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Dolan to Lay Catholics: Be Our "Attractive, Articulate" (and Unpaid) Flacks

Following up on Lisa's post below,I think Dolan's call for Catholics to get more involved in politics is very interesting for what it suggests about how the bishops view the role of laypeople and about their conception of the role of the Catholic Church (understood in the broadest sense) in American public life. First off,kudos to Lisa for pointing out Dolan's error on the right to marry. As I understand it, and contrary to the Cardinal's assertion, the right to marry was one of the earliest examples of a subjective right in the Catholic moral discussions. Brian Tierney has written about this. In Dolan's favor, Tierney's discussion of the contours of that right points towards an understanding that is significantly narrower than contemporary discussions. Still, the long history of recognizing an affirmative right to chose one's spouse greatly complicates the rhetorical force of the zinger Dolan was trying to land.More important, in my opinion, is the substance of Dolan's understanding of what it means for Catholics to become more involved in politics. Based on the report in the Times, it sounds like what Dolan has in mind is for Catholic laypeople to go out and sell to the public the political determinations reached exclusively by the Bishops. (I will complicate this a bit at the end of this post, but this seems to be his ultimate vision.) He says that the reason he wants laypeople out front is not because they might have insights to offer in prudential decision making that the Bishops lack, but simply because they are more palatable messengers than the Bishops themselves.He says: In the public square, I hate to tell you, the days of fat, balding Irish bishops are over. He apparently said this without any sense of irony. Unfortunately, he seems to have meant it only in the narrowest and most literal terms. We can get a sense of his meaning from the example he offered. The Times tells us: "He told a story about bishops hiring an attractive, articulate, intelligent laywoman to speak against abortion and said it was the best thing we ever did. . . ." He makes clear, however, that he views the role of Catholic laypeople in politics in largely the same terms: to uncritically take the conclusions fed to them by the bishops and then sell them to the public more effectively than the bishops can themselves. The role of lay Catholics in the public sphere, however, is not to think for themselves about the implications of Catholic teachings for specific political determinations. Talking about the contraception rule controversy, he says: We kind of got our Irish up when leaders in government seemed to be assigning an authoritative voice to Catholic groups that are not the bishops. He added: If you want an authoritative voice, go to the bishops. Theyre the ones that speak for the truths of the faith. In other words, Catholic laypeople who reach any conclusion contrary to the bishops have no standing to speak as Catholics.This understanding of the role of Catholic politicians laypeople in public life would leave ample room for independent thought if Dolan's conception of "the truths of the faith" were sufficiently general. But he seems to view "the truths of the faith" as an extremely capacious category.

It includes not only determinations of high-level principles, but also the bishops' views on very specific and fact-intensive moral conclusions, like the determination that Ella is an abortifacent or the conclusion that (under traditional Catholic views about cooperation with evil) Catholic institutions not only cannot provide health insurance that covers contraception that an employee is free to choose not to use but that those institutions must be empowered to preclude their own insurance carriers from separately contracting with employees to provide contraception coverage for no extra cost (or even, presumably, for some nominal extra cost). Although the Bishops have been loathe to actually justify this conclusion in detailed terms, others have argued that it rests on (1) the possibility that observers may view the provision of such insurance to employees of Catholic institutions as suggesting that the Catholic Church is not really serious about its opposition to contraception; and (2) the possibility that employees of these institutions will in fact consume more contraception by virtue of their newly mandated employment-related benefits and because of their misapprehension (due to the mandated coverage) of the depth of the Church's opposition to contraception. My point in this post is not so much to challenge these claims (though they strike me as highly contestable) but to observe just how fine-grained and contingent a moral conclusion this is. And yet it is one that Dolan seems to understand in terms of the kinds of first principles over which the Bishops have an exclusive say. If no one but the bishops can speak out about the correct Catholic view of an issue such as this, there is precious little leftto dofor these lay Catholics in politics other than act as unpaid PR flacks for the political conclusions reached behind closed doors at the USCCB.Dolan did offer one comment that suggests that there might be something for Catholic laypeople to add to the mix. "While priests and bishops 'stick to principles,' he said, 'we leave a lot of the messiness of politics up to you.'" It's not clear what he means by the "messiness of politics." I would have thought that he meant the kind of prudential considerations that lie at the heart of the application of Catholic moral principles to specific policy questions. But if "the principles" includes the ultimate issue of, for instance, precisely how proximately a Catholic institution can contribute to the ability of its employees to make an independent choice to procure and use contraception, then I'm not quite sure what is left.UPDATE: Here is Andrew Sullivan's take.

