Catholic bishops launch “Fortnight for Freedom” protest over HHS contraception mandate

posted at 1:51 pm on June 21, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops launched their two-week Fortnight for Freedom program today, their latest salvo in the battle between the Catholic Church and the Obama administration over the HHS contraception mandate.  The effort began at midnight this morning in Baltimore, with a Mass at the Basilica dedicated to the effort to overturn the mandate and protect religious liberty.  It won’t end there, though, as LifeNews reports:

The Fortnight for Freedom campaign the nation’s Catholic bishops started against the Obama HHS mandate, which forces religious groups to pay for abortions and birth control drugs for their employees, begins Thursday.

The United States Catholic bishops are readying American Catholics for what may be the largest campaign of civil disobedience since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. In addition to 12 lawsuits against the Obama Administration including 46 plaintiffs from dioceses, hospitals and universities, the US Catholic bishops are urging Catholics to openly defy the Obama HHS Mandate.

That’s actually a little premature.  Civil disobedience won’t take place until the Obama administration enforces the mandate, assuming it ever gets the chance to do so.  At that point, the civil disobedience will come from the Catholic organizations themselves, not from parishioners, in the form of refusing to comply or pay fines for non-compliance. The bishops are hoping that a massive protest now will force the Obama administration to reverse the mandate (or expand the religious exemption to all religious organizations) before civil disobedience becomes necessary.

To that end, the USCCB has begun sending letters out to parishioners in the Mass bulletins to get them involved in protests:

The most imminent threat to religious liberty—but not the only one—that the Catholic bishops have been protesting and seeking to draw public attention to is a regulation that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius issued under President Barack Obama’s health care law. The regulation will require virtually all health-care plans in the United States to cover, without any fees or co-pay, sterilizations, artificial contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs.

This month, the Catholic bishops are distributing an insert in church bulletins around the country pointing to the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s leadership of the Civil Rights Movement, and his defense of civil disobedience, noting that King, a Baptist minister, used the arguments of the Catholic Saints Augustine and Thomas Aquinas to justify peaceful resistance to unjust laws. In the bulletin insert, the bishops made clear that civil disobedience may be necessary when freedom of conscience is attacked.

“Some unjust laws impose such injustices on individuals and organizations that disobeying the laws may be justified,” says the bulletin insert.

“Every effort must be made to repeal them. When fundamental human goods, such as the right of conscience, are at stake, we may need to witness to the truth by resisting the law and incurring its penalties.”

The USCCB isn’t alone in this effort.  A Catholic lay group, The Catholic Association, has a new television ad to make their case explaining that religious outreach is religious expression:

The Hill takes note that the final image before the splash at the end is that of … Barack Obama:

An association of lay Catholics will air a nationwide ad against the Obama administration’s birth control coverage mandate on Fox News Thursday.

The move serves to highlight a two-week effort by U.S. Catholic bishops to build momentum against the mandate, which some have argued violates religious freedom. …

“We are Catholics. Together, we are the church. … We will defend our right to practice our faith free from government coercion,” the Catholic Association ad’s narrator says over a photo of President Obama.

The article also includes this non-sequitur:

The debate puts the church in a tough spot because polls show that the vast majority of Catholic women use and support birth control.

Er … so? Churches don’t poll on doctrine, but even that’s beside the point.  The issue here isn’t whether women should have access to birth control.  It’s whether religious organizations should be forced to provide contraception and sterilization, either by funding it or providing free access to it.  That is the issue at hand.

We will keep a close eye on the Fortnight.  This ad is very effective, and aims at the same motive behind the USCCB effort — which is to rally Catholics together to support religious liberty in the face of government intrusion.  How effective will this be?  Effective enough to have the Huffington Post and St. Louis Dispatch hyperventilating over the funding for the effort.

Stay tuned.

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I’m just pointing out that the hierarchy is always going to be very susceptible to appeals based on “social justice” and the like, because the Church’s mission, a subsidiary one, but an important one is the alleviation of misery.

