The bishops are taking it to the “in house”

Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Lori directly address the cave-in Catholics

George Weigel analyzes recent statements by Cardinal Timothy Dolan about how to overturn the HHS mandate:

The rigor with which the bishops have challenged the administration and its HHS mandate has not been given the attention it deserves, except in the distorted sense that has dominated too much mainstream media coverage of the debate: that this is all about those antediluvian bishops trying to impose on the entire country a morality their own people reject. But under the leadership of Cardinal Dolan, Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, chairman of the bishops’ conference’s recently formed Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, and others, the bishops have stayed on message (and on point), insisting that the mandate is an infringement on religious freedom of grave concern to all. As one Catholic feminist blogger put it, “This is as much about birth control as the American Revolution was about tea.”

The bishops have also, and at last, taken aim at those within the Catholic family urging an acceptance of the administration’s bogus “accommodation.” Cardinal Dolan’s letter took an unprecedented shot at the Jesuit magazine, America; Bishop Lori went even farther in a letter to that journal, noting that its disdain for the bishops allegedly getting lost in “details” of policy ignores every one of the mandate’s infringements on the religious freedom of both institutions and individuals. To which it might be added that it takes a special kind of moral blindness (or partisan besottedness) to suggest, as America did, that requiring the Church’s institutions and employers of conscience to provide health insurance that includes abortifacients like Ella is a “detail.” Moreover, as Cardinal Dolan’s letter made clear, the administration has a very direct way of “working out the wrinkles” in such “details”: It’s Obama’s way, or no way.

All very good points. Especially notable to me is how Cardinal Dolan has named names, directly confronting and naming, in this case, the cave-in Catholicism of America magazine. That seemingly small step is, as Weigel notes, unprecedented. In the past, such disagreements would usually be skirted about with adroit ambiguity, thus saving the bishops from having to deal with complaints from those offended and thus allowing those undermining the bishops’ directives to carry on with impunity. I also interpret the body of Cardinal Dolan’s writings and addresses about the mandate as clearly marking a line in the sand, not just for those “out there” who seek to further limit religious freedom by coercing institutions and individuals to violate their beliefs, but also for those “in house” who often are far more enamored with being accepted and praised by those undermining the Church (especially for their supposdly nuanced and sophisticated positions) than with making the glamourless, surely-to-be-mocked stand for the Church, morality, and truth, come thick or thin.

And if I had any doubts about that, they would be gone after reading Bishop William E. Lori’s recent response to the America editorial, which concludes with this:

Have I forgotten any other details we bishops shouldn’t be attending to? Well, I guess we’re policy wonks for wondering if the government has a compelling interest in forcing the Church to insure for proscribed services when contraception is covered in 90% of healthcare plans, is free in Title X programs, and is available from Walmart (generic) for about $10 a month. Pardon me also for wondering whether the most basic of freedoms, religious liberty, isn’t being compromised, not by a right to health care, but by a claim to “services” which regard pregnancy and fertility as diseases.

And didn’t President Obama promise adequate conscience protection in the reform of healthcare? But maybe it’s inappropriate for pastors of souls to ask why the entirely adequate accommodation of religious rights in healthcare matters that has existed in federal law since 1973 is now being changed.

 Oh, and as Detective Colombo used to say: “Just one more thing.” It’s the comment in the editorial about when we bishops are at our best. Evidently, it’s when we speak generalities softly and go along to get along, even though for the first time in history the federal government is forcing church entities to provide for things that contradict church teaching. Maybe Moses wasn’t at his best when he confronted Pharaoh. Maybe the Good Shepherd was a bit off his game when he confronted the rulers of his day.

Read the entire letter.

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About Carl E. Olson 1200 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.