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Dolan to Lay Catholics: Be Our Attractive, Articulate (and Unpaid) FlacksJesus to Lay Catholics: "You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations . . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." Holy Spirit to Pealver: "bishops by divine institution have succeeded to the place of the apostles, as shepherds of the Church, and he who hears them, hears Christ, and he who rejects them, rejects Christ and Him who sent Christ." LG 20

Sorry, Bender, but how can you expect an educated laity to take seriously a bishop who "cannot recall" that the Church teaches "the natural right to marry" (Pius XI) and "the inalienable right of marriage" (Paul VI)?

Yuck! The word "shill" comes to mind. He wants women to sell women on the bishops' anti-women policies ... because, you know, we;re just idiots who don't care about the actual message, only the messenger.

If Professor Pealver is to be consistent, he will also have to criticize that theological reactionary, Angelo Roncalli (Pope John XXIII), who told Catholics that, in situations involving cooperation with non-Catholics in the highly secularized societies of the contemporary world, the parameters of that cooperation are ultimately subject to practical decisions made by the bishops. Should you find it hard to believe that the Pope who convened Vatican II actually said that, then please see the last sentence of section 160 of the encyclical Pacem in terris:http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_xxiii/encyclicals/documents/hf_j-... coherent Catholicism and unwillingness to become an Episcopalian require being a flack for the hierarchy in the sense understood by John XXIII, then please sign me up.

Dolan did offer one comment that suggests that there might be something for Catholic laypeople to add to the mix. While priests and bishops stick to principles, he said, we leave a lot of the messiness of politics up to you. Its not clear what he means by the messiness of politics.

I imagine he means that in politics principles are often fudged.

First of all, Stephen, I don't think I called anyone a "theological reactionary" in my post. Second, I don't doubt that John XXIII said those words. The passage in Pacem in Terris in question concerns dialogue with historical movements (e.g., national liberation movements in the Third World, many of which were explicitly Marxist in ideological inspiration), and was (if memory serves me right) interpreted as something of an opening to the possibility of collaboration between these movements and Catholic groups in those countries. The question is what he means (in both Pacem in Terris and Mater et Magistra in the passage to which he cites in footnote 67 of the former) by the application of moral principle to practical questions. My guess is that John XXIII was loathe to make a sharp distinction between moral conclusions and moral principle and did not want to rule out some role for authoritative teaching in the former category. I have no problem with that, on some level. But I highly doubt that he would be willing to pull rank across the same range of situations that Dolan would. Unless you can show me some evidence that John XXIII thought the space for independent prudential thought among lay people was as pinched as Dolan's apparently is, I don't think criticism of the one requires criticism of the other.

I believe Cardinal Dolan was making the point that one does not have a right to marry as a US citizen as it relates to the founding documents of your country. Bill O'Reilly often says this when the topic of gay marriage is discussed on his show.

He told a story about bishops hiring an attractive, articulate, intelligent laywoman to speak against abortion and said it was the best thing we ever did. . . .I am curious. Who is this woman?

I share Mr. Penalver's concern. I read Cardinal Dolan's post and had pretty much the same takeaway: that Catholics need to be more in the public square but that what we say should reflect our Bishops' position. I think what's missing is that, while the Bishops get to say what we believe internally as a Church, many of us don't think all of those internal beliefs should be imposed on the rest of society. I fully support same sex marriage and fully support universal access to contraceptives; I have no problem speaking out and telling my legislators that, as a Catholic, I support legislation furthering those goals. The Bishops have a right to publicly advocate to the contrary, but they need to share the public space with other Catholics who don't agree with them.

Irene,The Bishops lead the Church. So yes, in the public square, you should be supporting the views of the Bishops. You cannot be Catholic and support same sex marriage and contraception. They go against the teachings of Christ and his Church. Please read the Catechism. You are welcome to join the Anglicans, they support homosexuality and contraception.

Here's a quote from Pope Paul VI, Populorum Progressio, # 81, to ponder:"We appeal, first of all, to Our sons. In the developing nations and in other countries lay people must consider it their task to improve the temporal order. While the hierarchy has the role of teaching and authoritatively interpreting the moral laws and precepts that apply in this matter, the laity have the duty of using their own initiative and taking action in this areawithout waiting passively for directives and precepts from others. They must try to infuse a Christian spirit into people's mental outlook and daily behavior, into the laws and structures of the civil community. Changes must be made; present conditions must be improved. And the trans formations must be permeated with the spirit of the Gospel."How do the laity (we) use "our initiative"?