JFKY on June 21, 2012 at 4:30 PM

True…who can forget the mess that became “Liberation Theology”

workingclass artist on June 21, 2012 at 4:34 PM

I’m not agitated, and it’s either a secret “people don’t tend to realize it” or it is it not “It’s not like it’s some kind of secret” which one is it in your parlance?

Something can not be a secret (meaning information that is purposefully kept from others) and still not be widely known.

Thus, while the U.S. Catholic Church does not try to keep its Bishops’ leftism a secret (in fact they are pretty open about it) – most Americans, even American Catholics, don’t realize it b/c they don’t follow politics and don’t pay attention to the political statements put out by the US Catholic Church.

As to the Parable, it did also connote being successful in life based on your talents – b/c you are not hiding them and are investing them wisely. I would also not read it as Christ saying “invest in stocks”, but it does pretty clearly indicate the idea that it is ok to work hard and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

I’m just pointing out that the hierarchy is always going to be very susceptible to appeals based on “social justice” and the like, because the Church’s mission, a subsidiary one, but an important one is the alleviation of misery.

JFKY on June 21, 2012 at 4:30 PM

And you argue they can never be conservative b/c of that? Thus, in your mind, there is no argument for conservatism and the free market being the best vehicle to alleviate misery? Do you see why I have a problem with your argument?

Or, are you arguing that the Priesthood just will never be able to understand those arguments and thus must always go for the easy redistribution argument made by socialists/leftists?

I would argue that if the Church thought a little harder about it, it would in fact be conservative and favor the free market as the most conducive to alleviating suffering in the world. That it doesn’t shows just how entrenched liberalism is in the church.

Monkeytoe on June 21, 2012 at 4:38 PM

Huh? Saying “I shouldn’t have to pay for that for you b/c it is against my religion” makes no sense b/c someone else who allegedly shares the religion does not live up to the religion’s mandates?

Is that the argument?

Monkeytoe on June 21, 2012 at 3:55 PM

No, and I’m not sure how you got that, so I’m not sure how to respond.

I guess let’s start with the supposed premise of forcing insurers to completely cover contraception in the first place. I’ve believed the whole idea is to make sure that women have access to contraception if they need it. Do we agree? If not, the rest of what I have to say might not apply.

IF SO, then citing the fact that a large number of Catholic women already use contraception is in fact admitting that a large number of Catholic women are ALREADY able to take as much contraception as they need.

Therefore, it would seem the entire initial premise of this contraception mandate is itself invalidated by this very fact that proponents of the mandate regularly cite.

Does that clear it up?

Esthier on June 21, 2012 at 4:40 PM

The Church is NEVER going to “Conservative”…OK, Jesus didn’t say, “To be rich is glorious.” It will always be uneasy around Capitalism and look askance at wealth. The Market Solution may be the best, cheapest, most transparent way of reducing poverty, but the Church is never going to be comfortable with it and it wouldn’t be much of a church if it were.

JFKY on June 21, 2012 at 4:17 PM

How do you square that exactly? “The Market Solution may be the best, cheapest, most transparent way of reducing poverty” but somehow the Church isn’t much of a church if it acknowledges this obvious fact?

Churches should be uncomfortable with the truth just because it doesn’t fit their preconceived notions of justice?

Am I misunderstanding you?

Furthermore, the Vatican isn’t exactly poor. It already knows full well how glorious riches are without it being carved into stone.

Esthier on June 21, 2012 at 4:49 PM

Therefore, it would seem the entire initial premise of this contraception mandate is itself invalidated by this very fact that proponents of the mandate regularly cite.

Does that clear it up?

Esthier on June 21, 2012 at 4:40 PM

Ummmm….no

Does the state have the right to dictate church doctrine or force a church to act against it’s doctrine?

That is the issue.

workingclass artist on June 21, 2012 at 4:51 PM

I guess let’s start with the supposed premise of forcing insurers to completely cover contraception in the first place. I’ve believed the whole idea is to make sure that women have access to contraception if they need it. Do we agree? If not, the rest of what I have to say might not apply.

