Whose Religious Liberty? The USCCB and its ‘New Issue’

Perhaps the most anticipated discussion, and subsequently the most reported, of the annual fall meeting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) was the presentation on the theme of “religious liberty” to the assembly of bishops by Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Conn.  Additionally, a committee of the USCCB tasked with addressing the issue of “religious liberty” was announced (for information see this USCCB press release). The National Catholic Reporter covered this matter in a November 15 article with a rather telling headline, “Bishop Says Religious Freedom Under Attack in America.” The basic thrust of Lori’s presentation focused on what he (and some other bishops) have observed as a “threat to religious freedom” present in the legislative and executive actions of the United States government. The NCR article reports:

“There is no religious liberty if we are not free to express our faith in the public square and if we are not free to act on that faith through works of education, health care and charity,” Lori said in his first address to the bishops as chairman of the newly formed Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In sum, this statement is not at all problematic. Lori is correct in the assertion that, by virtue of the protected rights guaranteed in the US by the Constitution’s First Amendment, women and men of any faith tradition ought to be able to express her or his faith in public without fear of reprisal. And if that was really what this matter was about, then I don’t think there would be such incredulity among those — including myself — who have been following this particular discussion.

There are a host of contradictions and ill-fitting arguments that accompany the announcement of this new issue taken up by the USCCB with the founding of an Ad Hoc committee to respond to this seeming threat.

First among them is the ostensible misnomer of the entire enterprise. What is being billed as a response to “the attack on religious liberty” in the United States (which is, of course, a serious and constitutional accusation) is really a repackaging of a particular anti-abortion/anti-contraception (commonly referred to as “Pro-Life” in the narrow sense) agenda. I’m not about to say that the Church in the US must kowtow to positions it sees as systemically sinful or evil, but I do think we should name things accordingly and be forthright about real issues.

The would-be impetus for these new discussions, as Lori and others claim, is the explicit violation of the religion clauses of the First Amendment. Yet, in reality what is presented resembles something more like a nebulous infringement on First-Amendment rights of US Catholics — particularly Catholic employees in NGOs and health-care organizations — rooted primarily in matters related to contraception and abortion. The truth is that one will find it very difficult to adjudicate the issues in favor of Lori’s committee and others who claim that, according to the law, the Church’s right to restrict other constitutional rights guaranteed to others by virtue of Catholics’ right to religious freedom, in this case access to the full range of modern health care procedures, medications and consultations.

Religious liberty is not a theme that is appropriately invoked to justify denial of other rights, which is what the USCCB argument under the guise of “religious liberty” is all about. Church leaders should, then, focus their attention on public education and moral formation in order to explain why individual moral agents (people themselves) should not use contraception or seek abortion and so on. But what I see this committee eventually doing is trying to again approach the legislative process with yet another plan of attack to overturn Roe v. Wade and perhaps go farther to criminalize currently legal practices and health-care options (think of the recently overturned legislation in Mississippi). Like the Mississippi legislation, this religious-liberty business will also not work, because it is in no way judicially tenable.

The Church leaders here are fixated on legislating morality instead of working to both address the more systemic issue of injustice in our society and help the faithful develop a well-informed conscience. The way that the United States political and legislative system works (and nowhere in the founding documents or principles of this nation is there the faintest claim that it is or should be a “Christian nation”), the Catholic tradition’s emphasis on the freedom of conscience can play freely in a constructive and helpful way. I am not the most qualified to talk about political theory and religious expression, someone like my friend David Golemboski — former employee of NETWORK, the Catholic social justice lobby, and a current doctoral student at Georgetown studying political theory and Catholic social teaching — is better suited to respond to the technical issues present in the bishops’ latest discussion, but my sense is that there is an inherently flawed notion of what the relationship between the Church and the US government, specifically, and the Church and any government, more generally, really should be.

I’m not at all convinced that religious liberty is really at stake here. If it were, I would expect to see other matters playing more prominently in the USCCB’s discourse, issues like violence, war, economic injustice, prophetic preaching, and other issues that explicitly relate to our faith, our expression of that faith and the actions of the government. Yet, it is abortion and contraception that is the single focus of this matter of “religious liberty.” Where is the cry on the bishops part that Catholics should not serve in the military? Where is the reaction to the tax cuts for the wealthy and the increasing gap between wealthy and poor?  Where are our foreign-policy concerns from a Catholic perspective?

