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.

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of


About Author

Matt Bowman is a pro-life, religious liberties and constitutional law attorney in the Washington, DC area. He graduated from Ave Maria School of Law in 2003 and clerked for several federal judges thereafter. The Bowmans are involved in homeschooling and classical Catholic education and are rabid fans of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Matt is a member of the Knights of Columbus and his local parish.

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