IF SO, then citing the fact that a large number of Catholic women already use contraception is in fact admitting that a large number of Catholic women are ALREADY able to take as much contraception as they need.

Therefore, it would seem the entire initial premise of this contraception mandate is itself invalidated by this very fact that proponents of the mandate regularly cite.

Does that clear it up?

Esthier on June 21, 2012 at 4:40 PM

Yes, sorry. I read your comment as arguing the reverse.

Monkeytoe on June 21, 2012 at 5:02 PM

How do you square that exactly? “The Market Solution may be the best, cheapest, most transparent way of reducing poverty” but somehow the Church isn’t much of a church if it acknowledges this obvious fact?

Churches should be uncomfortable with the truth just because it doesn’t fit their preconceived notions of justice?

Am I misunderstanding you?

Esthier on June 21, 2012 at 4:49 PM

Exactly what I was trying to say in response to JFKY, but much better stated.

Monkeytoe on June 21, 2012 at 5:04 PM

Sorry but birth control should not be covered by insurance. That idea is ridiculous on it’s face. Why not tampons? Tylenol? Diapers? Toothpaste? In fact toothpaste is more expensive.

Everyone has “access”.

Haunches on June 21, 2012 at 6:17 PM

OT, I am always amazed that republicans/conservatives think that amnesty will earn us Hispanic votes by arguing “Hispanics are Catholic, therefore they are conservative”. Nonsense. Even Catholic Priests aren’t conservative, around 50% of self-identified Catholics in the US vote Dem. Nancy Pelosi is Catholic. So is John Kerry. So was Ted Kennedy. What makes one believe that a South American immigrant, coming from and raised in a socialist paradise, will suddenly start voting conservative b/c they are Catholic? It’s delusional.

Monkeytoe on June 21, 2012 at 4:05 PM

In general here, Monkeytoe, you’ve iterated what most the rest of us who are Catholics AND actually Conservative have considered and are concerned about as you are.

BUT referring to Pelosi, Kennedy (the Kennedys all, for that matter), along with (I’ll now add) John Kerry, Dick Durbin, Joe Biden, Kathleen Sebelius, etc….as “Catholics” is, well, it’s to cite illustrations of those people about whom I was earlier mentioning: the ones who use the denomination as club or membership but who work against the beliefs of the faith.

These are the “cafeteria catholis” like those abusing priest you mentioned who are catholic by nametag or membership but who are foremost Liberals with politics of the Left kind that they then demand be represented by the church with regard only to their egos, their “reputations” and public expectations of fame and such.

It’s not that they aren’t Catholics originally but that their abuses have indeed made them not so, while they cling to the label and ceremonies and use of all the trimmings.

Excommunication occurs by excommunicative deeds and beliefs. “Ipso facto,” by itself it is done.

Even Ted Kennedy knew his situation in reality when he approached his own death, illustrated by his last-minute written letter to the Pope trying to beg for some sort of special pass for his support of abortion. So our conscience really does let us know when we offend God and blaspheme.

Just because someone claims to be Catholic does not mean they are trustworthy, credible, sincere and obedient to Christ. It’s the people who are in positions of authority over others and who represent the faith to others, to the public, who I believe (and as per the Bible) bear the greater responsibility for their sins, because they mislead others. They’re the ones who can expect that “millstone around their necks” that we are told is their punishment as they have determined to mislead the trusting astray.

Lourdes on June 21, 2012 at 6:31 PM

Monkeytoe on June 21, 2012 at 4:05 PM

But I don’t think that most of us expect the Bishops to be necessarily Conservative. I actually expect them to be far more Liberal than I am and most Catholics I know well, closely, do, too.

Lourdes on June 21, 2012 at 6:32 PM

I do note that Christ taught a parable about a man investing wisely with what God gave him and being successful, which Christ seemed to think was good. But never taught a single parable about the wonders of big gov’t.