If people wonder about the prudential application of Catholic teaching in a secular, pluralistic society, the worst thing to do is accuse them of positions they do not hold. Historically, the Church has always understood our moral positions within are going to be different from society, and often, for the sake of freedom, society is going to accept all kinds of evils (See St. Thomas Aquinas on prostitution). This realization is going to have to be made even clearer when dealing with the pluralistic society we live in. Now, beyond that, it does sound as if the good Cardinal is trying to say that lay Catholics should just be yes-men for the prudential ideas of the Bishops. This is a dangerous position. It reminds me of how, at one time, Popes thought the job of a theologian was just to do theological apologetics. While we must accept the same principles, the application of them in the American society has never been apparent. Never. We would do well to remember true persecution -- how many, for example, knew that Native Americans often had to fight the federal government to get Catholic missionaries into their reservations? There you will find what the lack of religious liberty is like -- and this in what is now often romantically seen as a time when "the Constitution was followed."

The Catholic bishops live rich fantasy lives in which they imagine themselves to be successors of the apostles. In addition, the Catholic bishops imagine that as successors of the apostles, they (the bishops) have the status of apostle that Paul-the-letter-writer claims to have as an apostle. So the Catholic bishops need to be healed of such grandiose fantasies.

"He told a story about bishops hiring an attractive, articulate, intelligent laywoman to speak against abortion and said it was the best thing we ever did. . . .I am curious. Who is this woman?"My guess would be HELEN ALVARE, law professor at Catholic University School of Lawand former Pro Life attorney and spokeswoman at USCCB.

Mark @ 7:04. I respectfully disagree. Also, I'm sure you didn't mean to be as uncharitable as your comment sounded; I'm quite happy as a Catholic, thanks, and believe I'll stay.

Last night, a Catholic widow in her eighties commented to us about the mandated coverage for contraception: "I don't want to pay for their birth control."

Mark: it is not Irene's role to support the views of the Bishops in the public square, but Cardinal Dolan's role to convince her that his views are the right ones (so that she will then support him while remaining true to her convictions). His role is to be a teacher. It's not that she cannot be Catholic if she doesn't support his views: it's that he cannot be a Bishop if he does not properly teach his views to his flock. Or perhaps there's a middle point between those two extreme opinions... You are welcome to join the Anglicans . Anti-evangelization alert! It is not the Catholic way to try to push people out in this way. You can put this remark down on your list for the next time you go to Confession.

Thomas,They are the successors of the Apostles. But remember, even the Apostles erred from time to time (look to the example of St Peter, who Paul had to correct, when Peter wasn't willing to dine with the Gentiles).

@Mark (3/5, 7:04 am) Actually, you can "be Catholic and support (the legality of) same sex marriage and contraception". Millions of Catholics do every day. Additionally, tens, if not hundreds, of millions of married Catholics have *used* contraception just in the past two generations.Now, you may not like it, or agree with that behavior. Many bishops may not either. But "them's the facts". I forget who, but a generation ago when Catholic politicians like Mario Cuomo engaged in the debate over Church teaching and prudential judgment in the public arena, one commentator wrote that Catholic bishops had spent the last 50 years delivering commencement addresses at Catholic colleges and universities, hailing the coming age of an educated Catholic laity prepared to take its faith into the public arena, and now (circa 1985), confronted with that educated Catholic laity, many bishops seemed like they'd just as soon go back to the days of an uneducated laity.I'm not saying that's true of Cardinal Dolan. I am saying that one of the challenges he and his brother bishops face is that they are shepherding the largest, wealthiest, best educated, most theologically informed national church in history. As a result, when an issue like this debate over contraceptive services arises, millions of US Catholics disagree (publicly and/or privately) with Cardinal Dolan's judgment because they have their own informed judgment about the "truths of the faith" and how they apply in this situation.

