The National Catholic Review
Blase J. Cupich
Finding opportunity in a painful moment
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At the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion's den, Ezekiel's field of dry bones. Those stories—of survival, and freedom, and hope—became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world.

Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama

On Feb. 10 President Obama announced what administration officials are calling an “accommodation” to the earlier decision of the U.S Department of Health and Human Services to narrowly define the conscience exemption for religious entities that offer insurance coverage to their workers. As of this writing, the details of that “accommodation,” have not been fully studied. Care will be required to examine what this further articulation of the government’s policy will mean in practice.

The initial reaction of the leadership of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to the president’s remarks has been understandably cautious but optimistic, noting that this development presents an opportunity for dialogue to resolve the impasse. Part of that optimism may stem from what Mr. Obama did not say. It is remarkable that he made no reference to the distinction made earlier by H.H.S. between “non-profit employers based on religious beliefs” and “religious employers.” It seems to have just evaporated. The president only mentioned “religious institutions,” univocally including in that term those entities that are “affiliated” with a church, “like Catholic hospitals and Catholic universities,” The significance of collapsing the two terms originally distinguished by H.H.S. cannot be overplayed. Although the U.S. bishops rightly objected to government enforcement of insurance coverage of services and procedures that are morally objectionable, the central issue following the H.H.S. decision of Jan. 20 was that the government—heretofore specifically precluded from doing so by the Constitution and over 230 years of court precedent— would now decide what it means for any church to be church and what defines the permissible exercise of religion. In the end, as a recent America editorial put it (2/13), churches would be forced to “to function as a sect, restricted to celebrating its own devotions on the margins of society.”

Clearly, as the U.S.C.C.B. noted, the president’s announcement Friday provides an opportunity to resolve the present impasse. But I believe that an even greater opportunity is before us—namely, to have a fundamental dialogue that is deeper and on a more prolonged basis about the role of religion in society in general and the nature of religious liberty in particular, especially as it applies to faith-based charitable, health and social service ministries in the United States. I also believe that the president, relying on his personal experience with churches, which he cited once again on Feb. 10, has not only the potential but also the responsibility to make a significant contribution to this more sustained and expansive discussion.

When Barack Obama, as a candidate, addressed the topic of racism in a historic speech, entitled, “A More Perfect Union,” given at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on March 18, 2008, he drew on the stirring words quoted above from his book, Dreams From My Father. Of course, the context was the controversial remarks of his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a man who, Mr. Obama said, “helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor...and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God’s work here on Earth—by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from H.I.V./AIDS.”

What Catholics and other believers who object to the H.H.S. ruling were saying, in effect, was simply this: The church that gave inspiration to Mr. Obama’s Christian faith would no longer be considered a church that qualifies for a conscientious exemption if it continues to serve “the community by doing God’s work here on Earth—by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from H.I.V./AIDS.” The church that captured Mr. Obama’s imagination would be restricted in how it functions as “a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world.”

Similarly, when Mr. Obama recounted the narrative of his journey of faith, Catholics understood, for we too have a narrative, a story. The biblical stories of survival, freedom and hope, which became his story, have inspired Catholic individuals and religious communities to bring God’s saving work to the world not only through private works but by establishing institutions when there were none. The long arc of history that recounts the Catholic Church’s embrace of people of all faiths and none in providing health, education and welfare in society is as incontestable as it is impressive. We continue in our day to write the next chapter of that story by serving people in these various ways—we call them ministries—not because they are Catholic, but because we are Catholic and this is what Christ wants.

Three years ago to the date of the H.H.S. decision, President Obama reminded us in his inaugural address “that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture.” The church doing God’s work here on earth by serving the community not only is a large part of that patchwork heritage, but has oftentimes held it together.

My intention in pointing out the parallels between the language of Mr. Obama and those of us who were profoundly dismayed by the H.H.S. decision is simply to offer some common ground that may shape both the dialogue that needs to take place to unpack the details following the president’s announcement on Feb. 10, and the further national discussion on the role of religion in society. For a start, that framework should take into account the following:

1. A recognition that the challenge to the free exercise of religion comes not solely from the administration, but also from the courts and legislatures. The limitations being placed on the activities of religious bodies have been a growing concern for more than a decade.

2. While the H.H.S. decision was a symptom of what is happening around the country due to actions by the legislative and judicial branches, it was uniquely significant in that it affected all religious institutions on a federal level. There should be reluctance to make a national policy so inflexible that it fails to take into account the country’s diversity.