Monkeytoe on June 21, 2012 at 4:23 PM

It’s important to keep in mind that the parables have nothing to do with the temporal matters Jesus used to make his point. They are all about God’s love and the Kingdom of God and what it takes to enter. Jesus just explained it in terms that people could understand. So there’s no reason why Jesus would opine on the wonders of big government.

Trafalgar on June 21, 2012 at 6:33 PM

This is a declaration of war.

njcommuter on June 21, 2012 at 8:03 PM

The problem with the Bishops is that while they recognize the rule as an illegal infringement on religious freedom, they only seek relief for “religious institutions” like the ones they operate. Lay businesses would be left to obey the illegal rule.

That’s morally wrong. If the rule is evil, and it is, it should and must be repealed in its entirety, NOT just for a select few. The First Amendment doesn’t grant any special status to “religious institutions,” it restricts Congress from infringing the rights of anyone.

As usual, the Bishops seek their own rents and leave everyone else to fend for themselves. And then they wonder why Catholics become disaffected.

Adjoran on June 21, 2012 at 3:20 PM

Bizarre. How does the Catholic Church have any authority over private “lay” businesses, or the legal standing to sue for them as a plaintiff?

Very short sighted, probably because of an adolescent resentment towards the Church.

If the Catholic institutions win the suit, that sets precedent “case law” for others to win suits.

dukecitygirl on June 21, 2012 at 8:12 PM

Not sure what your question is here about Henry the XIII (I think you mean VIII?). I have read Dante. I don’t disagree with what you are saying. The point is that a lot of damage was done to the Church and a LOT of cleaning up needs to be done. You can’t just say “the Church is trying” and leave it at that. It’s an ongoing battle.

Monkeytoe on June 21, 2012 at 4:08 PM

Yes, I understood his comment to mean Henry VIII, but I think you’re being deliberately obtuse when you claim you don’t understand his question.

Henry VIII declared himself head of the Church of England and persecuted the Church just because he wanted a divorce.

Many caved in to him and are now what we call “Protestants”. So, really, we’re looking at a rather inauspicious birth of a religion: because a king wanted to divorce his wife and marry another woman.

And yes, the Church is in a battle. It always has been and the Church on earth is called the “Church Militant”. In Purgatory, it is the “Church Suffering”. And in heaven, it is the “Church Triumphant”.

dukecitygirl on June 21, 2012 at 8:18 PM

And yes, the Church is in a battle. It always has been and the Church on earth is called the “Church Militant”. In Purgatory, it is the “Church Suffering”. And in heaven, it is the “Church Triumphant”.

dukecitygirl on June 21, 2012 at 8:18 PM

Amen

workingclass artist on June 21, 2012 at 8:40 PM

BUT referring to Pelosi, Kennedy (the Kennedys all, for that matter), along with (I’ll now add) John Kerry, Dick Durbin, Joe Biden, Kathleen Sebelius, etc….as “Catholics” is, well, it’s to cite illustrations of those people about whom I was earlier mentioning: the ones who use the denomination as club or membership but who work against the beliefs of the faith.

These are the “cafeteria catholis” like those abusing priest you mentioned who are catholic by nametag or membership but who are foremost Liberals with politics of the Left kind that they then demand be represented by the church with regard only to their egos, their “reputations” and public expectations of fame and such.

Lourdes on June 21, 2012 at 6:31 PM

that’s fine to argue, but there are far more “cafeteria catholics” in the US then non-cafeteria Catholics. And it does not effect my point that simply being Catholic does not lead one to be conservative – the way those pushing amnesty claim of Hispanics. That b/c they are Catholic, they will vote conservative. That is nonsense, there is absolutely no factual basis for making the argument.

As far as “excommunication by deed” – that is fine and dandy, but the church allows these politicians who are allegedly excommunicated by deed to run around calling themselves Catholic, go to Mass, take Communion and the Bishops meet with them and treat them as good, practicing Catholics. So, as far as the public is concerned, and most other Catholics are concerned, and apparently as far as the Church itself is concerned, they are Catholics.

