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CHA to HHS: Drop definition of 'religious employer.' Seriously.

Today the Catholic Health Association released its comment (.pdf) on the Department of Health and Human Services proposal to accommodate religious employers' objections to the contraception mandate. From the beginning, CHA has objected to the structure of the mandate's exemption, which defines a religious employer as one that "primarily" serves and hires co-religionists, and whose purpose is the inculcation of its values. Still, when the Obama administration announced its intent to shift the responsibility of providing contraception coverage from religious employers to insurance companies, CHA praised the plan. Now, after studying the "advance notice of proposed rulemaking" (ANPRM), CHA says its initial concerns are "not relieved":

We continue to believe that it is imperative for the Administration to abandon the narrow definition of religious employer and instead use an expanded definition to exempt from the contraceptive mandate not only churches, but also Catholic hospitals, health care organizations and other ministries of the Church.

Rather than stick with a narrow definition of religious employer without precedent in federal law, CHA recommends using Section 414 (e) of the U.S. Code to develop a new one. "Under those principles," the CHA argues, "an organization would be covered by the exemption if it 'shares common religious bonds and convictions with a church.'" CHA's letter includes draft language that would bring the definition in line with established law. What's more, as the CHA points out, changing the definition along those lines "could help address the serious constitutional questions created by the Departments current approach, in which the government essentially parses a bona fide religious organization into secular and religious components solely to impose burdens on the secular portion." HHS has never indicated how it planned to adjudicate employers' claims to a religious exemption. It's hard to imagine any method that wouldn't be a bureaucratic nightmare. Ditch the definition of religious employer and we'll never have to find out.Back to the CHA:

If the government continues to pursue the policy that all employees should have access to contraceptive services, then it should find a way to provide and pay for these services directly without requiring any direct or indirect involvement of religious employers, as broadly defined.

According to the ANPRM, the administration's goals include providing contraception coverage without cost sharing to employees of nonexempt employers with religious objections "in the simplest way possible." Have a look at the ANPRM. Anything about it strike you as simple? The argument could be made that there's nothing terribly complex about having insurers independently offer free contraception coverage to enrollees of nonexempt employers, but what about self-insured institutions? Most of the theories floated in the ANPRM are mind-boggling. What could be simpler than having the government offer contraception coverage to women whose employers have religious objections to providing it? And, as CHA notes, there's precedent for federally funded access to contraception in Medicaid family-planning waivers and in Title X. The ANPRM itself suggests providing contraception coverage through a multi-state policy offered on state insurance exchanges, scheduled to go live in 2014, in compliance with the Affordable Care Act.Last month, after Cardinal Donald Wuerl promised that "the problem goes away if that definition [of religious employer] is changed," I suggested that the Obama administration ask itself three questions: Is that definition worth the trouble it created? How does it serve the administration's policy goals? And is it the only way to achieve those goals? The Catholic Health Association believes the answer to the last question is no. Indeed, if the administration follows CHA's lead, then even more women would be covered -- because, under the proposed accommodation, women who work for fully exempt religious employers would not be eligible for free contraception.In four days, the comment period for the ANPRM ends. The administration would be wise to heed CHA's advice -- and to do so quickly. Backtracking, of course, has never been the most popular of political maneuvers. But, in this case, it might be the smartest. If HHS deep-sixes the disputed definition, what happens to the lawsuits? What happens to the Fortnight for Freedom? Does the president really want to answer questions about this during the debates? Allowing this controversy to simmer much longer could end up costing him key votes -- and health-care reform itself.

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Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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"an organization would be covered by the exemption if it 'shares common religious bonds and convictions with a church. "So a Catholic Taco Bell owner WILL be exempt? Nonsense!That definition is broad enough to drive a popemobile through.

That is not what's being proposed.

Hmm. This kind of approach by a group who have supported the Health Care Bill (and been criticized heavily for it) may carry more weight than any of the activities of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious freedom. Maybe this will take the wind out of the "Fortnight for Freedom" sails.

I do not expect the Obama administration to announce anything about the contraception-coverage mandate until after the Supreme Court makes its ruling about the health-care act.

Bravo, Sr. Keehan and CHA. And huzzah, Grant and Commonweal. Could common sense actually prevail here?

"The administration would be wise to heed CHAs advice "Nah. Here's some better advice he'd be wiser to heed. Tax the hospitals. And/or prohibit the hospitals from receiving federal funds of any kind for any purpose.

This is huge. Thanks for noting it, and more importantly, clearing explaining it. This is what I have been hearing murmurs of and if the CHA is proposing it then it is likely that they have not only been discussing it with the bishops but also with the Obama Administration. This would also clearly meet the concerns of an extremely important player in the USCCB, Cardinal Wuerl.

Jimmy Mac, the definition the CHA refers to is in a Section named "26 USC PART I - PENSION, PROFIT-SHARING, STOCK BONUS PLANS, ETC" and defines what organizations can include their employees in a church pension plan. It's not as wide open as the quote makes it seem (the organizations have to be non-profit, etc).I think that the CHA is smart in not getting into the detail of what a similar deal for defining what organizations would be exempt from the HHS mandate would look like. For the moment, just saying "make it like this existing definition" makes it more salable. Afterwards, a bunch of lawyers will have to work on what the exact language will be. Does anyone here know of any examples of Catholic hospitals that have been able to have their employees covered by a diocesan pension plan rather than one the hospital set up itself?

OK Hope that the HHA is not being pressured into making this statement by owers to be but it sounds like a more measured response than the over the top USSSB response. Thank you, sisters.

Correction: Did not spell check.OK. Hope that the HHA is not being pressured into making this statement by the powers to be but it sounds like a more measured response than the over the top USSSB response. Thank you, sisters.

Sorry, I hadn't read the letter from the CHA when I posted that. They have proposed precise language and it doesn't seem to limit the exemption to non-profit organizations:

147.130(a) * * *(1) * * *(IV) (B)(1) For purposes of this subsection, a religious employer is(a) a church or a convention or association of churches (hereinafter included within the term church) which is exempt from tax under 26 USC 501; or(b) an organization, whether a civil law corporation or otherwise, which is either controlled by or associated with a church.(2) For purposes of this subsection(a) The term church includes a religious order or religious organization if such order or organization (1) is an integral part of a church, and (2) is engaged in carrying out the functions of a church, whether a civil law corporation or otherwise.(b) An organization is associated with a church if it shares common religious bonds and convictions with the church.http://www.chausa.org/WorkArea//DownloadAsset.aspx?id=9239

It may be that the CHA didn't want to write language that would exclude for-profit organizations, since the USCCB is pushing including them. As CHA says in a footnote:

2 As the representative of Catholic hospitals and health care providers, which will be impacted in their role as employers, CHA focuses its comments on this aspect of the APRNM. We acknowledge, but will not address here the issues about whether the mandate itself is constitutional and whether it should apply to other entities, such as, insurers or individuals. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has persuasively addresses these points it its comment letter.

And/or prohibit the hospitals from receiving federal funds of any kind for any purpose.So what happens to medicare and medicaid beneficiaries? You want to force them to find another hospital?

Thomas More Law Center filed a suite on behalf of Legatus (catholic business owner's associTion) and one of its members: Weingartz Supply Company and it's president. The complaint says (in part):

71. Plaintiff Daniel Weingartz, the President of Plaintiff Weingartz Supply Company, is an active member of Plaintiff Legatus.72. As a member of Legatus, Plaintiff Daniel Weingartz is an ambassador of the Catholic Faith and follows the teachings of the Catholic Church.73. Plaintiff Weingartz Supply Company, along with W & P Management LLC and its subsidiaries employ a total of 170 employees including 60 part-time employees.http://www.thomasmore.org/sites/default/files/files/Legatus%20Complaint%...

Sounds as if Weingartz Supply could fall within the exemption as drafted by CHA.

