The National Catholic Review
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The Fortnight for Freedom, a series of public activities sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops opposing infringements on religious freedom, concluded on July 4. The immediate impact of the campaign, however, remains unclear. Reportedly only some 70 of the nation’s 198 dioceses announced programs and activities for the fortnight. In some, little attention was paid to the effort; in others it was energetically promoted. The campaign did, however, receive a pre-Independence Day gift from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth District: the voiding of a Baltimore City ordinance that required pro-life pregnancy centers to post signs indicating they do not provide abortion or contraceptive services. But the chief test of the campaign, the effort to persuade the Obama administration to drop the narrow definition of exempt religious institutions under the Affordable Care Act, remains unsettled.

If the White House perceives the mixed response to the fortnight as cause for hope that it can put its contretemps with the Catholic Church in its rear view mirror, it is badly mistaken. The administration might better turn its attention to other pertinent developments: a lawsuit filed by the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago against the Health and Human Services Department mandate and a statement from the Catholic Health Association that rejected the accommodation offered by the administration and called for a broader religious exemption that would cover Catholic health institutions.

President Obama has often described his brief career as a community organizer in Chicago, a job bankrolled by a consortium of South Side Catholic parishes, as an inspiring, formative experience. And it was the pivotal support of C.H.A.’s president and chief executive officer, Sister Carol Keehan, of the Daughters of Charity, that made possible the president’s Affordable Care Act. When old friends try to tell you something is amiss, it is wise to listen. Indeed the president could, to paraphrase Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., make this problem go away by simply continuing the long-standing practice of allowing Catholic institutions to define themselves.

Preserving religious liberty, a God-given and constitutionally guaranteed freedom, requires the vigorous but measured participation of the church and her leaders. (See Nicholas P. Cafardi, “Politics and the Pulpit,” in this issue.) That participation takes place across many civic arenas: in town meetings, in community gatherings, on opinion pages and in courthouses, as well as in the halls of Congress and the Oval Office. Americans like to believe their rights as they understand them are absolute, but in fact their practice is periodically redefined by legislative, judicial and even administrative decisions. If the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, then Catholics must be prepared to engage in debate wherever settled agreement on our rights is at risk of shifting.

The mistake of the religious liberty campaign has been to personalize the problem, assigning singular blame to President Obama. It has also inflated the controversy by trying to make a variety of different local, state and national problems appear to be a vast conspiracy. Its hyperbolic rhetoric, while it charges up “true believers,” hardens the hearts of adversaries and alarms people in the middle. It is possible that in overplaying its hand, the campaign, its agents and allies have diminished their ability to share in shaping policy.

Making public policy is a political process, with back-and-forth, give-and-take. For 40 years, anti-natalists in Congress and successive administrations worked hard to sustain funding for population control in U.S. foreign aid, as pro-life advocates fought to ban it. In 1984 President Ronald Reagan put an end to funding. The restrictions were rescinded by President Bill Clinton in 1993 and reinstated by President George W. Bush in 2001. Similarly, because of its political volatility, the Hyde Amendment, a rider on federal health appropriations that forbids spending on abortions, requires an annual vote. Many actors in government and outside it influenced those policies. The same is true of the Affordable Care Act. Catholics must continue to work to get religious exemption language right.

In recent years Catholic institutions have made defensible moral compromises to deal with state and local health-insurance mandates. Abroad, other bishops’ conferences have likewise responded to similar secular challenges without apocalyptic appeals. More attention should be paid to preparing creative, alternative responses before the church finds itself saving face by shutting doors, a response a few bishops have threatened. That outcome would be unfair to the millions who have come to rely on church institutions and one surely undesired by President Obama no less than by most bishops.

Comments

Lesle Knop | 8/7/2012 - 4:50pm

I attended a Rally for Religious Freedom in Topeka, Kansas, and listened to Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann give a rigorous and commendable speech on religious liberty called "Quo Vadis, America?" Where are you going, America? About 5,000 people attended as well as the four bishops from Kansas dioceses. Very little media coverage was given for the event, but I was there and can report first hand that it was well worth the effort in spite of the hot, summer day. I would urge anyone who is interested to search for the text or the podcast of the Archbishop's speech on the Internet.


