CUA president pens columns about HHS mandate

CUA President John Garvey     (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

John Garvey, president of The Catholic University of America in Washington, has been writing a fair amount on the contraceptive mandate in the new health care reform law.

He wrote an op-ed piece in the May 25 edition of The Washington Post and a commentary in the June 8 edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Both columns outlined why Catholic University recently joined 42 Catholic dioceses, schools, hospitals, social service agencies and other institutions in filing suit in federal court to stop three government agencies from implementing a mandate that would require them cover contraceptives and sterilization in their health plans.

Catholic organizations have objected to the contraceptive mandate since it was announced last Aug. 1 by Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Unless they meet the four criteria of a narrow religious exemption or have a grandfathered health plan, employers will be required to pay for sterilizations and contraceptives as part of their health coverage beginning as soon as Aug. 1, 2012. Religiously affiliated institutions will be given an additional year — by August 2013 — to comply with the mandate.

Garvey, writing for the Chronicle, noted that if the federal government had provided a “genuine accommodation” to Catholic organizations with the health care law, it could have attained its goals “while respecting fully the constitutionally protected rights of our universities to remain true to our founding missions: the development of intellect and the inculcation of virtue.”

“Barring that, we feel compelled to seek relief from the courts,” he wrote.

In the Post, Garvey said Catholic institutions that filed suit against the HHS mandate “object that the rules force them to support activities — sterilization and abortion, in addition to contraception — that they view as immoral. It’s like compelling Jehovah’s Witnesses to salute the flag, or Quakers to fight or Jews to eat pork.”

UPDATE: Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik has written a similar commentary in USA Today that appeared yesterday. He also co-wrote a June 8 column in the Pittsburgh Catholic, the diocesan newspaper, discussing the reason for the lawsuits.

‘For Greater Glory’ is a ‘strong film with a timely message’ about religious liberty, says archbishop

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez at premiere of “For Greater Glory.” (CNS photo/Reuters)

It’s not every day a Catholic archbishop welcomes a host of Hollywood celebrities at a movie premiere, but that was the scene on the red carpet May 31, when Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez greeted the stars of the new movie “For Greater Glory,” among them Andy Garcia, Eva Longoria and Eduardo Verastegui. The film, opening yesterday in theaters, is about the 1920s Cristero Rebellion in Mexico.

“The anti-Catholic persecutions in Mexico in the 1920s and 1930s are long forgotten, it seems. The reality is hard to believe,” the archbishop wrote in his May 29 column for The Tidings, newspaper of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. “Just a generation ago, not far from our borders, thousands of men, women and even children, were imprisoned, exiled, tortured and murdered. All for the ‘crime’ of believing in Jesus Christ and wanting to live by their faith in him.

“So I welcome the new film, ‘For Greater Glory.’ It tells the dramatic story of this unknown war against religion and our church’s heroic resistance. It’s a strong film with a timely message. It reminds us that our religious liberties are won by blood and we can never take them for granted.”

Catholic News Service reviewer John Mulderig echoed that sentiment in his review: The Mexican government’s tyrannical interference with religious liberty, while obviously far more extreme than anything taking place north of the border today, nonetheless carries a sobering resonance with current events.

“If the film can be taken as a cautionary tale about where excessively zealous, overweening secularism can lead a nation, the warning is a stark one.”

The Catholic Church has canonized 25 martyrs of the rebellion and beatified even more. The most famous of the martyrs is St. Toribio Romo Gonzalez, a popular patron of Mexican migrants. On March 25,  the second full day of his two-day visit to Mexico before he traveled to Cuba, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass in Silao, in the central state of Guanajuato, the country’s Catholic heartland and a stronghold of the 1920s Cristero Rebellion.

Setting the record straight

Cardinal Dolan

Yesterday the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights complained that we had downplayed last Friday evening’s letter from Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, to his fellow bishops. The cardinal’s strongly worded letter charged that the White House was ignoring the bishops’ religious freedom concerns in the rules that would mandate contraceptive coverage in health insurance plans.