3. Related to this, the state should carefully consider the historical contributions of religious organizations to society and how this heritage has marked their identity before attempting to make distinctions that disqualify a religious organization from a freedom of conscience exemption.

4. A return to civility will be needed for us to seize fully the opportunities this newest development offers us. While the outrage to the H.H.S. decision was understandable, in the long run threats and condemnations have a limited impact. Leaders especially have a responsibility in this regard. They should always be leery of letting a situation escalate to an undesirable degree, particularly if it has the potential to bring lasting harm to both the church and the nation, and even worse, disproportionately affect the least among us.

5. We should never stop talking to one another. Though assurances were given on Feb. 10 that the administration’s plan all along was for government and church to work together to resolve conflicts over the H.H.S. mandate, the impression was that the government door was shut and it was up to the church to fix a problem it did not create. If that was a misperception, conversations could have at least clarified it.

6. Likewise, the church should make every attempt to clarify the misrepresentations about its intentions. For obvious reasons, the church will object to being forced to directly participate in activities that violate important core religious teachings, especially when proven alternative pathways already exist. However, in doing so the church is not trying to impose its will on others. Commenting on the place of Catholic social doctrine in public debate, Pope Benedict XVI unambiguously stated in his first encyclical, “God Is Love”: “It has no intention of giving the church power over the state. Even less is it an attempt to impose on those who do not share the faith ways of thinking and modes of conduct proper to faith. Its aim is simply to help purify reason and to contribute, here and now, to the acknowledgment and attainment of what is just.”

7. Finally, while this controversy has been painful for the nation and the church, it has raised awareness of the important contribution that religion makes to the common good. In an era that has seen not only the erosion of the free exercise of religion through laws, regulations and court decisions, as well as the attempts to marginalize the voices of believers, commentators from various perspectives and politicians of different persuasions have had to grapple with the role of religion in society. It would be a mistake to let the next news cycle topic distract us from exploring further this important issue, an issue that merited the first place in our Bill of Rights.

The kind of soul-sharing that inspired candidate Barack Obama’s historic contribution to the national dialogue on racism could serve us well in both the short and long term. With clarity and conviction he compellingly stated his own principles on religion in society, with which we agree. Now the challenge is for both government and church leadership to apply them in this and future situations afresh and with mutual respect.

Most Rev. Blase Cupich is bishop of Spokane.

Comments

Bert Monster | 3/1/2012 - 9:39pm

Why do the US Bishops and some Catholics somehow believe that their freedom of religion is being threatened? It is already guaranteed under the US Charter of Rights which provides for the separation between church and state. Would these same individuals prefer a theocratic nation under which Americans could all be forced to obey Sharia Law or that of some other institutional religion.

Catholics need to realize their individual role and responsibility to dialogue (not monologue) directly with our Creator. This applies to all of the challenges and trials we face each day. Including abortion, contraception, homosexuality, etc., etc., By listening to God with our hearts Catholics are not disobeying the Church but rather following the advice, inspired by the Holy Spirit,as was recognized and imagined by the fathers of Vatican II.

Religious Freedom remains a thorn in the side of the most conservative and fearfilled element in our Church led by the present Pope. Imagine the loss of power and prestige is that is now at stake? The Holy Spirit’s desire to guide and teach the People of God has been ignored for too long.

Dennnis MacDonald | 2/29/2012 - 6:26pm

Val J Peter presumes to make a case for "religious freedom" and its being indangered. In the context he does not define what he means by religious freedom and imputes that it is under threat in the US as it is in the middle east and presumably, in Europe. What does he mean and how does he justify his imputation?

Val Peter | 2/29/2012 - 10:59am

Dear Editor, 

Kudos to Bishop Blase Cupich.  He forgot to add three very important qualifiers. 

The first is everything the President does as President is political.  It is politics Chicagoland style. The bishops aren’t pros at this game.

The second thing the good Bishop forgot was when he recommended “dialogue to resolve the impasse”.   Now dialogue has various meanings.  Interfaith dialogue is one thing.  The dialogue Pope John Paul II had with Poland is another.  And dialogue with the White House entails unequal power.  What’s your backup position? 

Thirdly, the good Bishop would be wise to take into account the recent statement by “Evangelicals and Catholics together” entitled “In Defense of Religious Freedom”.  It puts the actions of the Obama administration in a very different light.  Religious freedom is under grave threats worldwide, in Islamic states and Europe.   The document says: It is no exaggeration to see here a movement to “drive religious belief…out of public life.” 