Another problem with this particular iteration of the anti-abortion/anti-contraception campaign is that the government is in no way overstepping its bounds to interfere with the individual exercise of a religious institution’s right to practice (or not practice) what it believes, as Lori and others claim. What is really at stake is money. As I understand it, all the Catholic hospitals in the country can refuse to offer certain procedures that do not reflect the mission of the institution, but that refusal to provide constitutionally protected rights for others will result in the end of government funding. The institution is entirely free to continue operating and offering service, but must do so with private funds — just as in the case with individual churches and places of worship, the government will not support the confessional or religiously partisan institutions (that is a matter of the establishment clause!).

If religious liberty was truly at stake, the funding concern wouldn’t be privative as it is in this instance, but instead be made manifest in overt efforts to interfere or suppress the institutions proper.

Another matter, this one of logical contradiction, is the claim that Loris makes that secularism should be seen as system of belief. NCR reports: “‘Let us make no mistake. Aggressive secularism is also a system of belief,’ he commented.” Lori’s point is that the US government seems to be promoting (“establishing”) so-called “aggressive secularism” as a particular faith tradition in the public sphere. I’m not sure that I buy this argument, to begin with, but one should follow the trajectory Lori outlines to its logical conclusion. If what he’s saying is true, that “aggressive secularism” is a belief system, then it has just as much right to exist and for its practitioners to live according to its principles (whatever those might be) as do the Catholics in this country. That is, Lori is arguing for the infringement on the constitutional rights of the practitioners of “aggressive secularism,” just as he claims the Catholics’ rights are infringed.

In other words, the argument used to help bolster the USCCB’s claims that religious liberties are under attack in the US actually highlights the way in which the USCCB wishes to curb the religious liberties of others. You see the problems here.

Instead of masquerading a narrowly defined “pro-life” agenda as a “new issue” — religious liberty concerns — the USCCB should be much more forthcoming about its goals and intentions. It seems that something has to change. If the US Church leadership wants to claim religious liberties are under attack by the same government that guarantees them, then there has to be more than what is presented to justify that position. Where has the government established laws to prevent the practice of Catholicism, the right to erect places of worship, the ability for religious communities to minister to others? (which, by the way, makes the immigration issue in Alabama and elsewhere much more about religious liberty than the healthcare matters).

The other option is to forego the ruse of this constitutional threat in order to focus more forthrightly on matters that Catholics see as important, and seek to educate the faithful and broader public about why these are matters we should all care about. But, as far as a threat on religious liberty is concerned, I’m not buying it. Bishop Lori and his new committee has a lot of work to do in order to make their position sensible and salient.

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54 Responses to “Whose Religious Liberty? The USCCB and its ‘New Issue’”

  1. Good job, Dan. Think Lori will read it?!

  2. Let’s say that the issue here was slavery, instead of protecting the life of the unborn. Would you say that the Church would be incorrect in advocating legislative action to overturn laws that legalized slavery because it would be “legislating morality”? Would refusal to participate in the slave trade be an expression of religious liberty, or simply an excuse “invoked to justify denial of other rights”? Those who use a narrow definition of “non-violence” (anti-war, anti-death penalty) often fail to see that abortion is a violent act. I was particularly struck by your words:

    “I would expect to see other matters playing more prominently in the USCCB’s discourse, issues like violence, war, economic injustice, prophetic preaching, and other issues that explicitly relate to our faith, our expression of that faith and the actions of the government. Yet, it is abortion and contraception that is the single focus of this matter of “religious liberty.”

    Abortion in the United States is violent, claims more lives than war or capital punishment, and is pushed most aggressively in disadvantaged communities.

    I also wonder how you would respond if the government threatened to withhold federal funds from states that did not use capital punishment. Hopefully, like me, you would be outraged.

    • Call the issue what it is — The post’s point is that the bishops are claiming an issue of religious liberty, when in fact it’s another anti-abortion campaign. You admit so yourself in playing this slavery vs. abortion game.

      • What did I admit? Also, reread Lori’s statement: “There is no religious liberty if we are not free to express our faith in the public square and if we are not free to act on that faith through works of education, health care and charity,”This covers MUCH more than abortion, but also includes things like school choice and adoption services, to mention just a couple.

      • If the bishops were genuinely concerned about the adoption issue, they wouldn’t be laying off Catholic Charities employees. They would be ensuring those employees were retrained to create a glut of potential adoptive parents to the half-million American children who live in foster homes, group homes, and institutions.

        As an adoptive parent, I can tell you there are significant things CC counsellors could do. If gay people adopting was such a bad thing, you’d think the USCCB would be doing everything in its power to ensure Catholic couples were adopting needy children.

        Please: don’t use my marriage or adoption experience as a cover for anti-abortion and anti-gay initiatives. I want to see the bishops do some real work and offer real leadership on this, not be GOP shills.

