HHS ruling stirs editorial reaction in Catholic press

Catholic newspapers in their editorial pages have strongly and consistently criticized the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services since its Jan. 20 announcement that there will be no change to a narrowly drawn religious exemption to a new federal mandate that all private employers provide no-cost contraception and sterilization in their health care plans.

The HHS said churches and other religious organizations have exactly one year to get on board with this policy.

“The administration wants to make Americans co-conspirators in its efforts to institutionalize these unacceptable immoral practices. We cannot support this effort,” wrote Stephen Trosley, editor of The Catholic Telegraph in Cincinnati.

The St. Louis Review called the decision, announced by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, “grossly counter to our fundamental right to free exercise of religion.”

It is, quite simply, moral dictatorship. It is an imperious decision made by bureaucrats who have no respect for the sanctity of human life or for the fundamental right of free people in a free society to act according to their consciences.”

The Jan. 26 unsigned editorial added: “We detest the Obama administration’s blatant disregard for life and liberty. If this mandate remains unchanged, many schools, hospitals, social service agencies and other faith-based organizations that serve diverse, frequently poor and vulnerable segments of our society may be forced to stop providing health care to their employees rather than include coverage of morally unacceptable ‘preventive services’ — a phrase properly applied to disease, not the miracle of pregnancy as Sibelius does.”

Our Sunday Visitor pointed out that the president unequivocally pledged respect for conscience rights, religious liberty and diversity of belief during his commencement address at the University of Notre Dame in May 2009 and a round-table interview with Catholic journalists a few weeks later.

“And now the Catholic Church finds itself in the odd position of being the primary defender of tolerance, pluralism and the principles of liberal democracy against a government that seeks to coerce citizens into behavior that violates their consciences,” said the Catholic weekly newspaper’s editorial board in its Feb. 5 edition.

Michael Sean Winters, columnist for National Catholic Reporter, wrote that President Barack Obama lost his vote “when he declined to expand the exceedingly narrow conscience exemptions proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services. The issue of conscience protections is so foundational, I do not see how I ever could, in good conscience, vote for this man again.”

He said the president’s decision “essentially told us, as Catholics, that there is no room in this great country of ours for the institutions our church has built over the years to be Catholic in ways that are important to us.” He also said it “shamefully” treats “those Catholics who went out on a limb” to support him.

Across the ocean, the British Catholic weekly newspaper, The Tablet, also weighed in, saying President Obama “made a serious mistake.”

The editorial pointed out that Obama “appears to have been taken in by the fact that most American Catholics do not have personal moral objections to contraception. He has failed to understand that what they mean by this is that contraception should be a matter for individual consciences. That is not compatible with imposing access to contraception by government regulation.”

The point secular opinion fails to grasp is that there are some things that should – must – be beyond the reach of state power, such as the freedom to make available contraception to employees of Catholic hospitals or not, or the freedom of Catholic childcare agencies to decide whether to accept gay couples as possible parents in adoption cases. Similarly, marriage, which stands at the core of civil society, is not something the state is free to tinker with.”

Catholic newspapers were not the only ones with something to say on this issue either.

A Jan. 23 Washington Post editorial  said the Obama administration “came down on the wrong side of a tough call.”

It said the best approach would have been for HHS to offer an exemption for religiously affiliated employers. Since it had already recognized the principle of a religious exemption, it  “should have expanded it.”

Instead, the Post said the ”administration’s feint at a compromise — giving such employers another year to figure out how to comply with the requirement — is unproductive can-kicking that fails to address the fundamental problem of requiring religiously affiliated entities to spend their own money in a way that contradicts the tenets of their faith.”

A Jan. 24 column in The Wall St. Journal examined how the decision is affecting Catholics across the board. The piece was headlined: “Obama offends the Catholic left: A contraceptive mandate provokes an unnecessary war.”

William McGurn, writes that the Obama administration’s decision predictably drew fire from Catholic bishops but “less predictable — and far more interesting,” he wrote, “has been the heat from the Catholic left, including many who have in the past given the president vital cover.”

Catholic liberals, he said, understand that if this ruling is left to stand, it “threatens the religious institutions closest to their hearts — those serving Americans in need, such as hospitals, soup kitchens and immigrant services.”

16 Responses

  1. Looks like “Hope & Change” is here, and not for the better.

    One only had to look at his record to see why this is no surprise.

  2. From a Personnel background, our Catholuic employers should give tghe employees a raise and stop providing health insurance. Tell the employees to then purchase their own health care coverage.

  3. To say the HHS ruling is an assault on religious freedom is a lie. Public policy on contraception and abortion is not made in an effort to impact religious freedom. We can disagree and in fact correctly choose to take another course (such as following church teachings and not participate in the culture of death). But leaders who lie for the sake of impact are bringing their motivation and other statements into question. I am deeply saddened by the letter read in our church this week.

  4. Yes for the the catholic church to react against the Obama administration for this in moral issue.

  5. It is sad that those who voted for this President were duped. It is time for the Catholic Church to say to those elected Catholic politicians, “Enough. You are not welcome to take Communion.” Those like Sebelius need to be ex-communicated.

  6. I see history repeating itself in this matter. Recall Nathanson’s disclosure that the pro-abortion advocates of the late 1960′s (and forward) used an hierarchical (upon the bishops) attack to divide Catholics into two camps on abortion. NARAL was involved in a significant fashion in this bit of politics.