"(b) An organization is associated with a church if it shares common religious bonds and convictions with the church."This sounds extremely indefinite to me. Does the organization have to share *all*, *most*, *many*, or just *some* common religious bonds and convictions with a church/religion? And what sort of "bonds" does this cover? All sorts? Some? Which sorts?

At least some Catholic organization is still talking to the government. Sigh.

How does one become an ambassador of the Catholic Faith? Can I be one?What comes with the title and does it cost anything?

If the administration adopts the CHA proposal, it will be something of a kick in the teeth to the Fortnight of Freedom campaign. If I were an organizer of the Fortnight, I would quickly start using the definition of religious organization as proposed by the CHA. This way if it's adopted, I could claim victory for the campaign and use that victory to strengthen my base to expand the campaign to other religious freedom issues. That's what I would do, anyway.

Gallicho has it exactly right; it would be wise for the Obama Administration to backtrack immediately on the mandate. That move may have political consequences either way, but to stand pat with the key Catholic ally now lined up with the bishops would be more damaging to the reelection campaign. The Administration should never have gone down that path in the first place.

Irene Baldwin, just join Legatus, founded by Tom Monaghan. You need to own or manage a company of a certain size and pay dues of $3,000 a year, of which $300 is a donation to the Vatican. Here's the Legatus promo video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnXU4mjTOvo&feature=youtube_gdata_playerIn a sense,Legatus is an upscale version of the KofC, so the lawsuit raises he question of whether religiously-oriented non-profit employers like the KofC and Legatus ought to be exempt from providing contraceptive coverage for their own employees. I think that is different from the question of whether a for-profit company like Weingartz Supply Co should be exempt. Mr. Weingartz raises his membership in Legatus as evidence of the depth of his religious convictions, but I'm not sure how you make a distinction between people who are deeply religious and sort-of religious.

"What could be simpler than having the government offer contraception coverage to women whose employers have religious objections to providing it?"And what could be simpler than having Wal Mart have the government, i.e., us give food stamps and other benefits to employees to whom they don't want to pay a living wage? Yah, yah, food is a necessity and birth control isn't, though you'll get push-back on that from a lot of non-Catholics who'll tell you that using hormone therapy to control endometriosis in order to avoid a hysterectomy or preventing pregnancy that would exacerbate an existing illness ARE health care issues. Some, like my evangelical co-worker, would argue that not having a larger family than you can afford is a mental health care issue, particularly since her church apparently tells couples that they should have a once-a-week "date night" to maintain the health of their marriage. And she's not talking dinner and a movie strictly speaking.In any case, this proposal seems llke a shell game to me. Instead of the hospital paying for birth control, you get individuals to do it through taxes. And some of those individuals are Catholics. The Hyde Amendment prevents those Catholics from paying for government-funded abortions, and you'll get the same kind of movement if you try to get them to pay for other people's birth control. (Unless you're Rush Limbaugh, in which case you'll just want to make sure to get in on the action you paid for with tax dollars.)

Huh?

The birth control mandate in the health care law just isn't on the radar for most Americans. They don't care. If a recent Pew study is correct; the objections to the health care bill overwhelmingly revolve around the mandate to have any health care insurance or pay a penalty, and that's what's before the Supreme Court. http://www.people-press.org/2012/06/15/obama-health-care-law-where-does-... Moreover, Catholics are now more Republican than Democrat (though the plurality of Catholics seems to identify as independent, see another Pew study here http://www.people-press.org/2012/06/04/section-9-trends-in-party-affilia...), which makes them unlikely to support anything Obama might suggest in the way of compromise.So, just from a Machiavellian POV, what does Obama gain by compromising with Catholics on this? They're not going to support his health care plan, and they're not going to vote for him. Bart Stupak, a good Catholic himself, already tried to compromise on this stuff, and look where it got him. Bitched out by strangers in airports.

Instead of the hospital paying for birth control, you get individuals to do it through taxes. And some of those individuals are Catholics. The Hyde Amendment prevents those Catholics from paying for government-funded abortions, and youll get the same kind of movement if you try to get them to pay for other peoples birth control.The Hyde Amendment allows the government to pay for abortions in the case of rape, incest or danger to the life of the mother. Through their taxes, Catholics do pay for those.

Jean:The polling on Catholics this season has been fluid. You're overreaching when you say they won't vote for Obama. I don't know that he'll win the Catholic vote this time (he did in '08), but it's not just about the national totals. It's about how much you win or lose by in the states that matter most. The crazies will always be with us. That doesn't mean you take political or policy cues from them.

The above wasn't a reply to Grant's "huh?", just part two of my two-pronged rant. There will not be a part three. Apparently this is clear only in my fevered brain. I'll go dust something now.

Grant, I may turn out to be wrong about the Catholic vote, and I hope I am, but I'm not sure I'm "overreaching" out of the realm of the possibility, anyhow. Wouldn't you agree that it's pretty damn dicey for Obama among Catholics, maybe not there on Riverside Drive in NYC, but Out Here is sure is?Here are some recent figures.http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2012John Hayes, yes, thanks for the correction. It doesn't change my overall contention: If Catholic organizations don't have to pay for birth control and the cost gets passed on to taxpayers, some of whom are Catholic, nothing has really been solved. Catholics will still continue to object that they shouldn't have to pay for/collude in something their religion teaches is a sin.OK, now, even if I see more replies after I hit "submit" I really AM gonna get up and dust.

Jean: Your contention is incompatible with Catholic tradition, which does not hold that one cannot pay taxes because the government will or could use the money to pay for something immoral.

Bruce:"So what happens to medicare and medicaid beneficiaries? You want to force them to find another hospital?"They die, I guess. Or maybe the the Catholic "Church" treats them at their own tax-exempt expense for their own reasons, like Matt 25:40 says they should.It's really very simple. If the "Church" wants to defy federal, civil authority, I'm okay with that. Really. But it can't both defy it and depend on it.

A question for Grant, John Hayes, and anyone else who has something helpful to say.If the issue is indeed freedom of religious exercise, as a constitutional (and therefore a legal) issue, then is it not ultimately up to the legal authorities to de3termiine what counts as a religious organization and what counts as a legally recognized exercise of its religious principles? if so, then what would happen if the "Legatus" case that John Hayes mentions is decided in its favor? There is Rev. Dollar's Church and Gospel of Prosperity. Could not it form a group like Legatus and then determine that any government regulation that it considered incompatible with the prosperity of its members would be an impermissible restriction on its exercise of its religion?In short, from a constitutional standpoint, if Legatus were to prevail. would the government's overall capacity to regulate businesses be seriously undermined?Situations like this give me even more reason to accept William Galston's argument that church-state matters cannot be definitively settled, but rather they have to be prudently managed, with both sides recognizing the importance of this prudence. Regrettably, I see no evidence that the USCCB acknowledges the line of argument that Galston advances. I hope that I'm wrong about this.

Jean,Curious about your claim that Republican Catholics outnumber Democratic Catholics, i went searching. I could not find anything at the CNN site. Maybe I am too impatient to wade through, or too thickheaded to search.I did find this analysis from the Pew Forum:http://www.pewforum.org/Politics-and-Elections/Trends-in-Party-Identific... says 48% of Catholics are Democrats and 43% Republican. That is a HUGE gain, from 53/37 in 2008. But the nonWhite portion keeps Dems ahead of Reps among Catholics; White Catholics are 49/42 Rep/Dem. I would have guessed that, since Hispanics are largely Dem and a growing segment of the Church. I would be interested if you know any more.

They die, I guess.I hope you mean the hospitals, not the medicare and medicaid beneficiaries. Otherwise, it seems you are quite willing to sacrifice other human beings to make your political statement.

