The question historians will have to answer is, to what extent did the bishops conference of the United States, the USCCB, assist and facilitate the election of Barack Hussein Obama in 2008.  Judging from the number of automobiles in the parking lot of the USCCB in 2008 that bore Obama bumper stickers, there is no doubt that a significant number of the members of the staff of the USCCB were sympathetic to the presidential campaign of Barack Hussein Obama as opposed to the campaign of John McCain and Sarah Palin.  The silence of the majority of the bishops during the 2008 presidential campaign would have suggested that many of the bishops were likewise sympathetic to the campaign of Barack Hussein Obama.  The Guideline for Voters issued by the USCCB likewise was vague on the priority of respect for life as the paramount issue in the presidential campaign.  So, it is not too much of a stretch to suggest that the at least tacit support for Obama was in a sense a sowing of the wind and now the Church in the United States must brace itself for the whirlwind of persecution that is coming from federal bureaucrats.

– Abyssum


Friday, January 20, 2012


“A Foul Ball, By Any Standard” — On Conscience “Edict,” “The Bishops Vow To Fight”

First posted on the website of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, the following video response to this morning’s Obama administration move to mandate contraceptive coverage in benefit plans across the board was released minutes ago by the body’s president, Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan of New York:

…and here, the bench’s full statement on the Federal move:

Unconscionable to force citizens to buy contraceptives against their will
No change in limited exemption, only delay in enforcement
Matter of freedom of conscience, freedom of religion

WASHINGTON—The Catholic bishops of the United States called “literally unconscionable” a decision by the Obama Administration to continue to demand that sterilization, abortifacients and contraception be included in virtually all health plans. Today’s announcement means that this mandate and its very narrow exemption will not change at all; instead there will only be a delay in enforcement against some employers.

“In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences,” said Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The cardinal-designate continued, “To force American citizens to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their healthcare is literally unconscionable. It is as much an attack on access to health care as on religious freedom. Historically this represents a challenge and a compromise of our religious liberty.”

The HHS rule requires that sterilization and contraception – including controversial abortifacients – be included among “preventive services” coverage in almost every healthcare plan available to Americans. “The government should not force Americans to act as if pregnancy is a disease to be prevented at all costs,” added Cardinal-designate Dolan.

At issue, the U.S. bishops and other religious leaders insist, is the survival of a cornerstone constitutionally protected freedom that ensures respect for the conscience of Catholics and all other Americans.

“This is nothing less than a direct attack on religion and First Amendment rights,” said Franciscan Sister Jane Marie Klein, chairperson of the board at Franciscan Alliance, Inc., a system of 13 Catholic hospitals. “I have hundreds of employees who will be upset and confused by this edict. I cannot understand it at all.”

Daughter of Charity Sister Carol Keehan, president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, voiced disappointment with the decision. Catholic hospitals serve one out of six people who seek hospital care annually.

“This was a missed opportunity to be clear on appropriate conscience protection,” Sister Keehan said.

Cardinal-designate Dolan urged that the HHS mandate be overturned.

“The Obama administration has now drawn an unprecedented line in the sand,” he said. “The Catholic bishops are committed to working with our fellow Americans to reform the law and change this unjust regulation. We will continue to study all the implications of this troubling decision.”


posted by Rocco Palmo at 14:39

Conscience, Denied

In quickly-breaking news of conspicuous timing — read: with Monday’s March for Life in Washington just around the corner — both the AP and Washington Postare reporting that the Obama administration has turned back calls for a wider conscience exemption, which would’ve allowed religious groups to opt out of funding contraceptives and sterilization procedures for their employees under the new Federal health-care law.The decision represents a significant setback for the US bishops, who made a considerable push for a wider loophole from the mandate for birth-control coverage over recent months, citing religious liberty grounds. The church’s opposition to the proposed policy garnered support from an unusually broad coalition of Catholic voices, including more progressive factionswhich had previously clashed with the hierarchy by taking a warmer approach toward the Democratic White House, whose pro-choice stance on legalized abortion has become a flashpoint in the national fold’s daily life.According to the reports, only one concession is being granted to faith-based groups — an extra year’s grace period to adjust their policies into compliance with the new government regulations. In what’s likely to become a widespread outcome of the move, however, the president of Notre Dame, Holy Cross Fr John Jenkins, warned late last year that the “impossible position” of meeting the mandate would require Catholic entities to “discontinue our employee and student health care plans in violation of the church’s social teaching.”

More to come… but for now, lest anyone was expecting a quiet Roe/March weekend in DC, looks like it’ll be anything but.