        Todd

  3. Dan,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You are a source of hope and inspiration for me in our church in these troubled times. You mentioned abortion and contraception. How long do the USCCB have to be preoccupied with those subjects without giving equal time to war, foreign policy, violence, child abuse (in the church – not Penn State), the death penalty, social justice, defending and befriending the rich and not defending and working for the poor? Whatever happened to the social teachings of the former popes starting with Leo XIII? Why were the catholic bishops the only ones who paid lobbyists to oppose the extension of the statute of limitations for sexual abuse in VA? What do they spend their time doing? Trying to overturn Roe v Wade, deflect anything to do with priest sexual abuse and pushing a translation of the missal into difficult to pronounce and understand English from a Latin from the 5th and 11th centuries. How much more good could be accomplished with putting energies into so many of the good causes championed by those who came before them!!

  4. george bouchey Says:

    Simply put, the bishops have been unable to make their “teachings” stick with their faithful, and are now trying to have the secular government legislate ‘their’, the bishop’s, sense of morality.

    I seriously doubt if it will work. All it will accomplish is to bring their creditabiliyy with non-Catholics, and probably with most Catholics, ever lower than they have already.

    And it has much to do with money, and that is not very impressive to me. The lost money seems to take the place of much Social Teaching, something already pointed out!

  5. Well, Deacon Dan, I support Jared comments and he beat me to it. The overall tenor of this commentary IMHO misses the mark. To be perfectly frank, is there anything of which you approve the USSCB is doing? Is the avrice really against the current topic, or actually against the “establishment”. Is it really because Bishop Lori (which, I am quite certain you would never just say Obama without even a Mr. infront of it, so I think that a sheppard of the Church is certainly worthy of his title, no matter how jounalistically correct this may seem), is using the attacks on right conscience of the devout doctors, nurses, etc as the premise for his argument that religious liberties are under attack? Is the problem actually about the pro-life agenda as the impetus of the statement, or because Sr. whats-her-name’s “theological” theories are under scutiny. Or, perhaps because some Bishops are trying actually step forward to correct the travesties of the liturgical abuses caused from the mis-readings of the “spirit” of Vatican II. Or, maybe because the “misguided” premise or justification of woman ordination.

    In the “name” of “social justice”, I am curious to see if those who continually critique the USSCB would stand up for Muslims forced to eat pork as a requirement for work, if ever that were the case? So, why exactly is it acceptable for the “secular” government to force a Catholic health institute or professional to go against their conscience, moreove the dignity of life from natural conception? And, quite honestly, if any of the “social elite” who “claim” concern for the care and welfare of children in need of adoption were truly advocates, why exactly would they threaten to cut off much needed funding because the Catholic Charities was not approving same-sex unions, and basically forced them out of the adoption “business”? Even individuals who discover they are conscience objectors, are allowed out of military service because of their conviction.

    Please spare me the hypocrisy. The USSCB on this topic is spot-on. However, I am not so naive or cynical that money is not or is an element. But, the same can be said of my tax dollars going to fund abortions, or the availability of contrceptives in schools, or lack of authentic human sexuality classes with a focus on relationships and less on utilitarian aspect of sex.

    The progressives and the left are finally reaping their just rewards. After decades of screaming about a government of religious freedom, (and don’t let anyone kid themselves using the invalid arguement of “seperation of church and state”), they have actually in essence voided the public forum of God, ergo the good, ergo ethics.

    • georgebouchey Says:

      Matthew, what kind of Nation do you believe we would have if you ceded secular power to the bishops? Before you answer, check the history books to see how well that has worked in the past. Only then will you be able to try and predict how the absolute authority that is the episcopacy would relate to those who do not believe exactly as they do. Say a prayer for the Federal Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and thank God the separation you seem to think so little of seems to work both ways.

      • Matthew M. Says:

        I was not implying to cede secular power to clergy. I do believe that the secular government, which even by ACLU standards, exsists ensure the rights and equal protection of its citizens under the law. If athetists and the KKK are protected, then why is it appropriate to infringe upon the rights of God-fearing, devout Catholics?

      • Well said, Matthew!

  6. Bravo-
    we all know there’s an agenda for this new cause

  7. I came by this article from a link hoping it might present cogent logical arguments. Unfortunately, I was completely disappointed; even the comment about following Lori to his ultimate logical conclusion, came to an illogical ending. The freedom of association has to include the freedom of exclusion, otherwise there is no ‘freedom of association’. ‘Rights’ often conflict and that’s why groups need to be able to infringe on the ‘rights’ of others.

    I found this article much more intellectually satisfying.

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/012/191kgwgh.asp

  8. There are three issues that have raised the ire of the Bishops and, I think, brought on this idea that the government is “at war” with the Catholic Church.