Bruce:No. I meant the Medicare/Medicaid recipients, although having the hospitals die wiould be a decent second-best scenario.It won't be until people start dying that either Church extortion for ideological purposes or insurance company extortion for profit-maximization purposes related to the delivery of health care services will hit home to the American citizenry. And that then they'll vote to end the extortion."[Y]ou are quite willing to sacrifice other human beings to make your political statement."Why is it so sinful for me to be so willing to do so when the CHA is doing the exact same thing? If the CHA doesn't want to follow federal law related to provision of a standard benefits package to their employees, the solution is very simple. Get out of the business of hiring employees.

The bishops are really getting tiresome. Vat II says that religious compromises must be made in a pluralistic society. But the bishops don't seem to believe that. Cdl. Dolan is talking about martyrdom, as if he and others could possibly win in an actual physical confrontation with the U. S. government. But they can't, so such a battle would be immoral by just war theory itself. Either way, the bishops can't win, morally or politically. Enough already, bishops. You're looking like paper tigers. You wanna fight? Go pick a fight you can win.

Bernard, accepting that "the Constitution means what the Supreme Court says it means," I don't see any constitutional right to refuse to provide coverage of contraceptives under the HHS mandate. After the Smith decision, it seems that about the only kind of law or regulation that would be unconstitutional under the "prohibit the free expression" language would be one that had no rational purpose other than to interfere with someone's free expression of religion.The way that religious beliefs are accommodated in our system of government is through the political process. Congress writes provisions into laws that provide religious exemptions to some parts of those laws; the administration writes provisions into regulations that do the same. It is a process of negotiation to balance competing interests. That is why Catholic hospitals, doctors and staffdo not have to perform abortions - and why federal funds cannot be used to pay for elective abortions. Members of Congress wrote the exemptions into laws either because of their own beliefs or because they realized that it was politically necessary to do it.Arguing that you have a constitutional right to an exemption may be counterproductive if it prevents you from engaging in constructive negotiations to get the best compromise that the political realities will allow. That seems to be what has happened in this situation until now. The CHA letter is encouraging in that it has put forward draft language for a solution. It may not get exactly what it has proposed, but at least it has begun the process of finding a political compromise.I've passed over RFRA because that is a law - meaning it is part of the political process rather than the Constitution. Essentially, that is Congress setting standards that laws it passes and regulations the administration establishes must meet. It's possible that the court might find that the contraception mandate violates RFRA and must fall because it is illegal even if not unconstitutional. Opinions vary. Mine is about 50/50.

"The CHA letter is encouraging in that it has put forward draft language for a solution."That's what seems to have been missing from the approach of the U.S. Bishops, although they will say that they tried to compromise. After all, they set up an Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Freedom in the fall of 2011. (In part it is paid for by an increase of 3% of the subsidy paid to the USCCB by each diocese ). Then, they try to rile up the laity with explosive rhetoric, even at Mass. I want no part of such tactics.

Abp. Lori in his column on Fortnight for Freedom in his archdiocesan paper (6/14) includes a factor I don't recall having heard before: "And not only would churches be forced to fund abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraception in violation of their teachings, they would also be forced to counsel employees on the advisability of using them." Is such required counseling part of the mandate under discussion? If so, that appears to add complexity to the employer issues beyond providing the insurance or not. http://www.catholicreview.org/article/commentary/archbishop-lori/fortnig...

John Hayes, what you say is most helpful. Thanks much.

"they would also be forced to counsel employees on the advisability of using them.And where did that come from all of a sudden?Can it be as untrue as the rumor about the Muslim exemption that Bishop Bruskewitz brought to the table at the USCCB meeting last week.

"Enough already, bishops. Youre looking like paper tigers. You wanna fight? Go pick a fight you can win."I'd say they're doing a pretty good job winning this one. First, Notre Dame files suit, now CHA adopts, in essence, the argument they have been making with respect to the unduly narrow definition of "religious employer" since it emerged. Yet still, with some here, those bishops are nothing but a bunch of blowhards. Makes you wonder who the partisans really are.

Jim McK, the link I posted doesn't take you to what I was looking at. I apologize.I can't post the graph, but here's the text that describes the trends:"Pluralities of white Catholics (39%) and white mainline Protestants (38%) now identify as independents. In 2008, Democrats held a slight edge among white Catholics, while white mainline Protestants were divided in party affiliation (33% independent, 30% Democrat, 30% Republican)."The report above was dated June 4, 2012, and only looked at white Catholics.The link you noted, from a report in February of this year, is more inclusive. It shows a trend among ALL Catholics to lean GOP. As you noted, the Dem/GOP "lean" among all Catholics in 2008 was 53/37 percent; now it's 48/43. So the Democrats no longer have a majority among Catholics; only a plurality, and the GOP has made some big gains.Pew may have a study somewhere that looks specifically at Hispanic Catholics, which is where Obama may have majority support, but in a desultory search of the site, I couldn't come up with anything that from the last couple of years.My guess is that contraceptive accommodation for Catholic organizations would not be high up on the list of concerns for Hispanic Catholics and turn them against Obama. Last I remember hearing, labor and immigration issues were at the top of their list.Moreover, I don't think that finding accommodation for contraception is going to make white Catholics more likely to vote for Obama. He's still, in many circles, "the most pro-choice president ever."Maybe someone with something useful to say can find more info ...

Helen --Maybe the bishops need to get some new lawyers?

Addendum:AnnThey have a very high powered group of lawyers in the Ad Hoc Committee Fro Religious LIberty.As to the counseling issue:they would also be forced to counsel employees on the advisability of using them.Advisability may have been a poor choice of words by Bishop Lori.The mandate reads and RELATED (my caps) patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.As I read the mandate, (and I am not by a long stretch a lawyer) the counseling has to do with how the contraceptives can be used, the side effects, etc. - something like the information in package inserts or at the end of TV ads (viagra?).

The nuns are winning, Jeff, not the bishops. Even if the nuns' argument is the same (and I'm not sure it is), their behavior, their lack of exaggerated rhetoric, is quite different, so people don't think they're blowhards. (Your word, not mine.) And, yes, ND does lose sometimes.

Regarding Bp. Lori's statement on counseling, here's the HHS announcement from last August. it includes counselling in the description of what the insurance covers. The employer isn't required to do the counseling - just pay or the insurance that covers it and the contraceptives.

Contraception and contraceptive counseling: Women will have access to all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling. These recommendations do not include abortifacient drugs. Most workers in employer-sponsored plans are currently covered for contraceptives. Family planning services are an essential preventive service for women and critical to appropriately spacing and ensuring intended pregnancies, which results in improved maternal health and better birth outcomes.http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2011/08/womensprevention080120...

"As I read the mandate, (and I am not by a long stretch a lawyer) the counseling has to do with how the contraceptives can be used, the side effects, etc. something like the information in package inserts or at the end of TV ads (viagra?)."Say, for argument purposes, churches were not exempt from the mandate (which they ARE), since when are employers responsible for direct patient education and counseling? Answer: Never. Again, Lori is dissembling. Those employers covered by the mandate -- and not covered by the President's compromise proposals -- would be responsible for purchasing insurance plans that cover contraceptive prescriptions, treatments AND counseling. They wouldn't be required to do the counseling themselves. (One could chuckle at the Archbishop's audacity here, but given the fact that thousands of the faithful will whatever the bishops say, including that their government is against them, it's NOT FUNNY).

"The nuns are winning, Jeff, not the bishops."Hilarious. Catholic means "here comes everybody".

So I guess those lawyers advising the Bishops are just whistling in the wind, huh, Ann?

John Hayes But isn't that quote your cited from the ACA, not the HHS mandate?

Ann said: "This sounds extremely indefinite to me. Does the organization have to share *all*, *most*, *many*, or just *some* common religious bonds and convictions with a church/religion? And what sort of bonds does this cover? All sorts? Some? Which sorts?"As I said in the very first post: this definition is broad enough to drive a popemobile through.If I own a business that makes Catholic religious articles and am an "orthodox" Catholic , obviously sharing common religious bonds and convictions with my church, why WOULDN'T I be covered?

