokes: they happen with greater frequency to young women who take the pill.  Does it not make anyone wonder why the incidence of breast cancer has increased from 1 in 12 before the pill was introduced to 1 in 8 now? And now we are going to hand it out for free?  At what cost? 

Additionally, and this is also about health care, when a woman's ability to bring forth life is no longer something to be cherished, then women are disvalued and they know it deep in their souls whether they are conscious of it or not.  They are used as sex objects.  The result?  Depression, drug use, self mutilation, rampant diseases, selfish marriages that do not last.  I have seen it far too often in my medical practice. Satan loves the pill.  (Porn? No big deal since sex has no meaning anymore.)

The UCCSB is not just fighting for religious freedom.  The bishops ultimately are fighting for a just, HEALTHY and loving society.  You should join them, not admonish them.  When the state is wrong, and ours is very much so, people of conscience are obligated to speak up or we are lost. 

A society that does not value children is doomed to extinction.  A society that does not value children also does not really value anyone who is dependent.  That may be any of us down the road.  But if there are too few descendants to care for us......?
Then will this magazine be justifying assisted suicide as well?  How about a ramping up of the use of the death penalty since there won't be enough folks around to work in the prisons?  It goes on and on.  And it all starts with conception.  Too simple to be true?  Hardly.

You are Catholics.  Stand up for Truth.  You are blessed and intelligent.  Take off the blinders of relativism and use your gifts in the way in which He intended.

E.Patrick Mosman
5 years 10 months ago
My comment above, now #63, lost its final paragraphs which offers a picture of the future and the beginning of the end for government run health care in the UK.
Those who continue to advocate for more and more government spending and borrowing for social engineering programs, government control of health care, and higher taxes obviously have never read or understood Santayana's words "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it".
The European countries that borrowed and spent on social programs are bankrupt and barely surviving. The UK's Prime Minister is calling for the privatization of large parts of their NHS( the Obamacare of the UK  and the role model for Liberal pundits at the New York Times and the administration bureaucrats running the HHS ).

The administration's actions meet Einstein's definition  of Insanity-" doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results"

Elmer Stoup
5 years 10 months ago
My jaw dropped when I read the editorial assert the President's second offer was a "compromise." Any 4-year old who can count to ten knows this "compromise" was a cheap accounting gimmick. 

And to think I graduated from Creighton Prep!  Back in the 1500's, you guys would have helped behead Bishop Fisher.  
Edward Burton
5 years 10 months ago
(FWIW I have a pastoral degree from a Catholic university of considerable favorable repute and have served the Church as a responsible employee at a Church without its own resident priest.)

One thing I've not seen discussed is that no insurance policy commands that it be used to facilitate purchase of anything. One may obtain services and pay for them directly ignoring the insurance, or one may invoke the insurance when obtaining services, or may elect not to receive services. Thus buying the insurance for an employee does not necessarily mean that any provision in it will be used by an employee for something not approved of.

If paying for the employee to have that option is objectionable even if no employee makes use of that option, then we are left with a truly philosophical issue, no matter what adjective is applied to the issue.

Then the President's proposal came along to the effect that the employer would not have to pay for that insurance, rather providing that insurance would be a matter of insurer overhead. The premium would thus be less by some amount, and the employer would not be paying for coverage the employer does not approve of.

 Thus the question is not even one of employer directly paying for employee to have an option which employee may never make use of. Rather it is a question whether purchasing a policy that will provide that 'benefit' is objectionable even if employer did not make a decison about coverage in that regard and did not pay for coverage in that regard.

Thus far we have not discussed the fact that female employee benefits in this regard involved ob/gyn physician services that can include prescription of birth control pills for a reason having nothing to do with birth control per se, but rather for regulation of extremely irregular natural menstrual cycles in patients who might be far from home when one suddenly commenced, and other problems with such cycles. Imagine the plight of a teenaged girl in class as school who suddenly is blooding her pants. The disputed provision in the policies would prevent insurers from debating with physician and patient whether the services are covered. And insurers do behave that way on far too many occasions.