The red herring commentary from those who have posted regarding abuse of minors or those who apparently are offended by the effort by the bishops to educate and lead their flocks as evident from their derogatory comments about Fox watchers or Rush listeners have missed the point of the Fortnight for Freedom. I pray that someday they will not read the words of the bishops, like our own Archbishop Naumann, and regret that they paid no heed to their warnings. I would rather stand along side a man like St. Thomas More than with some of you who have posted here.


Dorothy Day was a conscientious objector of the old school. We need people like her who will take a stand against the government's heavy-handedness. It is as if the federal government is saying to people of conscience who oppose killing in battle that they must not only go to war, stand on the front lines, hold a rifle, shoot at people, but also buy their own bullets.


 

Sandi Sinor | 7/24/2012 - 3:05pm
Good comments, Dan.

I don't comment much, but I do read America regularly.  Just an observation for you, Dan, if you haven't read much at this website.  This will be a never-ending, circular discussion forever and ever (and EVER), unless someone just stops posting.  It won't be Tim. Take a look at the "Schism" article in the blog (In All Things) to see how the process goes.
Tim O'Leary | 7/24/2012 - 1:50pm

Dan #35


Thanks for the compliments. I do not want to put the healthcare of millions at risk, and the jury is out on whether Obamacare will in fact help or hurt healthcare. But, that is what you could be doing if the Catholics have to get out of the hospitals in order to stay true to their faith. I am pretty certain that if the secularists or the government get hold of the hospitals, caring for people will change from a moral obligation to a purely cost management ethos. Also, as Jesus said to the devil in Mt 4:4 (quoting Deut 8:3) "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." There is a lot more at stake than healthcare.


To the dull rich 7 guy #34. Pax vobis is the Latin for "peace to you," and not a name (see Dan's #32).


Dan Hannula | 7/24/2012 - 10:10am
Tim #33: Again, thank you for your thoughts. Although I can't see a moral distinction between national health care paid through general taxes (which pay for abortions) and health care paid through a market-based system where we purchase the same coverage.  Aparently you see a moral distinction. But, I do admire your clarity of vision.

I see these moral choices as a choice among shades of gray.  I also admire your willingness, for the sake of that vision, to risk the health care of millions of poor Americans in an attempt to bring down this legislation.  In additon to, what I perceive, is my obligation to those millions (the least of my brethren) to ease their suffering, I accept an obligation inherent in the idea of a democratic republic, to respect the rule of law once it is determined.    I had my chance to participate. However, I do believe that there are times when the choice is black and white-good and evil-but, you (and my Bishop) have not convinced me it is now.
richard ullrich | 7/23/2012 - 7:14pm
pax vobis spends too much time with fox and rush-let the bishops hire louie freeh
Tim O'Leary | 7/23/2012 - 3:39pm

Obamacare was always going to cost Trillions in taxes. The Supreme Court ruled that the penalty individuals would incur for not buying their own health insurance was a tax (the biggest tax on lower income Americans ever - another broken promise). The Court has not yet decided on the religious freedom question.


I am glad you believe in the preciousness of life. But I am disappointed that you think pro-life people should have to pay for abortions and do not believe in the validity of conscientious objections (your "get over it" conclusion).


Pax vobis


 


 

Dan Hannula | 7/23/2012 - 10:15am
Well, perhaps if you can't tell my position on abortion, I'm doing this right.  I am Catholic and believe in the preciousness of life.  If you need a sociological read on me, I'm actually also an adoptive parent.

I live with the opinion, like the Holy Father, that the Iraqi war was unjust. But, I also believe in the moral obligations placed on me by the rule of law.  To a certain extent, I signed on to this republic and must live with an immoral government action because of that.  Always, to a certain extent.  Just like the Amish, some of whom live near me here in Wisconsin, pay school taxes when they take their kids out of school after middle school. 

Frankly, I see no distinction between a single payer system and a requirement that all health insurance cover certain minimums.  Even Justice Roberts called it a "tax." I can't see any ethical distinction.

Personally I think some Bishops are frustrated that this nations pro-abortion public policy gives thm no simple means to protest that policy-like sitting in at a segregated lunch counter.  To them I say get over it.  As Mic Jagger says: you can't always get what you want!  Besides, where was your protest over the war? Thousands loss their lives and many thousands will come home badly damaged.  Ethical outrage should not be so selective. Perhaps you all should rail from the pulpit on that? Perhaps you should refuse communion to Congressmen who vote for unjust wars and murder by drones? Or, perhaps you should accept the fact that we live by the rule of law which itself imposes moral obligations.

