Most of my erstwhile readers know by now that the Obama Administration has issued an "interim final rule" requiring employers to cover all forms of contraception and sterilization in their health-care plans at no cost to the user. In an access of generosity, expressed by President Obama in a phone call to Archbishop Timothy Dolan, faith-based employers not classified as "religious" have been given one year to comply. Now according to the Administration's unprecedentedly narrow definition of "religious," only organizations that exclusively serve believers, and are staffed exclusively by believers, count as religious. The implications of such a definition are by far the greatest for Catholic charities, hospitals, and schools, most of which serve and/or employ many non-Catholics. Those Catholic organizations must soon pay to violate the teaching of the Church. And so, those who lead and work for such organizations will soon be forced to pay for the privilege of violating their consciences.
This naked, cynical attack on religious liberty has of course been approved by the "liberal" establishment, including the New York Times. Worst of all, it was announced and enthusiastically endorsed by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, a former governor of Kansas accustomed to wearing her Catholicism proudly. Such as it is. The worst enemy is the one within.
One is reminded of another power grab many decades ago. Not long after World War II, a German Lutheran pastor composed a poem about how Nazi oppression proceeded once Hitler took power:
First they came for the communists,and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.Then they came for the trade unionists,and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me,and there was no one left to speak out for me.
Michael Sean Winters and E.J. Dionne. If the U.S. bishops have their way, the matter will almost certainly reach the Supreme Court in due course. And some Republicans fondly speculate that this regulation will cost Obama something called "the Catholic vote." But that's dubious at best. Catholics who care deeply about this issue aren't the sort who voted, or would vote, for Obama anyway. They're a distinct minority of self-designated Catholics to begin with. Among nominal Catholics, liberal Catholics will fall into line behind the Democrats this fall, as they always do at election time.
Our defense against the erosion of religious liberty, then, will have to count not on the bulk of Catholics but on the bishops, the clergy, and the committed minority of faithful laity. We now have the advantage of clarity where before there was ambiguity and wiggle room. To join the battle, I urge all such laity to go here, sign the petition, and keep the ball rolling. And all faithful Catholic bloggers should keep on this matter.