Why the HHS Ruling Will Become a Litmus Test for Pro-Obama Catholics

I wrote on the day of the Obama ruling forcing Catholic institutions to pay for contraception, sterilization, and abortifacient drugs that I hope “liberal Catholics [will] acknowledge how foolish they have been to support Obama’s anti-Catholic policies.”

That was probably too much to ask for, but now at least one liberal Catholic has said he cannot vote for Obama again: Michael Sean Winters of The National Catholic Reporter.

Roger Cardinal Mahony, the former Archbishop of Los Angeles, someone I have also strongly disagreed with in the past, has come out swinging against Obama’s HHS attack on Catholic institutions, writing:

“I cannot imagine a more direct and frontal attack on freedom of conscience than this ruling today. This decision must be fought against with all the energies the Catholic Community can muster.”

I commend him for that, and agree with him. He continues in excellent fashion:

For me there is no other fundamental issue as important as this one as we enter into the Presidential and Congressional campaigns. Every candidate must be pressed to declare his/her position on all of the fundamental life issues, especially the role of government to determine what conscience decision must be followed: either the person’s own moral and conscience decision, or that dictated/enforced by the Federal government. For me the answer is clear: we stand with our moral principles and heritage over the centuries, not what a particular Federal government agency determines.

As Bishops we do not recommend candidates for any elected office. My vote on November 6 will be for the candidate for President of the United States and members of Congress who intend to recognize the full spectrum of rights under the many conscience clauses of morality and public policy. If any candidate refuses to acknowledge and to promote those rights, then that candidate will not receive my vote.

Amazing stuff, right?

Now it’s time to drill deeper and call other liberal Catholics to task. I’m not asking for them to repudiate their previous support for Obama (although they should). And I’m not asking for them to agree that I and others who warned them that this would come to pass under Obamacare were right (although they should).

I’m asking for them now, with this new information available, to publicly repudiate the President and Kathleen Sebelius for this vindictive, insulting decision and to pledge to abstain from voting for him in 2012 and to urge other Catholics and citizens who care about religious liberty to do the same.

Frankly, on a prudential level, I think they should pledge to vote for whoever opposes Obama in the general election. Simply abstaining is not enough, considering the gravity of the threats and the greater gravity of future threats a second Obama term would entail.

Matt Bowman has already done us a service by reminding us of the letter a group of liberal Catholics published at Catholics United (they’ve since hastily taken down the letter — but the internet has a long memory). Before the people who signed their names to this letter write publicly again about Catholic issues they need to share their thoughts with the public about what HHS did. Do they support violating the first amendment and forcing Catholic institutions to violate their individual and corporate consciences? Their answer on this central question has more bearing on their reputation than whatever other issues they may feel eager to discuss.

As others have written, Obama’s choice destroys any pretense of common ground between faithful Catholics and this administration. Even Michael Sean Winters gets a point that I’ve been making since before Obama became President — that Obama’s idea of “common ground” means Catholics giving up their beliefs:

“I accuse you, Mr. President, of failing to live out the respect for diversity that you so properly and beautifully proclaimed as a cardinal virtue at Notre Dame. Or, are we to believe that diversity is only to be lauded when it advances the interests of those with whom we agree? That’s not diversity. That’s misuse of a noble principle for ignoble ends.”

And yet, so it goes. As the editors of National Review wrote, the Obama decision is more than some sort of ersatz “failing to observe diversity” — it’s an assault on our basic freedoms:

It should be no surprise that the government’s takeover of health care is a threat to every kind of freedom. But the HHS insurance mandate — bad enough in itself for its hostility to a culture that affirms life — is a direct assault on the religious freedom of individuals and institutions that cannot, in good conscience, be complicit in such hostility. Congress, the courts, the voting public — all must come to the defense of conscience and the Constitution, and turn back the tyranny of this administration.

There are practical things liberal Catholics can do to support Catholic conscience rights, such as urging Democrats to support Rep. Jeff Fortenberry’s bill (HR 1179, the “Respect for Rights of Conscience Act”). The bill could pass the Republican-controlled House but will be shot down by the Democrat-controlled Senate before it could reach the President’s desk, unless we unite to change that dynamic. If momentum could be created behind this bill, so-called Catholic members of the House and Senate would have to go on-record as either favoring Obama’s policies or favoring religious liberty.

All of which is to say again, where Catholics fall on supporting or opposing the HHS decision is a reliable litmus test for where they stand on religious liberty and a host of other civil liberties. It’s up to us to see that this litmus test is applied consistently and vigorously.



  • Richard G Evans

    Agreeing with Mike Jarman here, and I too have been a lifelong Democrat who left the “Party of hope and change” last summer for many of the same reasons as you did. Below is a post I made on my own FB page, and I have written more extensively about this and other current issues on my “catholicboyrichard” blog on WordPress. Feel free to check it out too. In any case below are my remarks from FB:

    This man is as close to a DICTATOR as any President in my 56 years…and in reality much further back than that. Some of us once supported him due to our own ignorance–God knows and forgives this–but we are ignorant no longer so that excuse if forever gone after reading this. Even the Notre Dame University President who gave him the controversial “honorary doctorate” seems to have been awakened from his slumber on this one. As a very clever but true bumper sticker says “FRIENDS DON’T LET FRIENDS VOTE FOR OBAMA.” So if I lose some “friendships” over my stance then I am guessing we were never actual friends to begin with. And the President most certainly was never a “friend” to anyone who disagreed with him. Never. Wake up–ALL of us. Now not later. And yes I now would vote for any of the four possible Republican nominees over him if it meant blocking him from winning the White House 4 more years. I happen to strongly support Santorum but there is no way in heaven or the other place I will help Obama win this time.



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