Pax vobis. 
Tim O'Leary | 7/22/2012 - 10:44pm
Dan #30
You are correct, in my opinion, that if the government was the single payer, and the health insurance was paid through the general tax system, it would not be directly impinging on the first amendment. This situation should be handled in the next election (as no doubt you will address your objection to the drone attacks).

I also believe that if a Jehovah's Witness opened up a business, he should not be forced to provide insurance that covered blood transfusions, since I believe strongly in religious liberty. However, the JW employer would have the obligation to inform all prospective employees of his policy. If I understand your position, I think you would say to the JW that either he provide a type of insurance he objected to, or he would not be permitted to open a business.

But, I do not think you have really addressed the issue directly. It can only be done if you have a strong moral objection to a certain medical procedure. I am not sure if you are pro-abortion or pro-life. In any case, do you think pro-life people should be forced to provide insurance for all their employees for abortions, including sex-selection abortions and partial birth abortions? Or do you believe in any form of conscientious objection for an employer?

Dan Hannula | 7/22/2012 - 8:18pm
 Tim (#29); thank you for your thoughts. So, if the  law to provide national health insurance provided for a single-payer (the government) plan that paid all medical bills rather than a requirement that I purchase health insurance, it could provide contraception and abortion coverage that does not infringe my freedom.  It is only a market-based system of coverage where I purchase the government mandated plan from a vendor of my choosing that infringes my religious freedom.

Is that a distinction without a difference?

The Amish are not forced to use the electricity their taxes paid for-and I am not forced to have an abortion.  You're not persuading me.  So, by your logic, a Johovah's Witness employer shouldn't be required to purchase health insurance for his Catholic employees that includes blood transfusions-that infringes HIS religious freedom, but does not infringe his employees religious freedom. 
Tim O'Leary | 7/22/2012 - 3:35pm
Dan #28
It is not good to have a government do things you do not support (such as funding Planned Parenthood which does millions of abortions). But, at least it is the government doing it, not the government forcing you to do it.

Three examples.
1. Imagine for a moment the difference between the government funding Planned Parenthood, and the government forcing hospitals to perform abortions, or just pay for them.
2. The Amish pay taxes, and the taxes go to pay for electricity. Imagine if the government forced the Amish to use electricity!
3. Some Jews are strict about only serving Kosher food in their restaurants. Imagine if the government forced them to sell all types of food, so they would not be favoring observant Jews over the rest. Or if they forced all restaurants to serve Kosher food, so as not to discriminate against observant Jews.

By the way, the Amish have been given a full conscience protection clause. It is only the committed Christians that are being targeted presently, because they run soup kitchens, hospitals, colleges, newspapers, etc., that hire non-Christians and offer their services to non-Christians. Just think of the negative consequences for the non-Catholic poor if the government gets its way.

The issue is actually much bigger than contraception and abortion. The first amendment bars the "Establishment of one religion" so there can be "freedom of religion." The current administration is trying to limit our religious freedom (by defining all religions as rights to worship, removing the long-standing rights to preach outside houses of worship and to practice corporal works to the non-Christian public) so that they can "Establish" their belief system. That is why all lovers of the American experiment, with our Constitution and Bill of Rights, should oppose this.

FYI - I never blogged before this issue came up. Many others have joined this political fight who were previously on the sidelines. Come join us!
Dan Hannula | 7/22/2012 - 4:24am
Sorry to be so dumb. However, can someone explain to me why being required to pay taxes that fund CIA killing drones and a war that arguably fails the just war test is not an infringement of my religious freedom? Yet being required to fund a system of national health care that provides services some of which, although legal, I object to and choose not to use is an infringement of my religious freedom?
THOMAS BOTTINI | 7/22/2012 - 3:06am
Sitting here in China reviewing my latest on-line America (thanks for making that improvement since hardcopy subscriptions don't travel well) I was caught by the article on the Fortnight topic.  I witnessed support of the program in my St. Louis parish and in the tiny parish in Douglas, MI. where I attended my last stateside Mass.  Your account of the lack of overall support is interesting and surprised me.  However, it underscores my working conclusion of the view from the pew:  bishops moral leadership has been thoroughly undermined.  The faithful will not follow them until they recapture the moral high ground.  In my view the Fortnight effort did not constitute a substantial step towards that goal.  Hopefully they will come up with more and better programs.
J BLISS | 7/21/2012 - 11:30pm
We attended a mass and rally in Trenton,NJ despite no mention of the events from our
parish in Matawan. The mass, homily by Bishop O'Connell,and rally were impressive and glad we attended. But the overall national protest was a bust.

