Big media have spent the past several days handicapping who won and lost most in political terms. The bishops have another measure.
Their response to the debt deal reached the other day in Washington focused not at all on partisan politics but human impact.
From a USCCB press release:
The U.S. bishops welcomed the decision of federal government leaders to agree to end the partial government shutdown 16 days after closing many offices and suspending important programs and services. The bishops also were heartened that so many who had been out of work could return to their jobs.
“The shutdown has had a widespread impact on many people, especially the poor, who suffered for lack of basic services during the period,” said Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, California, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. “With the government now open, beneficiaries of government services, particularly the elderly and children, can hope to resume a normal life with a safety net securely in place.”
And, take note…
The bishops also remain deeply concerned regarding the Health and Human Services mandate that will force employers to provide health coverage that entails payment for abortifacients, contraceptives, and sterilizations, even if doing so violates the employers’ deeply-held religious or moral beliefs. Catholic ministries that provide health care, educational, and social services generally are not exempt from the mandate, and enforcement against them will begin January 1, 2014, putting at risk the poor and vulnerable served by those ministries.
“The bishops have pressed for legislative relief from the HHS mandate since its inception more than two years ago,” said Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty. “Church efforts to protect rights of conscience will continue despite this temporary setback.”
The bishops urged the House and Senate to avoid a government shutdown. In September 30 letters to the House and Senate, Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, Bishop Blaire and Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, urged “wise bipartisan leadership and moral clarity in crafting a plan to ensure the government continues to operate and meet its responsibility to protect human life and dignity, care for poor and vulnerable people at home and abroad, and advance the universal common good.”
Here’s one. But many members of Congress instead were focused on partisan political expediency, or whatever they call it by shallow names.
As reported here during the showdown, one deal the House sent over to the Senate on the government spending agreement merely added H.R 940 to the continuing resolution, which addressed the particular part of Obamacare that required the absolutely unnecessary and agenda laden provision of birth control and morning after pills and elective sterilizations in healthcare coverage. Entirely reasonable and in fact, the correct response to the stunningly aggressive and hostile HHS mandate requiring that coverage.
Here’s the bishops’ latest appeal on that (which got rejected).
So now, the Washington Archdiocese has filed the understandable legal claim that the Obama administration continues to pursue a “conscious political strategy to marginalize and delegitimize” Catholic teaching.
“When the government promulgated the mandate, it was acutely aware that the gap in coverage for contraception was due primarily to the religious beliefs and practices of employers such as the Catholic Church,” the archdiocese argues in a legal memorandum supporting its complaint.
The lawsuit makes the claim that the administration’s policy is a direct challenge to religious freedom: “But instead of pursuing one of a wide variety of options for increasing access to contraception without forcing these religious groups to participate in the effort, the government deliberately chose to pick a high-profile fight by forcing religious groups to provide or facilitate access to contraception in violation of their core beliefs.”
And so it continues. Probably necessitating Supreme Court intervention into this government encroachment on settled liberties.When President Obama first ran for that office in 2008, he promised transparency, and told Evangelical Pastor Rick Warren that he considered being a Christian meant “thinking about the least of these’”each day.
WARREN:… Now, you’ve made no doubts about your faith in Jesus Christ. What does that mean to you? What does it mean to you to trust in Christ? And what does that mean to you on a daily basis? What does that really look like?
OBAMA: As a starting point, it means I believe in — that Jesus Christ died for my sins, and that I am redeemed through him. That is a source of strength and sustenance on a daily basis. Yes, I know that I don’t walk alone. And I know that if I can get myself out of the way, that I can maybe carry out in some small way what he intends. And it means that those sins that I have on a fairly regular basis, hopefully will be washed away.
But what it also means, I think, is a sense of obligation to embrace not just words, but through deeds, the expectations, I think, that god has for us. And that means thinking about the least of these. It means acting — well, acting justly, and loving mercy, and walking humbly with our god. And that — I think trying to apply those lessons on a daily basis, knowing that you’re going to fall a little bit short each day, and then being able to kind of take note and saying, well, that didn’t quite work out the way I think it should have, but maybe I can get a little bit better.
On the HHS mandate, and on abortion in general, he has been intransigent.
And then he affirmed at that notorious commencement address at Notre Dame in 2009:
“Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded not only in sound science, but also in clear ethics, as well as respect for the equality of women,”…
But he didn’t follow through on those words and the promise they held out for people who acted on conscience in their daily practices in the professional world.
These are good to recall and important to apply to governance. God knows, most of the government and media have long forgotten.