"As to the counseling issue:they would also be forced to counsel employees on the advisability of using them."Helen --About these services, the Federal register mentions them in "I. Background" section:"In the HRSA Guidelines, HRSA exercised its discretion under the amended interim final regulations such that group health plans established or maintained by these religious employers (and any group health insurance coverage provided in connection with such plans) are not required to cover any contraceptive services."It mentions the services earlier, but neither statement says what those "contraceptive services" are. Later it says, "If, instead, the same school provides health coverage for its employees through the same plan under which the diocese provides coverage for its employees, and the diocese is exempt from the requirement to cover contraceptive services, then neither the diocese nor the school is required to offer contraceptive coverage to its employees."This, again, doesn't say what "services" means. Does it simply mean contraceptive coverage? The next paragraph also speaks ambiguously of "coverage" and "services">In Section II. it says:"Throughout this ANPRM, the term accommodation is used to refer to an arrangement under which contraceptive coverage is provided without cost sharing to participants and beneficiaries covered under a plan independent of the objecting religious organization that sponsors the plan, which would effectively exempt the religious organization from the requirement to cover contraceptive services. . . . And contraceptive coverage means the contraceptive coverage required under the HRSA Guidelines."Again, the words "coverage" and "services" seem to be used here synonymously. Strange.

Jeff --Just because lawyers are highly paid and have big-time reputations, it doesn't make them logical in all matters. Sometimes they lose, and for good reason.

Helen, it was from the HHS press release of last August announcing regulations to implement the women's preventative services provision of the ACA.

Under the Affordable Care Act, womens preventive health care services such as mammograms, screenings for cervical cancer, and other services are already covered with no cost sharing for new health plans. The Affordable Care Act also made recommended preventive services free for people on Medicare. However, the law recognizes and HHS understands the need to take into account the unique health needs of women throughout their lifespan.On August 1, 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) adopted additional Guidelines for Womens Preventive Services including well-woman visits, support for breastfeeding equipment, contraception, and domestic violence screening that will be covered without cost sharing in new health plans starting in August 2012. The guidelines were recommended by the independent Institute of Medicine (IOM) and based on scientific evidence.

It's typical that Congress passes a law but leaves to government agencies like HHS the job of developing detailed regulations required to implement the law.

Helen --See what John Hayes quotes above -- in that text "services" clearly has the ordinary meaning of "services".

Ann Olivier, an insurance policy "covers" certain "services" identified in he policy. "Coverage" is the answer to the question "What services does this policy cover?" - i.e. What services will the insurance Company pay for and what co-pays or deductibles will it require?

Helen 06/16/2012 - 4:06 pmthey would also be forced to counsel employees on the advisability of using them. And where did that come from all of a sudden? Can it be as untrue as the rumor about the Muslim exemption that Bishop Bruskewitz brought to the table at the USCCB meeting last week."What accurate answer to that is there but a resounding YES? 1. Churches are exempt from the HHS mandate, so they're not forced to do anything, and2. Even employers who aren't exempt, aren't responsible for counseling employees on using contraceptives; they have to PAY for health plans that cover the services of medical personnel who do that sort of thing (!). Therefore, the claim that CHURCHES would be FORCED to counsel their employees on the advisability of contraception is NOT TRUE.More important, why would Lori say such a thing? Has he not read the mandate? Is he confused? Or, is he trying to mislead?

"Therefore, the claim that CHURCHES would be FORCED to counsel their employees on the advisability of contraception is NOT TRUE."In any case, since when would CATHOLIC churches shrink from the opportunity to counsel employees that it's INADVISABLE to use contraceptives?? I mean, given all the incorrect assumptions that went into what the Archbishop said, what's so unacceptable to a Catholic bishops about churches being *forced* to tell their employees what they think about contraception? Isn't this part of their job description anyway?

"I mean, given all the incorrect assumptions that went into what the Archbishop said, whats so unacceptable to a [sic]Catholic bishops about churches being *forced* to tell their employees what they think about contraception? Isnt this part of their job description anyway?"Pardon the convolution; I got sucked in again. This IMHO is an example of what's so wrong with the reaction of our bishops to the HHS mandate -- their arguments so often begin with imprecise or incorrect premises, cause consternation among both opponents and supporters and lead even deeper into a forest of obfuscation.

I noticed that the HHS blurb I quoted above says "These recommendations do not include abortifacient drugs."In the CHA letter they mention that Ella is believed to be abortifacient (they don't mention Plan B). Perhaps they could push for a revision of "all FDA-approved contraceptives" to "all FDA-approved contraceptives that are not abortifacient" That would be consistent with the HHS statement and would allow the CHA and the USCCB to declare victory and go home even if they don't get exactly what they want for the definition of exempt organizations

John Hayes:I am beginning to think that the USCCB will never declare victory until this president in defeated in November.

I find it highly unlikely that for most Catholics the contraceptive mandate will be determinative in their choice(s) in the election. Most Catholics, like most Americans, are motivated to vote for a candidate(s) based mostly only on some kind of bias.[Remember, Republicans have been very successful in getting millions of Americans to vote contrary to their economic best interests for decades.]There used to be the dominant public value of the "preferential option for the poor," but that ideology is not so much in vogue with Catholic feudal oligarchs these days that never seem to miss a chance to take a swipe at women or gays/lesbians. When it comes to Obama, most Catholics who won't vote for Obama despite that he best represents their supposed religious values in the public square, as well as their economic interests, because, let's face it, Obama just isn't white enough for them.Besides, politically for Obama there are other, bigger [voting block] fish to fry such as Latinos and gays and lesbians than ideologically bound Catholics. There is also some evidence that the Obama administrations almost four year effort, led by Michelle Obama, to court military families is starting to pay-off. The President must find a way to get enough of the "99%ers" to the polls to overcome billionaire plutocrats and, I guess, their chaplains: Catholic bishops.Personally, if Catholic educational, health care or social service agencies can deny full contraceptive health services to women, then these Catholic institutions should forfeit all federal or state support for any of their programs.Last time I checked, the 14th Amendment still protects all citizens to "equal protection of the law." I have to believe that this applies to women, even for Catholic hierarchs?In other words, Notre Dame should kiss all that federal money goodbye it takes in that comes to them in the form of federal research grants and student aid, etc.American Catholic bishops have thrown in their political lot with all the corporate plutocrats who believe in only that all profits should be privatized and all losses should be socialized. After all, Catholic oligarchs have demonstrated to us again and again that they will spend their money willingly in desperate political gambits to defend their Second Estate. Maybe this ["Aprs moi, le deluge"] attitude will lead eventually to another French Revolution??? Somewhere a modern day Catholic Madame Defarge is busy knitting away keeping track of whose head should someday roll.

I've refrained from this more than wide discssion, but I'll add some wide perceptions of my own.The CHA is trying to move the conversation forward (ubder duress or not?) in a more rational way than the USCCB was.The Bishops""Fortnight For Freedom" is awful: if they're concerned about freedom -it should be about freedom from big moneyed PACS (an "abomination" as per Mark Shields on the NewsHour Friday night), not the freedom of their command/control Church.While it's nice the Bishops backed POTUS on the immigration action (some eye on 'Browning", when poverty came up, the redoubtable Cardinal from NY limited discussion to 14 inutes so his pasta wouldn't be al dente.What worries me abvout cHA is the real impact on its workers and services.Here in NM, Christus St, Vinent took over Santa Fe"s major hospiutal scene with lots of complainsts from its work force (nurses particulalry,) and op ed pieces that were hardly thrilled.It strikes me that Church leadership continues to be way too much inward looking in its mission/service approach.Like many in government today who can't compromise and who are creatures of big money, ordinary peoples' lives are expendable.(That goes for the big money lawyers mentioned here too,)The second largest denomnination in the US is 'ex Catholic'.No matter the many reasons, they are expendable.What matters is perogative and politics and money.However this turns out or whatever the Supreme court does or doesn't on health care, it strikes me that the lives of ordinary people are secondary- and that's shameful.