The church needs strong leadership to confront these attacks from the Obama administration;

The issue here was religious freedom but it gets tangled in the contraceptive issue.

Why does the Church not address this cotraceptive question? The laity has but the Bishops will not.

Attempting to absolve the President from this issue will not work. He has no respect for the Catholic Church.
Tim O'Leary | 7/21/2012 - 8:09pm

The promised accommodation was in Feb-2012. The comment period ended in June. No accommodation has been added to the law and the narrow definition of religion is in it. The "temporary enrocement safe harbor" period goes out to Sept-2013, and institutions must apply for that safe harbor, under strict criteria, or they are required to follow the current law by Aug-2012. So, we have a promise that has not been fulfilled after 6 months, and will very likely be pushed out until after the election. Color me skeptical.

Vince thinks this religious freedom issue is a figment of my imagination or maybe he extends it to all conservative Catholics and the Protestants and Jews who are supporting us (some form of mass hallucination). Fair enough. The fight is ours. We will continue with it.

A in Texas has it backwards. He is the ally of the government that wants to limit the proclamation of the Gospel, by pushing the Catholics out of the hospitals and the schools and all public spaces.
 

TONY MORAN | 7/21/2012 - 7:29pm
The bishop's power and priviledges took a massive hit with the sex abuse scandal. Their attack on the sisters, the changes to the liturgy and the fortnight of freedom is nothing more than a desperate effort to restore the same. They fail to do the one thing they are supposed to do: Proclaim and witness to the gospel. I would like to see them take a month off and spend it in Haiti or Africa and bring God's word and healing to the sick and dying. And as for the people in the pews who support them: These are the same that yelled at Pilate: "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!'
Vince Killoran | 7/21/2012 - 6:43pm
p.s. This is my last comment on this thread-and it's to quote the final section of the document that Tim mistakenly asserts was the government's final word on the contraception guidelines:

"The 90-day comment period is designed to encourage maximum input  into the development of an accommodation for religious organizations with religious objections to providing contraceptive coverage while ensuring the availability of contraceptive coverage without cost sharing for plan participants and beneficiaries. The Departments seek
comments on the ideas and questions outlined in this ANPRM as well as new suggestions to achieve its goals. The Departments also intend to hold listening sessions to ensure all voices are heard. This will not be the only opportunity for comment. The subsequent notice of proposed rulemaking will also include a public comment period. The Departments aim to ensure that the final accommodation is fully vetted and published in advance of the expiration of the temporary enforcement safe harbor."
Vince Killoran | 7/21/2012 - 6:38pm
Sorry again Tim but, at top, it reads "Proposed Rule." That's why there has been the comment period.

It seems like you are girded for a battle that you have fashioned in your imagination. Nothing needs to be "restored" because nothing has been lost.  We live in a diverse, secular society with a separation of church & state.  That has entailed a certain balancing and renegotiation along the way.  Ask the Jehovah Witnesses, Amish, and Christian Scientists about this. 

As for me being "ashamed" the shame I experience is when I see church officials, and conservative lay Catholics, cheapening our Faith with cheesy (but, unfortunately, destructive) antics like "Fortnight for Freedom."
Tim O'Leary | 7/21/2012 - 5:31pm

Vince #20
In the actual regulation document http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=CMS-2012-0031-0001 there is the following direct quote: “In the HRSA Guidelines, HRSA exercised its discretion under the amended interim final regulations such that group health plans established or maintained by these religious employers (and any group health insurance coverage provided in connection with such plans) are not required to cover any contraceptive services. In the final regulations published on February 15, 2012 (77 FR 8725), the Departments adopted the definition of religious employer in the amended interim final regulations.”

By the way, this was not voted on by Congress, as you suggest. It was not in the original 5,931 pages (or 425,116 words). It is in the more than 2 million words of new regulations that are being composed by a Pro-Choice Secretary of HHS.

We Catholics are asking for restoration of the broad freedoms of religion that we believe is protected by the First Amendment: The right to Pray, Preach and Practice our faith. This administration, across its departments is trying to "Establish" a new narrow definition of religion that goes little beyond the right to worship.

The Know-Nothings have come back as secularists, and pro-choice Catholics are aiding and abetting them. And I think they use various slurs to make it look like we are not American, such as calling us "Vaticanites," which is trying to mark us a foreigners from a foreign country. You should be ashamed of yourself.