There is wisdom in the old phrase: “Trust everyone, but carry a gun.” 

Sincerely yours,

Val J. Peter

Director, The Catholic Center
Father Flanagan's Boys' Home
14100 Crawford Street
Boys Town, NE  68010

LaRue Withers | 2/28/2012 - 1:25am

P.S. I would suggest that some of you consider the reading of the Gospel According to St. Matthew, with particular attention to the story of the sheep and the goats. It is getting very tiresome to listen to people who call themselves Christians but think that the wealthiest nation in the world does not want to take care of the hungry, the naked and those in prison.

If the Church cannot afford to operate charities, etc., it is because their members are not supporting them financially. The Church conitnues to close churches and needs government funds to help them work with the needy, but if some in this country have their way, particularly those who do not understand anything but the word "no" they will no longer be providing assistance to any charitable organizations. I should think that it is more important for the Church to continue work in this area and, if they must instruct their members on how to vote, they would suggest they vote for those who are the sheep not the goats and let God be the judge of those with whom they do not agree when it comes to birth control. AND they might realize how much help they should be providing in those countries where the people are starving and told to bring more children into the world to starve along with them.

The Scripture states that woman was made because man should not be alone. THEN told to produce and multiply and fill the earth. I believe the "fill the earth" part has been accomplished.

LaRue Withers | 2/28/2012 - 12:45am

The good Bishop may recall that it was the Bishops who were not civil after the President offered a compromise. First of all, the President made it clear that there was still plenty of time to make "adjustments," but the Bishops decided to "go off!"

The Bishop states: "There should be reluctance to make a national policy so inflexible that it fails to take into account the country’s diversity." It is the Bishops who are inflexible. They are demanding that the U. S. Government cede to their demands according to their faith. The Church is free to practice her faith in this country and it is free to teach and promulgate her faith without limit or persecution as long as they do not violate the rights of others or insist that the nation follow their precepts. That is their mission. It is not the government's fault that she still has work to do and it is not up to the government to assist in doing it.

I would also remind the Bishop of two important things. First of all, Jesus Christ NEVER became involved with the civil government, and secondly, the Church was at its very worst when connected with any government. It is and always will be more danger for the Church to enter into this kind of situation. It is not the government that will suffer, but it is the Church that will be corrupted.

God gave us free choice to sin or not to sin. Ultimately He is the final judge.
Jane & Francis Thomas | 2/25/2012 - 11:56pm
I should have spared myself the effort - #24 above says it all.  Amen and thank you, brother.
Jane & Francis Thomas | 2/25/2012 - 11:53pm
The usual players are here, of course, and we can ignore their diatribes which rarely are specific to the issue at hand. Regarding the issue at hand, the President offered a compromise very quickly. Call it a political response in an election year or call it pragmatism, the fact is he made an effort. The Bishops have not done so. They have been itching for a fight with the President and now they think they have it. They don't. They once again are showing what they truly are: an anachronistic, power-focused, group of middle-age and older men who think they, and they alone, speak truth. They know no humility. So in this issue, they seek to bring the President to his knees by taking a hardline position - when the President really offered them everything. The Church and its instutions would not have to pay for contraception. ISn't that what they wanted? The initial round was about religious liberty. But now it is about a group of pig-headed men who don't get that they themselves gave up the moral high ground years ago because they they focused on power rather than charity and pastoral care - and power at all costs. They surrendered their own moral authority through their actions. Dialogue - these men haven't allowed a dissenting voice anywhere near them since they left the seminary? They don't want to hear others views; they want only to dictate.  Sadly, the Catholic Church has much to offer but with these men in charge, it will never get a chance to be heard.  They are killing the church - and only the Holy Spirit will save it.
C Walter Mattingly | 2/25/2012 - 2:45pm
Bob, while I admit I clearly prefer as president someone who is not so lacking in personal integrity to his word as well as respect for the Contitution, I don't hate President Obama. I truly hope he begins a new career as a blues singer in 2013.  A more success one than his current occupation has proven to be. Less damaging to the nation as well.
ROBERT KILLOREN | 2/25/2012 - 9:15am
Yes, Walter, we know you hate President Obama.
C Walter Mattingly | 2/25/2012 - 7:31am
Marie Rehbein offers one solution of the Church's problem with a president who does not respect the free exercise of relition clause built into our constitution (or other aspects of our Constitution): refusal of all federal support. Yet for those of us who would wish to continue to offer the possibllity of a good education for our inner city poor, the suffering addicts, the ill, and so forth that would be severely hampered should that occur, there is another, and far preferable, alternative.
Catholics have to face two facts: our current president respects neither the role the Church plays in our society, nor the US Constitution itself. Yes, he gives lip service to the role the Church has historically played in education and succoring the poor, but considering his many violations of the integrity of his word, it is prudent to ignore what he says and attend to what he does.
Here are some of what President Obama has done to expand his power at the expense of the educational and health mission of the Church. He has exploited with political cunning, slyly putting the issue in the hands of a proabortion Catholic woman, the wedge issue of contraception, in which there is a disconnect between the moral philosophy of the church and the majority of its members, in the process slyly slipping in under the door requiring church funding of elective abortions in the aborifacients it must pay for, an issue upon which the church and the majority of Catholic laity are in accord. Here the president is also likely in violation of the Constitution; the Supreme Court will likely decide that issue.