In regard to laity involvement in the defense of the constitutional right to freedom of religion, see First of Freedoms? How religious liberty could become a second-class right by Mary Ann Glendon, America, 3/5/12:http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=13260Excer... is at stake in these challenges than the mission of all churches, including the Catholic Church, to provide vital social services like health care and education. The ability of religious persons and groups to participate in public deliberation about the conditions under which they live, work and raise their children is also at risk. In announcing the formation of the new committee, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S.C.C.B., stated that we are witnessing an unprecedented effort to reduce religion to a private activity, driving religious beliefs and convictions from public life. Never before, he said, have we faced this kind of challenge to our ability to engage in the public square as people of faith. Archbishop Jos Gmez, a committee member, added that the stepped-up infringements represent a sharp break from our nations history, in which religious freedom has always included the churches rights to engage in the public square to help shape our nations moral and social fabricfrom the abolitionist movement, to the civil rights movement, to the pro-life movement.Raising the stakes still higher is the likelihood that increasing marginalization of religion will take a toll on the moral culture that undergirds and nourishes our democratic experiment. Religion plays more than a trivial role in sustaining our complex commitments to freedom, the rule of law and compassion for the disadvantaged. It is probable that religion is an important factor in the minimal social cohesion that a heterogeneous society like ours requires.******The U.S. bishops, in establishing their new committee, showed their awareness of the magnitude of the challenges aheadand of the need for the laity to embrace their responsibility for bringing Christian principles to life in the secular sphere. As Bishop Lori pointed out: Its not enough for the bishops and leaders of Church institutions to clearly state our teaching; the government needs to hear from the lay faithful. The more they [government leaders] see a unity and resolve on the part of the whole church, the less likely they are to try to impose such unjust and illegal rules.The bishop was speaking from hard-won experiencegained in repulsing an especially brazen assault on religious liberty. In March 2009 the Connecticut state legislature announced hearings on a billspecifically directed at the Catholic Churchthat would have reorganized Catholic parishes by transferring administrative control from the pastor and the bishop to an elected committee of laypersons. Perceiving the bill as a thinly veiled attempt to silence the church on important issues, as well as an unconstitutional interference with internal church affairs, Bishop Lori set about rallying rank-and-file Catholics to the churchs defense. Through the diocesan Web site and the Connecticut Catholic Conference, he and Archbishop Henry Mansell of Hartford and Bishop Michael Cote of Norwich urged people to contact their representatives and to attend a rally at the State Capitol on the day the hearings were to take place.That day, a crowd of 5,000 persons heard the usually mild-mannered Bishop Lori give a fiery speech in which he recalled other instances in American history where Catholics had been singled out for discriminatory treatment. Even a first-year law student would know that Bill 1098 is unconstitutional, he said. Lets bury it for good.These efforts were successful, and the bill was withdrawn. But the assault on the church did not end there. One month later, citing the role of the diocese in galvanizing opposition to the church reorganization bill, Connecticuts Office of State Ethics notified the diocese that it was under investigation for failing to register as a lobbyist.Bishop Lori again went into action. He issued a statement pointing out that when a church encourages its members to exercise their rights of speech and assembly, it is not engaged in lobbying but in constitutionally protected activity. He drove the point home by filing a federal civil rights action against officials of the Office of State Ethics. At that point, Richard Blumenthal, Connecticuts attorney general, stepped in, calling on the office to drop an investigation that risked chilling constitutionally protected political expression by the church. Shortly thereafter, the office announced it would take no further action against the diocese.Reflecting on the incident, Bishop Lori said: Its really astonishing to think that the state government could imagine that it could exercise that much control over the internal affairs of a particular church. That really alerted me and a lot of people to the present dangers against religious liberty.What is remarkable about the Bridgeport controversy is not the brazenness of the attacks on religious liberty. What is truly impressive is the proof that successful resistance to such efforts can be mounted by concerned citizens and courageous bishops. The lesson of Bridgeport is that religious leaders and citizens need not roll over and play dead when their basic freedoms are attacked. Even if immediate, aggressive and intelligent action is not as successful as it was in Connecticut, those who wish to silence religious voices in the public square will at least learn that their actions will have costs.The lesson could not have come at a better time. The erosion of conscience protection, in particular, has placed church-affiliated hospitals, schools and social services in a difficult position. In November 2011 Catholic Charities in Illinois decided to dismantle its 90-year-old adoption and foster care programs because it was financially unable to continue its court battle against the states insistence that they place children with same-sex couples. Faced with the choice between moral compromise and expensive litigation with an uncertain outcome, many institutions have simply retreated from the field. This was the case in 2006 when Catholic Charities in Boston decided to close down its adoption services rather than mount a full-scale challenge to state licensing requirements that do not permit it to operate consistently with Catholic teaching.No serious person disputes that religious freedom has to be harmonized with other fundamental rights or that it is subject to necessary limitations in the interests of public health and safety. Questions of the legitimate scope and limits of religious liberty are complex and delicate, legally and politically. But religious voices must not be excluded from the processes through which these questions are resolved, and religious freedom must not be demoted from its prominent place among this countrys most cherished freedoms.- End of quote from Professor Glendon ---------------------See also [Under the control of the State , by James V. Schall, S.J., 2/17/12http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Blog/1126/under_the_control_of_the_st... no organization has been more reluctant to grasp and acknowledge the operative logic of this total control ideology than the Catholic Church. It has prided itself in its subtle accommodation in recent times to what were thought to be reasonable principles for understanding of the political order, the nature, limits, and place of revelation within it. Catholics have striven to show that its beliefs and organizations are able to accept a limited state, a state that understands its own nature and does not claim competence over all spheres of human life. On the surface, we might be tempted to look on the move to extend what is called health care to everyone, including religious institutions, to be something wholly neutral and well-meant. The fact is, however, that it is but one aspect of a world-wide logic, by no means limited to this country. It demands, under the name of the universal common good, the complete control of the state over all aspects of human well-being, especially those having to do with matters of life, death, human reproduction, and efforts to prevent or control the same. That an American president should cast himself as the main advocate of this massive extension of unlimited state power should, in fact, surprise no one. The essential premises of such expansion have been taught in most American universities for years with little effective criticism. The position that the President employs to justify his actions has been in the books for a long time. Catholicism, much to its surprise, suddenly finds itself in the eye-sight of the absolute state because it is now the remaining body of reasoning that articulately opposes this power extension into all aspects of human life. No one should be fooled into thinking that a democratic totalitarianism is not possible. It is in fact happening before our very eyes. It will be very smooth and enticing. It will reward those who assist it along the way. What is thus of particular interest is the way that administration spokesmen use dissident Catholics to play off Catholics against the hierarchy. The U.S. bishops have become remarkably alert to the threat against its public institutions in a way that many self-announced Catholic politicians, universities, hospitals, and publicists have not. The fact is that those Catholic sources that support the administrations move can anticipate reward on the condition that they serve to justify doctrinally what is going on in the name of democratizing Catholicism. But what is behind all of this current turmoil is the demise of religious freedom itself. The tradition of religious freedom as classically understood is no longer accepted as limiting the state. The state now argues that its concept of human dignity now controls what religion can hold in the public order. Anyone who disagrees with state definition will no longer be allowed to join government programs or institutions. A new ideological test of citizenship is in place. And that test maintains that what Catholicism holds about marriage, contraception, human life, abortion, human experimentation, and euthanasia is contrary to the governments definition of human life. In effect, arguments of reason are delegitimized to be replaced by what the government will do whether we like it or not. What the government proposes to do is, by that very fact, what ought to be done. No higher authority exists but itself. Understanding that this claim is essentially what is motivating the policies of the administration in recent weeks, the bishops have understood that what is at stake is not just health care. Rather it is the very possibility of taking seriously what reason and revelation stand for concerning human life, its meaning and ultimate destiny.- End of quote from Fr. Schall ---------------------------The NYT article cited by Professor Pealver notes that Cardinal Dolan wrote in a blog post that officials in the Obama administration had recommended that bishops listen to the enlightened voices of accommodation within the church. In fact he specifically referred to the recent hardly-surprising but terribly unfortunate editorial in America. In my opinion, (borrowing from my comment on the editorial at the America website), the editorial is stunning in its confusion, self-contradiction, and myopia in regard to issue of the impact of the HHS contraception mandate on the constitutional right to freedom of religion. On one hand, it correctly notes the obvious - that there is a difference between authoritative teaching on matters of principle and debatable applications to public policy. Yet, having noted the distinction, the editorial proceeds to ignore it by the subterfuge of ascribing to the HHS mandate - and implicitly the ACA which gives rise to it - the status of an authoritative, not-to-be-challenged implementation of the right to health care, as opposed to what it is a mere public policy of debatable (and in reality, dubious) legitimacy and benefit. By this reasoning, the indisputable infringement resulting from the HHS mandate upon the constitutional right to religious freedom is of relatively minimal importance compared with a right to health care not defined as merely the right of citizens under our laws to obtain products and services they deem necessary to their health care including abortifacients and sterilization, but as a service that some citizens have the right to demand be provided to them by other citizens, however objectionable on moral grounds the health care service in question is to those others. Therefore, even though the editorial purports to acknowledge the distinction between the authoritative principles and debatable applications of principles to public policy, a right to health care - which includes the forced provision of contraception, abortifacients, and sterilizations in all health insurance plans except those for narrowly defined religious organizations is, according to the editorial, the authoritative principle that must be adhered to. And the true authoritative principle the right to religious freedom traditionally understood (and not as a mere right to worship) - simply becomes a debatable public policy issue of far lesser importance.