 

Vince Killoran | 7/21/2012 - 4:22pm
Tim, Please direct us to the "Final Rule" link for this on the HHS website. I can't find it: the comment period closed one month ago but no final rule has been issued. See: http://www.healthcare.gov/law/resources/regulations/index.html

Your second paragraph to your last comment (you make so many comments!) suggest that, somehow, Congress didn't pass this law and the president didn't sign it. That's democracy.  Maybe Congress will change the law. . .

Why do I think the Vaticanites are feeding the old Know-Nothing argument?  The USCCB is using the pulpit to direct voter behavior and it is engaging in intense, hardball lobbying.
Tim O'Leary | 7/21/2012 - 1:29pm
Vince #16
The HHS Regulations are the law. The administration could have inserted their accommodation in Feb and sought comments to it. Instead, they didn't change it. Perhaps, they will wait until the election is over. But, like closing Guantanamo, taxing those below $100k or halving the deficit, or many other promises, the president can promise something and never actually do it. And it is only by elections or the courts that he can be stopped.

If the government took over the provision of free contraceptives and/or abortifacients, instead of trying to force Catholics to do it for them, this would be a far better situation regarding religious liberty, as it would not force people to go against their conscience so directly. Then, those citizens who had moral objections to the practice would address this by their vote. The latter group would be a smaller group than the coalition building to defend against the intrusion on religious liberty (hence the use by Protestants, secular conservatives and even Mormon Romney of the phrase "we are all Catholics now").

I see that protestant Wheaton College has joined the Notre Dame suit. This is why I think it is a stupid thing for the Obama administration to do. They are building a coalition against them.

As regards your complement on the prescience of the 19th century "Know-Nothing" anti-Catholic bigots, can you explain further? Is it that good Catholics cannot be good citizens?
Tom Maher | 7/21/2012 - 10:06am
Tim O'Leary # 15

Pro-choice Catholics actively support radical "reproductive rights" policy being imposed by the governement nationwde such as abortion access and the funding of abortion on demand in total disregard of the religious liberties and concerns of people and the Church.  

An example is the 2010 candidcay of Martha Coakley as Democratoc nominee for the U.S. Senate.  Coakley overwhelmingly won the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate in a crowded field of candidates by advocating radical health care refrom proposals such as universal abortion access and funding as part of national health care reform being legislated in 2010. 

During Coakley's campaign she advocated that hospital workers that objected to facilitating  abortions be denied employment in health care field such as hospital emergenciy rooms.  To her the higher priority is access to abortion over workers' religious scruples.  Yet Coakley as a Catholic, a Democrat , Massachusetts Attorney General and a lawyer is highly aware of the the Constitution issues and workers rights.  But in the end she abandoned   defending the  Consistutional, worker rights, religious conscience and the Church.  Her sole concerns were the radical secular norms of universal abortion access and funding made available by the government which an overwhelming majority iof Amricans and even people in liberal Massachusetts do not support.  She also fpersonally favored allowing minors to obtain abortions without notifying their parents which is part of the radical "reproductive rights" politcs.that most people also do not agree with . Martha Coakley provided the leadership and support for the implementation by goevernment of radical "reproductive right" as public policy and law.   Martha Coakley's candidacy is the kind of candidate frequenctly  being offered by the Democratic party for high politcal office in our nation today as never before.   
8909006 | 7/21/2012 - 4:34am
It seems to me the Fortnight for Freedom sounds a bit too much like an overtly political campaign.  The issue of religious freedom of Catholic institutions and the relationship to the HHS regs on contraceptive care in the ACA is ultimately going to be decided by the Courts on 1st Amendment precedent.   It's a legal question. My understanding of the precedent is that the Obama Administration has the better argument.  Perhaps that is why the USCCB is taking the political route.  I would like America to publish an article on the legal arguments.  That would truly be useful information.  Thank you. 
Vince Killoran | 7/21/2012 - 2:44am
 

Calm down Tim. The final HHS regulations have not been published. The comment period just ended.

Please re-read the editorial. The main points are important, e.g., that there has been, throughout American history, a back-and-forth among claims of religious liberty and the rights of all and compelling state interests. These have involved different faiths and denominations: it is not some vast conspiracy against Catholics.