"Allowing this controversy to simmer much longer could end up costing him key votes and health-care reform itself."Seriously? This is a single issue, like abortion, and I find it unlikely that the Catholic voters who supported a presidential candidate who said that taking a position on abortion was "above my pay grade" will jump ship over this. Is there any polling data that shows that an overwhelming number of Catholics who supported Obama in 2008 are planning to change their vote because of the exemption clause?A quick search gave me this from February in Reuters:"A new poll released Tuesday by the Public Religion Research Institute, a non-partisan research group whose board members include a number of religious leaders who have supported progressive causes, found that a majority of Americans - including 58 percent of Catholics - support a requirement that health insurance plans provide free birth control. A slight majority of Catholic voters, 52 percent, said religiously affiliated colleges and hospitals should also have to provide that benefit."http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/07/us-usa-catholic-birthcontrol-i... just don't see the Bishops succeeding in making this about freedom of religion rather than contraception, and I think that most "Obama Catholics" intuitively see the goals of the former being promoted by increased access to the latter. And those that weren't "Obama Catholics" before the mandate, are certainly not going to change teams if Obama all of the sudden admits that he "over reached." Caving in at this point will only give the Republicans more ammunition, not less.

Yes, seriously. Because what you and Jean seem to miss is that national polls do not predict how people will vote in swing states. Those outcomes can be decided by narrow margins, and, in turn have an enormous impact on the electoral vote. We don't live in a direct democracy.Also, I think it's silly to call this a cave-in. The original structure of the exemption lacked federal statutory precedent, and put forward a sectarian view of religious practice that Catholics ought to find untenable, if not stupid.

Apparently the USCCB has still not caught on to the monster fact that the bishops no longer command our respect. They won't influence us anymore no matter how loud they shout. That's why they'll make no difference in the Nov. election.Sound and fury . . .

Jim Jenkins... is right on 14th Amendment rights and health care and the forfeiture of federal funds of some proportion if an institution has a consience problem" with legal services. That the Hyde Amendment has stood up seems incredible to me even though I oppose aborion.I think this may be as much to do with LCWR and the bishops as the principles involved. Cynical? Perhaps, but who knows the battles under the surface...Maybe Scalia's structure is wrong, but the IRS code is far from right.

Jean: I didn't say everything will go down the tubes if this isn't fixed. This is about the margins. And not shooting oneself in the foot when there's a political option that could actually expand your policy goal. As for Hyde: The USCCB endorsed it during the health-care debate. It's called prudential judgment. And the tradition has never taught that withholding taxes was required when the government could do something immoral with pooled cash. Sorry.

Everytime I hear the term "prudential judgement" I think of theocon cafeteria-Catholics.It would be nice to come up with a different expression that isn't quite so tainted.

I think I understand Grant's "fix it now or everything's down the tubes" reasoning,but I'm still not buying it. Apologies in advance for going in several directions below:1. The main objection to the health care bill (59 percent of Americans are on the fence or disapprove of it) is the mandatory coverage clause, not the contraception clause. Whether mandatory coverage is constitutional will be decided by the Supreme Court. If they say it IS constitutional, a lot of people will remain disgruntled about the mandatory coverage clause and will not be likely to vote for Obama.2. The contraception flap is of concern to fewer people (how many fewer, I admittedly don't know), but my guess is that it's mostly white Catholic administrators and clergy. 3. Some of those Catholics might be persuaded to support the health care act if some accommodation is reached, but, given the increasing right-wing lean among Catholics, I can't see how that necessarily translates to votes for Obama ("the most pro-choice president ever").After Bush-Gore, I agree that just a few votes can make a difference in swing states. So I guess Obama COULD get some critical votes in swing states by making the folks at the CHA happy. But might further accommodation with the CHA turn off other blocks of voters who feel that women should have access to contraceptives? Those folks would likely NOT go vote for Romney, but they might stay home.Moreover, I contended earlier that shifting the burden of contraception to the government (i.e., taxpayers) would likely not fly with Catholic voters who don't want to pay for other people's contraceptives. You replied that my contention was "incompatible with Catholic tradition, which does not hold that one cannot pay taxes because the government will or could use the money to pay for something immoral." If that's so, how did the Hyde Amendment, which prevents tax money used for something immoral, get passed?

Raber says I make weird, constricted throat noises when I'm on this thread and that I should take a break again.

Jean Raber: "Moreover, I contended earlier that shifting the burden of contraception to the government (i.e., taxpayers) would likely not fly with Catholic voters who dont want to pay for other peoples contraceptives." Bingo. I'd count the same bishops who've been loudly hostile to every other compromise proposed by the government among them. If the government adopted this idea, they'd object that ALL Catholics, including themselves, and every other American citizen who objects to contraception are being FORCED to pay for contraceptives. Yadayadayada. It would still be beneficial to Obama and to everybody concerned if the government would simply extend the definition of religious employer, i.e., exempt status, to CHA and other such institutions. The bishops could then claim victory, and I'd bet there are still Catholics out there who'd vote for Obama if the bishops weren't beating the drum against him so loudly. For the middle class, not to mention the poor and unemployed, his economic policies beat Romney's hands-down; and, for a few older Americans, including Catholics, it's still an unwritten rule learned at mama's (if not papa's) knee to vote for the Democrat whenever you're down and out.Unfortunately for Obama, extending the exemption would mean breaking a promise to women employees of these organizations that contraception would be covered under the new health care rules without copays. What to do about that? For what it's worth, I think offering all women whose group health plans don't cover contraception the opportunity to deal directly with their insurance companies to obtain coverage without copays is a potentially workable solution. Women might even be willing to pay a certain amount out of pocket for the added benefit. But if insurance companies really do think they save in the long run by covering such services fully, and would be willing to offer them free of charge to a certain number of women, why not offer it to all who need it (still a small percentage overall)?That would take some negotiating, and cooperation from an industry that clearly wants Obama and his health care bill to fail every bit as much as do certain rightwing members of the American episcopacy. But still, in reality a satisfactory resolution to this problem will benefit all parties in the end. Keeping it unresolved hurts Obama more than it helps anyone else. Unfortunately, hurting Obama seems to be the one goal all those opposing him seem willing to pursue.

My apologies if I distorted your contention, Grant; I'm not good at nuance, but it seems to me that if the margins are everything in a squeaker like this, then it's fix it or it's down the tubes, no? Also, I really don't understand why my analogy re taxpayers and contraception and taxpayer and abortion doesn't work. Seriously, I don't understand why Catholics, who raised objections to paying for abortions with tax dollars, wouldn't raise issues about contraception. Moreover, why should I foot the bill for contraception for employees of Catholic organizations, even if it only amounts to pennies any more than I should have to pay taxes to supplement WalMart employees who aren't paid a living wage? I've already got my own damn meds to pay for that control my blood pressure so I can respond to threads like this. Maybe the bishops could pay for my blood pressure meds and I could pay for the contraception their employees want! Frankly, I can see Obama getting distracted trying to make Catholics (who probably won't vote for him anyway) while those most likely to vote for him feel he's selling out THEIR interests, thinking about how Romney's got more money, that it's all rigged, so they'll just stay home.