So, if the Church itself does not treat them as “excommunicated by deeds” I don’t see how your coming to that conclusion holds any weight.

regardless, it does not change my point. If every Cafeteria Catholic is excommunicated by deed, then the actual “Catholics” remaining is a very small cohort.

Monkeytoe on June 22, 2012 at 7:52 AM

In general here, Monkeytoe, you’ve iterated what most the rest of us who are Catholics AND actually Conservative have considered and are concerned about as you are.

By the way, I am Catholic. Just b/c I have criticism of the Church does not make me less Catholic. I have cousins who are Priests. I have an uncle-in-law who dropped out of Seminary, but still is very close with a number of Priests.

So, I am fairly knowledgeable about the Church. No expert, by any means, but hardly ignorant.

Monkeytoe on June 22, 2012 at 7:54 AM

Yes, I understood his comment to mean Henry VIII, but I think you’re being deliberately obtuse when you claim you don’t understand his question.

Henry VIII declared himself head of the Church of England and persecuted the Church just because he wanted a divorce.

Many caved in to him and are now what we call “Protestants”. So, really, we’re looking at a rather inauspicious birth of a religion: because a king wanted to divorce his wife and marry another woman.

And yes, the Church is in a battle. It always has been and the Church on earth is called the “Church Militant”. In Purgatory, it is the “Church Suffering”. And in heaven, it is the “Church Triumphant”.

dukecitygirl on June 21, 2012 at 8:18 PM

I wasn’t being obtuse. What does any of this have to do with our current conversation? How is the persecution of Catholics under Henry VIII different than Catholic persecution of protestants or the Inquisition?

And, again, how is it relevant to our current discussion?

Monkeytoe on June 22, 2012 at 7:56 AM

Bizarre. How does the Catholic Church have any authority over private “lay” businesses, or the legal standing to sue for them as a plaintiff?

Very short sighted, probably because of an adolescent resentment towards the Church.

If the Catholic institutions win the suit, that sets precedent “case law” for others to win suits.

dukecitygirl on June 21, 2012 at 8:12 PM

I think the point being made is that the Church for years has supported big-gov’t entitlement programs and various socialist schemes. And, the Church generally is in favor of some type of national health plan. Thus, the Church generally would support Obamacare if it’s own ox wasn’t being gored. Which, in my book, is a fair criticism of the Church. If you advocate for bigger gov’t and more gov’t control over everything, as the Church has done for years, don’t be surprised when that gov’t turns on you and wants to control you.

Now, I support the Church for the principal involved, but I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the Church as this was the inevitable result of their advocacy for bigger gov’t. The bigger gov’t gets, the more likely it will seek to control religious institutions.

Monkeytoe on June 22, 2012 at 8:00 AM

It’s important to keep in mind that the parables have nothing to do with the temporal matters Jesus used to make his point. They are all about God’s love and the Kingdom of God and what it takes to enter. Jesus just explained it in terms that people could understand. So there’s no reason why Jesus would opine on the wonders of big government.

Trafalgar on June 21, 2012 at 6:33 PM

There are actually many different readings of this parable. But I think the idea that one should use one’s gifts is a fairly common one.

Regardless, Jesus could very easily have preached – “everyone should pool their resources, to each what he needs, from each what he can give” or something similar to indicate that the “way to heaven” was through socialism or giving gov’t the power and ability to care for the sick. He did not. He discussed instead what each individual should do.

thus, Bishops should keep their noses out of gov’t affairs (in so far as those affairs do not affect the church) and worry about tending to the individuals in their flocks. The Bishops are completely misguided in thinking that they are doing God’s work by encouraging the gov’t to be more socialist. To my thinking, they are in fact doing the opposite of God’s work b/c they are encouraging sloth and indifference among man. Sloth for individuals who become slaves to welfare and indifference of everyone else to the plight of the needy as everyone believes it is now gov’t's responsibility.

The defense of Bishops being liberal, to me, is completely wrongheaded and seems to indicate, to me, that the people espousing such defense do not truly believe in conservatism.

Or don’t understand conservatism.

Monkeytoe on June 22, 2012 at 8:14 AM

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