Last Friday, the Catholic Health Association reversed a decision in February to support the Obama administration’s “compromise” on the HHS contraception mandate and its incredibly narrow religious exemption. As a few people have pointed out, including my friend Kathryn Jean Lopez at The Corner, the White House has not updated its website to reflect this change. The page is, of course, a blog post rather than a static page, and under normal circumstances bloggers might not get around to updating months-old posts with new data for a long time, if ever. Usually they will at least write a new post covering a significant change on an important topic, however, but the White House has posted nothing anywhere on its site about CHA’s change of position. A search on the site for “Catholic Health Association” produces nothing new since the February blog post, and 57 prior claims of support from CHA on ObamaCare.
That isn’t the only problem with the claims made in that February post. This is how the White House described the response to the HHS mandate “compromise” from CHA and other organizations, including two other Catholic groups:
This policy has earned praise from a wide range of individuals and organizations, including many organizations that will be directly affected by this policy. Here’s what people are saying:
Catholic Health Association
“The Catholic Health Association is very pleased with the White House announcement that a resolution has been reached that protects the religious liberty and conscience rights of Catholic institutions. The framework developed has responded to the issues we identified that needed to be fixed.” …
“Catholics United has been calling on both sides of this heated debate to work towards today’s win-win solution. President Obama has shown us that he is willing to rise above the partisan fray to deliver an actual policy solution that both meets the health care needs of all employees and respects the religious liberty of Catholic institutions.”
As we have seen, CHA is no longer “very pleased” and now insists that the so-called compromise is “unlikely to adequately meet the religious liberty concerns” of its members — all of the Catholic hospitals and clinics in the US. Catholics United’s position has not changed, but it’s also a liberal-activist lay organization that blasted the US Conference of Catholic Bishops for having the temerity to sue the Obama administration while religious persecution takes place in other places, too. (Unfortunately, I’m not kidding.) However, the White House site also still makes a claim for support from Catholic Charities:
“Catholic Charities USA welcomes the Administration’s attempt to meet the concerns of the religious community and we look forward to reviewing the final language. We are hopeful that this is a step in the right direction and are committed to continuing our work to ensure that our religious institutions will continue to be granted the freedom to remain faithful to our beliefs, while also being committed to providing access to quality healthcare for our 70,000 employees and their families across the country.”
Catholic Charities has not officially changed its position, a point which the organization takes care to make on its website. However, they also make it plain that they didn’t endorse the HHS mandate “compromise,” either:
We have not endorsed the accommodation to the HHS mandate that was announced by the Administration at that time. We unequivocally share the goal of the US Catholic bishops to uphold religious liberty and will continue to work with the USCCB towards that goal.
CCUSA is in the process of carefully reviewing the revised language released by the Administration and intends to take full advantage of the comment period to express our questions and concerns. Our focus remains on our ability to maintain our Catholic identity and religious liberties as an organization and to ensure continued access to quality care for our 70,000 employees and their families across the country.
Last Friday, Catholic Charities filed its official response to the rule change, and it’s crystal clear that they have deep reservations about the so-called compromise. The response combines comments from the initial September 2011 and March 2012 rule-making announcements, but we’ll focus on the latter, especially since it’s clear that the latter did nothing to allay the concerns of Catholic Charities on the former (emphases mine):
While CCUSA unquestionably is a religious employer, it may not satisfy the definition set forth in the August 3, 2011 Notice. Specifically, CCUSA probably meets the second prong of the definition – primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets (although we and our member agencies do not require employees to be Catholics) – and the fourth prong – organized as a non-profit under the identified provisions of the tax code. However, because our mission is to reduce poverty and provide assistance to the poor and needy regardless of their faith without proselytizing or attempting to convert people to our faith, we arguably do not meet the first prong – purpose is inculcating religious values – or the third prong – primarily serves persons who share religious tenets. The Interim Rule’s definition of religious employer has the absurd effect of punishing CCUSA and its member agencies for providing services to all who need them and requiring us to limit our hiring and our services to Catholics! Surely, that is not the intent of the federal issuing agencies and does nothing but harm to the poor and needy of our nation. Even more disturbing, the Interim Rule’s narrow definition would require CCUSA and its member agencies to provide contraceptive and abortion-related services to their employees in direct contravention of our Catholic teachings and faith. …
CCUSA cannot be required at any time either to fund or to provide information about where to obtain contraceptive and abortion-related services. In both cases, the actions would be completely counter to our religious beliefs and the teachings of the Catholic Church, and a direct violation of our religious liberties. If the federal government wants to provide these services, then it must find a way to fund them without using any funds of CCUSA, including but not limited to the insurance premiums CCUSA pays to its health care provider. Similarly, the health insurance issuer could not use any funds of CCUSA and the contraceptive and abortion-related services could not be included in CCUSA’s group health insurance plan.
The letter concludes:
As described above, CCUSA implores the issuing agencies to expand the definition of religious employer so that CCUSA and its member agencies, who unquestionably are religious organizations and who provide needed services to millions of people every day without regard to the recipients’ religion, are exempt. Anything short of this is a violation of our religious liberties.
I’m pretty sure that’s not a statement endorsing the White House compromise. The White House needs to update its website to cease in the false implication that these two Catholic organizations in any way support Barack Obama’s so-called “compromise” on the HHS contraception mandate.