Distinctly Catholic

Conscience & Casuistry


Regular readers of this column will know that I am a huge fan of casuistry, which got a bad name during the Protestant Reformation, but remains a quintessentially Christian way of applying legal remedies. Casuistry aims to find a way not to penalize those who, technically but not viciously and with no harm to their conscience, mess up. Casuistry is an expression of sympathy with the human condition. Casuistry is opposed to Pharisaic postures. It is a good thing.

As the debate over the new mandates regarding health insurance policies heats up, I would like to recall a similar debate that happened in my home state of Connecticut in 2007. The bishops there fought a proposal in the state legislature that required all licensed hospitals to deliver Plan B, an emergency contraceptive, to those who had been raped. The legislature passed the law over the bishops' objections and the Republican governor at the time signed it into law.

Abp Aymond on Conscience


Here is a short audio commentary by Archbishop Gregory Aymond on the issue of conscience protections for Catholic institutions. Archbishop Aymond was one of the finest of Archbishop Sambi's promotions. Balanced, measured, but always incisive, Aymond's commentary on this, or any issue, are always worth consulting. Note to new nuncio: If you are looking for a coadjutor for Chicago, Aymond could make up for Cody, the last time a prelate from New Orleans went to Chicago.

In Defense of Rough Language


In 1999, David Howard, an aide to D.C. Mayor Anthony Wlliams, made headlines because he used the adjective “niggardly” in reference to the city’s budget. Howard was white, and a black colleague objected to what he perceived as a racial slur. The word evidently has Norse origins: nigla means to worry about small things. Howard resigned but after an internal review demonstrated, amply, that no racial slur was intended, he was offered a different job by Williams.

I thought of this incident today when the homepage of Politico has two items about controversies surrounding word choice. And the front section of the Washington Post has a third article about another incident.

CHA Weighs In on Conscience Regs and Mandates


The Catholic Health Association has just released the following statement from their President, Sister Carol Keehan. For those who do not recall, Sr. Carol was the only non-politician to receive one of the signing pens for the President's health care reform law. If the White House won't listen to her, they won't listen to anyone. Here is the statement:

The Catholic Health Association is both pleased and concerned by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ (HHS) recent actions on preventive services for women.

We are delighted that health insurance coverage must include critical screening services without any cost-sharing. What to some may seem like small amounts as co-pays for mammograms, pap smears, etc., has proven to be an effective barrier to care for women who have low incomes.

Our hope is that eliminating this barrier will result in earlier diagnosis at a treatable stage of many diseases such as cancer and diabetes. We applaud this aspect of the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine and their affirmation by the Health Resources and Services Administration.

Court Rules Against Susan B. Anthony List


Yesterday, Judge Timothy Black denied a request for summary judgment in a lawsuit brought against the Susan B. Anthony List. The case was brought by former Congressman Steve Dreihaus who argues that the SBA List defamed him in its campaign advertising by asserting that he voted for "taxpayer-funded abortion." There are a couple aspects of the ruling that are important.

A Star Rising in the West


Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles gave a talk the other day at the Napa Institute on immigration. But, he also spoke about more than immigration. Archbishop Gomez talked about the pressing need, especially for Catholics but truly for all Americans, to re-learn our “national story.”

Gomez recalled the efforts of Catholic missionaries, many of whom arrived in the southwestern parts of what is now America, and was then “New Spain,” before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, before John Winthrop discerned his “city on a hill,” before the founders set pen to scroll. He noted that the very names of many of our cities attest to this early evangelization: Sacramento, Las Cruces, Corpus Christi. Gomez also quoted John Gilmary Shea, the great 19th century Church historian, and first recipient of Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal: “Mass was said to hallow the land and draw down the blessing of heaven before the first step was taken to rear a human habitation. The altar was older than the hearth.”

Conscience Regs Are Totally Inadequate


The Department of Health and Human Services released it new rule regarding mandated coverage, with no co-pays, for women’s health insurance policies. As a part of that rule, HHS included conscience protections for religious institutions, or at least HHS claimed to be doing so. In fact, the new rule is totally inadequate and the best that can be said about it is that it is provisional. HHS explicitly invited comment for sixty days before the rule is finalized.

Here is the key language governing the exemption for religious organizations: “a religious employer is one that: (1) has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose;

Shakespeare & The New Roman Missal


Unlike many of my colleagues here at NCR, I am not filled with dread by the new Roman Missal translation we shall all be using come Advent. Yes, we can pull out a few clunky turns of phrase but you can find plenty of clunky turns of phrase in the current Missal. And, thank God we are nixing the first, and by far most commonly used, Memorial Acclamation: "Christ has died, Christ is Risen, Christ will come again." Everywhere else in the Mass, the people of God pray to the Son in the second person: "Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world..." for example. (The Lord's Prayer is an obvious and understandable exception.)

Nor am I worried about the return of some archaic language. It may be true, but very sad, that the average person in the pew is unfamiliar with the meaning of the word "ineffable" but I would submit that it is well nigh to impossible to find a better adjective to describe the Godhead - and our limited intellectual capability to exhaust the meaning of God. And, besides, if we need to avoid archaicness in the liturgy, why is the priest still dressed in what was once a toga?


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In This Issue

February 10-23, 2017