Yet this is but one example of the president's anomie toward the church. By attempting to reduce the deductibility of charitable donations, he can further impinge upon the church's ability to finance its schools, hospitals, churches, etc. and consolidate more power in the hands of the federal bureaucracy and out of the hands of other non-religious contributors to our society such as the Gates Foundation. Neither the parochial schools nor the Gates foundation portray our federal bureaucratic efforts in a favorable light, which generally compare unfavorably. His fight against providing vouchers to help the inner city poor attend schools from which they are likely to graduate is another.

Whether violating the War Power Act of the Constituion, the free exercise of religion clause, denying educational opportunities to the needy poor, or forcing citizens to purchase products they don't want, thoughtful Catholics can recognize an unprincipled power grab from our exectutive branch. And President Obama has thus far been as successful in that effort as he has been unsuccessful with the economic life of the country. 

So all we as Catholics need to do to reverse the threat to providing health care and other social services for our citizens and better educational opportunities for our most needy children is to reverse but one factor. Last election, 54% of the Catholic vote went to Barack Obama. Should 54% of the Catholic vote oppose his attack upon the Church and other charitable institutions, and we will have gone a long way toward restoring these valuable acts of succor to our citizens.
BRENDAN TEEHAN | 2/24/2012 - 6:26pm
It is refreshing to note that at least one bishop is taking a pastural, rather than a confrontational approach, to this question.
Virginia Edman | 2/24/2012 - 4:57pm
"The feeling I got while being read to was that I was being coerced into taking a side against the President, doing the bidding of some hidden Republican handler.  I felt that my worship experience was tainted by politics.  Coincidentally, it was the same week the United in Ministry was kicking off, and I made my statement by deciding to starve this beast, the sooner the better.  I have no doubt that the reading of this letter was done out of obedience up the Catholic Church's chain of command."  Marie Rehbein

There are some amazing comments here.  Marie Rehbein, who I quote above, picked up, as I did in this article by Bishop Blase Cupich, the use of force to make the us take their side against the President.  This overbearing concern of the bishops toward womens reproduction is distasteful.   Women have consciences and they are obviously not going to be pushed around.
Marie Rehbein | 2/19/2012 - 4:34pm
I have to agree with Sr. Marilyn Wallace that the Catholic Church has no business taking US taxpayer dollars given that these are coerced from taxpayers who do not share the Church's perspective on reproductive issues.  This is no time for dialogue.  It's time the Church funds its own charitable activities.
2195045 | 2/18/2012 - 7:28pm
It seems that many people today are more concerned with dialogue than with principle.  If religious liberty is a negative immunity right of freedom from coercion, why not admit that the Obama Administration is trying to force the Church to act against conscience in the areas of abortion, sterilization and contraception.

It seems that there are those among us who keep calling for dialogue at the expense of truth.  We need to remember Pope Benedict's caution against "a dictatorship of relativism."  This is not the time for empty rhetoric.  We need a Second Civil Rights Movement where people are willing to lay down their lives  for the defense of real religious liberty,  instead of searching aimlessly for a common ground that clearly does not exist. 
Paul Ferris | 2/17/2012 - 4:36pm

My point above is how can the bishops find common ground with the president when they have no common ground with the laity.

Please forgive the typo and spelling mistakes in the previous comment. I am recovering from catarac surgery and I am not a great typist.
Paul Ferris | 2/17/2012 - 4:18pm

Bishop Cupich article is very intelligent and instructive. He raises great issues for discussion.