Sorry, my post crossed with Beverly. What she said. Glad I'm making sense to somebody. Though maybe Beverly should be worried. :-)

Jim Jenkins: "When it comes to Obama, most Catholics who wont vote for Obama despite that he best represents their supposed religious values in the public square, as well as their economic interests, because, lets face it, Obama just isnt white enough for them."I'm sure there's a racial component involved in all Obama hating (otherwise, what ARE people talking about when they say they want their country back, as if some alien power had taken it from them?), but from my own experience with churchgoing Catholics who say they *can't* vote for Obama, many *are* listening to the bishops and to what they hear at church on Sundays (albeit in conservative Catholic parishes). They've sublimated every other interest to how they believe God requires them to vote; they just don't think a lot about politics anymore, since overturning Roe v Wade and stopping abortion seems so overridingly important. That's what the bishops say; that's what the Pope apparently says, that's what they've come to believe. Ever since John Paul II put ending legal abortion as a top priority for Catholics, considering how politics works both here and in most other countries, that's meant sublimating one's own needs -- and the needs of the poor, the sick, and all those other groups bishops sometimes still mention -- to criminalizing abortion and other potential threats to life, such as euthanasia. When our religious leaders set the standards out this way, a certain number of Catholics are going to follow.

Just to review the starting point for this negotiation.HHS has defined two kinds of organizations that are exempt from including contraception in their Healh plans:1. Those that meet the four-point definition: mainly churches, religious orders, people who work directly for a diocese, some elementary and high schools and groups related to parishes.2. Non-profit organizations that have religious objections to contraception*. That covers Catholic hospitals, Catholic universities, Catholic Charities and anyone else religiously opposed to contraception - as long as they are a non-profit organization (no Taco Bells)The difference between the two groups is that employees of the first group do not get free contraception under their employer's plan and also don't get it free from anyone else.The employees of the second group do not get free contraception under their employer's plan but do get it free from someone else. As I understand the CHA letter, what they want to change is A. Fold the second group into the first so that employees of group 2 (hospitals, etc) don't get free contraception from anyone. Or,B. Have the government provide free contraception to the employees of group 2 (of both groups?) to avoid having them paid for by an insurance company or plan administrator who is receiving other payments from the employer.The CHA letter leaves out the limitation that group 2 organization must be non-profit - thereby letting in Taco Bell) but I doubt they feel strongly about that since most (all?) of their members are non-profit. Seems as if a deal could be arrived at there.

Hit Submit before I typed in the asterisk:*and who haven't included contraception in their health plan since February of 2010.

This letter appeared in the Washington Post over the weekend....while Catholics absolutely have the right to enter the public arena to protest government policy that they view as incompatible with beliefs of conscience or faith, they do not contrary to their apparent beliefs have a corresponding right to be obeyed.The public arena is already occupied by many other groups with their own beliefs and agendas. The deal in the United States is that all those groups duke it out, and usually not everyones needs are equally filled. That is the price of living in a democracy. We all pay for things we find deeply immoral. This time its the Catholics turn to be irked. Next time its mine. Then its yours.Please: Join the public arena. Protest. But holding your breath until you turn blue, or having lots of members in swing states, does not mean that we are all obligated to fall in line. Or that you get to be offended that we havent.Alicia Parks, Derwood

Couple of more thoughts:the impact on elections in all this is far from clear cut and Grant and Jean both have points to make,As I noted eledwhere , seems that we are losing more and more young people not only to the Church but beleief in Gof even with one reason being Church is seen as "too political."My question: are we biting our nose? ......

Bob, I don't think this needs to be a political issue. The government has a standard for defining "religious organization," and the Church wants it to be broader. As the letter Angela posted above notes (thank you, Angela), this is something that always has to get hashed out, sometimes over a long time. I have made many references in the past to the fact that accommodation for the Amish re the military started evolved over many decades, starting during the Civil War.If we weren't in an election year in what looks to be a pretty close presidential race with the social safety net hanging in the balance, my guess is that there might be more measured discussion about this. I sense that some on the left want to give in ASAP to garner what they see is critical support for Obama and the ACA.And I sense that some on the right will continue to jabber about religious liberty no matter what concessions Obama makes just to keep things stirred up.

The Cardinal Newman Society doesn't like the CHA proposal:

The Catholic Health Association (CHA) and its leader, Obamacare advocate Sr. Carol Keehan, DC, haveapparently reversed their position and now stand inopposition to the Obamaadministrations inadequate accommodation on the HHS contraceptive mandate.Kudos for that!Butasis becoming a tiresome habitfor CHA, theyarent standing entirely with the bishops. CHA says in todays letter to HHS that it wants the contraceptive mandates exemption broadened to cover all ministries of the Church, just as the bishops have argued. Yet in direct contradiction to the bishops, CHA is pushing for a new definition of religious organizations that could prove even worse than the Obama administrations currentlanguage. And if accepted, the CHA definition could be a disaster for the cause of religious liberty and for Catholic higher education.The Cardinal Newman Society has been warning about thissince last December,after CHA and the University of Notre Dame both recommended to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius similar solutions, drawing on language in Section 414(e) of the Internal Revenue Code that exempts church-related pension plans from the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).Read more: http://blog.cardinalnewmansociety.org/2012/06/15/sister-keehan-cha-push-...

I deplore the partisan/culture-war rhetoric of the Cardinal Newman Society in the blog post referenced by John Hayes directly above, but its legal argument may be worthy of consideration (or so it seems to this non-lawyer).

Grant raises a somewhat interesting question of whether the administration will expand its religious entity exemption. It is only somewhat interesting because the administration has unequivocally said it will not do so, because of the same hardcore ideology that led the people it to be originally drafted in 3 states, and now nationalized. A much more interesting question is what will Grant and Commonweal do when everyone must admit that the exemption is off the table, and that this adminstration is so extreme it refuses to listen even to Sr. Keehan. Will they just call this a "marginal" question, or will they side with religious freedom principles? The extremists in the White House are going to show us all the answer to that question, unless the Supreme Court interevenes first.

Anitra, if President Obama did exactly what Sr. Keehan told him to do in this situation, would you vote for him?

"Thats what the bishops say; thats what the Pope apparently says, thats what theyve come to believe." But they still practice contraception at a rate no different from the general population. They still cheat on their spouses and their taxes, no matter what the pope and bishops allegedly teach. They still divorce. What is so important about abortion - particularly when so many of them practice themselves, or tacitly endorse their daughters/sisters/cousins practicing it?

It's a bit amazing that an administration that takes into account that it represents and proposes laws that effect the ENTIRE country, not just a select few, is considered to be "extremist."

Jean: You wrote, "why should I foot the bill for contraception for employees of Catholic organizations, even if it only amounts to pennies any more than I should have to pay taxes to supplement WalMart employees who arent paid a living wage?" You are already paying for other people's contraception through tax dollars that fund Title X and Medicaid programs. Just like you are paying to put food in the mouths of hungry people. And for bombs. And textbooks for kids you'll never meet. Catholics are permitted to pay taxes even though they may pay for immoral acts because taxation itself is required to serve the common good, and once you pay a tax your money is mingled with other people's tax dollars -- it's licit remote material cooperation. I'm not clear on your question about Hyde. It's a compromise. The bishops are OK with it because they know they can't get the votes to pass a version that actually conforms to Catholic teaching. And from the perspective of Catholic teaching abortion is a graver evil than contraception.Anitra: You contend that "the administration has unequivocally said" it won't revise the structure of the exemption. It has not. Some bishops have suggested as much. But that's not quite the same thing. But there's no point in arguing about this, is there? Because you think the White House is full of extremists. By the way: Are you spoofing your IP address?

Jean, regarding the CHA proposal, the only way to resolve this affront to religious freedom is, as I have suggested to Grant, to simply conform the mandate to RFRA by exempting any religious objector from it. But though the CHA position would not do that, it is interesting that Obama is too extreme to follow even CHA's advice.

Grant, even the current "rulemaking" brainstorming session disavows any intent to expand the exemption--it exists entirely to "accomodate non-exempt entities." You are the only one who believes otherwise, and your view is on a collision course with history. If the Supreme Court doesn't strike down Obamacare one of two things will happen on this question before the election: either the administration will propose a rule (not finalize one, that is impossible so soon, the entire process will start again) which does not expand the exemption; or, more likely, nothing will happen because reading tens of thousands of comments takes months and months and the administration never suggested it would propose a new rule before the election anyway, it said it would finish things before Aug 2013 (you don't still think they will issue a new rule this Wednesday, do you? unless you admit they don't give a fig about what the thousands of comments that were just submitted actually say).