SVILUPPO: At 1pm Eastern, the following statement formally announcing the decision was issued by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius:

In August 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services issued an interim final rule that will require most health insurance plans to cover preventive services for women including recommended contraceptive services without charging a co-pay, co-insurance or a deductible. The rule allows certain non-profit religious employers that offer insurance to their employees the choice of whether or not to cover contraceptive services. Today the department is announcing that the final rule on preventive health services will ensure that women with health insurance coverage will have access to the full range of the Institute of Medicine’s recommended preventive services, including all FDA -approved forms of contraception. Women will not have to forego these services because of expensive co-pays or deductibles, or because an insurance plan doesn’t include contraceptive services. This rule is consistent with the laws in a majority of states which already require contraception coverage in health plans, and includes the exemption in the interim final rule allowing certain religious organizations not to provide contraception coverage. Beginning August 1, 2012, most new and renewed health plans will be required to cover these services without cost sharing for women across the country.

After evaluating comments, we have decided to add an additional element to the final rule. Nonprofit employers who, based on religious beliefs, do not currently provide contraceptive coverage in their insurance plan, will be provided an additional year, until August 1, 2013, to comply with the new law. Employers wishing to take advantage of the additional year must certify that they qualify for the delayed implementation. This additional year will allow these organizations more time and flexibility to adapt to this new rule. We intend to require employers that do not offer coverage of contraceptive services to provide notice to employees, which will also state that contraceptive services are available at sites such as community health centers, public clinics, and hospitals with income-based support. We will continue to work closely with religious groups during this transitional period to discuss their concerns.

Scientists have abundant evidence that birth control has significant health benefits for women and their families, it is documented to significantly reduce health costs, and is the most commonly taken drug in America by young and middle-aged women. This rule will provide women with greater access to contraception by requiring coverage and by prohibiting cost sharing.

This decision was made after very careful consideration, including the important concerns some have raised about religious liberty. I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services. The administration remains fully committed to its partnerships with faith-based organizations, which promote healthy communities and serve the common good. And this final rule will have no impact on the protections that existing conscience laws and regulations give to health care providers.

According to Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter, President Obama made a morning phone call to the USCCB president, Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan of New York, to personally deliver advance word of the decision.

A response from the conference is ostensibly in the works.

SVILUPPO: Given both in a statement and a video-message from the body’s chief, the USCCB response is posted.


posted by Rocco Palmo at 12:18

Thursday, January 19, 2012

“The Most Cherished of Freedoms”: On Religious Freedom and the Public Square, B16 Talks The States

As the US’ bishops ad limina visit continues, this morning saw the second papal address of the 15-group trip: to the prelates of Region IV, which encompasses the provinces of Baltimore, Washington and the archdiocese for the Military Services.

Breaking from the traditional practice, as part of the gradual curtailing of his schedule in light of his age, B16 will only give five speeches to the USCCB group on its first Roman check-up of the current pontificate. The first of the talks was given to the bishops of Region II (New York) in late November.

On a related note, the dates for the second half of the US visit — previously up in the air for months given the final scheduling of Benedict’s 23-28 March visit to Mexico and Cuba — are now set. The schedule finally communicated earlier this week, the ad limina will conclude in mid-May with Region XV, the recently-established group encompassing all the eparchs of the various Eastern churches with jurisdictions on these shores.

Next week brings the visit of the South’s Region V (Louisville, Mobile, New Orleans), with the Midwest’s Regions VI (Detroit and Cincinnati) and VII following suit before Ash Wednesday late next month. The next of Benedict’s speeches is expected to be given to the latter — the bishops of Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin — during their leg, which coincides with the days leading up to the 18 February consistory for the creation of new cardinals.

Here below, the Pope’s today text to the mid-Atlantic group… which, in a sign of its significance, was recorded in fullaudio by Vatican Radio.

* * *

Dear Brother Bishops,

I greet all of you with fraternal affection and I pray that this pilgrimage of spiritual renewal and deepened communion will confirm you in faith and commitment to your task as Pastors of the Church in the United States of America. As you know, it is my intention in the course of this year to reflect with you on some of the spiritual and cultural challenges of the new evangelization.

One of the most memorable aspects of my Pastoral Visit to the United States was the opportunity it afforded me to reflect on America’s historical experience of religious freedom, and specifically the relationship between religion and culture. At the heart of every culture, whether perceived or not, is a consensus about the nature of reality and the moral good, and thus about the conditions for human flourishing. In America, that consensus, as enshrined in your nation’s founding documents, was grounded in a worldview shaped not only by faith but a commitment to certain ethical principles deriving from nature and nature’s God. Today that consensus has eroded significantly in the face of powerful new cultural currents which are not only directly opposed to core moral teachings of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but increasingly hostile to Christianity as such.