Talking about the contraception rule controversy, he says: We kind of got our Irish up when leaders in government seemed to be assigning an authoritative voice to Catholic groups that are not the bishops. He added: If you want an authoritative voice, go to the bishops. Theyre the ones that speak for the truths of the faith. In other words, Catholic laypeople who reach any conclusion contrary to the bishops have no standing to speak as Catholics.Close, but not accurate. If you had written that Catholic laypeople who reach any conclusion contrary to <Church teaching have no standing to speak as Catholics, then that would have been accurate. But writing it that way wouldn't support the narrative that a layperson can disagree with Church teaching, and still be a spokesman for the Church. People who support such groups like Catholics For Choice, or Catholics For Equality, for instance.Let me put it this way. If I come to the conclusion, as a layperson, that the Eucharist is merely a symbol of Christ's Body and Blood, then I have no standing to speak as a Catholic, because I am denying a truth of the faith. Now suppose a bishop were to conclude that - according to your statement, I would only be able to speak as a Catholic if I agreed with the bishop, even though his conclusion is a decidedly non-Catholic one. That's nonsense, isn't it?Similarly with contraception or abortion or so-called same sex marriage. Any bishop who supports any of those things doesn't deserve to be agreed with because such positions are in opposition to Church teaching.It has nothing to do with coming to conclusions that are contrary to what the bishops say. It has everything to do with coming to conclusions that are contrary to what the Church teaches. That's the key point.