Yet the sad fact is that the question of contraception is the proximate cause of this bruhaha. Bishop Cupich avoids any discussion of the Pope Paul VI's, Humanae Vitae, teaches that each and every act of sexual intercouse must be open (not obstructed through physical and chemical means) to transmission of semen to the vagina. Of course regulation of birth through the use of time via natural family planning or rythym method is acceptabe.

Unfortunately the Pope and some bishops have held to this belief despite a flat rejection of most theologians and laity for almost fifty years now. I couldn't agree more with dennism comment above, especially paragraph c.

Lately I have been thinking that there is a terrible Episcopal Empathy Gap (EEG, if you will) on most pastoral postitions the bishops have taken during my lifetime of 67 years.

Here is a quick list that comes to mind: 1. birth control 2. voluntary instead of compulsary celibay with reference as well to priests who left the ministry to marry; 3. women's ordination; 4. In vitro fertilization; 5. altar girls (some bishops) 6. homosexual and gay sexual relationships and marriage. 7. The issue of divorce and remarriage requiring people who have been married for years and had children to say they have never been married(annulment) rahter then call the failure of their marriage a divorce. 7. Refusing divorced Catholics who have married again without an annulment the right to receive the eucharist. There are proably more but I cannot think of them right now.

There is one extraordinary exception to this lack of emapthy list. The bishops showed extraordinary patience and empathy to priests who committed sexual abuse of minors. Here the bishops almost universally tried to deal with the problem internally.

The bishops seem to live in a parallel universe from the laity. The bishops have been ideological instead of pastoral dealing with these issues. By refusing to dialogue with the laity they have forfeited the opportunity to speak about issues in a nuanced way where they could bring out the positive values in their teaching.

Is it any wonder that if one took an opinion poll of the job the bishops are doing their rating would be lower than the United States Congress ?
Dennnis MacDonald | 2/16/2012 - 4:13pm

The negative reactions are not surprising and to some extent understandable. Years ago I had a bit of sympathy for the sect that rejected blood transfusions on religious grounds as well as the "church/state" arguments. Nevertheless, the resolution to the both, to my mind is thus:

a) an human act or service is not religious just because someone says so or believes so. No sect can appropriate to itself what is common to all. Other than the provision of religious rites and services and prosletizing, it would seem to me that all these good works emanate from the values, virtues and ethical responsibilities of being human and being human living in community (whether of city, state or nation). Even "religious rites" that offend the public good could be subject to public scrutiny - blood tranfusions, humam sacriface. Jesus did not create or invent charity, compassion, morality, ethics, let alone health services. One only has to read Aristotle's "Ethics", to be confident of this and to learn that "benevolence", whether of charity, love or friendship) is a human virtue/obligation and is the basis of community/society. Furthermore, all these "good works" as performed by religious organizations have a self-interest and/or prosletyzing element. Yes, Jesus told us to do more and go furhter, and yes, as a catholic, I believe that in Christ, my good works, being a good human beinng, 'take on" a religious value.

b) no employer can exclude its employees or be excused from providing its employees with benefits which are common to all based upon a non-demonstrable right. I would suggest that any exclusion or exemption would be by concession, not by right and not without the agreement of both employee and employer and the legitimate funder and the bodies with the prime right/obligation - the human community.

c) the position contraception at issue is "the pope's and the heirarchy" not "the church". Say what you will about the hierarchic authority, but the hierarchy has no credibility on matters sexual, and their stated position on contraception holds no water with its own expertize nor its membership.

d)Church/state? Clearly there is an overlap here. The church interests overlap with that of the state. The higher ground and prior jurisdiction within the "public square" is that of the nation, not the bishops. Their position is weak, their activities largely funded by the state. Bishops: face the realities and the real morallity, compromise, or get out of the game.
Dan Hannula | 2/16/2012 - 3:10pm
Sorry Walter-I meant Mr./Ms. Easton.
Dan Hannula | 2/16/2012 - 2:34pm
Walter-"Those that want contraceptive care could tailor their own plan accordingly as an additional option at minimal expense, no employer would fund it nor would any Catholic be forced to via his own premiums."  

Two concerns:  One: Do you suppose that such a solution is fair (just) to women with health concerns that cause them to seek this quite legal form of health care while you still get your health care plan to pay for your needs?

Two: Can we do the same thing with, for example, Quakers and other conscientious objectors to war?  I.e., can we exempt them from paying taxes that fund things they object to on moral/religious grounds-like war?  Remember Henry David Thoreau? He didn't pay his poll tax because he objected to the Mexican war.  He went to jail for that.

