Friday, February 24, 2012


An article on the AP wire services tells how a bill in the Virginia State legislature which would have mandated invasive sonograms before allowing abortions was defeated largely because of its being ridiculed on national TV comedy shows. 

I have no desire to discuss the merits of this legislation (an equivalent of which, as of now, has also been introduced into the Alabama State legislature). 

The reason is that reason itself is evidently no longer necessary to engage in political "discourse."  One only has to ridicule something in order to reject it (or perhaps be enraged enough to force others to accept it--witness the riots in Afghanistan now--not over nothing, but surely at this point blown out of proportion). 

Rage and ridicule are the two standards for getting what we want (as they were in childhood).

Joan Rivers famously used to ask, "Can we talk?"  I guess the answer is no...

Thursday, February 23, 2012


For those interested, I have an essay ("The More Things Change...") on The Pastor's Corner of our parish's website,  It's about the times of G K Chesterton (I'm reading Ian Ker's biography right now) and the intellectual climate especially in England in the late 19th/early 20th centuries.  The applications to today's philosophical/moral fashions are (sadly) pretty clear...

Thursday, February 16, 2012


In an earlier blog I commented on the signatories of a letter from the University of Notre Dame in reaction to the supposed compromise of the Administration on the HHR mandate.  Here is the actual text of the letter, dated February 10, 2012, and titled "Unacceptable":  enjoy, if that is the correct term--

The Obama administration has offered what it has styled as an "accommodation" for religious institutions in the dispute over the HHS mandate for coverage (without cost sharing) of abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception.  The administration will now require that all insurance plans cover ("cost free") these same products and services.  Once a religiously-affiliated (or believing individual) employer purchases insurance (as it must, by law), the insurance company will then contact the insured employees to advise them that the terms of the policy include coverage for these objectionable things.

This so-called "accommodation" changes nothing of moral substance and fails to remove the assault on religious liberty and the rights of conscience which gave rise to the controversy.  It is certainly no compromise.  The reaon for the original bipartisan uproar was the administration's insistence that religious employers, be they institutions or individuals, provide insurance that covered services they regard as gravely immoral and unjust.  Under the new rule, the government still coerces religious institutions and individuals to purchase insurance policies that include the very same services.

It is no answer to respond that the religious employers are not "paying" for this aspect of the insurance coverage.  For one thing, it is unrealistic to suggest that insurance companies will not pass the costs of these additional services on to the purchasers.  More importantly, abortion-drugs, sterilizations, and contraceptives are a necessary feature of the policy purchased by the religious institution or believing individual.  They will only be made available to those who are insured under such policy, by virtue of the terms of the policy.

It is morally obtuse for the administration to suggest (as it does) that this is a meaningful accommodation of religious liberty because the insurance company will be the one to inform the employee that she is entitled to the embryo-destroying "five day after pill" pursuant to the insurance contract purchased by the religious employer.  It does not matter who explains the terms of the policy purchased by the religiously affiliated or observant employer.  What matters is what services the policy covers.

The simple fact is that the Obama administration is compelling religious people and institutions who are employers to purchase a health insurance contract that provides abortion-inducing drugs, contraception and sterilization.  This is a grave violation of religious freedom and cannot stand.  It is an insult to the intelligence of Catholics, Protestants, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslims, and other people of faith and conscience to imagine that they will accept an assault on their religious liberty if only it is covered up by a cheap accounting trick.

Finally, it bears noting that by sustaining the original narrow exemptions for churches, auxiliaries, and religious orders, the administration has effectively admitted that the new policy (like the old one) amounts to a grave infringement on religious liberty.  The administration still fails to understand that institutions that employ and serve others of different or no faith are still engaged in a religious mission and, as such, enjoy the protections of the First Amendment.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Some folks thought that the University of Notre Dame had "gone soft" on moral and political issues, especially in light of their invitation to President Obama to deliver the commencement address a few years ago.  If this is the thought-pattern you also have, I suggest it is time to think again...

On 10 February the Law School at Notre Dame issued a six-paragraph letter simply titled "Unacceptable."  It is a critique of the HHR mandate, and impressive as the letter itself is, what is far more impressive is the list of signatories.  Allow me to "do the math":

1.  The basic signatories are 5:  John Garvey, President of Catholic University in Washington, DC; Mary Ann Glendon, Robert George and Carter Snead, professors of law at Harvard, Princeton and Notre Dame; and Yuval Levin of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

2. University and College Professors who have signed include those from the following institutions:  University of Chicago, Stanford, Columbia, Georgetown, Princeton, Villanova, University of San Diego, Brigham Young, Jewish Theological Seminary, Yeshiva University, Valparaiso, University of St Thomas, Baylor, Wheaton College, Fordham, University of Alabama, George Mason, Franciscan University of Steubenville, University of Texas, University of South Carolina, Roanoke, University of San Francisco, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, etc.  This is a remarkable cross-section of Catholic "liberal" and "conservative," of Protestant and secular, of Christian and Jewish.  Religious freedom and 1st Amendment rights are not a narrowly denominational issue, as can be clearly seen by this list of names.