For her part, the Church in the United States is called, in season and out of season, to proclaim a Gospel which not only proposes unchanging moral truths but proposes them precisely as the key to human happiness and social prospering (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 10). To the extent that some current cultural trends contain elements that would curtail the proclamation of these truths, whether constricting it within the limits of a merely scientific rationality, or suppressing it in the name of political power or majority rule, they represent a threat not just to Christian faith, but also to humanity itself and to the deepest truth about our being and ultimate vocation, our relationship to God. When a culture attempts to suppress the dimension of ultimate mystery, and to close the doors to transcendent truth, it inevitably becomes impoverished and falls prey, as the late Pope John Paul II so clearly saw, to reductionist and totalitarian readings of the human person and the nature of society.

With her long tradition of respect for the right relationship between faith and reason, the Church has a critical role to play in countering cultural currents which, on the basis of an extreme individualism, seek to promote notions of freedom detached from moral truth. Our tradition does not speak from blind faith, but from a rational perspective which links our commitment to building an authentically just, humane and prosperous society to our ultimate assurance that the cosmos is possessed of an inner logic accessible to human reasoning. The Church’s defense of a moral reasoning based on the natural law is grounded on her conviction that this law is not a threat to our freedom, but rather a “language” which enables us to understand ourselves and the truth of our being, and so to shape a more just and humane world. She thus proposes her moral teaching as a message not of constraint but of liberation, and as the basis for building a secure future.

The Church’s witness, then, is of its nature public: she seeks to convince by proposing rational arguments in the public square. The legitimate separation of Church and State cannot be taken to mean that the Church must be silent on certain issues, nor that the State may choose not to engage, or be engaged by, the voices of committed believers in determining the values which will shape the future of the nation.

In the light of these considerations, it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life. Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion. Many of you have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience.

Here once more we see the need for an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity endowed with a strong critical sense vis-à-vis the dominant culture and with the courage to counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society. The preparation of committed lay leaders and the presentation of a convincing articulation of the Christian vision of man and society remain a primary task of the Church in your country; as essential components of the new evangelization, these concerns must shape the vision and goals of catechetical programs at every level.

In this regard, I would mention with appreciation your efforts to maintain contacts with Catholics involved in political life and to help them understand their personal responsibility to offer public witness to their faith, especially with regard to the great moral issues of our time: respect for God’s gift of life, the protection of human dignity and the promotion of authentic human rights. As the Council noted, and I wished to reiterate during my Pastoral Visit, respect for the just autonomy of the secular sphere must also take into consideration the truth that there is no realm of worldly affairs which can be withdrawn from the Creator and his dominion (cfr. Gaudium et Spes, 36). There can be no doubt that a more consistent witness on the part of America’s Catholics to their deepest convictions would make a major contribution to the renewal of society as a whole.

Dear Brother Bishops, in these brief remarks I have wished to touch upon some of the pressing issues which you face in your service to the Gospel and their significance for the evangelization of American culture. No one who looks at these issues realistically can ignore the genuine difficulties which the Church encounters at the present moment. Yet in faith we can take heart from the growing awareness of the need to preserve a civil order clearly rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition, as well as from the promise offered by a new generation of Catholics whose experience and convictions will have a decisive role in renewing the Church’s presence and witness in American society. The hope which these “signs of the times” give us is itself a reason to renew our efforts to mobilize the intellectual and moral resources of the entire Catholic community in the service of the evangelization of American culture and the building of the civilization of love. With great affection I commend all of you, and the flock entrusted to your care, to the prayers of Mary, Mother of Hope, and cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in Jesus Christ our Lord.

PHOTO: L’Osservatore Romano

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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  1. As if Obama’s 100% pro-abortion voting record in Illinois — even on that infanticide issue — wasn’t a signal. As if Fr. Jenkins didn’t know (in 2009, when Notre Dame granted Obama an honorary degree) that it would come to this. As if the nun who heads that Catholic Health Association, who supported Obamacare as best I can recall, had no inkling of the path down which we are going. As if the failure to excommunicate “Catholic Kathleen” Sibelius and these other pro-abortion icons who deliver daily scandal isn’t telling. The latest edition of my archdiocesan newspaper features a “call to arms” by my archbishop, urging us laymen to write Congress on this matter. They spat out the ounce of prevention, and now we in the pews are supposed to choke down the pound of cure? Thank you for this excellent blog and especially for this to-the-point series of posts on the matter.

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