    One issue concerns contracts/licenses given by the State of Illinois for adoption and foster care services. Illinois is a state that now recognizes gay unions and allows gay people to adopt. In the past, Catholic service agencies had assisted the couples in finding children to adopt. However, because the Catholic service organizations refused to work with gay couples, they lost the contracts. I agree with the state – what Catholic services wanted was a government recognized right to discriminate against a group of people that the State has said should be allowed to adopt. Discrimination against gays is no different than discrimination against any other minority.

    The second issue was the HHS rules requiring organizations that provide health insurance to include contraceptive and sterilization coverage in the health insurance offered to employees. There was an exemption for a core group of those within the “religious employer” – those whose primary job is to inculcate the faith would not have to have coverage of contraceptives or sterilization in their health insurance (it is a little more complex than that but that conveys the idea). Catholic organizations employ tens of thousands of people in Catholic hospitals, schools, universities and charities. These people include doctors, nurses, teachers, professors, secretaries, food service workers, etc. These employees are both Catholic and non-Catholic; very, very few are vowed religious. The regulations forced no one to take The Pill or be sterilized and forced no member of the medical community to prescribe a contraceptive or perform a sterilization. Including contraceptives and sterilization in health insurance gives individuals the ability to make a choice – they could follow their own conscience regarding making use of these forms of health care, or not. Not providing health insurance coverage was a way to coerce, force some of them, to forego either or both because they would not otherwise be able to afford it.

    third issue was the HHS contract for service to those who suffered under human trafficking, some of whom had been raped and forced into prostitution. Again, the issues were contraceptive and abortion counselling. The Catholic agency seeking the contract refused to either directly provide these services or to allow a subcontractor to provide these services. Both are legal in this country. This is a U.S. government contract. I agree with HHS that the Catholic service organization was not the right one to get the contract because they would not perform all of the services required under the contract.

    What the Church sought in these three cases was to manipulate people by withholding information or coercing people to follow tenets of the Catholic faith because they are given no alternatives, and to legally discriminate against a recognized group. The only way the Church could safeguard the Catholic conscience was to deny the right of conscience to others or to discriminate against them.

    I am both Catholic and a citizen of this country. I respect and love both. We need to find another way.

    • A Catholic Citizen Says:

      Amelia, The Church, which includes you, has the freedom of religion and the freedom of association. The freedom of association necessarily includes the freedom to exclude. Without the ability to exclude, the freedom to associate is just an empty idea.
      The church needs the ability to not participate in groups and ideas which it believes are sinful. That is the crux of the issue.

      • Matthew M. Says:

        AMEN! AMEN! AMEN! Just as God create man with free will to follow His Laws and Commandments, then so therefore has His Holy Mother Church to uphold the tenents and doctrine of the Faith against the waves of sin and corruption that has plague mankind for millenia!

    • Matthew M. Says:

      So, then please explain why a group of male professors filed suit against a small Catholic College, because the HMO for the university did not allow for “birth control”. Was that really an infringement on “their” rights. Are there not other institutions of higher learning, where they could teach? Or, could not they have used their well-formed conscience to pay for said products out-of-pocket? No, instead, they felt the need (perhaps inspired more by several deadly sins, than for the actual welfare of their spouses and family planning), to make a name for themselves and attack the Church through attacking the College.

      For anyone working for Catholic organizations, they know what they getting into. If one is taking a check from them, then one should at least quitely support the ideals, or find another profession. Would someone stay in a job that uses child-labor, or poor sanitary conditions?

  9. georgebouchey Says:

    Amelia, many thanks for your clear explanation. You have more than adequately explained why the organizations recieving money from the Federal Government also have to follow the Federal Laws.

    The bishops wish to interpret the law differently, but they are not allowed to. They are not being forced to do anything, they have a choice, which is to meet the legal requirements of the law or choose not to, and so not participate in the program. No one is attacking the RCC, but the Federal Government is making the legal rules clear, and the bishops do not wish to follow the law.

    The following quote, referenced in another message link above by a sinner, sums it up in Churchillian style:

    “Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, the Republican candidate for governor in this fall’s election, refused to budge: “I believe that any institution that wants to provide services that are regulated by the state has to abide by the laws of the state,” Healey told the Boston Globe on March 2, “and our antidiscrimination laws are some of our most important.”

    The RCC was not discriminated against – the RCC withdrew from consideration on legal terms, and withdrew with a tongue that was not straight.

