The National Catholic Review

Bishop Blaire has issued a clarification of "some misunderstandings" based on his remarks to me on Tuesday (full text of the statement follows below). I've asked his press secretary if he wishes to speak specifically to comments or points made in the interview published here and will update if I hear back.

Reading his statement, however, I don't see much essentially changed from his remarks to me Tuesday morning. His comments generated a heavy speculative buzz in both the Catholic and secular media, and I presume his "clarification" is intended more toward how far columnists such as E.J. Dionne and Lisa Miller at the Washington Post and Michael Sean Winters at National Catholic Reporter carried his comments from the text that was published here.

I am pretty confident, whatever followed in the wake of our initial report, America was pretty Joe Friday ("just the facts") on this one. As he told me, Blaire reiterates in his clarification that he supports the religious liberty campaign in general. He expands slightly on points made on Tuesday: "It is totally unacceptable to have the federal government decide that our religious ministries are not 'religious.' The continuing effort of the government to intrude itself by re-defining Catholic ministries as somehow less religious or less Catholic because they employ or serve those without regard to their creed is unjust and a violation of religious liberty. The government should not intrude itself in forcing the Church and her institutions to violate her long standing teaching to provide essential health care to her employees."

He adds: "I am convinced we need to continue to seek to persuade others to join us in this just cause through reasoned, civil and respectful discussion. Our defense of religious liberty is advanced when there is open discussion about the best strategies to promote our common goal." Again, pretty much what he told me, though he advocated a "wider consultation" among the bishops at the June meeting.

At EWTN Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., and Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore were downplaying all talk of divisiveness within the conference. Archbishop Lori, who leads the U.S. bishops’ ad hoc religious liberty committee described the speculation about a lack of unity as “elements of the media looking for what they perceive to be a little, small crack in the wall and then they want to drive a bull-dozer through it.”

In the interview, I don't hear much that conflicts with Blaire's statements to me. He supports the religious liberty campaign, has questions about strategy and seeks more discussion, as the churchmen acknowledge. Blaire does not return to his concerns about the politicization of the campaign in his clarification statement, but Cardinal Wuerl, during the EWTN interview, makes the point that it is actually to avoid further politicizing that some bishops (obviously not all) want to take the matter to the courts, which seems to suggest he shares Blaire's concerns (? Guess we can expect a clarification statement on that soon). And later Archbishop Lori says there is unity on the thrust of the campaign, but that disucssions of strategy continue. Pretty much what Blaire said to me. So after Blaire's clarifying and Wuerl and Lori's EWTN-spinning, I think we end up right back where we started from with the May 22 interview. The only outstanding question it seems to me is how real is this coalition of the moderate that E.J., MSW and others feel is out there waiting to push back against some of the conference's more strident voices. We're still waiting to find out that one because so far Bishop Blaire is the only moderating voice out there who has made his concerns public. Gentlemen, anybody care to join him?

 

May 24, 2012 Clarification by Bishop Stephen Blaire in regard to comments on the HHS Mandate

I wish to clarify some misunderstandings related to my comments about the HHS Mandate.

First of all, I stand solidly with my brother bishops in our common resolve to overturn the unacceptable intrusion of government into the life of the Church by the HHS Mandate. In March, the Administrative Committee issued a statement of commitment to persuade the Administration to eliminate this interference, the Congress to overturn it or the courts to stop it. I contributed to and voted for this statement, and continue to support it, including its call for legal action as was announced on Monday.

The fundamental issue is the freedom of the Church to carry out her mission as given by Christ. Religious Freedom protects the right of the Church to define herself and her ministries. It is totally unacceptable to have the federal government decide that our religious ministries are not "religious." The continuing effort of the government to intrude itself by re-defining Catholic ministries as somehow less religious or less Catholic because they employ or serve those without regard to their creed is unjust and a violation of religious liberty. The government should not intrude itself in forcing the Church and her institutions to violate her long standing teaching to provide essential health care to her employees.

From my perspective, the recent legal challenges by dioceses and Catholic entities throughout the United States, as well as discussions with the Administration, and the advocacy of Congress, all have one essential goal: to defend the right of the Church to define herself and to preserve the identity and integrity of the Catholic ministries exercised through her institutions.

I am convinced we need to continue to seek to persuade others to join us in this just cause through reasoned, civil and respectful discussion. Our defense of religious liberty is advanced when there is open discussion about the best strategies to promote our common goal.

I look forward to the discussions at the Bishops' meeting in June which will offer us an opportunity to agree on next steps to achieve our common and essential goal of ending this violation of religious freedom.

