Secretary Sebelius Scraps Conscience Exception for Health Plans

As the implementation of Obamacare rolls into high gear, we’ve been given insight into how it will be implemented in general. On January 20, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that it would not exempt health plans provided by non-profit religious employers from the requirement to provide “contraceptive services.”


… Today the department is announcing that the final rule on preventive health services will ensure that women with health insurance coverage will have access to the full range of the Institute of Medicine’s recommended preventive services, including all FDA -approved forms of contraception. Women will not have to forego these services because of expensive co-pays or deductibles, or because an insurance plan doesn’t include contraceptive services.

The cateory of “all FDA-approved forms of contraception” includes the abortifacients like the “morning after pill.” At the same time I couldn’t help but note that the group of health plans provided by “non-profit religious employers” who do not support contraception winnows the field down rather quickly to those provided by either the Catholic Church or one of its social service or medical subsidiaries.

The best is yet to come.

By way of full disclosure, I’m Roman Catholic. I’m a convert who became Catholic with eyes wide open rather than a “cradle Catholic” who was born into the religion. As such I’ve never ceased to be amazed at the antics of many of our Church leadership. I write it off to equal parts cognitive dissonance and a pathological desire to be popular.

The Democrat party has been anti-Catholic in its political positions since George McGovern ran for president yet the priesthood and heirarchy of the Roman Catholic Church in America tend to hail from Democrat constituencies. So on the one hand the Magesterium is teaching very traditional social values while on the other it is embracing without even a hint of credulity every lefty scheme that comes down the pike.


For instance, in 1983, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops declared nuclear weapons to be immoral and weren’t terribly fond of deterrence either. By 1988 they had decided SDI was destabliizing as was the US linking a Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan to future arms treaties. When communist terrorists were trying to create a people’s paradise in El Salvador, many of our bishops ignored what was happening to personal libery under the Sandinistas in Nicaragua as they stumbled over themselves to create the “sanctuary movment”.

Without putting too fine a point on it but there was no daylight between the position of the Magesterium and that of the Kremlin on these issues.

Not that they are all commies or anything. But there were MOVEMENTS out there that had freakin Pete Seeger singing protest songs and James Earl Jones and Ed Asner at their rallies. How could you not be in favor of these things?

Similar stampedes took place on global warming and immigration.

This is where the cognitive dissonance comes in. When given the choice between seeming to endorse a religious conservative for office and seeming to endorse a heterodox leftist there is no limit to the contortions a large share of our bishops won’t put themselves through to help the lefty. To wit: by the black letter of the Catechism of the Catholic Church supporting abortion is forbidden. If a public figure does so this failure is compounded by “scandal”, that is, an action that could cause others to question their faith. The fact that there are very few bishops in the nation who have taken steps to discipline pro-abort advocates and politicians especially when they proclaim themselves to be devout.


The second strain is the want to be liked. For most of American history, Catholics were THE OTHER. It was a foreign religion practiced by all manner of foreigners who either couldn’t speak English (Italians, Poles, etc.) or who could barely speak it (the Irish, it goes without saying). What other religion still has amendments to state constitutions directly aimed at its religious schools?

Just when things were going well with JFK (another devout Catholic) in the White House, he gets killed and the whole counter culture begins. If there was anything less cool in the 1960s than being in ROTC it was being a Catholic who believed in monogamy and abstinence until marriage not to mention avowing any religion that did not use mind altering drugs. Being cool is still important and despite his views on abortion Obama, that epitome of coolness, was invited to give a commencement address at a Catholic university.

This mindset was most egregiously on display during the 2008 election. The Catholic heirarchy — and I have to digress here for a moment to emphasize that we have many traditional bishops in this country who have fought the good fight for decades — wanted to catch the Hope-and-Change wave and had a problem: Barrack Obama loves him some abortion. Not just plain vanilla abortion. He is in favor of partial birth aboriton. He is in favor of killing a kid who happens to survive the abortion procedure.

Demonstrating again a contortionist skill that would gain them employment at any county fair in the country the bishops issued a document called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.”


As first blush it looks like a strong statement in favor of life which would not have helped Obama, or any other elected Democrat for that matter, until one reads deeper.

34. Catholics often face dificult choices about how to vote. This is why it is so important to vote according to a well-formed conscience that perceives the proper relationship among moral goods. A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter’s intent is to support that position. In such cases a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.

35. There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.

In other words if you feel like the opposition to the war in Iraq or midnight basketball or furthering the ends of labor unions or any other pet peeve are “morally grave reasons” you can vote for the pro-abort. And they got what they wanted: American Catholics gave a majority of their votes to Obama.

Then came Obamacare which gave the bishops a real taste of what happens when you create a moral equivalence between universal health care and abortion. You get them both.


As reported in the Wall Street Journal, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops was heartbroken and gobsmacked, or gobsmacked and heartbroken, when they got the bad news about the elimination of an exemption for religious conscience in health plans.

President Obama telephoned Archbishop Dolan on Friday morning to tell him of the decision, said a spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The pair had discussed the issue during a November meeting, during which the archbishop “got the message that they could work together,” said the spokeswoman, Sister Mary Ann Walsh.

The issue was likely to form the “backdrop to future relations,” she said. “It’s too big to ignore… the elephant is tramping around in the sanctuary.”

An administration official on Tuesday confirmed the call was made on Friday and reiterated comments made by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that the administration is committed to its partnerships with faith-based groups.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D., Conn.), a Catholic who supports abortion rights and access to contraception, said she thought the White House had handled the decision “very well” by being open to listening to religious leaders. “Contraception is about preventing unintended pregnancy,” she said. “I think that they did what they needed to do.”

So up until November Archbishop Dolan was being led to believe that he and the Obama Administration could work together and there would be a conscience exemption in the health care reform regulations and then he gets a call telling him that he’s been played for a chump.


It is really difficult to understate the cultural significance of this decision. If Congress doesn’t intervene and we end up with a pro-abort in the White House, which seems virtually certain regardless of how Obama fares in November, it is hard to see how this precedent will not be applied first to euthanasia, which seems to be the next big thing, and then to abortion. If left as it is, it really marks the end of independent churches in the United States.

The decision even managed to concern the Washington Post’s E. J. Dionne, another of the “smells and bells” Catholics on the left, or Catholycs as my friend Tom Crowe terms them, whose collective ass gets tired when confronted with the whole issue of morality.

One of Barack Obama’s great attractions as a presidential candidate was his sensitivity to the feelings and intellectual concerns of religious believers. That is why it is so remarkable that he utterly botched the admittedly difficult question of how contraceptive services should be treated under the new health care law.

His administration mishandled this decision not once but twice. In the process, Obama threw his progressive Catholic allies under the bus and strengthened the hand of those inside the Church who had originally sought to derail the health care law.

Reading all of this I was reminded of one of my favorite jokes, involving a guy in a bar and leprechaun. I won’t retell it here because this is a family website but I will link to one of the many variations here.


And I’d like to ask Archbishop Dolan and a lot of other members of our heirarchy, “You’re how old? And you still believe in leprechauns?”


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