Some folks when analyzing this situation seem to analyze it in terms of male provision of birth control, which is relatively inexpensive, when female provision of such care necessarily involves physicians and prescriptions, far more expensive and as just noted very possibly in fact not having birth control as the motive.

And of course we have here the Bishops' well-known non-mastery of public relations, and non-coordination of public relations. The context of pronouncements is rarely explained. The fact that other, potentially equally important issues are also being pursued is taken for granted by the Bishops, but not by the audience. And that the perceived opponent on issue A is the ally on issues B, C, and D is also not clarified, nor that the friend on issue A is the enemy on issues B, C and D.

Instead the Bishops stride onto the public scene in a rather imperial mode guaranteed to delight a minority, alarm a majority, and lend strength to their enemies on the host of other issues. 

 Diplomacy is an art the Bishops need to master, for domestic application, not just foreign relations. Diplomacy thanks the President for making the accomodation he did, applauds his willingness to compromise, and expresses an interest in dialogue over remaining 'details'. The exact present dispute could be so framed in a way not requiring anyone to 'eat crow' in coming up with a good definition of religious employer that does not permit someone to evade the law by announcing a religious belief that is insincere, hoping to save a nickel, or annoy disrespected female employees.

One possible avenue would permit the insured employee to opt in to such coverage directly with the insurer without notice to, required consent from, or expense to the employer. At that point it would be abundantly clear that the employer had no intent to furnish such coverage and had no expense related to it. 
Kathleen McAleer
5 years 10 months ago
I read the editorial, then proceeded to read a number of the responses. The uncharitable tone that I read on both sides is not fitting for members of the Church-responses ran the gamut from the sanctimonious to the extremely sarcastic. Whatever your viewpoint, we are brothers and sisters in Christ! Above all else, even if I disagree with you, let us have charity. Let us have respect. Can we disagree with civility? With love?
charles smith
5 years 10 months ago
Can not believe the editors believe that the so called accomodation solved the religious liberty problem. My premium pays for a health plan that coveres birth control. An accounting slight of hand changes nothing regarding the moral issue. Any other interpretation is irrational. Thank God, the Bishops quickly recognized Obama's magic trick.We are living through a serious crisis involving the Catholic Church. On the clerical side, there is the homosexual/pedophile scandal. On the lay men/women side, there is the rejection of traditional teaching on birth control, divorce, Sunday obligation,pre-marital sex, the Real Presence, abortion and homosexuality. The seperation between catholics is now wider now that existed between Luther/Calvin etc and Rome during the Reformation. But Christ will always be with the Church, so I am sticking with our shepards.
Samuel Pry
5 years 10 months ago
The above comment should have read "taking Bishop Pates to task."  Sorry for the ommision
Catherine De Genova
5 years 10 months ago
Thank you Bishop Lori - 

"When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out."
Friedrich Gustav Emil Martin Niemöller

Are we ready?  They're coming....
Jay Dardis
5 years 10 months ago
It's hard to believe that America magazine can't see what's going on here.

As Cathi D implied in her great post above, it's pure coincidence that the Obama administration is talking at this moment about artificial contraception, to which the America Magazine editors obviously feel every woman has a right.  What will you do when they start mandating coverage for assisted suicide, and for parents who want to euthanise their 2-year-olds with downs syndrome?  I hope that there will eventually come a time when even you feel compelled to assert that the procedure in question is immoral, and to speak out against a policy that requires you to pay for it.

It's sad that we've lost sight of individual freedom in this whole conversation, which is to speak of the freedom of an individual to start a company which creates jobs and provides a valuable product or service to society.  Now we're being told that individuals still have that freedom as long as they're willing to use their company's hard-earned money to pay for barbaric and immoral acts like abortion and sterilization.

And the saddest thing is the Catholics who are allowing themselves to be *used* by the administration because their consiences have been so dulled by decades of rebellion against the Church that they've lost all sense of immorality.
George Lower
5 years 10 months ago

So the objections to Bishop Lori's comments seem to fall into two categories: 1. I dislike his "tone"...in other words he speaks the truth in a way that I find annoying. 2. The bishops and USCCB have been inconsistent with their criticism/actions against other intrinsic evils. Which leads me to comment...so what? Neither of these postions is coherent logically or morally; neither are these objections really relevant to the issue.