"THE FREEDOM OF THE CHURCH IS THE FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE GOVERNING RELATIONS BETWEEN THE CHURCH AND PUBLIC AUTHORITIES AND THE WHOLE CIVIL ORDER." (THE DECLARATION ON RELIGIOUS LIBERTY, 13, Second Vatican Council)

Comments

Tim O'Leary | 5/28/2012 - 5:12pm
Amy #12
Good post, even though I do not agree with it all. You may be right that the administration stumbled into the fight as they went about their ideological work, funding abortions around the world to reduce the number of poor people (by killing them) and making insurance pay for unlimited amounts of abortifacients with no co-pay (but keeping a co-pay for life-saving medicines). But, then they were shocked to have EJ Dionne complain and Obama made a promise of an “accommodation” that got Dionne back onto the team (but went ahead with the unchanged mandate anyway, and Dionne pretended not to notice). Then they saw an opening and introduced the ''War on Women'' meme, as if it was logically possible to claim that 99% women used contraception and also that they had difficulty getting it (neither is true). They also got the rich lady Fluke (who was not even an employee of Georgetown and so was unaffected by this funding controversy) to complain that she needed Georgetown to pay for her free contraception. This tactic fizzled when it surfaced that 92% of the job losers since Obama was elected have been women. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303513404577351890575693930.html http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ir6gEvmwQtc.

I understand that you think contraception is sometimes good. But, is it really too much to ask that Catholics who do not share your belief could be free from burdening their consciences by being forced to pay for it? Does it not strike you that this is antithetical to the American ideal that the government can so narrowly define a religion that would disqualify the work of Mother Teresa's nuns?
Tim O'Leary | 5/28/2012 - 10:43am
Jim #9
'Nominal' Catholic means someone who says he/she is a Catholic on a poll but doesn't practice or believe what the Church teaches. Hypocrite might be the biblical term. Maureen Dowd, is an example, although she uses her perch in the NYT (''all the news that fits their views'') more like the famous anti-Catholic cartoonist of the 19th century, Thomas Nast, to defame and ridicule practicing Catholics and clergy on every possible issue.


Virginia #10
This is not about victimhood. This is about religious freedom and the definition of a religion. See the argument from Jane Belford, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Washington (hardly a right-wing diocese by any stretch of the imagination). http://www.preservereligiousfreedom.org/ourreligiousfreedom
Virginia Edman | 5/27/2012 - 11:12pm
I have to agree with Jim McCrea #6 and #9, that victimhood is nonsense of the most indefensible order.  President Obama is providing women with contraceptives in his health plan.  The Catholic Church is trying to impose its teaching (from Humanae Vitae) on the rest of the country.  It is Maureen Down who put it into plain English in her column Father Doesn't Know Best: "Voters who think sex is only for procreation were not going to vote for Obama anyway.  And the lawsuit reminds the rest that what the bishops portray as an attack on religion by the president is really an attack on women by the bishops."  She also point out that 82 percent of U.S. Catholics say birth control is morally acceptable.
JIM MCCREA | 5/27/2012 - 9:02pm
Tim:  that is nonsense!  The Obama administration has a lot bigger fish to fry than to try to peel  "nominal" (whatever that means in this context) Catholics from anything.

Victimhood is a cheap and unworthy substitute for logic and common sense.
David Pasinski | 5/27/2012 - 2:33pm


I'd like to go back to the beginning on this...

Would this line of thought work... 

Have many forgotten the original purpose of the mandate- to implement health reform?

Health reform includes the legal services mentioned.

All employers are expected to provide their part for insurance for legitmate expenses  (barring abortion whihc is prohibited by the Hyde amendment). 

A "religious" exemption is granted to intitutions (parishes, diocese, parochial schools) that generally receive no federal funds. As such funding is accepted (e.g., Catholic Charities receiving $2.9 Billion- 62% of its funds), it becomes subject to laws that govern all institutions which do not expressly have the purpose of expressing the faith,

Charitable organizations have the origin of service in mission to Christ's love, but are not expressions that are generalizable to a wide range of other Christian - and even non-Christian and ssecular - organizations. 

If these services were expected as essential expresions of the faith, than all would have to perform them which is not the case. Therfore, they are genuine expressions of faith, but arbitrarily chosen from a wide pool of religious motivation, and thus are subject to legitimate laws of the country.

