[UPDATE] Unacceptable — former Vatican Ambassador, Prof. Robert George, others respond

[UPDATE: Over 118 national leaders (and counting), including university, college, seminary presidents, deans and board members, along with notable journalists, scholars and activists.  Updated letter can be found here.]

The following letter was signed by former Vatican Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon, Princeton Prof. Robert George, Notre Dame Law Prof. Carter Snead, Catholic University of America President John Garvey, and EPPC Fellow Yuval Levin.

Today the Obama administration has offered what it has styled as an “accommodation” for religious institutions in the dispute over the HHS mandate for coverage (without cost sharing) of abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception. The administration will now require that all insurance plans cover (“cost free”) these same products and services.  Once a religiously-affiliated (or believing individual) employer purchases insurance (as it must, by law), the insurance company will then contact the insured employees to advise them that the terms of the policy include coverage for these objectionable things.

This so-called “accommodation” changes nothing of moral substance and fails to remove the assault on religious liberty and the rights of conscience which gave rise to the controversy.  It is certainly no compromise.  The reason for the original bipartisan uproar was the administration’s insistence that religious employers, be they institutions or individuals, provide insurance that covered services they regard as gravely immoral and unjust.  Under the new rule, the government still coerces religious institutions and individuals to purchase insurance policies that include the very same services.

It is no answer to respond that the religious employers are not “paying” for this aspect of the insurance coverage.  For one thing, it is unrealistic to suggest that insurance companies will not pass the costs of these additional services on to the purchasers.  More importantly, abortion-drugs, sterilizations, and contraceptives are a necessary feature of the policy purchased by the religious institution or believing individual.  They will only be made available to those who are insured under such policy, by virtue of the terms of the policy.

It is morally obtuse for the administration to suggest (as it does) that this is a meaningful accommodation of religious liberty because the insurance company will be the one to inform the employee that she is entitled to the embryo-destroying “five day after pill” pursuant to the insurance contract purchased by the religious employer.  It does not matter who explains the terms of the policy purchased by the religiously affiliated or observant employer.  What matters is what services the policy covers.

The simple fact is that the Obama administration is compelling religious people and institutions who are employers to purchase a health insurance contract that provides abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization.  This is a grave violation of religious freedom and cannot stand.  It is an insult to the intelligence of Catholics, Protestants, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslims, and other people of faith and conscience to imagine that they will accept as assault on their religious liberty if only it is covered up by a cheap accounting trick.

Finally, it bears noting that by sustaining the original narrow exemptions for churches, auxiliaries, and religious orders, the administration has effectively admitted that the new policy (like the old one) amounts to a grave infringement on religious liberty.  The administration still fails to understand that institutions that employ and serve others of different or no faith are still engaged in a religious mission and, as such, enjoy the protections of the First Amendment.


John Garvey

President, The Catholic University of America

Mary Ann Glendon

Learned Hand Professor of Law, Harvard University

Robert P. George

McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University

O. Carter Snead

Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame

Yuval Levin

Hertog Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center



  • melise

    Absolutely true, I dont believe anything from Obamas mouth, truth is black and white no gray areas. We have to fight this all the way to not excepting a compromise

  • Colleen Barry


  • Pingback: Obama Response to the Church Totally Unacceptable « Catholic Exchange

  • Gail Finke

    What about Sr. Keehan and the CHA? She helped create this “accommodation” and released a statement lauding it before the President spoke. When the President’s Chief of Staff appeared on Fox today, he said that the administration “didn’t expect to have the approval of all Catholics” but that it had the approval of some. The interviewer, incredulous, asked, about the bishops. He said again, they didn’t have all the Catholics, but had some significant support. Who? THE CHA, who “know something about how to provide health care” (or something along those lines). Sr. Keehan is a disgrace and is directly providing cover for these people. Can’t SOMETHING be done about her? Who can fire her? Who can shut her up????

  • Sad ND Grad

    Cheer Cheer for O. Carter Snead! Compare the courageous response from these 4 authors to that of the President of Notre Dame:

    “The widespread concerns expressed by Catholics and people from other faiths have led today to a welcome step toward recognizing the freedom of religious institutions to abide by the principles that define their respective missions. We applaud the willingness of the administration to work with religious organizations to find a solution acceptable to all parties.

    “There remain a number of unclear and unresolved issues, and we look forward to joining the U.S. bishops and leaders from other religious institutions to work with the administration to resolve them.”

    Jenkins is to Notre Dame what Obama is to our country – cowardly and disgusting!

  • HCSKnight

    I see this situation as a positive step in a very necessary direction. This situation is occurring because of one simple reason, the same reason the Church went through the evils before the Protestant Schism.

    Christ never commanded that the Apostles go out as a community and engage in politics.

    Priests and Bishop’s, we are reminded when they sin that they are men who are subject to the same temptations and sin as all other men. This is true.

    So, what makes priests, Bishops and laity think priests and Bishops can engage the world like Caesar yet be immune to the same moral failures as Caesar and politicians?

    ALL “Catholic” institutions need to be IMMEDIATELY turned over to the laity and the priests and Bishops need to return to the Sanctuary.

    Mankind needs priests, not social workers.

    Sadly, we Catholic’s have a priesthood filled with men who didnt have the courage to follow their love – Social Justice/Social Work – but found a place where they could follow their love by paying the price of administering the Sacraments.

    We need priests and Bishops who love the Sacraments, not priests who love social justice beliefs more than the Faith.

    Only when the Catholic Church returns to a priesthood of men who love the Sacraments will the Smoke of Satan begin to be cleared from the Sanctuary. Only then will evil entanglements such as is going on with politicians like President Obama end.

    A Faith taught by priests who love the Sacraments will result in a laity in which all the social justice issues can be rightly placed.

    The Catholic priesthood is filled with the same ego as the professional politician.

    Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.



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