Irene and Claire,I think that Mark has a valid point. You are perfectly free to espouse any position you want with regard to gay marriage, contraception etc. However, when you add that you are a Catholic you are implying a communion with the Body of Christ that is not possible since you are in direct opposition to its teaching. Your position is tearing at the fabric of Church and hurting every member of the Body of Christ, something surely you dont intend. You are free to choose and hold these positions but I think it is highly improper of you to claim you are Catholic at the same time. Make you position stick through your thoughts and ideas not any association with the Catholic church, because that association is non-existent in these areas.

that those institutions must be empowered to preclude their own insurance carriers from separately contracting with employees to provide contraception coverage for no extra cost (or even, presumably, for some nominal extra cost). This is a disingenuous way to describe the as-yet-to-be-determined "compromise" position. The idea is to mandate that insurance carriers offer a "separate" and "free" birth control option. But obviously birth control does cost something (we're always being assured that it costs several hundred or a thousand dollars a year, after all). Even if the insurance company supposedly saves money in the long run, it is going to be expending money here and now, and that cost will be built into the premiums paid in part by Catholic employers. As I explained in an earlier thread, if you spend money at Time A on Product X with the hope of saving money at Time B on some other expense, it is absurd to claim that because of the projection of future savings, you therefore haven't actually spent any money at Time A.

Bruce, I agree that the divisions are hurting the church. You might argue that there is not a perfect communion between Irene (along with all the Catholics who support contraception) and Cardinal Dolan. But you have to consider that the possibility that the responsibility for that division lies not with Irene et al. but with Cardinal Dolan, or that it is shared between the two sides. Who carelessly uses the inflammatory, war-like rhetoric deepening divisions? That's the one who is tearing at the fabric of the church.

Regardless of what folks at America and Commonweal want, the Bishops are correct on these matters.

I think what Cardinal Dolan is really talking about is marketing. The "old, bald bishops" have become bad marketers for the Faith for all the obvious reasons.He wants better marketing and PR. Young, attractive Catholic women (and men) make better PR on issues related to sex in particular (contraception/gay and lesbian marriage/abortion). He is right of course.He sees the role of lay people as more effective marketers -- not as having more of a voice in any real sense of church affairs or engagement. What he is really looking for are effective spokespersons to speak for the bishops. That's it.

but how can you expect an educated laity to take seriously a bishop....I think this begs the question of the 'educated laity's' responsibility. Many of us are very well educated, but judging by the curriculum at most post-secondary schools, most of us have little education or competency in theology, philosophy, moral theology, canon law, church history, etc. In the hierarchy's area of authority, on faith and morals, that leaves us as the laity to either agree with their position or educate ourselves sufficiently to make well-reasoned arguments to them in an attempt to change their position. I don't believe it allows us to publicly disagree and claim we are Catholic.Its different in areas beyond their area of authority and expertise. For example, the hierarchy can and should tell the laity and the laity should accept unquestioningly, that society needs to provide adequate care for the poor. But its perfectly reasonable to disagree with them over the 'how to' of providing that care.

It's different in areas beyond their area of authority and expertise ... such as biology, medicine, public health, civil law, or politics.

Michael J Kelly, thank you for that lengthy comment. I'd specifically recommend that folks read the excerpt by Fr. Schall - it's the best encapsulation I've seen so far of how far-reaching the nature of this dispute really is.

"Actually, you can be Catholic and support (the legality of) same sex marriage and contraception. Millions of Catholics do every day. Additionally, tens, if not hundreds, of millions of married Catholics have *used* contraception just in the past two generations. Now, you may not like it, or agree with that behavior. Many bishops may not either. But thems the facts."But there are repercussions to dissent. The destiny of the dissenter's soul is imperiled. Even if his conscience compels him to hold these sinful views, promoting them publicly and acting on them politically brings a whole new set of moral risks.

biology, medicine, public health, civil law, or politicsThey certainly teach authoritatively, and have received expert advice, with regard to abortion or contraception. And in the case of health insurance, in addition to expert advice, they have day-to-day practical experience as the employer-provider.

The principle that Cardinal Dolan rather colorfully articulated is unremarkable. *Of course* lay Catholics are supposed to bring their Catholic faith into the public square. *Of course* bishops are supposed to teach the faith and the moral principles that lay citizens should be translating into Christian-influenced public policies.

