True and False Witness on the Abortion-Pill Mandate

The Supreme Court gave a temporary injunction to the Little Sisters of the Poor to protect them from Obamacare’s abortion-pill mandate.  The only one who seems unhappy about it is Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter.

Winters accuses the Little Sisters’ lawyer of “bearing false witness” by saying that Obamacare forces the Sisters to write a “permission slip” for abortion-pills and birth control to be covered.  But Winters is the one who is either bearing false witness or displaying his own incompetence.

littlesisObamacare says that when an entity is in a self-insured plan, like the Little Sisters are, they must file a certification form. But it’s not like other certification forms that the rule requires.  It does not merely express their religious objections. The form also, specifically and additionally, “designates” their “third party administrator” to go get the abortifacient and birth control payments.  As I explained at Mirror of Justice, in a message posted by Prof. Marc DeGirolami:

The final regulation even points out that this added language is legally operative: the designation words themselves are what cause the TPA’s obligation to go get the coverage. Without the designation telling the TPA to go get that coverage, the TPA wouldn’t have any duty to be involved. … So it’s important to observe that for self-insured religious non-profits, there’s a “certification,” but there’s also a “designation”…. The designation is, by definition, an act of contracting and arranging for the coverage.

The government even conceded, in Cardinal Wuerl’s lawsuit, that “in the self-insured case, technically, the contraceptive coverage is part of the plan.” It’s not separate.

So Winters is simply wrong about what the rule requires. He is content to buy the Obama administration’s false and minimalistic description about what the “certification” does, ignoring that for self-insured plans it also has a “designation” that arranges for and contracts for the coverage as part of the plan itself.  And Winters gives Obamacare deference even over the Little Sisters of the Poor and their (likewise highly sophisticated) co-plaintiff the Christian Brothers insurance group.

Winters additionally attacks the Sisters’ attorney for “determin[ing] sinfulness” when the attorney said it would be a sin for the Sisters to file the coverage designation. But the Sisters’ attorney didn’t say it: the Sisters said it themselves.  They declared that the mandate rule “would force us to disobey Catholic teachings.” They said in their court complaint that complying with the “accommodation” would be “immoral and sinful.”  Mother Loraine Marie Claire Maguire of the Little Sisters personally signed a court statement saying “I declare under the penalty of perjury” that for the Little Sisters to participate in the accommodation would violate their religious beliefs. Period.

Winters is essentially accusing the Little Sisters of perjury. It is outrageous for him to suggest that the Little Sisters failed to think and pray hard about these statements before they approved them and literally acted as witnesses to their beliefs.

Winters then whines that “The USCCB certainly has not said that complying with the mandate would be a sin.” He apparently believes that no specific action in any American Catholic’s life is a sin unless the USCCB has issued a document saying so. That’s not how Catholicism, or the USCCB, or a well-formed Catholic conscience works. The Little Sisters of the Poor are quite capable of discerning Catholic teaching and concluding what would be sinful for themselves. The USCCB has been unswerving in opposing this Mandate, in no uncertain terms, and despite the cajoling of Winters and other left-wing Catholic pundits who have continually mocked the bishops and told them to back off. They haven’t.

Michael Sean Winters has no standing to tell the Little Sisters of the Poor that they are wrong in believing the mandate to be immoral and sinful for them. He is not the Pope of the Little Sisters’ conscience. He is not the USCCB President of other Catholics’ consciences.  And no one hired Winters to speak about their consciences, which the Sisters actually did when they hired their attorney.  Winters’ lack of attention to basic facts, and his haste to accuse others of sin, suggests that his examination of conscience should be focused inwardly, not at people he considers his opponents.

  • MorganB

    There is no doubt the “little Sisters” have been misled by their overzealous lawyers.

    • Joshua Mercer

      You are certainly permitted to think that. But I’m curious: Why the quotation marks around Little Sisters?

  • Paul

    One would think that they are being forced to take the pill. It is amazing to me the hoopla they raise on religious grounds which would be totally irrelevant if the faithful were actually following the doctrine of the faith, and not it being forced upon them. I expect the sisters would never need to take the pill. So what, then, that it’s in their plan? Let is sit on the shelf and rot.

  • Mary

    I have been watching carefully and it appears than ANYONE who has been in ANYWAY siding with the Obama Admin in terms of “conscience matters” and “religious beliefs” ultimately meets with a future that is not happy or healthy, but rather determined by forces of evil. I just wait to see how it happens.

  • LIsa

    It’s not just Winters. Grant Gallicho of Commonweal has been on this tear as well.

  • Janet O’Connor

    Who cares what the Fish Wrap says about these sisters. They have been a dissenting Catholic paper since 1968 and they are getting older and losing their relevance. Better papers like the Register are taking their place anyway.



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