Obama was elected on the promise that he was going to end the partisan politics (in many ways he has made things worse); and, that fact isn't entirely the fault of his opponents. It takes at least two to fight and Obama has been as partisan as anyone else that has held the Presidency. Secondly, is anyone with any moral concience going to seriously argue that because the bishops have been inconsistent in the past that what we need is MORE inconsistency? Really? Is this really the logical option to curb the encroachment that has already occurred and will continue to occur if we don't stop it? Why not try repentence and a return to the truth? Why don't we try that?

Rather than rolling back the worst abuses of the Bush era Patriot Act, Obama has enshrined these provisions as "normal" and expanded these unconstitutional powers even further. Rather than criticising Obama for continuing Bush policies, Democrats have now done an about face and praise these provisions as "necessary" after all we are in a *global war against terrorists don'cha know.* (Which sounds exactly like the Bushies and Dick *other priorities* Cheney from 2001-2008)... This only serves to demonstrate a distrubing trend in our politics...personal loyalty to a particular President is becoming more important the principle. Now instead of being able to wire tap citizens without a warrant the President claims the right to to detain or even to kill them based upon "secret" information without judicial review or due process. I suppose in the near future we can expect to change the oath taken by service men and women from "Protect and defend the Constituion" to "Protect and defend the person of the President"...which is entirely contrary to the founding of our nation.

This fight over contraception seems silly when so many other larger issues are at stake. But I would commend the USCCB for raising their voices and pushing back against immorality and intrinsic evil that will directly affect Catholic institutions. It's time for the rest of us to step up and support the bishops and then go even further to combat the other encroachments that are being foisted on us by ruling elites of both political parties.

Thomas D'Amico
5 years 10 months ago

The editors are on the wrong side of this debate.In fact, everyone who has rationalized this issue and drank Obama’s Kool-Aid is gravely short sighted.

HHS is just testing out the climate and it doesn’t take too much imagination to forecast where this is all heading. Our government plotted a thinly veiled backdoor scheme (they call it “compromise”) in order to secure a woman’s right to contraception and have Catholics pay for it (as we all know, the cost will be passed along in higher premiums paid by universities, schools and hospitals). The path is now paved to support their real machinations…mandating Catholic hospitals to perform sterilizations and abortions in order to receive federal Medicaid and Medicare funding.

No help from America magazine for undermining our cause and trivializing this as a mere “policy issue.” As a physician that works for a large Catholic health system, I assure you that this will not be the end of government intrusions if we don’t hold the line here and fight this incursion. Thankfully, Cardinal Dolan and our bishops are leading the charge. Deus Vult!

