As Obamacare gradually chokes out private health care in this country, the nation’s Catholic bishops seem surprised to find themselves more and more on the defensive. But the danger signs were obvious. And the solution is repeal.
Evidence continues to pile up that the huge expansion of government formally known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) — Obamacare, for short — poses huge risks to religious freedom, to the rights of conscience, and to our very lives.
Health and Human Services recently issued a directive dealing with so-called “preventive services for women” that are required to be covered under Obamacare. This reads like a Planned Parenthood wish list which, given HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ close ties to the abortion industry, is what it may in fact be.
The Sebelius directive starts off by mandating that all private insurance plans must pay 100 percent of the cost of all FDA-approved birth control (including abortion-causing devices and drugs like the IUD, ‘morning-after’ pills, and the drug Ella) along with surgical sterilization. The insurers are forbidden to charge the users of these deadly practices a co-pay, meaning that everyone who has health insurance will be collectively bearing the cost. (That includes you, since — in case you’ve forgotten — it is illegal under Obamacare not to buy health insurance.)
But Sebelius, who has been reprimanded by her bishop for advocating abortion, is not done with you yet. All insurers, her directive states, must also cover 100 percent of the cost of promoting early-term abortions, sterilizations, and contraception among all “women of reproductive capacity” through “education and counseling.”
In other words, she not only insists that you and I pay for immoral acts, she wants you and I to pay for the cost of convincing women to engage in them as well. Now that is hubris.
There is, in her directive, a tiny exemption for a “religious employer.” This is defined so narrowly, however, as to exclude the vast majority of faith-based organizations, including Catholic hospitals, universities, and service organizations that help millions every year.
Population Research Institute, as a lay Catholic organization, would certainly not qualify for an exemption. The fact that we at PRI — including the women who work for us — want nothing to do with this “reproductive health” coverage will make not one whit of difference.
In fact, I would be willing to bet that radical feminists like Sebelius, not to mention socialists in general, take positive pleasure in the idea that they can force PRI and other pro-life organizations to support, through our health insurance, the very culture of death against which we do battle every day.
And if we refuse to purchase such health insurance, then we will be treated as lawbreakers, fined, and forced to join the government-run system — which follows the same rules. There is no escape from the box canyon into which the Obama administration wants to herd us.
For those who are aware of how state-run health care programs in other countries recklessly disregard life, liberty and religious freedom in their pursuit of a Leftist agenda, all this will come as no surprise.
The same cannot be said of some American bishops who, enamored by the thought of “free health care for all,” turned a blind eye to the dangers posed by the federal government’s takeover of medicine. Abandoning the principle of subsidiarity, and expressing only carefully circumscribed reservations about abortion, conscience rights, and religious liberty, they largely bought into Obama’s scheme.
That the provisions of Obamacare are now being used to carry out a direct assault on the faith that they are entrusted to safeguard should not shock any of them. After all, even their limited concerns were largely ignored in the initial legislation. Why should they be respected now that it is (at least temporarily) the law of the land?
Of course I salute Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, for condemning Sebelius’ directive that “require[s] all … to carry health coverage that violates the deeply-held moral and religious convictions of many.”
And I am pleased that Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), appalled by these new HHS mandates, has introduced the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act in the House (H.R. 1179), and that Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) has sponsored a companion bill in the Senate (S. 1467). This measure will ensure that those who participate in the health care system “retain the right to provide, purchase, or enroll in health coverage that is consistent with their religious beliefs and moral convictions.”
This legislation will serve as a useful corrective to the HHS excesses — if it passes the Senate. But even if it is ultimately signed into law by Obama, this will not mark the end of the Church’s problems with Obamacare.
Indeed, the biggest battles are yet to come. As HHS begins to dictate what kinds of healthcare are permissible under what circumstances, Catholic and Christian hospitals will be forced to participate, in all likelihood, in acts which are indistinguishable from infanticide, euthanasia, and everything in between.
Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski’s warning may well become reality: “Catholic social and health-care providers — the largest private network in the nation — are at risk of being left out of all federal programs, despite their well-earned reputation for providing superlative service to the American public. … In effect, the Obama administration is telling these Catholic providers to surrender their conscience rights and their Catholic ethos or shut their doors.”
Unless the Catholic Church is content to become no more than what Jon Merrill calls “a secular-government contractor, a ward of the anti-Catholic State,” such battles will have to be fought again and again. And even this effort will only suffice to eliminate the worst abuses of Obamacare, not to create a health care system centered around the human person.
I am afraid that, unless Obamacare is repealed, the Church will be drawn willy-nilly into lobbying for ever more government subsidies for its health care institutions and for ever higher taxes on American families as a result.
If the traditional Catholic teaching on subsidiarity means anything, it means that the Catholic people themselves must take care of themselves and others, and that this must be done voluntarily with their own resources.
Bishop Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, recently celebrated the end of state funding for his charities, occasioned by his refusal to place adoptive children with homosexual couples. He said that government money had prevented his diocesan service organizations from manifesting a true Catholic ethos and that being “less dependent on government funding, … [his] Catholic Charities would be able to focus on being more Catholic and more charitable.”
If Bishop Paprocki is right – and I believe that he unquestionably is – then the nation’s Catholic bishops should not only work for the repeal of Obamacare, they should also reclaim their Catholic ethos by weaning themselves and their institutions away from federal funding altogether.