Anitra, personally, as far as I'm concerned, there is already a definition on the books of "religious organization," and I see no reason to change it. I see no affront to religious freedom in the situation as it stands. My question to YOU, which is germane to the conversation and which you have not bothered to answer, is whether you would vote for President Obama if he did whatever you want him to do on the contraception issue? Grant is pushing the point that Obama will win a small but significant number of Catholic voters in swing states if he satisfies them on this issue.So: Is there any way, short of hell freezing over, that you would vote for President Obama? Simple yes or no.My GUESS is that your answer, given the way you're flinging around "affront" and "extremist," would be no. Which would illustrate my contention, however anecdotally, that Catholics are not going to be persuaded to vote for Obama based on this issue.

"personally, as far as Im concerned, there is already a definition on the books of religious organization,"I'm not sure which one you are referring to. RFRA says that any free exercise of religion gets protection from federal mandates. If that is the definition you mean, you are right that it is on the books and is controlling, but you are wrong that no change is needed, because the HHS Mandate violates it by constricting free exercise of religion to a far smaller category. I agree with you that there are some people who will oppose Obama in any event, and some who will support him in any event. I don't think that proves your contention, which is that no swing voters exist on this margin in a battleground state. If bishops and parishes are making noise about this, with super pacs and whatever using it as a live issue, it is sure to leave a bad taste in some voters that may well help push them over the edge. You are willing to gamble otherwise--so, for that reason, I hope you get a high ranking position in the Obama campaign.

"licit remote material cooperation"OK, I knew I was missing something, and there it is! The the loophole I was looking for that allows Catholic religious organizations to fob off paying for contraception off on the taxpayers so their administrators don't go to hell: They let Catholic and other taxpayers pay it so the sin is once removed and will only cost you a few thousand years in Purgatory instead of eternal damnation.I'm sorry, but this is why I have made such a bad Catholic. It all seems so legalistic and weasel-wordy to me.Why can't we just do our best to feed the poor, care for the sick, comfort the dying? It strikes me as a colossal waste of time and resources to spend so much time lobbying Congress to make sure that we're not paying for something that prevents the correct bodily fluids from ending up in the duly sanctioned anatomical locations without any artificial obstructions.

"Why cant we just do our best to feed the poor, care for the sick, comfort the dying?"If that is your only concern, why not just do it and not worry about what other people spend time and resources on?

My "only concern"?? Hoo, boy.

I've pre-ordered a copy of Cardinal Dolan's new book - to be downloaded to my iPad on Monday.LINK

TrueFreedomOn Protecting Human Dignity and Religious LibertyCardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New YorkAre American liberties on the endangered species list? In this eBook original, the Archbishop of New York and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issues a plea for all citizens to reject the cynicism of the day and foster a culture in which religious freedom and all human life are infinitely valued.Religion and the dignity of human life are under attack by a variety of threats in the modern world including abortion, infanticide, eugenics, misuse of artificial reproductive technologies, an unjust distribution of economic resources, war, the arms trade, drugs, and human trafficking. What can be done to stop this? Cardinal Timothy Dolan explains the need for all Americans to embrace a new culture rooted in what Blessed John Paul II called the Gospel of Life where the sacredness of all human life, and the freedoms that are their birthright, are upheld, respected and protected by law.

The Catholic League complains that John Ghering at Faith in Public Life has sent a briefing paper to reporters, editors and columnists suggesting questions to ask bishops about The "Fortnight for Freedom"Ghering also provides a list of experts to interview: N. Cafardi, T. Tilley, L. S. Cahill, M. C. Kaveney, T. Reese, J. Behring, and P. Lakeland. http://www.catholicleague.org/soros-funded-group-set-to-nail-bishops/Geh... memo: http://www.catholicleague.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Gehring-Email.pdf

The Bishops, Catholic Charities, many religious sisters, and now even Fr. Jenkins and Sr. Keehan "do their best" to care and educate, and they all disagree with you about what is a "collosal waste" of their time "lobbying". So why not respect their decision about what is a good use of their time?

This whole story of both the Bishops and now even the CHA coming out against the HHS mandate contained in the ACA, is why Obamacare will not stand; it is fundamentally flawed in that it tries to boss people around so. Bear in mind also, that this particular HHS mandate is only one of the many too-pushy things in this 2000 page monstrosity.The single-payer, minimal federal health policy, one upon which we all could then build our own private health plans, would eliminate these moral controversies. Churches do not pay taxes and so are not complicit in services the federal government provides. Render unto Caesar . . . The people (i.e. the voters) drive the ship of state, and would accordingly periodically review and adjust the national health policy as needed. Like the Mexico City policy then, the national policy would occasionally change in order to be a reflection of the values of the majority of society. In short, when Democrats would take power, the federal government would hand out free bc pills and the like. Conversely, when Republicans hold the majority, the federal government would not be handing out such things for free.Majority rules via representative democracy. Wow - that seems reasonable enough. I wonder who thought of that sort of thigng?

Oops meant to say ".... voters, with good counsel from their respective Churches to inform their consciences, drive the ship of state . . ."

Early in Cardinal Dolan's book, released today, he discusses Evangelium Vitae and makes the tradtional "natural law" argument:

John Paul II directs his teaching not just to Catholics, not just to Christians or people of faith, but to all people of goodwill. This is rather important. True enough, his teaching is expressed in terms of religious belief, but this fundamental concept of the sacredness of all human lifewhich deserves dignity, respect, and protection by lawis rooted in natural law, a source of ingrained principles accessible to all, not just religious folks. Natural law is a concept of objective truth, known by anyone with the power of reason. For instance, it is always and everywhere wrong to deliberately take the life of an innocent person. This is an objective truth, and it is not relativized by the special interests of religious preference, class, gender, or individual bias.
This idea that it's a kind of slam-dunk win if you can say that your position is based on natural law leads to the feeling that anyone who disagrees with your position is either ignorant, evil or irrational and relieves you of the obligation of respecting that person's position and, in making decisions for civil society, working to find a compromise that allows people who hold different views to live together peacefully.If natural law were truly independent of religious belief, then each person could form a personal judgment of what natural law requires. However, in Humanae Vitae, Paul VI lays out clearly that it is the Church's role to interpret the natural law and determine the "objective truth" that results from it.Although we no longer say "error has no rights" the view that every rational person should accept the "objective truth" defined by the Church based on natural law can create a similar barrier to arriving at answers to the question of "what should the civil law require."As we can see from the current debate over the HHS mandate.

Sorry, the blockquote should have ended after the second paragraph. The rest of the comment is mine.

Why cant we just do our best to feed the poor, care for the sick, comfort the dying?If that is your only concern, why not just do it and not worry about what other people spend time and resources on?"Because as a Catholic who contributes to her parish, it is my money, too, that the USCCB is spending on this. And as a Catholic, when the USCCB speaks in the public square, it is important to me whether my priorities are their priorities.It's not "other peoples" time and treasure they're spending, its all of ours. I'm with Jean.

"Sorry, the blockquote should have ended after the second paragraph. The rest of the comment is mine."Bummer, I was really liking the second half of the comment and was thinking of getting the book. :-)If "natural law' really worked the way people who like to invoke it claim, it seems like there would be little controversy- most of us have the power of reason, so most of us should come to the same conclusion on these issues. When we don't, it seems like it used more to just silence discussion.

"So why not respect their decision about what is a good use of their time?"Is disagreement the same as disrespect?

The "book" turns out to be ten pages of text by Cardinal Dolan, which, apparently, were a speech given at Fordham - plus thirteen pages by John Allen from his book on Cardinal Dolan entitled "A People of Hope"It is an eBook and costs only 99.

The ACA - or ObamaCare if you like - fits American society, like a saddle fits a sow.