Robert Amos
5 years 10 months ago
Ah! So, the editors of America approve of the president's fig leaf jesuitical "compromise accommodation" to the Bishops' legitimate objections. Appropriate move on your part. 
Richard Mandel
5 years 10 months ago
As America sees it: "Render unto caesar what is caesars and unto God," eh, whats He got do with anything. 
Chet Wrobel
5 years 10 months ago
There was no mention of the human lives that are lost with this mandate. Why? As Catholics we side with the most weak and those who can not speak for themselves in our society. Modern science tells us that life begins when the egg is fertilized. At this moment human DNA is formed, not the mothers or fathers but that of a unique individual. All the info about the life is in it.  If it's a girl or boy, the color of the eyes, hair, the features it gets from grandpa, mom or dad, blood type, which can be different then mothers. That DNA will never be duplicated in the future. A unique human life!  All the genetic information is stored in that DNA and all that life needs now is shelter and nutrition. The shelter comes from the woman's womb and nutrition comes from when it attaches itself to the woman's uterus. It is us at our early stages of being. Please protect her or him. STOP THE KILLING NOW.  Jesus, in his time was not liked for his teachings and 2000 years later it's still the same.
5 years 10 months ago
Well written!  -  from recognizing the 'sense of unity' initially expierenced by Catholics to the stated opinion that the influence of bishops is most effective when acting as pastors trying to build consensus in church and society (as exemplified by the pastorals on nuclear war and the economy).  I'm appreciative that the staff at America continue to pen editorials that are not only insightful but also challenge the reader and faithful alike and within the present context to uncover the truth in the midst of so much rhetoric regarding health care which threatens to distort the values of catholic social teaching and health care for millions of uninsured americans  
Jerry Malone
5 years 10 months ago
One wonders how a magazine with a rather august reputation could pen such a twisted diatribe. Being lent, it causes me to reflect on how twisted the darkened intellect can become and how terrible the consequences for those who no longer able to recognize the Truth get caught in such whirlwinds of deception and faulty logic.
Floyd Alsbach
5 years 10 months ago
I would respectfully remind the author and those who agree herein of Mathew 3:22-30 & Mark 12:31-32.  I humbly ask you to rethink.  Abortion is the Gulag, the Holocaust, the Death Camps, multiplied exponentially.  Abortion in every form is not a choice, it is sytematic murder.  Contraception via the pill or prophylactics is being used as the handle of a club to beat our beloved and Holy Church.  And you excuse, you rationalize this public beating.  You have become their enabler.  You may be well educated, as am I, you may have been told many time that you are highly intelligent, as have I, but do not be seduced by these shiny mental bobbles which in the end are mere crutches.  In the main they are meaningless.  You have become the apologists of a dictatorial regime just as the Pharisees & the Scribes.  You have turned your face against the Christian Spirit, the Holy Spirit, in that you are advocating for the culture of death.  Facile intelelctualism is not enough to protect you from the disdain of your peers, and the final Judgement of God.  Kneel down and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance, and this time you must actually listen.  Ask God and the Bishops for forgiveness for you arrogance and complicity... before you face the rage of our Lord and Savior.
Michael Henderson
5 years 10 months ago

Taken in context rather than with blinders on, it strikes me that the "compromise" leaves in place most of an Obamacare mandate that remains unconstitutional and immoral policy as well as an affront to religious liberty. Unfortunately, this article is a predictable product of the Society's ongoing zeal to subrogate our Christian duty to a government that does not bother to hide its hostility to the Church - and whose takeover of the healthcare sector will diminish the quality of care for all by continuing to erode the Church's ability to provide affordable, compassionate, Spirit-guided care.

I pray that as an American Church we embrace a Constitution that empowers Christians, free of state tyranny, to fulfill our duty to bring Christ to His people. The alternative is to continue to practice a policy of appeasement that sells out the Church and her members.
5 years 10 months ago
The President's "compromise" was not a compromise.Someone will pay for these
medications. Most likely it will be the policyholders. There is no change and his administration is having a good laugh.

Last weeks Editorial on poverty failed to point out that after spending trillions of dollars
poverty has gotten worse. So you say spend more? Why not discuss the root causes
such as missed opportunities, lack of responsibility, and the breakdown of family.
Please address individual responsibilities.

I was debating with myself as to why I continue to subscribe to your magazine ,after
50 years and at age 80.
Then I read 3 intelligent and thoughtful articles in this issue on the this subject of  church freedom and remembered why:

Staying Civil
First of Freedoms?
A Balancing Act

I will keep reading and hope for a change

God Bless,
Joe Bliss


Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Pope Francis meets with priests, religious and seminarians at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Santiago, Chile, Jan. 16. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Francis focused for the second time today during his visit to Chile on the abuse scandal that has rocked the Chilean church. “I know the pain resulting from cases of abuse of minors, and I am attentive to what you are doing to respond to this great and painful evil,” he said.
Gerard O’ConnellJanuary 16, 2018
Pope Francis dove head-first into Chile's sex abuse scandal on his first full day in Santiago.
Jars of medical marijuana on display on at the Western Caregivers Medical dispensary in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
The Justice Department is vowing to enforce a federal ban on marijuana, even as some states try to move toward full legalization.
Ellen K. BoegelJanuary 16, 2018
Catholic women may be part of a Democratic voting wave in 2018. They are ready to welcome women deacons.
Mark M. GrayJanuary 16, 2018