    Today it’s NARAL, again, and Planned Parenthood whispering into the ear of Obama and his chief henchwoman (Sibelius) to ‘divide and conquer’ on any matter Catholic. No moral analysis, no conscience question, merely pure and simple politics.

    Decades of American history and millions of preborn deaths have changed the landscape. No one anymore can honestly say the Catholic’s position that a severing of human sexuality from its natural procreative functionality is not related to a full range of life issues.

    The Supreme Court’s very recent ruling (9-0) in ‘Hosanna Tabor’ also provides hope. There is a true bar against most governmental interference upon religious freedoms grounded in the Establishment Clause. Litigation may be necessary. It will, however, be successful; thus placing the ‘correlation of forces’ where, more or less, they ought to be in a free society.

  7. Regretably, generations of faithful Catholics have made the democratic party the powerful entity that it is today. It is long past time, however, for faithful Catholics to denounce and to renounce the democratic party: contraception, abortion, homosexual marriage, embryonic research, militant secularism, socialism, on and on and on.
    This is not the democratic party of the trade union past. It is a politically radicalized, religiously intolerant, dictatorial organization controlled and funded by a scary group of fanatical moral and cultural deconstructionists. Marx and Lenin would be proud to join and would feel very muchat home .In fact, their presence would be welcomed while the faithful follower of Christ who respects and upholds faith and family, marriage and life itself is shunned and marginalized. Catholics wake up! Turn away from sin and believe the Good News before they destroy this great country founded upon religious freedom.

  8. The Democratic Party is seriously in conflict with Catholic teachings on abortion and contraception. However, for the entity of prolife issues, the Republican Party is in even more conflict with Catholic teachings. Remember. to be truly prolife, one must support life from conception through NATURAL DEATH. I know of no Republican politician who is opposed to the death penalty. Also, there are current Republican candidates for the presidential nomination who are using racial code words and see no issues with torture. Both of these are intrinsic evils, defined as such by the Bishops in their Formation of a Faithful Conscience. When will the Bishops publically critize these candidates.

  9. This action by the obama admin is no great surprise to any who took the time to look at his record and actions as an Illinois State Senator. My anger at this decision is directed more at those so-called Catholics who voted for this marxist either (1) knowing but not caring about his abortion record, (2) those who did not know and saw fit to not inquire about his abortion record and voted for him out of total ignorance. I detest both groups. I hope the “Catholic left” will now wake up and withhold their votes from this extremist in November……

  10. I’m not sure how any catholic voted for this guy in the first place. He all but legalized third trimester abortions as a senator in Illinois.

  11. This is only the first of “change” to come. Asses the impact of elminating the Charitable Donations exemptions. Which of your favorite charities will cease to exist?, Make those 50 plus percent of the Catholics that voted for him aware of exactly what this first action represents. There are a suprising number of people that have no idea of what is taking place. All Catholic religious leaders need to agressively use Sunday services as the focal point for this educational process. the effort also needs to be of a continuning nature. Don’t stop with one news article or sermon.

  12. I noticed that none of the “letters” distributed at Mass mention that we have whole year to pray and find a way around this mess. Hmmm I wonder what the motive is here. If they are going to declare war against the Catholic church, then why would they give us a whole year to beat them.

  13. We have begun praying that Obama will not be re-elected. I for one, believed his lies and voted for him. It is my undertanding that Newt Gringrich coverted to the Roman Catholic faith two years ago and I recently heard him say that the moment he becomes President, he will sign an executive order to reverse this tragedy, created by Obama. But unfortunately, it seems to appear that Newt Gringrich will not be a Candidate. As a widow of an obstetrician/gynecologist who believed that abortion was murder, every Christian in the United States needs to begin to pray earnestly that this ruling will be reversed and it is my prayer that Bishops throughout our nation will not comply as the Roman Catholic Church is one of the few Churches left that remains loyal to Scripture and Biblical teaching. I for one recently converted to the Roman Catholic faith because it refuses to become nuetral, and has reamined steadfast in Biblical teachings.

  14. It’s funny and predictable that all or most of these comments are posted by men who of course don’t use contraception like 98% of catholic women. Get a clue…you know nothing about reality.

    Newt Gingrich?? Really. How many times did he violate the sanctity of marriage? What a bunch of hypocrites.

  15. Actually, Newt Gingrich converted to the Roman Catholic faith 2 years ago. Just as many thousands have done. As I have done. What took place before he became a Roman Catholic perhaps should be forgiven? I think it is honorable indeed that he converted to the Roman Catholic faith. “Those without sin, cast the first stone.” So who is the hypocrite? In any event, if Obama is re elected, we are doomed as a Country. And that will be only the beginning. Sadly!

  16. The “surface” issues in the HHS mandate, supposedly to give “access” to artificial contraception to women, mimics a “caring face” for women. Reasonable people can easily see it is simply a “mask”, a facade, like cosmetic make-up, applied to an underlying gradual insidious attempt to undermine and erode basic individual, community and organizational liberty. It blatantly disregards the First Amendment, religious liberty and the intelligence of the American people.

    The HHS mandate is an insidious evil because it is:

    1) Intended to entrap or beguile: an insidious plan.
    2) Stealthily treacherous or deceitfu, such as an insidious enemy.
    3) Operating or proceeding in an inconspicuous or seemingly harmless way but actually with grave effect, such as an insidious disease.

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