3.  The total number of signatories is 118, including journalists and writers as well as college & university faculty and officials.  Of these, 26 are faculty, adminstration or affiliated with the University of Notre Dame--or almost 1/4 of the total.  This should not be a suprise since the letter originated from Notre Dame.  It should rather be a matter of gratitude that it did.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


In a very strongly worded statement about our current struggle with the Obama Administration on the Health & Human Services mandate and its encroaching on religious freedom, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput remarks, "Catholics are confused and angry. They should be." More than that, though, I feel sad and frustrated.

There are very few people in our country who are not aware (at least subliminally) of the scope and depth of commitment to service and direct aid to the poor of the institutions of the Catholic Church. It might be a local parish’s St Vincent de Paul Society, or Catholic Charities USA, or Catholic Relief Services world-wide–where there is a need, the Church responds. We do this because we are convinced that it is our responsibility as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.

Health insurance plans offered to employees of Catholic institutions like these have historically prohibited any kind of coverage for abortions, including "morning after" pills like Ella or RU486. Exceptions are also typically included for prescriptions for contraceptives for treatment of other health conditions. Is there anyone who does not know the Church’s position on the morality of abortion or contraception (whether you agree with that position or not)?

It is hard to think that there is not somewhere in this Administration a voice (a nominally "Catholic" voice?) that is saying, "We’ll make them pay–with a double meaning to the words.

There is an old saying, "If it ain’t broke, don’t ‘fix’ it." Exactly what was "broke" in the outreach to the poor that goes on under the aegis of Catholic institutions that would require this kind of disregard for that institution’s moral stands?

Shortly before he gave his commencement address at the University of Notre Dame, President Obama was quoted in an interview as saying he "struggled" with the issue of abortion. I am presuming that his struggle (insofar as it ever really existed) is over; he evidently wishes to impose his conclusion on others, willy-nilly.

It is very sad and frustrating. It is even angering. Unfortunately, it is not confusing. It is simply politics.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


The controversy about the new restrictions being placed on the exercise of conscience by the Obama Administration's proposals for its health care law focuses on the areas of contraception, sterilization and abortion.  A particular fact in this controversy needs to be kept in mind.

Currently, the Archdiocese of Mobile has a health benefits plan for all employees through BlueCross BlueShield of Alabama.  In this plan, there are a number of specific exclusions listed.  Excluded from coverage are procedures like cosmetic surgery, hearing aids, for treatment of obesity, routine well child care, speech therapy...

Also explicitly listed are the following--
Services or expenses for elective abortions.
Oral contraceptives or other birth control methods except when they are prescribed by a physician for a medical condition and not for the purpose of birth control.
Services or expenses of any kind for or related to elective sterilizations.

We learn 2 things by this list--
1.  The issue of alternative uses for contraceptive drugs is taken into account in our current coverage.
2.  What the Catholic Church is asking is not that it be allowed to eliminate any coverage, but rather that it simply be allowed to continue its current health-care policy, which is in line with Catholic moral teaching.

The number of other exclusions makes it clear that there are limits to what can and should be covered by insurance.  Inevitably, there must be some out-of-pocket costs for health care, and these vary from corporation to corporation, from business to business, from church to church.   The idea of leveling the playing field with universal health care is a noble one, except when issues of conscience and moral teaching come into play.  Currently, health care for the Archdiocese of Mobile is not "universal," but then it is not "nothing," either...

Friday, February 3, 2012


Below is a letter I sent today to The Mobile Press-Register.  Whether or not they print it, you can at least see it here (and on my Facebook page):

It is sad that the Susan G Komen for the Cure Foundation has given in to societal and political pressure and has agreed to re-fund Planned Parenthood.  But the original issue to which they were responding should not leave our sight.  Planned Parenthood advertises services for women that it simply does not provide.  Being caught in this kind of lie ruined the political hopes of one-time presidential candidate Gary Hart (I know this is ancient history).  It also raises a fundamental question:  if Planned Parenthood has knowingly and falsely solicited support on the basis of non-existent services, it has violated a public trust.  One can fairly ask, what other deceptions is this organization involved in, and why?  Such behavior should be more than enough to limit or terminate public funds; how much more so should a private foundation be within its rights to curtail funding, as well?