Distinctly Catholic

NYTimes Wrong Again


Every time I go to the New York Times editorial page, I feel like Charlie Brown running towards the football, held by Lucy, hoping for a connection. And, like Mr. Brown, every time, I come away feeling pained by the effort.

Yesterday's Times' editorial regarding the lawsuits filed last week by a host of Catholic institutions against the HHS mandate was a new low even by the Times' low standards. It was not just wrong, it was dumb.

For example, they write: "But the First Amendment is not a license for religious entities to impose their dogma on society through the law." Huh? Which side in this fight is defending a "mandate" and in "impos[ing] their dogma on society through the law"? It is the government, not the Church, that has imposed the mandate here. The Church is looking for an exemption. Even the obvious meanings of the words should have tipped off the Times' editors.

Another Culture Warrior?


I do not want to judge the appointment of Bishop Samuel Aquila based on a single, unfortunate statement he made in the past. Nonetheless, regular readers may recall this post of mine when Bishop Aquila rolled out the Nazi analogy.

I was especially pleased to note then, as I note now, that while I do not think the bishops are engaged in a war against Obama, comments like Aquila's make it hard not to believe that the White House thinks negotiating with people who compare the president's actions to nazis and communists are not people with whom it is worthwhile to negotiate. Yes, the White House has made a mess of the HHS mandate and nothing anyone else has said excuses that mess.

Let's hope the cool mountain air of Colorado will clear the bishop's mind and memory and he will be able to find more proximate analogies to make his points. And it is time for the Congregation for Bishops to think about the long-term effects on the U.S. Church of routinely promoting culture warrior bishops to prominent sees.

Is religious liberty being hijacked?


The U.S. bishops are facing some choices in the weeks ahead. In June, their annual summer meeting may not be the most well attended event, in part because many bishops absent themselves from the summer meeting in any event and this year because the meeting coincides with the International Eucharistic Congress in Ireland. But, two issues must be faced: First, in the subsequent “Fortnight for Freedom,” scheduled for the end of June, in their efforts to rescind the mandate, will they focus on the rights of Catholic institutions to be free from government interference or will they over-reach and continue to claim a conscience right for individual, non-ecclesiastical and, in some instances, for-profit employers. Second, will the bishops be focusing on the issue of religious liberty in all its variety or exclusively on the HHS mandate.

Garnett Responds to MSW


Rick Garnett has posted a response to my writings this week on the subject of religious liberty at the great blogsite "Mirror of Justice." I will offer a more thoughtful reply subsequently but will say this at the outset: Garnett and I probably agree on about 90% but the other ten percent is very important. I will also say that it is an honor to be engaged in disagreement with someone like garnett who is smart even when he is wrong and respectful even in disagreement.

Catholic (Un)Cultured


Dr. Jeff Mirus, writing at CatholicCulture.org, castigates Bishop Stephen Blaire for be willing to secure the Church's freedom "at the expense" of the conscience rights of individuals. The key point of his argument is this: "it is not enough that the institutional Church should be exempt from immoral insurance requirements. Nobody should be forced to financially support immoral practices."

Certainly, I am sure Mirus would allow that the Church has a First Amendment claim that an individual does not: The text of the First Amendment guarantees the freedom of religion, religion is a word derived from the Latin meaning "to bind," and it certainly means to us Catholics, and it certainly meant to most of the Founders, a binding not only to the moral law and its Author but to each other in some sort of religious community.

Cohn on Romney's Health Care Proposals


Jonathan Cohn, at the New Republic, knows more about health care policy than anyone writing on the subject today. In a fine piece published yesterday, he looks at Gov. Romney's somewhat vague policy proposals and why they would be a disaster for the country.

As the USCCB continues to focus on religious liberty, a cause I support wholeheartedly, they need to remember that this election is also about other issues and one of those is whether or not the country will get health care to more than 50 million Americans or deny health care to 50 million Americans.

Memorial Day


Memorial Day brings a flood of memories. Our little town always has a parade down Main Street, with floats on the back of farm trucks, the band from the local high school, and our town’s fire trucks, freshly washed and waxed. At the end of the parade, everyone gathers at a monument to our town’s veterans, someone gives a speech, a wreath is laid, a trumpeter plays taps, the flag is lowered to half-mast. Then, the local Grange has a BBQ with free ice cream for the kids. It is very Norman Rockwell.

Report on Religious Freedom Event


Just back from an event sponsored by the Ethics and Public Policy Center on religious freedom. It was not exactly “fair and balanced” anymore than Fox News is, although Bill Galston from Brookings was given the microphone and, unsurprisingly, gave the most nuanced of this morning’s presentations. At least the organizers were candid that the day’s proceedings were not just about learning, they were about action. This was the religious right’s highly educated cohort, getting their marching orders and their battleplans.

The avalanche of criticism against, variously, the Obama administration, secularization, gay and lesbian activists, etc., began with Tom Farr of Georgetown who said that in his 2009 address at Notre Dame, President Barack Obama asserted a “lack of rational content” in religion. The relevant words of Mr. Obama’s were: “It's beyond our capacity as human beings to know with certainty what God has planned for us or what He asks of us. And those of us who believe must trust that His wisdom is greater than our own.” Now, as I recall, I found Obama’s comments strange in a speech at a Catholic university dedicated to the pursuit of faith and reason.

Religious LIberty Updates


I will be heading out shortly to a conference on religious liberty sponsored by the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Why these start these things so early, and all the way across town is beyond me. I will file a report early afternoon.

But, here is some food for thought on the issue.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl has an article at the Washington Post explaining the archdiocese's decision to file a lawsuit against the HHS mandate. It is worth noting that Cardinal Wuerl focuses on the same objection Bishop Blaire highlighted - the still-extant, four-part definition of what is, and is not, a religious organization for purposes of exemptions from the new HHS mandate. I am sure there was some gnashing of teeth at the idea that bishops were taking different positions in public on this issue but I don't think the positions are that fundamentally different. The differences are ones of emphasis and context. All agree on the heart of the matter.


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In This Issue

April 21-May 4, 2017