The Bishops Will Not Abandon their Lay Flock

“In the morning David wrote a letter to Jo′ab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter he wrote, ‘Set Uri′ah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die.'” 2 Samuel 11:14-16.

As the U.S. Bishops enter their annual retreat in San Diego, Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter counsels them to abandon the Catholic laity to government requirements that they promote products violating Catholic teaching.  As David signed the death warrant of Uriah, Winters would have the bishops continue to teach the laity that they are to follow the Lord and his teachings in daily life, but then draw back “in the forefront of the hardest fighting” when the government forces them to pay for activities violating those teachings.


David has Uriah deliver the very letter that will seal his fate.

But the bishops will not surrender the fight they have waged against Obamacare’s “HHS mandate,” which requires all people and organizations involved in health insurance treat pregnancy as an expensive disease.  They have already organized another “Fortnight for Freedom” starting June 21, shortly after their retreat ends.  The promotional materials and an up-to-the-minute countdown are available here.

This Obamacare mandate is fundamentally not about providing more items, since the government could easily do that another way.  It is about driving people out of public life if they will not become a cog in the government’s anti-fertility, anti-human, bureaucratically dictated regime of health care.  Right out of the box, Obamacare is being used to suppress dissent from government dogma.  No one, especially lay citizens, can live their daily lives approaching health care from a pro-fertility Catholic perspective.

Pundits at outlets like the National Catholic Reporter would not counsel surrender if the issue were something they cared about more than contraception.  Winters admits as much when he says he was willing to fight against this Obamacare mandate when it drew a line between the church and service ministries, but he isn’t willing to fight on the issue of mandated participation in treating pregnancy as an expensive disease.

This illustrates a pervasive clericalism among pundits of Catholic left.  They claim to agree with Pope Francis’ teaching that Catholics be focused outwardly, but they turn around and insist that “the Church” and her “engagement with the world” happens only in parishes and non-profit organizations, not in the laity’s daily lives such as in business. For Winters, the laity and their following of Church teaching in their Monday-Friday work lives is not the work of “the Church,” so they can be abandoned to immoral Obamacare mandates, and their shepherds the bishops should not prioritize speaking on their behalf.  While physical death is not the penalty of this Obamacare mandate, death of having an identity as a full practicing member of “the Church” is.  According to the mandate and its defenders on the left, the laity are not capable of exercising religion as such.

Of course, commentators like Winters quickly forget this when they want to insist that capitalism is evil and the business world must incorporate religious ethics on issues like workers’ rights and environmentalism. On those issues, Winters thinks Catholic teaching has a priority in economics and the daily life of people in business, and that the bishops should insist on that priority.  But not on issues of “human ecology” such as the Church’s teachings on life and sexuality.  Those issues, to pundits like Winters, have no serious place in economics or in the bishops’ engagement with the culture.

The irony here is that Winters’ approach makes Catholicism’s engagement with the world minuscule, not larger. He excludes the laity and their daily life from that engagement by insisting that the bishops not defend that engagement when it is attacked.  But the laity constitute the vast majority of ways and times that the world interacts with the body of Christ. Pope Francis, in contrast, insists on external engagement with the world in a truly universal way, as did Pope Benedict and Vatican II when emphasizing that the laity are the Church.

The U.S. Bishops will not act like David sentencing Uriah by abandoning the laity to government suppression.  Nor will they insist only on left wing economic issues and not on the theology of human sexuality as implemented against Christians in a government-controlled health care regime.

  • Tim Rohr

    The bishops already have. I would challenge them to do what we did here in the Archdiocese of Agana, Guam. We took the religious exemption and put the burden of proof on the government to prove that we don’t qualify. We said “come and get us”.

  • Christin RN

    Thanks to our Good Shepherds for not abandoning their flock. Also, Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI should be referred to as such.
    Thanks you.

  • Lurker

    It’s hard to follow the USCCB into battle when the continue to espouse anti-life and anti-Catholic organizations through projects like the CCHD, and when the President of the USCCB is already providing health insurance covering contraception. (Remember, he does so under protest.) [rollseyes]

    The problem is that the USCCB and their leadership is a) inept and uneducated with regard to public policy, b) is largely consequentialist, and c) does not use the tools at their disposal to fight scandal and the propagation of moral evils (denying communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians like Cuomo). Finally, the bishops did almost nothing to “get our backs” when Obama pushed taxpayer funded abortion, contraception, and pushed for the elimination of conscience rights for medical professionals. Only when Obama turned his sights directly on the bishops did they express concern.

    How are we supposed to follow the USCCB and the bishops into battle and believe they will fight the good fight if they’ve never shown a spine or leadership in the past?

  • John Bolin

    Bishops in the US are guilty of sending badly mixed messages. They have been advocating for a national health plan almost 100 years ( since the 20s.) Given the way the way they’ve been implemented anywhere they exist, how could they possibly be expecting anything other than what has happened? At the very least they are guilty of culpable naivety with a healthy dose of hubris.

  • Jon M Whitacre

    I’m conflicted. I don’t believe it is the Church’s duty is to instruct the Government on Charity. That is the Church’s and each Christians calling. I also believe that it’s not the Government’s job to tell me what to buy and how to live. If the government wasn’t in charge of charity, they wouldn’t be anywhere near comprehensive health care. The Church needs to return to it’s mission and insist that the government return to its mission.

  • JackB

    You use the term “Catholic Bishops” as if they are a cohesive unit. They are not. They have criminals in their ranks and no body seems to care. Their credibility is seriously questioned. Their honesty is seriously flawed.

    If they have abandon anything it is their trust.

    • Mellda Freeman

      I ‘m with JackB from all I see out there.

    • Ken

      JackB, while the men who comprise the group of Catholic Bishops may indeed be flawed, the teaching of the Magisterium is perfect. Look to the Holy Spirit in the Church, not to man.

      • Kathy

        Yes Ken..We are the Church as well and our responsibilities with word, action and prayer are necessary to remain vigilant and faithful. The world would like us all to be non-discriminating, but only when it involves following their agenda. God, and the Church on the other hand invite us to be very discriminating in the essence of good and evil; temptation and sin. These are behaviors and in which all of us interact. Clergy who have failed God share the same free will and unless they remain in fidelity to their vows, well, it’s like anything else that falls apart. There will be those who make that choice; however, God promised that He will give us all what we need to remain faithful to the truth. In order to grasp this meaning, we first need to choose a closer union with Him. We have holy and strong bishops, clergy and the laity who begin and end every day with God at the heart of each choice. We have a pope who beseeches all to return and remember those favors and graces as well as our responsibilities to God, His son’s suffering and death and the presence of the Holy Spirit to keep us healthy in faith. The choices to believe and follow through are there for each one of us.



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