    • Wow, georgebouchey! The message link I provided is all about why the first ammendment rights of freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of association are in direct conflict with antidiscrimination laws. Your quote of that article is much stronger than the overall article.
      But lets look at what you quoted. ‘…any institution that wants to provide services that are regulated by the state…’ That quote alone makes virtually every service subject to the state whether the state provides any money or not. Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey was speaking specifically about providing adoption services, yet even if the Church, your church, took no government money, providing adoption services is regulated by the state therefore making the Church subject to ‘antidiscrimination’ laws which would require the Church to place children with same-sex co-habitants despite the Church’s deeply held religious views that such a placement is morally wrong.
      So much for freedom of religion!

      • There is the Church and the State. Liberal Catholics for the most part (and the word “liberal” is not pejorative; neither is calling my views “conservative” is an insult) support the state’s position over the position of the bishops. The state’s power to remove religion from the public square is becoming increasingly strong. Look at the history books and you will discover that when the State removes religion from the public square, the State itself becomes the religion. The elites in Washington are not neutral towards religion, they want to see its ability to operate within its teachings diminished, so that it is basically an instrument of the state. The Catholic Church is the world’s largest charity. She has done a phenomenal job prophetically bringing spiritual and corporal hope to the most needy while keeping true to Her teachings. Liberal Catholics have not been able to change the teachings from within the Church, so now the coercive power of the state is being applauded by them as it seeks to do it for them.

      • georgebouchey Says:

        Yes! Thank you for reading it correctly. If the RCC wants to take government money and disobey the laws that apply to the spending of that money, they really should not.

        And if the RCC wants to exercise Catholic Social Teaching in violation of the government laws, they can do that, although I would not suggest doing so in this case. However, I would challenge any attempt to make discrimination of the acceptable natural sexuality of a person as justification to disqualify them from adopted or natural parenthood as a violation of the Discrimination Law, and I would question whether or not that discrimination was valid Catholic Social Teaching.

        The RCC is not being forced to do anything. They have a choice.
        Follow the law and participate. Or not have to follow the law by not participating in the activity. There is no imposure of force in this case that I can see. I do see a voluntary choice. If you see any imposure of force, where is it?

      • Matthew M. Says:

        Correction. It is perhaps a discrimination against a “chosen” sexuality, and not a “natural” sexuality.

        However, the discussion is not about sexuality, but the boundaries of the First Amendment. Please explain to me why it is acceptable for the government to impose a law on a pro-life clinic saying “we don’t provide abortions here,” yet don’t impose a counter ordinance on abortion clinic “we don’t save lives here.” Why is it that my tax dollars then have to go these death clinics, etc, when it goes against my Faith.

        In the end, people do have choices, and the government is there to ensure we are have those choices as protected by the law. But, what is happening now is the law is forcing instituions to go against moral law, their values, to place the interests of the leftist elite above all. Even if an RCC organization or institution did not receive public dollars, the arguements presented are in fact forcing a “religion” or belief system upon them that is counter to many.

  10. Matthew M. Says:

    http://www.catholicreview.org/subpages/storyarchnew.aspx?action=10916

    The review’s version, without the leftist spin.

  11. What alot of fodder to write about Georgebouchey! You wrote ‘If you see any imposure of force, where is it?’

    I see the imposure of force in the law. All law is inherently coercive; whether you believe that it is forcing good behavior or bad, its still coercive.
    There is also an imposure of force by requiring certain action if government money is involved. But I cannot understand why you keep bringing this subject up. The argument has nothing to do with money. After all, the Roman Catholic Church has operated the largest private school system in the country for over a hundred years without government money. It would provide adoption services without any government money if the government would permit it. So government money is just a red herring.
    Finally, there is nothing ‘natural’ about same-sex couples having children. All sexual species, humans included, only procreate when the male and female mate. These heterosexual couplings have the inherent power to produce offspring in and of themselves. That is fundamentally and scientifically false for any same-sex couple. So the only ‘natural sexual’ way for humans to have children is as one half of a heterosexual couple.
    Conversely, a same-sex couple can only have a child with some outside intervention by a third party. In the case of adoption, that third party is the state. There is nothing inherently natural about that state intervention. After all, humans were reproducing long before they had government.
    Keep reading and writing Georgebouchey. It will help us all discern the truth.

  12. georgebouchey Says:

    We would not be having this dialogue if it were not for sexuality, would we? And you may say it is not about money if you wish – but that will not make it so, will it?

    I have never known anyone who said they chose their sexuality, whether it be homo, hetero, bi, transgender, or not interested. In my experience, one becomes aware of their sexuality as they mature. They find they do not choose it. I believe you have “natural”, which is the way we are created by God, confused with “normal”, an arbitrary standard. History indicates we have always had a natural, and fairly stable, distribution of hetero and homo sexual persons in our population. Anyone who has a problem with that may take it up with the person who is responsible for creation. By the way, adoptive couples do not procreate – adoption is not an act of sexual intgercourse, is it? Sexual intercourse is not involved in adoption. And adoptive parents, regardless of sexuality, have to meet the same criteria to qualify. If they are not judged to be suitable parents, they do not get to adopt, and if they do not prove to be suitable parents, they do not get to continue to be adoptive parents. However, that is also another discussion.