Here’s what the Catholic League initially said about our coverage:

Catholic News Service never commented on, or posted, Cardinal Dolan’s letter in its “News Stories” section; instead, it relegated it to its blog postings, never highlighting the USCCB-America dispute.

As we advised the Catholic League shortly after the news release was issued yesterday, this seriously misrepresented our coverage of the cardinal’s letter.

Cardinal Dolan’s letter to his fellow U.S. bishops on Friday was an expanded version of his Thursday blog post. We reported on the cardinal’s blog item (More ‘confusion than clarity’ about HHS mandate, Cardinal Dolan says), but Friday’s expanded letter came too late for us to update that story.

Since we had already closed the wire for the week when the letter arrived late Friday afternoon, our solution — which we often do when news breaks at odd hours — was to write about the cardinal’s letter on our blog for Catholic readers over the weekend. We also posted a link to it on our Facebook page describing it as breaking news that evening.

Monday morning after we reopened the wire we wrote and posted for our clients a 650-word story on the cardinal’s letter. You can read that story here.

Our public website only includes a fraction of the stories, photos and other material we provide to our paying clients. This is why the Catholic League presumably assumed in issuing its release yesterday that we had not done a detailed story on the cardinal’s letter. (Our Monday story also prominently mentions the USCCB dispute with America magazine’s editorial, which the Catholic League says we never highlighted.)

The Catholic League’s initial misrepresentation of our coverage of the cardinal’s letter has spawned other errors. Spero News ran the Catholic League’s release under the ludicrously silly headline Catholic News Service spikes Cardinal Dolan.

Catholic League communication director Jeff Field did respond to CNS’s concerns today and amended the original post to note that “while there was no CNS story on this issue posted to its website, there was one that was sent to its client list.” We appreciate the Catholic League’s willingness to set the record straight. Unfortunately in a digital world, the original remains in places like Spero and other news aggregators.

Finally, no other news organization — Catholic or secular — has covered the U.S. bishops struggle on religious liberty issues, including the HHS mandate, more than Catholic News Service. Nor has CNS taken any editorial position, even benignly, against the work of the USCCB. As a wire service, CNS does not take editorial positions. It is too busy covering the daily news of a global church.

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.”

Rev. King’s message of action, service remembered today

Sculpture of Rev. King at memorial in Washington. (CNS photo/ Bob Roller)

What the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. “was talking and preaching about to us … is so relevant now. It’s what we as a people are fighting for now, as far as justice, peace and equality,” said Nova Nelson. She made the comments last October at the dedication of a new memorial to the slain civil rights leader in the National Mall’s West Potomac Park in Washington. Today especially, the memorial is a focal point for celebrating  Rev. King’s life and legacy. Nelson — director of the Washington Archdiocese’s Mass Choir who also directs the gospel ensemble and children’s choir at St. Martin of Tours Parish in Washington — sang the national anthem at the dedication. She later noted in an interview with the Catholic Standard, Washington’s archdiocesan newspaper, that Rev. King drew his strength from his faith. That’s an example for all those who want to carry forth his work and message today, she said.  “No matter how much he was hated or rejected, he kept going because he believed in God and believed God would make a way, and he wasn’t afraid. He had to keep pushing for what God wanted him to do. Sometimes, we get doors closed in our faces. We have to keep pushing, knowing God is walking with us every step of the way.”

Letters in antique shop lead retired editor to write tribute to ‘ordinary soldier’

James Breig retired in 2008 after 37 years at The Evangelist, newspaper of the Diocese of Albany, N.Y., where he had been a staff writer, assistant editor and then editor (for the last 25 years of his tenure). But retirement meant he had time for a new project — researching and writing what turned out to be a 332-page nonfiction book. The book idea was sparked by his discovery of a soldier’s letters in an antique shop three years ago. That find resulted in “Searching for Sgt. Bailey: Saluting an Ordinary Soldier of World War II.”

“Dearest Mama,” begins a letter written by Army Sgt. James Boisseau Bailey on Aug. 8, 1944. “I know that you have begun to think that I have forgotten you but that will never happen. … Will do anything to get this damn war over and to get back home.”