If all other public funding is stopped, thena religious institution has the right to do what it wants and restrict what it wants as long as it is within the law of the land.
JIM MCCREA | 5/26/2012 - 9:02pm
"The real issue is whether the charge that Catholic religious liberty is under attack is real .."

It's a good way of distracting the sheeple and others from the ongoing subtrefuge and obfuscation around sexual abuse, financial scandals - on a worldwide basis, and the egregious treatment of women religious and the Girl Scouts!

The best ecclesiastical defense seems to be to circle the wagons and find some non-attacking Indians to lash out at.

Sooner or later, however, all of this victimhood will no longer be able to be seen as other than it is:  nonsense of the most indefensible order.
Vince Killoran | 5/26/2012 - 7:22pm
Tim-We've both had our say about this matter on IAT many, many times so I doubt that we'll convince each other by repeating the same points.
Tom Maher | 5/29/2012 - 1:09am
Kevin Clarke's original interview of Bishop Blaire ori Tuesday May 22, 2012 created universal confusion on whether or not Bishop Blaire fully supports the legal actions brought by Church organizations against the Obama adminstration's HHS mandate on Constitutional religious liberties grounds in federal courts.  This confusion required Bishop Blaire to give a clarification on May 24, 2012. Despite the clarification on Sunday,  May 27, 2012  Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday asked Cardinal Donald Wuerl that there must be division among the Bishops in the Catholic Church since one California Bishop said he was concerned that the legal would be turned into a a political campaign by conservative leaders to be used agasint President Obama.  The continued theme of division in the Church created from Kevin Clarke's interview continues despite Bishop Blaire's denial and Cardinal Wuerl's deniial and their strong support of the legal action.  As Cardinal Wuerl pointed out this is the first time a Religious Liberrty challenge of the Obama HHS Mandate has been made in federal courts.  All the Bishops are strongly in support of these Religious Liberty lawsuits. 

Kevin Clarke on the other hand still interpretes Bishop Blaire as somehow different than  the other Bishops in his support of the lawsuits. Clarke states above: "... so far Bishop Blaire is the only moderating voice out there who has made his concerns public. Gentlemen, anybody care to join him?"   Mr. Clarke is confusing Bishop Blaire's views with his own views and reports without real basis a split among the Bishops exists.
Amy Ho-Ohn | 5/28/2012 - 2:23pm
It seems to me the truth is somewhere halfway between the two hyperbolic partisan extremes (I.e., between Tim and Jim.)

It is not plausible that the Obama administration included contraception in the employer mandate because it wanted to pick a fight with the Catholic Church. That's just not a worthwhile electoral tactic: very few voters care one way or the other and almost everybody who does has already decided whom to vote for.

It is also not plausible that the Obama administration included contraception in the employer mandate because they think it's a necessary measure to take in order to make contraception available to women. Most (but not all) women for whom contraception is hard to afford are on Medicaid, which covers it.

The Obama administration included contraception in the employer mandate because the liberal worldview sees it as a legitimate and uncontroversial part of standard health care. They know some people disagree and they want to make a point by enshrining their view in law. They want to make the opinion that birth control is wrong seem extreme and sectarian, like the Amish opinion about motor vehicles.

FWIW, I agree that universally available birth control is beneficial to public health. I also see the bishops' point that it is often detrimental to people's spiritual health. But I can't make sense of the bishops' position that birth control is a grave moral evil but we certainly don't intend to prevent our employees from committing it just as long as we don't appear to be paying for it.
Tim O'Leary | 5/27/2012 - 10:09am
Vince #5
The conversation includes many readers beyond you and I, some of them fed only on the mainstream media which tries to blackout any news on the Church that does not relate to some scandal or other - hence, my need to reiterate arguments when they are repeatedly distorted.

Jim #6
It's about distraction all right. The Obama administration purposely picked this attack on Catholic religious freedom, couched as a contraception access issue, to try to peel away nominal Catholics. Expect to see several of these divisive cultural forays between now and November as the Obama reelection team does everything to distract voters from their disastrous mishandling of the economy and the $5 trillion in new debt (when Obama said he only deserved 1 term if he didn't halve the deficit he inherited by now).
 
Tim O'Leary | 5/26/2012 - 11:47am
Vince #3
Unfortunately, it is the Catholics who are being attacked this time. It needs to be restored because in February, something was taken away (or, hadn't your heard?). See the posts from the evangelicals ''We are all Catholics now'' and some Jewish writers. http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/evangelicals-respond-to-catholic-lawsuits-we-are-all-catholic-now. But you are right in agreeing that this is best handled in the courts and the legislative process, which is underway.