Sadly, the Bishops have no simple vehicle whereby they can opt for jail as a statement of the moral outrage they feel toward Obama (if not the 28 states that do the same).  I would be inerested to see how many would go to jail.  I suspect instread they will use communion as their political tool of choice. Obama is not Catholic, so I guess one or more of the Bishops will have to "publicly" warn Joe Biden that he can't take communion in his Diocese because he has been a bad boy.  Maybe they can also publicly deny communion to highly visible Catholics, as was done to professor Doug Kmiec, in the last election.  This will be interesting.  As JFK warned "... those who foolishing sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside."
Donald Blackton | 2/16/2012 - 11:50am
Fundamentally this highlights the farce that is employer provided health insurance. Imagine if an employer decided to use employee provided contributions via premium payments to fund abortion on demand for employees. Employees who were pro-life would be directly funding abortions and they would have no other option but to quit their job or accept it. No employer should have the right to determine the composition of their employees health care plan. Yet the goverment has set up the system that employers get tax deductions and since they are able to pool employee contributions are able to far more easily afford it then the individual. This makes the individual a slave to his corporate master even when the corporation has no desire to be so. Toyota makes cars, that is all. GM has to be a health care agent, with employees devoted towards that end instead of making cars.
The simple solution is to set up health insurance exchanges with their large risk pools in every state, offer tax credits (and where necessary subsidies) so that individuals can buy in and negotiate the plan that most meets their physical and spiritual needs.
The only function of government would be to set miminum standards to be met by insurers, such as no recission, no denial of health care due to pre-existing conditions, and basic preventative care. Those that want contraceptive care could tailor their own plan accordingly as an additional option at minimal expense, no employer would fund it nor would any Catholic be forced to via his own premiums.
C Walter Mattingly | 2/16/2012 - 11:08am
While commentators here tell those with differing opinions to get lost, turning dialogue into a monalogue or their personal diatribe, no real harm is done. Yet when a president does so, cutting off debate on health care, or the freedom of religious expression guaranteed by the constitution, it is a real problem, correctable, fortunately, in the vote of the citizens.
ed gleason | 2/15/2012 - 10:02pm
2-15-12.. USCCB now wants all businesses even secular for- profits who have Catholic ownership exempt from HHS BC mandate. They have moved the goal post to another city. They dialogue like the Tea Party GOPers.                                                      you guys have lost big time ...now ....     get lost.
John Hess | 2/15/2012 - 9:08pm
When Jesus held up a coin and said to render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, He was clearly aware that some of that tax money would go to purposes He knew to be reprehensible.  Such as subsidizing gladiatorial shows in which men were made to fight to the death for entertainment.  He did not, unlike our Bishops, demand perfection from an imperfect world, but only that we follow him.

I have no problem with a bishop who happens to be a Republican, but I have a huge problem with a Republican who happens to be a bishop.  Sadly, I think we have some of the latter, as well as some who can't tell the difference.     
MICHAEL GRIFFIN | 2/15/2012 - 4:08pm
Bishop Cupich's article is well written and strikes a moderate tone of reconciliation. How can one explain,however,  the USCCB sudden mobilization which is so atypical of their history. Where was the high moral ground when Bush 2 went to war over hidden WMD? It appears the USCCB is taking a political position trying to affect the 2012 election.

While visiting Florida last week in Fort lauderdale, the priest in the homily compared Nazi Germany to the Obama administrations rules and regulations (pre-modification) on contraception coverage. His words had the flavor of Tea Party campaign material.

I can remember how thrilled  I was with John Kennedy as a Catholic running for Presidential office. Today with Catholics Santorum and Gingrich (The Obama administration is atacking the Catholic Church!) running for the Presidency, it is an embarrasment  to be a Catholic and have these people running for office.

 
Angelo Roncalli | 2/15/2012 - 2:04pm

Should the bishops and the president find common ground or should the Church and the state be completely separate as the US consitution provides?