Bailey sent that letter from New Guinea to his mother in Virginia, according to Breig. It and others like it inspired Breig to “search between their lines for telltale clues to the soldier’s entire life and for hidden hints about his fears and his worries, his hopes — and his love for a mysterious woman named Jane.”

Breig’s books also introduces many other ordinary men and women who, as he puts it, “went off to war, dutifully did what they were asked to do and returned to anonymity.” He drew on hundreds of letters home from Marines, sailors, WACs and soldiers, and he conducted interviews with WWII veterans and experts on the history of the war.

He notes that “heroes of the ‘Greatest Generation’ have been rightly honored for their exploits on Normandy’s beaches, along Iwo Jima’s sands and in the air above Germany,” but he wanted to focus on the “other kinds of heroes,” he said, “the unnoticed millions who deserve to be saluted because they did their duty, regardless of what it was, well and faithfully.”

“If the stories are allowed to fade,” writes Breig, “so, too, will the men and women who lived them. So, too, will the history they made.”

The book covers what life was like in an Army training camp as well as New Guinea’s significance “in the string of fierce battles to reclaim the Pacific”; the creation of V-mail; the role of quartermasters, engineers and mechanics; and the demobilization of troops at the end of the war.

Since the book was published in November, Breig has been busy. He told CNS he has had a chance to promote the book on national radio, via “The Jim Bohannon Show.” He’s talked about it on at least 15 radio stations in local markets around the country,  has made some TV appearances and been the subject of newspaper articles in the Albany area and in Virginia, Bailey’s home state. He said he’s also given at least 20 presentations “to libraries, senior clubs and fraternal organizations.”

Blessed Marianne Cope’s cause moves ahead; news on other causes

Icon of Blessed Marianne Cope by Margaret Girdwood. (CNS photo)

On Wednesday, we reported that the path to canonization for Blessed Marianne Cope has been clearedafter a Vatican congregation has confirmed a second miracle attributed to her intercession. The final step for her canonization is approval by Pope Benedict XVI. The Vatican decision was announced Dec. 6 by the sister’s religious community, the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities in Syracuse, N.Y., and by Honolulu Bishop Larry Silva. At the same time unconfirmed reports surfaced that an announcement will be made in mid-December about the approval of a second miracle attributed to Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha’s intercession, which would clear the way for her canonization.

There also is news about other sainthood causes. In mid-November, Catholic New York, newspaper of the New York Archdiocese, reported that with approval from the Vatican, the cause for Bishop James A. Walsh has been formally opened, The bishop was co-founder in 1911 of the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, better known as Maryknoll. A ceremony took place Nov. 9 at the New York Catholic Center in Manhattan. According to Catholic New York, the cause for Maryknoll co-founder Father Thomas Frederick Price is pending in Raleigh, N.C.

In the Diocese of Peoria, Ill., the home diocese of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, Msgr. Stanley Deptula, executive director of the Archbishop Fulton Sheen Foundation, announced that this Sunday there will be a Mass to close the investigation tribunal that examined an alleged miracle attributed to the intercession of the archbishop. It will be celebrated at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Peoria, All the official documents related to the case will be sealed for shipment to Rome at the Dec. 11 Mass.

“If the pope approves this alleged miracle, we could have the first beatification ever on American soil here in Peoria, Illinois,” said the foundation.

A tribunal of inquiry was sworn in last September to investigate the case of  James Fulton Engstrom, who celebrated his first birthday Sept. 16, 2011. His parents, Travis and Bonnie Engstrom, believe James is alive because of the intercession of Archbishop Sheen. On the day of his birth he was considered stillborn, though his mother had had a healthy pregnancy and experienced “a beautiful, short labor.”

James was without a pulse for the first 61 minutes of his life. It was only when doctors at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria were ready to call the time of death “that his little heart started beating.”

The archbishop’s cause was officially opened in 2002. The Sheen Foundation centralized its operations in the diocese in 2007.

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