    Unfortunatey for some, the Government regulates adoption according to the Law of the Land, not the Law of the RCC. Which, for the RCC, requires the RCC to conform to the law of the land if they wish to run an adoption service. The same law applies to every existing adoption service, and to everyone who wishes to run an adoptive service. None may violate existing law. Seems fair to me. I would oppose my tax dollars going to support any activity which is illegal. There are legal activities I would prefer my tax dollars not fund, but as they are legal, I can only lodge my objections.

    As for the financing of Catholic endeavors which do much good. I have a very high opinion of Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services. However, I should give a great deal of the credit for their financing to to the major sources of their finanacing, which are the Federal and State Governments and privatat donors. I will leave it to you to find out what percentage of their operating funds come from the RCC.

    Yes, discern the truth, as it is the truth which will set us free!

    • I dont believe I have natural and normal mixed up. I simply said in a sexual species, humans included, only procreate when the male and female mate. Nothing judgmental about that. Doesnt speak at all about distribution of sexual persons in the population. You are the one who introduced that concept.
      Be that as it may, I see alot of the US government in this definition from Wikipedia and I do not like it.
      Ideological coercion is the use of thought coercion in the attempt to modify people’s social and political philosophy. This is of course quite different from plain propaganda, or even the simple persecution of political opponents, because its objective is to force individual ideological conversions. Unlike religious coercion, it is a quite recent phenomenon.

  13. Great discussion! One thing I just found interesting is how Br. Dan wrote about the subject of “discrimination” twice in the same week. He wrote the following words about illegal immigrants in Alabama a few days ago. He asserts that the government in Alabama:

    “seeks to prevent basic, fundamental human rights to women, men and children who are undocumented immigrants. Additionally, the discriminatory nature of the laws actually makes being latino/a a veritable crime …” He continues, “To focus so much legislative attention on such a small number of people reveals an ugly truth about discrimination and, as Judge Clemon and others assert, betrays the hidden truth that Alabamian legislators ostensibly deny: this type of action is racially based.”

    GeorgeB–I am curious if you agree with Br. Dan on this topic? This is not a trap, I am genuinely curious and ask with respect. Is Alabama preventing basic human rights? Are their laws discriminatory?

    • georgebouchey Says:

      Sometimes the minds of men seem as inscrutable as the mind of God. In Alabama the State and Federal governments seem to be in a contest over who is in control of certain aspects of the law, and I lack the Constitutional Law background and in depth knowledge of the on-the-ground situation in Alabama. If Alabama wants to drive people out of the state and have crops rotting in the fields, that seems to be what is happening. It does not seem to be a wise thing to do, at least short term. The opinion of Judge Clemon and others tend to confirm what Br. Dan asserts, so I am suspicious. Time will tell. So if you do not mind, I will pass on making a definitive statement. However -

      I must put in that about 60 years ago I was twice invoved in food companies I worked for with migrant labors, have followed the treatmen of migrant labor over the years by agri-business and state and federal government, and am sympathetic to the migrant labors, both legal and illegal, and their plight. The Customs and Immigration Service Heads, seperate groups during Reagan’s administration, testified that only a guest worker program would solve the illegal immigrant problem, and I still believe they were correct. It is a problem that could have been solved over twenty years ago by Congress. The basic problem is money – who bears the cost of the program. I saw discrimination when I was involved, and it seems there is still some involved.

      So I can say I’m probably on the same side as Br. Dan, but we’ve never had a discussion of the issues.

      • Thanks for your honest response! I sincerely appreciate your thoughts. I am more on the side of Br. Dan in regards to Alabama, but not on his side regarding this issue above. In fact, comparing the two posts I detect inconsistencies in his thinking that are rather obvious. Driving out honest, hard working immigrants and killing babies in the name of the state is, frankly, dispicable. Discrimination is in play with both issues.

  14. Matthew M. Says:

    Jared excellent commentary. And, I find it very challenging to tout the law against the Church, yet in the same turn support those who are here illegally. (I do understand the plight of the immigrants, and actually feel that some natural born citizens should be deported and returned to the land of their ancestors!)

  15. Mike Crowley Says:

    Thank you for a masterful analysis of the real issues behind the USCCB initiative — money, power, and enacting sectarian dogma into civil law — none of which are legitimate 1st amendment issues.