Mike Evans | 2/15/2012 - 2:45am
And in all this, so many fail to recognize that contraceptive insurance coverage is already required in 28 states and has become 'settled law' after several court challenges and decisions. The bishops have chosen to be more sanctimonious than approachable or willing to dialog. I too, wonder if there isn't a deeper and even overt motive to try to influence Catholic voters away from supporting the Democrats. As a church, we have far more in common with the Democrats than the GOP who would boost the 1% only and forget about the rest. I seem to remember a parable about good shepherds going in search of the lost not coddling the saved or preaching to the choir. Jesus would seek out the outcast and eat with sinners and prostitutes and even touch the lepers. We have more than enough poor, disabled, hungry and homeless folk to minister to. Let's not leave them in the lurch.
Dan Hannula | 2/15/2012 - 1:13am

This is pure power politics.  Many Bishops have been itching for a public fight with Democrats, especially liberals, for years.  One may honestly question whether is this is an debate over religious freedom or an attempt to swing a few Catholic votes to whoever opposes Obama this fall. Recent history gives support that this is more political than religious.  Remember Bishop Burke? When he was Bishop of La Crosse, Wisconsin, he involved himself in a public debate over denying elected Catholics communion in his diocese-all Democrats supporting their party’s stand on choice. After being promoted to Archbishop of St Louis, Mo., and in spite of the fact that Senator Kerry would be unlikely to find himself in one of that Diocese's churches at Mass time during the presidential campaign (and apparently unable to find the Senator's address at the to privately warn him) publicly announces that a presidential candidate can't take communion in a St Louis Diocese church because he supports his party's position on choice.

Now, we have what appears to be another manufactured brouhaha.  From what I have learned in the short time that the Bishops have played this card is that 28 states have similar rules to the HSS rule on health care plans.  Many do not allow religious affiliated institutions to opt out.  So, if this was such a monstrous freedom of religion issue-how come not one Catholic university or hospital has yet to take any of these states to the Supreme Court for such a heinous infringement of religious freedom?  And, how come many Catholic universities, colleges, hospitals, etc., provide contraceptive care to their employees and have done so for years?

How come the Bishops did not go postal and have letters read in the churches when President Bush started a war of choice—a war that the Holy Father said was unjust? (i.e., sinful)  How come there are no letters read in the churches in those states that still engage in execution as a legitimate punishment?

William Donahue | 2/14/2012 - 4:02pm
Roy Van Brunt | 2/14/2012 - 3:34pm
Or, Lisa, some of us are just bad typist and proofreaders! apologies.
Lisa Weber | 2/14/2012 - 2:10pm
Thank you to Bishop Cupich for stating the need for continuing dialogue and civility within that dialogue.  The issues themselves are important, but the ability to hold a civil dialogue also matters. 
My personal prejudice is that those who have found the "caps lock" and "bold type" keys will probably express more emotion than logic.  Diatribe is often mistaken for dialogue.
william mullan | 2/14/2012 - 1:39pm
The "Food for the poor" ad featuring the impoverished Haitian boy represents an ironic counterpoint to the bishops' concerns over birth control.
Roy Van Brunt | 2/14/2012 - 12:38pm

"By historical standards our poor are rich". I guess that can be read to say that you'd be happy to change places with them then Chris, huh? What a barometer!

Dear God, what has our church - we the people - come to? "Religious institutions" might, for the general welfare, be asked to pay a part of the cost of something that they individually may think is wrong and people should not do. How about the taxes many of the REST OF US are asked to pay for things like war and maintaining Guantonamo? Do the bishops next think we should all simply refuse to pay taxes too? What makes the UCCB think they are somehow better than the rest of Americans? Are we in this togther, for the common welfare, or not?

The bishops should, instead, go back to fiddling wih the new translation - and explain why the first person singular creed is immediately followed by a first person plural Prayer of the Faithful - or has no one there noticed or cared that they have made the liturgy nonsensical in their need for change - any change? Do they explain why we have an English archaic series of "art in heaver" and "Thy kingdome come"s, and "thy will be done"s - but IN THE SAME PRAYer END WITH "YOURS IS THE KINGDOM AND THE POWER AND THE GLORY"? Are we thinking while we are praying?...... or merely reduced to reciters of rote?

ROBERT OCONNELL | 2/14/2012 - 12:35pm
Bishop Cupich wrote a kind and respectful article.  Personally, I would like to thank him.  His suggestions are magnanimous, valuable and very Christlike.

The more I think about it, the more impressed I am with our Bishops.  I appreciate their willingness to give their lives to the Church - and their leadership on an issue of meaningful significance to our ability to live as Catholics in this country.   
Christopher Mulcahy | 2/14/2012 - 11:30am

The evolution of American life toward dependence on the federal government is a breathtaking departure from the American tradition.  That Washington would dare impose an obligation to subsidize contraception on anyone, let alone on  a church related institution,  is shocking.  But not as shocking as some of the comments above that give no evidence of awareness of these treasured legal and cultural inheritances.