Who should decide where and how a religious faith defines its limits? The USCCB has made it clear that its "broad exemption" should extend to secular employers who have religious objections to the HHS contraception coverage (the so-called "Taco Bell rule"). At the same time these church officials are howling that they have been denied public monies because they discriminate against gays and lesbians.


BTW, I would love it if the government took up the CWA's suggestion that the government provide & pay for contraception directly.  Boy, would there be a furious reaction from the USCCB & Co.!

Tim O'Leary | 7/21/2012 - 12:36am
Vince #13
Can you point me to any reasonable accommodation in the law or the regulations? After Obama gave the speech in Feb promising some kind of accommodation for those who hire only Catholics and care for Catholics, the HHS regulations were published and didn't even include this very narrow accommodation.

Even Sr. Carol Keehan of the Catholic Health Association (2,000 health care institutions), who initially (and naively) backed the accommodation after the speech, has now come out against it, saying it is inadequate. http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/catholic-group-says-obamas-contraception-effort-falls-short/2012/06/15/gJQABXVJlV_story.html

So we have a dud alright. It is called an Obama promise (like the one he gave to Fr. Jenkins in the Notre Dame speech, and that University is now suing him for their rights).http://catholicliberty.com/530

And the "nineteenth-century anti-Catholic bigots" have now been joined by the twenty-first-century anti-Catholic bigots, yourself included! Only the former bigots were Protestants and the latter bigots are pro-choice Catholics and their political allies.
Tom Maher | 7/21/2012 - 12:27am
The editiorial poorly represents the urgency of the problem the Church is confronted with.  The Church and all religions are expereincing widespread,  constant and systematic political and legal attacks on religion, religious insitutions and religious liberties by powerful  and determined secular politic forces seeking to change our laws, public policy and our political culture to a new radical  social norm that is extremely hostile and intolerant of religion but especially the Catholic Church.

The attacks on religion is a real and instense politcal power struggle that must be defended against if religious freedom is to survive in America undeminished.  Secular political forces  are intensely threatened by religion as a powerful political opposition voce with great influence on the public that can thwart their goals and political objectives.  For example the Church is a known powerful voice against aboriton on demand which is regarded by many political groups as an long standing goal to have as a mandatory healthcare requirement provided by government.

Dangerously the attempt is being made both within and from outside the Church to have the Church accomodate and change to conform to new immerging secular social norms that are widely finding thier way into governemnt regulations as the HHS mandates have on Catholic insistutions in disregard of the Church's moral ethics and mission.  Even the President is insisting on this HHS mandate without religious exception or exemption.  Secular disreagrd and hostility toward religion is a growing social movement that threaten religious liberties that the Church is just beginning to more widely recognize and counter.
Vince Killoran | 7/20/2012 - 11:09pm
Tim comments that the Obama Administration "could quickly take it off the table by writing in the regulations that all reasonable conscience objections will be honored and that no one’s religious liberty will be infringed."

The administration has already made "reasonable" accomodations; the rights of the insured are in danger of being infringed.

All in all the Fortnight caper was a dud-except that it served as part of the fall political campaign by the USCCB. I never thought I would write this but those nineteenth-century anti-Catholic bigots may have been prescient.
ron chandonia | 7/20/2012 - 9:06pm
Comment #8 is an example of the very behavior it attempts to criticize. As a pro-life parish leader who takes the consistent ethic very seriously, I was appalled by the contemptous dismissal of "pro-natalists" in #6. In #7, a serious effort was made to engage in dialogue on that and related issues, the very issues raised in the editorial. But because the comment did not meet some PC smell test, it was dismissed as condescending and harmful to "the discussion." With PC Catholics, there is no "discussion." As #8 once more sadly illustrates, they see their faith the way they see their politics: my way or the highway.
Juan Lino | 7/20/2012 - 5:02pm

Living here in NY, I can tell you that some parishes did nothing to mention and/or participate in the Fortnight for Freedom and others seemed to reluctantly participate.

For example, I go to daily Mass in a Jesuit parish and nothing was in the bulletin and the flyers explaining why it was being done were nowhere in sight anywhere in the church.

I understand that a pastor may not agree with the “campaign” (if one wants to call it that) but why withhold the information? I find that to be a kind of “censorship” and lack of transparency.

Tim O'Leary | 7/20/2012 - 3:49pm

I agree with the Editors that “If the White House perceives the mixed response to the fortnight as cause for hope that it can put its contretemps with the Catholic Church in its rear view mirror, it is badly mistaken.”