    I take issue with only one statement, “I’m not at all convinced that religious liberty is really at stake here.” The religious liberty of all non-Catholics, as well as the vast majority of Catholics, who do not in good conscience believe the Catholic hierarchy’s teaching on contraception, is a stake here. The USCCB is attempting to use the power of the state to restrict medical care available to all U.S. citizens to conform to the USCCB’s warped view of “Catholic” morality on contraception — a view contrary to that held by 90% of self-identified U.S. Catholic laity (Pew poll), a view contrary to the clear consensus recommendation (1968) of the Papal Commission charged with studying the Church’s teaching on contraception. Just who does the USCCB represent? Clearly they don’t represent the U.S. Catholic Church — the body of the Faithful — on this issue.

    • A Catholic Citizen Says:

      Mike Crowley you are off on a tangent. This is not about restricting the rights of those who use birth control. Its about forcing Catholic Institutions to pay for birth control in direct contravention of their religious beliefs. The first ammendment is supposed to prevent this abuse of power by the state, whether the state is supported by a majority of the population or not. Remember, the church was an early supported of the drive to eliminate racism even when that was a minority view, and its also a supporter of immigrants in the face of significant opposition. A majority view is really irrelevant to these arguments.

  16. georgebouchey Says:

    Catholic Citizen, it seems you are off on the tangent. Catholic Institutions, some, are clearly exempt from this requirement. Others are not, because their mission is not primarily religious in nature. So they are not elegible for the exemption. Mike Crowley has it correct.

    And in our democratic Republic, the rights of the majority and the minority are never irrelevant.

    • A Catholic Citizen Says:

      Ah Georgebouchey,
      Here is how our world has been constructed.

      First, In the Declaration of Independence you find the following ‘…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…’ As you can see, the rights are considered superior to any government. As such, any governmental laws which infringe on these rights are ultra vires, which means beyond the powers of the government to enact. Essentially such laws are null and void as if they had never been enacted.

      Second, the US constitution specifically states in the first ammendment that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…’ As such, it is beyond the power of entire US government to enact any law which infringes upon the free exercise of religions institutions. Necessarily included in that is any attempt by the government to define a religious institution. The right would be non-existent if the government had the power to define which institutions could benefit from it.

      Third, the power to enact laws is based, in part, on the consent of the governed. But the majority remains constrained by limited governmental powers.

      As you can see, the issue really has nothing to do with religious choices; its all centered around what powers the government actually enjoys. And neither money, nor political power, nor sectarian dogma, nor sexuality are germain to the question of the government’s actions in this situation. They are merely distractions which confuse the issue.

      • georgebouchey Says:

        First, Happy Thanksgiving to all.

        Now, if you assume that the Catholic Church is being forced to do something besides voluntarily obey the law, I can not see it. And that is the crux of the matter. The RCC has a choice. I admit it is a hard choice. But a choice is available. You do not see it that way. As you are not persuaded, neither am I.

        I also believe that a political decision will make the situation moot. The policical decision will not be based on logic or morality, it will be a political one. It may not be the end of the situation, we will see.

  17. georgebouchey Says:

    Thanks for the corrected link, Jared.

    Let’s look at key sentences in the commentary by Michael Gerson.

    “HHS announced it was giving preference to grantees that offer “the full range of legally permissible gynecological and obstetric care.” This was described by one official as “standard procedure.””
    What this says is that the programs that offer all of the legal procedures will get first consideration. That makes sense.

    “So it is now standard procedure in the Obama administration to deny funding to some Catholic programs based solely on their pro-life beliefs.”
    But that is not what the HHS said. It is a revisionist statement of what HHS said. What HHS said is different.

    So it is now standard procedure in the Obama administration to deny funding to some Catholic programs based solely on their pro-life beliefs.
    So this is not true. HHS did not disqualify “some Catholic programs based soley on their pro-life beliefs”. Some
    Catholic programs, by their choice of offering less than the full range of legally permissible programs, disqualified their own programs to some extent, which puts them in a less than preferred status.

    Then there is another consideration. Catholic colleges, universities and hospitals, just about all of which employ non-Catholics, are now required to supply to those employees what they are legally entitled to [as are their Catholic fellow employees]. The health insurance they use is an employee fringe benefit, part of their wages. It is the employees money that pays for the health insurance. Not the employers. Just as the donation made in the Sunday collection basket becomes the property of the RCC, the wages paid by employers to their employees become the property of the employee and are no longer the money/property of the RCC.

    So most of Michael Gerson’s commentary is based on a misstatement of the facts he states!

