Obama Rule

The latest attack on constitutional rights by Obama administration is a requirement that forces employers to purchase health insurance coverage for their employees that includes contraceptive drugs and abortifiacients. As a finger in the eye of the Catholic Church and other religious groups opposed to contraception and abortion, and with a least a figurative smirk on his face, President Obama magnanimously exempted from the mandate any religious employer which serves only those of the same religion. Of course, that exemption is so narrowly drawn as to exclude almost any church performing charitable works in our society. Catholic hospitals, orphanages, social services agencies, night shelters, maternity homes, and a host of other Catholic charitable works serve people regardless of their religious affiliation.

Initially, some may have naively thought that the president’s religious isolation and lack of knowledge of the vast charitable operations of churches and religious groups in the United States, and the profound social benefit that those good works provide to all in American society, may have been a reason that he imposed the mandate on religious groups so broadly. But obviously he does know that, and knows as well as anyone else that his requirement creates an ethical and moral crisis. The bishops, including Archbishop Dolan who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, have been pushing back in op-ed pieces in newspapers and from the pulpit, but the president has not changed his position. The whole matter is instructive.

First, Barack Obama without question is an agent of the left and its progressive (read: anti-religion) big government agenda. If anyone was so gullible as to think that he was a friend of any religion, especially any religion that opposes abortion, contraception, and same sex marriage, they should know by now that they were sadly mistaken. For those Catholics who voted for the president even though they knew that he supported abortion on demand, even partial birth abortion, as well as same sex marriage, and even though they knew or could easily have known that he has little respect for federalism and desires a wide and powerful central government on the European socialist model, they and their fellow Catholics are reaping the whirlwind of their foolish action. That whirlwind has now blown into chancery offices around the country as a reminder of the danger of the leftist secular agenda. The bishops may be finally waking up.

Second, the mandate in question is not just improper for the Catholic Church and other religious groups, it is improper for any individual employer for the same reasons that it is opposed by the bishops. It is unethical and unconstitutional to require citizens to violate their religious and ethical beliefs. The bishops should oppose the mandate because it is immoral per se, and not just because it directly affects institutions of the Church. It is immoral for the government to directly promote contraception and abortion, and it is immoral to force individuals to pay for that promotion. The bishops too often think that it is enough to obtain legal exemptions for the Church and its institutions but not its members from bad and immoral laws. That is not wise. As Franklin said, if we don’t hang together, we will surely hang separately. We have not hung together, and President Obama and his friends on the secular left are taking advantage of the lack of Catholic unity.

Third, the op-ed articles and statements which the bishops have published on the mandate are from bishops who are relatively new to the episcopacy. Their courage is welcome, and we pray that they continue to speak up. But they inherit the unfortunate consequences of a long history of uncritical support by some current and many former bishops for a powerful central government with excessive and instrusive powers over individual citizens. The bishops generally have been unqualified supporters of the modern welfare state that the United States has become. In that role, the episcopacy in this country has been, too many times and for too long, the handmaiden of the Democratic Party. The old joke that the bishops have been the prayer wing of that party, is not without some historical basis. 

It is noteworthy that only a minority of the bishops opposed the president’s health care law not only because it provides for payment of abortion with tax money, but also because it violates the principal of subsidiarity. The majority seemed ready to welcome what is the largest expansion of the federal government in history if only the “abortion problem” was solved. But the unqualified support for virtually every government expanding entitlement program during the last 70 years has a price tag that keeps rising. As anyone can see in Europe, the massive welfare state finally reaches the point where it cannot support itself. Even if entitlement programs were in some cases begun in good faith and not for naked political gain, when there are more who take and use than those who work and support, the destructive financial the consequences should not be surprising.

The modern secular welfare state breeds dependency and corrupts its citizens with its anonymous largess with no accountability other than unconditional loyalty to a central government that doles out that largess. Because the modern welfare state must promise more and more benefits to a population that becomes less and less industrious and more dependent on those benefits, it is ultimately not economically sustainable. The predictable result is a declining standard of living for all, but especially for the poor, and increasing social disorder. That would be the poor whom the bishops want to help, and the social disorder that they want to avoid.

But the equally insidious result of the massive secular welfare state is that it cannot tolerate religion any more than could those other massive welfare states such as the Soviet Union and Communist China, or secular Europe for that matter. And that is why the current president and purveyor of the massive secular welfare state is a threat to the nation and the Church. And that is why Archbishop Dolan and his fellow bishops need to see the president’s latest health care mandate as not just an isolated over reach, but yet another example of the secular left’s determination to control religion and to banish it form the democratic and social arena, and diminish its effect in our society.

Finally, in their justified fight against President Obama’s latest assault on religious liberty, the bishops would do well to meditate on the fact that many of the most prominent agents in American government and society for the secular leftist agenda are Catholics, including Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and the chief enforcer for the president’s insurance mandate. That meditation should also include the fact that these Catholic politicians in most cases owe their political positions and power to Catholic voters.

Robert J. Gieb has practiced probate law in Ft. Worth, Texas for forty years. He is local counsel for Catholics United For Life of North Texas.