Hi Jean Raber:>>Instead of the hospital paying for birth control, you get individuals to do it through taxes. And some of those individuals are Catholics. The Hyde Amendment prevents those Catholics from paying for government-funded abortions, and youll get the same kind of movement if you try to get them to pay for other peoples birth control. <<This has already been going on a very long time.Lets look at an existing Federal program Medicare. Under Medicare Advantage (a program championed by political conservatives), coverage for both contraceptive services and sterilization is generally provided. Many Medicare beneficiaries (generally with disabilities) are of reproductive age and utilize these benefits. Employers (including not just Catholic affiliated organizations, like hospitals and universities, but also churches, themselves) are required to pay for half of the cost of Medicare and help subsidize the extra cost of Medicare Advantage. Thus, Catholic Churches (and not simply hospitals, universities, etc.) have already been directly subsidizing contraceptive and sterilization services.- Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach CA

I too dislike the vitriol that spews from the Cardinal Newman Society, but in this case I believe its argument is correct. However, I draw the opposite conclusion. The CHA's suggestion, as long as it is understood in the light of the Fourth Circuit's decision, specifies precisely the door through which Catholics charities, hospitals, and colleges and universities qualify for state and federal monies to support their activities. They qualify for such aid because they are not juridically associated with the church; their association is a voluntary one. They have independent boards of directors, etc. and are subject to all laws governing their type of activity (and into some of those laws, especially in the case of hospitals, exemptions have been written). If that set of criteria is used, these voluntarily Catholic institutions would be required to provide contraceptive coverage. The bishops and the CHA cannot have it both ways: if the Catholic charities, hospitals, and colleges and universities are independent for purposes of receiving government aid, then they are independent in relation to meeting the provisions of the regulations that specify the administration of the ACA. If they are not independent in relation to meeting those provisions, then they are not independent for purposes of receiving government assistance. Now, if the government decided to take CHA's suggestion that there be a single, governmental payer for contraceptive services for all women (employed or not and wherever employed), I'd be happy with that. (Can you imagine the Republican reaction to that?!) But if we are going to do that, let's just go all the way to a single payer.

The Democrats for Life--which, like the CHA, supported the Affordable Care Act and took a lot of heat for it--filed a comment with HHS today likewise arguing for a broader religious-organization exemption in general, and for special concern about possible abortifacients (mainly Ella). The latter issue always deserved more distinctive analysis than it has received. See link at http://mirrorofjustice.blogs.com/mirrorofjustice/2012/06/democrats-for-l...

Interesting, Larry. Thanks for the info. It would be interesting to know if there is some distinction between Medicare Advantage and ObamaCare here. As has already been shown, I am not very good at understanding the fine points of juggling this issue.

Congress set this policy, not the President. The Executive's job is to implement the policy. The problem is that there are two policies set by Congress. The first policy is about health care, in particular preventive care for women. The net conclusion of that policy is that by making contraceptive services available to all women (e.g. by removing co-pay requirements) costs will be reduced by about 15%. The second policy set by Congress was to implement the first policy through health care insurance plans. That seemed sensible enough, but it turned out to have been a hornet's nest of a choice. Health insurance plans are engaged by employers. This side door connection to employers was unfortunate for two reasons. First, employers have no logical connection at all with Congress' policy objective of providing preventive health care to women. Second, Catholic employers who have historically excluded coverage for contraceptive services are put in an awkward position.But this is Congress' problem. If Congress were functional, it would fix the problem so that employers would not be implicated by the first policy. Unfortunately, Congress is not functional, and the Executive Branch has limited options. The policy set by Congress must be implemented uniformly, or it could be struck down on that account. Grafting an exemptions policy onto the basic policy is something Congress did not do, at least not in the Affordable Care Act. Congress blundered in getting employers involved in the first place, but that is water under the bridge at this point. Is there any way to fix the problem, now that Congress is disfunctional? The President's role is to make the first policy work -- provide women with access to preventive health care services -- in spite of having to work through health plans. The fact that employers are in this picture (because they sign contracts with health plans) is unfortunate, but it's the reality that we are dealing with.What can the President do, consistent with the policies set by Congress? The point of the first policy is breadth of coverage, so it would go against the expressed will of Congress to allow more than the narrowest possible exceptions. The argument in the CHA letter for a broader employer exemption cuts against Congressional intent, and invites the President to move in a direction contrary to his duty. Since employers were not supposed to be in this picture in the first place, perhaps there are ways of providing access that allow Catholic employers to save face. Apparently, there are. And the incentives for health insurers are significant: they stand to reduce their costs by providing access. Yes, by providing women with incentives to use the services -- e.g. no co-pays -- consequential costs actually go down (by about 15%). It is no wonder that insurers are happy to provide direct access, taking the employers out of the loop.That solution should work for all employers except those who self-insure. And even an employer who self-insures might be well advised to have a backup "re-insurance" policy, and the carrier of that policy would have ample financial incentive to provide direct access. Indeed, given the cost realities, one might suppose that the re-insurer would charge the Catholic employer an increased premium for the privilege of denying free contraceptives to its employees.Of course, costs are of no concern when the moral posture of the employer is at issue. If a Catholic employer would have to pay their insurance company more, not less, to exclude contraceptive coverage from their plan, it would be their moral right to take that course. But that makes it difficult to argue that the "mandate" forces them to endure out of pocket expenses against their will. Nor does emphasis upon the freedom of the employer square with the freedom of the employee, when what is really going on is that employees would be denied free access (and insurers denied a cost savings) in the name of the moral scruples of the employer.An "accommodation" that takes the employer out of the picture (especially when the employer was not supposed to be in the picture in the first place) would seem to be an attractive resolution for all parties. And it makes moot the premise of the various lawsuits that employers need an exemption (under the authority of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act) in order to avoid compromise to their religious principles. How strong is the principle of religious freedom when it is used to curtail the freedom of one's employees? This question is particularly embarrassing when an accommodation that avoids this unseemly inconsitency is available or in the offing.One might suppose that the bishops have ample incentives to find an accommodation that takes employers out of the picture and leaves service delivery to insurers who have the necessary financial incentives to provide free preventive health care services to women. If the bishops have not yet found the accommodation to their liking, they should continue trying lest the unseemly inconsistency in the celebration of religious freedom come back to haunt them.But this is much ado about nothing if another agenda is at work, and the train with that agenda aboard has long since left the station. The timing of all this -- the lawsuits which have raised questions but won't be heard until after the election, the forthcoming Fortnight for Freedom -- is consistent with another agenda. The issues raised by the "contraceptive mandate" are challenging and important, and ought not to be hijacked by another agenda.

Larry says Lets look at an existing Federal program Medicare. Under Medicare Advantage (a program championed by political conservatives), coverage for both contraceptive services and sterilization is generally provided. Many Medicare beneficiaries (generally with disabilities) are of reproductive age and utilize these benefits. Employers (including not just Catholic affiliated organizations, like hospitals and universities, but also churches, themselves) are required to pay for half of the cost of Medicare and help subsidize the extra cost of Medicare Advantage. Thus, Catholic Churches (and not simply hospitals, universities, etc.) have already been directly subsidizing contraceptive and sterilization services.Please Larry - that is just my point. Catholic hospitals when they pay the Medicare fees are doing just that. They pay the fees and the federal government then decides what Medicare will cover. If the people (the voters) ever decide collectively (via the majority) that we do not want Medicare to cover contraception/sterilization, then our representatives in Congress will direct Medicare administrators accordingly.The HHS mandate on the other hand, says to Catholic institutions and employers; You will offer contraception/sterilization and abortion drugs to your employees and you will pay for them.Medicare says to Catholic institutions and employers; You will pay half the cost of your employees Medicare fee paid to the federal government - and the Federal government will use the money to provide the benefits offered by (approved by) the Medicare program as administered under this current Congress of elected representatives.

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