  18. George,
    You have articulated your position well. For me, nothing is more pressing than the protection of human life. Obama spoke at Notre Dame and assured Catholics that his health care plan would have a conscience clause. He knows the lunacy involved in forcing Catholic hospitals to provide abortions.

  19. georgebouchey Says:

    Jared, I would say everyone has Free Will, Reason, and Conscience.
    Use them to the best of your ability/capacity and have faith and trust in God.

    I believe one’s first responsibility is one’s own behavior.

    • I have been quiet, do to work, but not forgotten. The dichonomy of this statement is of concern. On one hand, one expresses, “faith and trust in God,” yet in the subsequent phrase, puts the responsibility on one’s own behavior, tying directly to Free Will, Reason, and Conscience. None of which, could ever exist without God our Father and Creator. If one does not have faith, (which on many levels requires the surrending of our will), then one cannot use reason to form a right conscience.

      While one does have a responsibility to learn the Faith, first and foremost there MUST be the FIAT! And, to refer to your comment regarding contraceptives, abortion, etc., there is NO true surrendering to His will, putting complete trust and faith in His plan. Instead, that faith and trust is placed in the hands of pharma companies and PP clinics, to “know” what is best for women’s health, and to “help” determine the appropriate course of action for the prevention of life. Can there be any more opposed words.

      (And, are any of the “occupiers” protesting the pharma’s about how they are making there money? Probably not, seeing that they are more focused creating a communist state! At least by definition the money lenders and brokers are “honest enough” to tell us they are charging us interest/commisions to make money!” The pharma’s are telling us we need there drugs or “treatments” and that they are “safe” and “good” for people, will the kill an innocent life or worse, play god in preventing a life.

      In the end, there will and always should be standards, which by definition are goals to what we strive to achieve. Are we going to achieve all of them? Are we going to fail at some? Are my goals the same as yours? Can one chose which goals? Whatever the answer, do I have the right, to mandate and force you to have the same goals? Just like I cannot force a Muslim to eat pork, nor an Orthodox Jew to sit next to woman who is not his wife on the Metro, why then is it o.k. for ANYONE in public office (including the man OCCUPYING the White House or any of his cronies) to force a person to go against his/her religious beliefs!

      The arguement is clear — the current rhetoric is so much an antithesis to founding principles of the Constitution and even that of the ACLU, the the USCCB is ABSOLUTELY correct in stating there is an attack on religious freedom in the country. For those who were and are against the Patriot Act, this is the exact same issue, with different parties!

  20. First, but not only. Obama publicly promised Catholic hospitals would be protected by a conscience clause.

  21. Honestly, should you expect anything less from him?

    • georgebouchey Says:

      Matthew,

      Obama, whom I assume you refer to, has done relatively much much better with regard to the life of our children than have the bishops of the USA, whose history leaves much much more to be desired. So, let’s stay on point and not go there?

      And Matthew, you last long comment is not on point either, it is another whole discussion.

  22. A Catholic Citizen Says:

    Oh George,
    You once again fail to grasp the issue. Its simply ‘can the government tell you how you must act on issues of morality?’ You have stated that by enacting laws the government has this right. The USCCB, Matthew and I disagree. For example, the Obama administration has decreed that any organization supplying immigration services must provide a list of government approved ‘culture of death’ services. When government funds are involved, this is the law and the USCCB must comply. However, it is entirely appropriate for the USCCB to use its free speech rights and complain that this policy is not in the best interest of the immigrants and highlight the State Department staff report that supports the USCCB assertion.
    On the other hand, when a Catholic institution is required to expend money to pay for health care procedures, such as abortion or contraceptives, if it choses to provide ANY health insurance to its employees, that is an entirely different matter. The institution is no longer using government money and is now being required to act against its deeply held religious beliefs. Notice also, that the employees remain free to use their pay to purchase the services directly. Either the government, or for that matter the employees, forcing the institution to pay for those services is coercive.
    Both these situations are new policies instituted by the Obama administration, in both cases by administrative actions, not votes of the Congress. And these actions are most certainly anti-children and much more far reaching than the child-molestation scandal in the Church which I believe you obliquely referred to in ‘…lets not go there.’ So my judgement would agree with Matthew’s, that President Obama has in fact acted in ways which are much more detrimental to the children of the US, and also the entire population, than the USCCB even giving consideration to the child molestation scandal.

  23. “…The USCCB, Matthew and I disagree.”
    So do I, if you haven’t noticed ;)

  24. georgebouchey Says:

    Well, if I am to be misquoted and/or have words put into my mouth, I can only repeat what my g’son says at times, “I’m outta here!”

    Ta Ta.

  25. Reblogged this on The Pilgrim and commented:
    l

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