Americans are self-reliant.  Americans have repudiated kings and princes and rely on God to provide.  Americans do not crawl on their knees to their capital city to beg for crumbs from the palace tables.  Or do they now.

Democratic capitalism, working through free markets, is proven to be the only escape from existential poverty—a poverty that was the universal experience of man for millenia.  Under democratic  capitalism we are bigger. We live longer, healthier lives with an explosion of labor saving devices .  Our healthcare is miraculous.  We enjoy an astoundingly diverse supply of delicious foods.  By historical standards our poor are rich.

Do America readers understand this?  Do they really want America to endure?  Then defend our culture and repudiate dependency on  Washington.
WILLIAM ATKINSON | 2/14/2012 - 11:22am
Religious freedom as spelled out in US constitution differs greatly from freedoms expressed by the catholic religion, also US gives equal rights to mankind by mans creator that are not a fundamental belief of all Abrahamic founded religions, especially those governed by Catholic church, recall Gods chosen people granting them superior rights over lesser peoples of the world. The church is moving rapidly to encompass all of mankind as equals, but have miles and miles, or eras and eons to go to realise equality of all beings, so far the US is closest to achieving the city on the hill where all of mankind is truly made in image and likeness of the creator.
Vince Killoran | 2/13/2012 - 4:09pm
We had nothing less than a polical rally-the pastor's homily ended with cheering and clapping and the Knights of Columbus were waving clipboards with form letters for us to sign at the back.  There was no reflection on the Church's responsibility to engage with the multicultural & pluralistic society in which we live, let alone acknowledge Friday's development.

I would argue that this has to do with the bishops' anger that 97 percent of adult Catholic women have or are currently using birth control methods other than the rythmn method.  This is a last ditch effort to try to discipline them.  The relationship of Church and civil society are simply collateral damage. 
Marie Rehbein | 2/13/2012 - 3:22pm
I have to agree with Ed that the Catholic Church intends to continue this controversy as a battle rather than as a dialogue, and for the same reason.  The letter was read in our church yesterday even though our diocese, in fact our entire state, has not one Catholic hospital or college.  The point of the letter is that there is a battle to be fought over religious freedom in the United States, which in my opinion is as ridiculous as the idea that there was ever a war on Christmas. 

The feeling I got while being read to was that I was being coerced into taking a side against the President, doing the bidding of some hidden Republican handler.  I felt that my worship experience was tainted by politics.  Coincidentally, it was the same week the United in Ministry was kicking off, and I made my statement by deciding to starve this beast, the sooner the better.  I have no doubt that the reading of this letter was done out of obedience up the Catholic Church's chain of command. 

I wait with bated breath for the pronouncement that some of us are not worthy of communion for not having sided with the Church in this so-called battle.
David Pasinski | 2/13/2012 - 2:23pm

Are we continually looking thorugh the different ends of the telescope? Or the fun- house parabolic mirror?

Whatever, perhaps these distortions are typical, but I believe that the administration's minimalist approach to defining "religous institution" seems to give more freedom rather than less. I hope it's not newsspeak to say that "less is more" here since once freed from such a designation, individual expressions of religion can continue to be protected BUT how they are expressed in the public forum through mission and motive - not to mention the confusion that funding issues and other mandates mix in - has the protection (not just the obligation) to fulfill its civic role that it's assumed.

This perhaps warrants much greater detail as an argument, but I am reminded of the SC decision on prayer in the schools and John McGreevy's chaper on the "persecution" of Catholics in the public school sytem of the 1850s in Boston. I think that the plurality of religious expression in America as well as the continued evolution of private-governemnt funding, is going to make for more clashes unless the often invoked "wall of separation" is set at a reasonable height...

ed gleason | 2/13/2012 - 10:44am
The bishops' condemnation letters, written a week ago, were read in Churches around the country  this weekend without any mention of the new  Friday 'accommodation' Where was there any willingness. as Bishop Cupich says.." to offer some common ground that may shape both the dialog that needs to take place to unpack the details following the president’s announcement Friday,'
The out of date letters were read w/o any mention of common ground being sought.. N.B. any excuse about time will be ignored by those who know that parishes are connected to the dioceses with broadcast fax.
SUGGESTED FAX NOTE  "PLEASE MENTION THAT THIS Friday STEPS 'IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION' SEEM TO HAVE BEEN TAKEN BY THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION. 

The 'religious war' is seen as a winner by the blind/