The Obama administration could easily have taken care of this using other avenues (such as vouchers for contraceptives from Planned Parenthood, who already get millions of dollars of taxpayer money) but they want more, they want to change Catholicism and make them complicit in their ideology. The State is putting access to serious healthcare for millions of Americans (whose nearest hospital is Catholic) in danger in order to impose this contraceptive/abortifacient mandate on them.

This anti-religious mandate is not even in Obamacare. It has been arbitrarily inserted by the unelected people in HHS. The Church is trying to follow the teaching of the Gospel you describe. It is the State that is trying to get them to do evil as they see it. It is a naked power grab.
Vince Killoran | 5/26/2012 - 10:54am
"the fight for restoration of Catholic freedom"

That's an unfortunate phrase.  What needs to be "restored"? Why "Catholic" freedom?  Churches have always had limits placed on what they can(not) do in the United States. 

Far too many people are girding themselves for a crusade when this situation calls for a sober review of constitutional law and American history.
David Bjerklie | 5/26/2012 - 7:18am
My guess is that neither the administration nor 90% of the population wants to intrude on religious liberty.  This is almost a truism.  The real issue is whether the charge that Catholic religious liberty is under attack is real, or are we really  seeing the perennial tension between Church and state exagerrated for who knows what reason. I think there are much more profound attacks on the Faith and on society going on right now due to too many calling for war against each other. 
Tim O'Leary | 5/25/2012 - 10:25pm
Bishop Blaire hasn't changed his position. But he had to rapidly respond to the distortion in the media, most egregious as usual by EJ Dionne, whose modus operandi is to exaggerate division among the US episcopate (424 Bishops). Dionne should now come forward with more names of Bishops to support his “many bishops” claim, or admit his error (or lie).

Bishop Blaire says he stands ''solidly with my brother bishops in our common resolve to overturn the unacceptable intrusion of government into the life of the Church by the HHS Mandate.'' As reported by catholicvote.org, every single diocese has spoken out against the Obama administration’s unprecedented attack on Catholic liberty and rejected the non-accommodation (the Obama speech only - it is still not in the regulations!). America contributed to this faux news, in particular, by the article “Dissent and debate among US Bishops” by Michael O’Loughlin. Commonweal was worse.

The likely outcome of this little dustup and its distortion is that more dioceses will join the legal battle and the “Fortnight for Freedom” will get even more support. While it is not unreasonable to discuss the optimal tactics or strategy of the fight for restoration of Catholic freedom, there has been unprecedented unanimity among the US Bishops on the overall goal.
Tim O'Leary | 5/29/2012 - 10:34pm
Amy #15
I am glad we agree that anyone who promotes abortion among the poor for population control or eugenics reasons should deserve those epithets. Remember Planned Parenthood’s motto: “Every child a wanted child (or else)”. Margaret Sanger, Planned Parenthood’s founder, wrote the following: “Birth control is thus the entering wedge for the Eugenic educator … the unbalance between the birth rate of the ‘unfit’ and the ‘fit’ is admittedly the greatest present menace to civilisation … The most urgent problem today is how to limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective.” (Sanger, Margaret, Birth Control Review, October 1921 p.5). I don't think PP has disavowed those words. I note you mentioned the ex-Soviet Union, where today abortion is used as contraception, and not the China that gave us a China one-child policy, or the feminist irony of the sex selection abortions.
Why is the left always bringing up the “crusade” motif? Dionne and Fluke are not monsters, just bit players in this farce. But what if the Supreme Court overturns the mandate? What’s Obama’s Plan B?
Amy Ho-Ohn | 5/29/2012 - 8:43pm
Tim, "... funding abortions around the world to reduce the number of poor people (by killing them)" is an atrocious accusation. I have no intention of defending abortion, but the implication of murderous intent in this statement is atrocious and atrociously slanderous. If the Soviet Union had paid you to say that (on Memorial Day, no less) some people would have called it treason.

The employer mandate has nothing to do with abortion. The Church and Her apologists concede the weakness of their position when they bring the subject of abortion into their rhetoric, as if they wanted to distract from the subject at hand, and as if abortion meant no more to them than a high school pep-rally cheer. (The scientific evidence that "emergency contraception" acts as an abortofacient is virtually nil.)

Dionne and Fluke? Are those the most formidable monsters that can be waved about to terrify us into joining the "Fortnight for Freedom" demonstrations? "Join our cause or E. J. Dionne an Sandra Fluke will influence health insurance policy!" Some crusade.