It seems strangely stupid of this administration to keep this controversy going when it could quickly take it off the table by writing in the regulations that all reasonable conscience objections will be honored and that no one’s religious liberty will be infringed. How could this hurt their larger goals, unless they are really anti-Christian ideologues underneath all the talk about liberty and bipartisanship?

The early civil rights movement and marches built up slowly but steadily as it gained followers. It was so instructive to start the 14 days with the feasts of the English martyrs and end with Independence Day. I think it would be good for the Bishops to announce that the Fortnight for Freedom will be an annual event, like the MLK holiday, given its importance to our country.. Look to the many articles on the catholicliberty.com site for the latest news on this topic (over 400 news articles sorted by date and searchable) – as recent as today of new institutions taking up the protest.

Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh (#2).
Your argumentum ad pedophilium is so off topic except to the obsessed anti-Catholic. You must be a specialist in child abuse by priests, since the vast majority of abuse is from elsewhere, and if you haven’t seen it you must be in denial (There are over 700,000 Sex Offenders in the government’s NSOPW site). Did you follow the Penn State case or the California Teacher's Union story recently? The latter fought to prevent removal of abusing teachers, even in a case with photographic proof (see LA story on Mark Berndt and SB1530 - http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/california-politics/2012/04/california-teachers-union.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter and not a mention in the groups like SNAP or BA. Where is the TeacherAccountability website?

Vince Killoran | 7/20/2012 - 3:39pm
Oh, did that "Fortnight" event happen?  I didn't realize it had occurred. We were (happily) away from our very conservative diocese and parish during the time. The parish where we attended Mass did not have a mention of it in church or in the bulletin.  That was a relief.  The "Nuns on the Bus" tour caught everyone's attention with its engaged & capacious message of faith.

The last paragraph of the editorial is telling, i.e., the "apocalyptic appeals"-absent in other places-indicates the hamhanded and politicized nature of the USCCB et al.'s efforts. 
Anne Chapman | 7/20/2012 - 1:30pm
#7 - Do you have actual thoughts about the content of the article? Or is tearing down what others have said the best you can do?  Smug, condescending dismissal of what others have said contributes nothing to the discussion.
TM Lutas | 7/20/2012 - 12:42pm
Well the daggers are truly out in the comboxes at this point. It's a veritable potpurri of complaint varieties. There's the aesthetic complainant that doesn't like the visuals in a video file (the software's free, make your own). Then there's the wounded soul who has descended into conspiratorial accusations that those dastardly bishops are only making trouble for our president because they fear prosecution. I don't doubt that this administration would toss aside the law for a politically motivated prosecution but such things come only to those who contribute large $$ donations so if you're looking to put the Church in the dock, you'd best be getting busy with that credit card. Don't worry, the Obama campaign has disabled the verification systems on its website donations, just like they did last time. 

Next up is the credentialist who is miffed that the two time author on 1st amendment and church/state relations was passed over. The fact that everyone on the committee is an ordinary or an archbishop might have something to do with this no doubt fine auxiliary bishop's omission instead of the exclusion being based on political views. 

And let no occasion for comment be without the ax grinder in favor of birth control. Regardless of one's position on any single issue, is anybody still delusional enough to think that the state's encroachment on the Church will end here if we lose? 

In a rare departure from the general tenor we next have a serious call for the start of a dialogue on religious freedom. That's all well and good except for two things. The fortnight for freedom was the kickoff event of a larger campaign, not an isolated spasm that's come and gone. Secondly, the principle of religious freedom has been debated for 200+ years. The positions are fairly well developed and well known. What more new is to be discussed? We won the discussion, a long time ago. 