Ideas for implementing Dolan's great idea: The bishops should require all Catholic men and boys to spend two years acting as missionaries. Follow the example of the Mormons and send young Catholics out to act as spokesmen for the Church. With an influx of converts, the departed dissidents will not be missed. Put an end to college education for Catholics and close Catholic colleges. As Santorum has so eloquently explained, college is not . . . Outlaw birth control. As Santorum, Rush, the bishops, various editors, et al., have reminded us, birth control . . .

biology, medicine, public health, civil law, or politicsFurthermore, these disciplines educate us about how we *can* act, but provide little or no direction about how we *should* act.For example, basic biology and medicine tell us that we *can* take a pill to prevent conception and it will have a certain failure rate but it makes no statement at all on whether we *should* take that pill in the sense of whether it is good for our soul or enhances the proper expression of our humanity or the potential unwanted progeny.

"But there are repercussions to dissent. The destiny of the dissenters soul is imperiled. Even if his conscience compels him to hold these sinful views, promoting them publicly and acting on them politically brings a whole new set of moral risks."Aren't there the same risks to obedience? What if I'm right and the bishops are wrong? When I have to answer to God someday, and he says "Why did you tolerate this injustice against your gay brothers and sisters when you knew it was wrong?" . Does saying " Because the Bishops told me to?"square things with God?

Jim P. -- Once again, you ignore numerous faithful Catholic women and men who have devoted serious learning, understanding, consultation, reflection, and prayer together as a couple to the issue of contraception and have concluded that what the Popes and bishops say is wrong and to be ignored. Your implication that these Catholics should keep quiet about their carefully formed moral convictions, judged by you though not by them to be soul-imperiling and sinful, flies in the face of Cdl. Dolan's call to disseminate the truth as we know it. The list of past instances when the bishops followed and the laity led the way will presumably be posted here before long as is becoming customary.

I'm afraid this has become a replay of the dispute over the Affordable Care Act's abortion-funding mechanism. http://commonwealmagazine.org/uncertainty-principle

The bishops would like to be leading American Catholics, but they're surely aware that they can't. American Catholicism is hopelessly fragmented, both politically and as regards the authority of the hierarchy. But the bishops may see this as an issue on which they can gain credibility, at least with Catholics who aren't completely lost to them. Maybe it is. It probably should be.Obama has a year. The election is in ten months. A concession could easily be postponed until the election - and I'd guess it surely will be. No sense in getting the left mad at you and deciding not to vote. Then, in December, he can "give in" enough to please the bishops and the other religious leaders who see the HHS action as dangerous.Of course, the bishops don't have a year. They'll have to continue to attack all through the summer and fall. I'd imagine it won't be hard for them to keep the troops attacking with them.If the attacking doesn't work, though, we need to start thinking seriously about civil disobedience. That's not an idle threat. It will be deplored in these pages, of course, but it could well happen. The troops will rally.

What's funny is that the people defending contraception coverage are acting as tools for Big Pharma: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/03/02/peter-schweizer-big-pha...

I want to thank Jack Barry for pointing out that "threa" Catho.lcism is also a major problem as it drives folks away fro mthe Church by saying you must folow the party line or at least don't disagree publicly.This is the worst kind of "compay man" arghument that continues to be part of the division.

But there are repercussions to dissent. The destiny of the dissenters soul is imperiled. Even if his conscience compels him to hold these sinful views, promoting them publicly and acting on them politically brings a whole new set of moral risks.

Jim, I wonder whether this issue may not have created a significant watershed on the understanding of morality among American Catholics. Those who've finessed contraception until now will pretty much have to decide which side of the divide they're on. Staying neutral will be a lot less easy than it has been.

When a Catholic disagrees with a bishop's or several bishops' or the bishops conference's interpretation of the effects of a statute, he is not in dissent. He has not separated himself from the church. He has simply come to a different prudential judgment about a particular policy question.When are the Catholic bishops going to make a Catholic moral-theological argument to support their claim that the HHS ruling forces them to act against church teaching?

"What if Im right and the bishops are wrong?"Then I'm a chump. FWIW, here is what seems to me to be the case: if the Holy Father and the college of bishops are wrong on such matters of faith and morals as marriage and contraception, then all bets are off. The entire project known as Christianity is so much horse manure. The earth has quaked and the temple has come crashing down in a cloud of dust and rubble. The Holy Spirit has fled. The light has been extinguished and the Prince of Darkness has reclaimed the throne. Fly for your lives. Grab whatever you can stick in your pockets, duck and dodge the falling debris, sprint to the nearest raft and push off. I would never dispute anyone's right to believe what they ascertain to be true, nor to state publicly whatever they wish in a civil manner. But if you believe and promote something that is the opposite of what the church actually teaches, you have an obligation to truth to promote it in such a way that everyone can see that what you're promoting is not Catholicism but its opposite, and that in speaking on that matter, you're not speaking for the church but for someone else - possibly even the church's enemies.

Mark, Bruce, and Cardinal Dolan forget a few things. The French clergy helped to develop condoms and passed them out in the back of churches to keep their male congregants from contracting venereal disease! Information like this might not be what they want to discuss in Church history - but it happened. The reality is that most of us know that the birth control commission of 1969 voted overwhelmingly in favor of some forms of contraception and Pope Paul went the the small and clerical minority to condemn. Most American Catholics have ignored this teaching for years and still believe ourselves to be good Catholics. There is also a clause in the new code of Cannon Law that commands us to follow our correctly formed conscience. For many of us, practicing birth control because we know we cannot responsibly rear a large family falls under this law and is, therefore, not a sin at all. Keep up the good fight Irene and Claire! Most women are with you. And Cardinal Dolan - keep your laws off of my body, thank you.

My guess would be HELEN ALVARE, law professor at Catholic University School of Lawand former Pro Life attorney and spokeswoman at USCCB.She has moved to George Mason but still writes at Public Discourse, part of Robby Geoge's Witherpoon Institute.http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/author/helen-alvareShe seems to have moved seamlessly from arguing that the Affordable Care Act promotes abortion to arguing that the HHS regulations violate freedom of religion. Her web page (with picture): http://helenalvare.com/I would think she would be annoyed that Cardinal Dolan mentioned that one reason she was an effective representative for the USCCB is that she is an attractive woman. She is obviously a very capable lawyer.

"He told a story about bishops hiring an attractive, articulate, intelligent laywoman to speak against abortion and said it was the best thing we ever did. . . .New Idea? Straight from FOX News playbook [ Roger Ailes?].. .. 'Let's get good looking women preferably blondes..

Two things are being ignored here: the hierarchy of truths and the development of doctrine.First, there are teachings of the Church that, if one cannot hold them in sincere conscience, mark one as having separated from the Church. They are called "dogmas," and dissent from them makes one a "heretic." (The quotes are to mark the terms as technical language, rather than the willy-nilly way in which they're often used.) Birth control and sexuality are doctrinal matters, not dogmas. Further, specific prudential applications of these teachings, such as the question of same-sex marriage and the contraception mandate, are merely that--interpretations of how one might reasonably translate doctrine into policy, and simply do not have the force even of doctrine, much less dogma. Doctrine is not without force, but to conflate doctrine with dogma is a sectarian and anti-Catholic impulse. Taken to extreme, it approaches ecclesiolatry.Second, doctrine, in fact, develops. It is simply incorrect to say that every papal or episcopal utterance has proven to stand the test of time. It is simply incorrect to say that the "Catholic" stance is to murmur along with whatever the bishop says. One impulse behind development of doctrine is the considered and careful objection to authoritative teaching by laity, clergy and bishops. This is a historical fact. And to quote the prophet Melissa Etheridge, "You can't change this. You can't erase this. You can't pretend this is not the truth."This doesn't mean that every voice in conflict with this or that bishop or pope is correct, any more than it means that every bishop or pope is correct. It means that as Catholics we are called to educate ourselves and each other, to work and pray together toward a better sense of the Truth. But to say a priori that the bishops or the pope or the laity are always correct is to ignore the deep truth that the Spirit blows where it will.

Jim Pauwels--Wow. Clearly you are in a minority among Catholics here, many of whom believe that the Pope and the bishops are precisely wrong on these matters without any of the apocalypticism you describe. How do you reconcile such matters as slavery, religious freedom, and usury where it is difficult not to look back and say that the pope and bishops were wrong? The whole of Christianity, the Incarnation of God, the resurrection of the dead really stands or falls on what the pope thinks about condoms? Did Jesus Christ really come, suffer, and die primarily so that bishops today would always be right?

Really. Contraception in the same category as the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Resurrection, and the Eucharist? The Church has survived any number of loony bishops and popes. It abides today and will continue to do so.

What if Im right and the bishops are wrong?I'd make a slightly different point which is 'Lord, I did my best to follow the teaching of those you charged with teaching and leading me' as opposed to 'I followed what I believed to be my correctly formed conscience is spite of stern warnings to the contrary of those you charged with teaching and leading me. Here's why?'And I certainly wouldn't want to make the argument 'because I could not responsibly rear a large family' without expecting some version of the reply found in Matthew 7:11 *If you, then, evil as you are, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!*Cardinal Dolan isn't putting any constraints on anyone's body. He's trying to educate us in the ways we should constrain ourselves. We remain free to act however we choose.

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About the Author

Eduardo Moisés Peñalver is the John P. Wilson Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School. He is the author of numerous books and articles on the subjects of property and land use law.