But the last comment redeems the low tone of the comments with a snide insult to those who are pro-life. I mourn the poverty of the life experiences that led to such a misguided conclusion that people who claim the pro-life mantle are merely pro-natalist. I would suspect that this poverty of life experience also includes unfamiliarity with research that highlights the dangers of learned helplessness and how we are currently spending tax money on advertising campaigns to break the ethic of self-reliance to increase the rolls of the dependent even though they do not think they need help and will generally end up more miserable because of the dependence. Creating dependency and turning it into reliable votes is a nasty business in politics. It's much better to sell that under the label of "efforts to give a decent human existence".
George Wilson | 7/20/2012 - 11:48am
Your editorial pleads for getting the language right on issues of religious freedom. In light of that concern would it not be more accurate to present the opponennts of those you label as 'anti-natalists' as 'pro-natalists'? When one examines the actual behavior of those who claim the lofty mantle of being "Pro-Life" it becomes clear that they are really only Pro-Birth. When it comes to pulbic policies that might support peoples' efforts to give a decent human existence to the the already born they settle for moralizing or disdain for people like single mothers.
JACK HUNT | 7/20/2012 - 11:12am
The Fortnight for Freedom became a rather missed opportunity to really ask the nation, Catholics and others, to engage in a wholesome dialogue on the very issue of religious freedom.  For now it is what it is or, perhaps better, it was what it was.  Though I didn't participate in any specific organized action I did think and pray about the matter.  If nothing else the question remains on my political radar screen as I look forward to voting and voicing my opinions during the election campaign.  
Anne Chapman | 7/20/2012 - 11:06am
It seems the bishops stumbled with this - much hyped, but it made barely a ripple. In the Washington DC archdiocese, it was heavily promoted by Cardinal Wuerl - who rented the Smith Center at George Washington University, and barely had 2000 there in a metro area of more than 500,000 Catholics. Parishes had inserts in the bulletins and brochures in the narthex, bulletin items and announcements from pulpits, stories in the Catholic Standard etc. - the silence from the people in the pews was deafening.

Apparently a significant number of those who did attend included employees of the Archdiocese and its parishes and schools (attendance highly "recommended" ), various seminarians and other priests and religious living in order Houses of Study while attending Catholic University and other universities in the District and nearby communities.  It was also announced with great fanfare that the Papal Nuncio would attend.

But is it really surprising it didn't gain a groundswell of support from the parish pews? Studies show that somewhere between 90-97% of practicing Catholics have used some kind of modern contraception, including the pill, during their marriages and know through living the sacrament of marriage that modern contraception is a gift rather than a "threat" to marriage.  The sensus fidelium has pronounced judgment on this particular teaching, so beloved of male celibates. They should heed Newman's counsel to "Consult the Faithful on Matters of Doctrine"!

Apparently some bishops are savvy enough to understand this - only 13 dioceses of the 195 in the US have joined the lawsuit seeking to overturn the HHS mandate.
Alex Boucher | 7/20/2012 - 10:54am

One can't analyze the Fortnight for Freedom without discussing the USCCB's Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty. Establishing the committee, I believe, was a necessary and proper thing to do. Overall, it has done a good job of bringing attention to the troubling issues that need revision.

I am, however, puzzled by the fact that the bishops neglected one of their own men who is an expert on the first amendment. Bishop Thomas Curry, an auxiliary of Los Angeles, received his doctorate in political science and has published several books with Oxford University Press on Church-State relations, yet no one summoned his expertise. Archbishop Lori is just a self-taught hobbyist; Bishop Curry is a true professional on the matter. I have a feeling that Curry's public speeches and appearances would have had a much stronger and wider impact than Lori's, especially in segments of the population that don't watch Fox News.

I have a hunch that Curry was excluded because he was perceived as being "liberal". The list of bishops on the Ad Hoc Committee reads like a conservative honor roll, rather than a list of bishops most capable of analyzing and handling the present situation. I think one of the failures of the Ad Hoc Committee was recruiting its members on the basis of a political test, rather than on the basis of competency. The Fortnight for Freedom could have been a much more educational and successful initiative had Bishop Curry been one of the major players.

Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh | 7/19/2012 - 3:35pm
"The mistake of the religious liberty campaign has been to personalize the problem, assigning singular blame to President Obama. It has also inflated the controversy...."

As a Catholic physician who has met many who have been sexually abused by priests, I agree with the above statement that the religious liberty campaign, created by the American bishops, is to pressure Catholics to vote against President Obama and for the Republican candidate.

From what I have read, the Pope and the American bishops are afraid that they will be made accountable for their complicity in allowing the sexual abuse of innocent children to flourish worldwide, if President Obama is re-elected.  In fact, there have been at least 19 American bishops who have actually been sexual abusers, according to bishopaccountability.org. 
Claire Bangasser | 7/19/2012 - 2:43pm
I am not sure who is advising those Bishops who decided the campaign Fortnight for Freedom. I assume it met with some success among the Fox News audience. For those of us who do not follow this TV station, we just felt slightly embarrassed to receive from a well-intentioned friend a rather scary TV ad... I did not recognize Jesus's footprints in it... It reminded me strangely of the Greek God Vulcan...
It takes all kinds to make our world :-)

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