As others have noted, the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops has now weighed in.
In an “urgent” call to action bulletin insert, the USCCB called the new federal regulations proposed by Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, a potential “unprecedented threat to individual and institutional religious freedom.” The bulletin insert also included the URL of a page on the USCCB website that allows an individual to send an email message to Ms. Sebelius protesting her proposed regulations as well as a page containing the comments the USCCB has submitted to HHS. Under the proposed regulations, the USCCB claims that Jesus would not qualify for a religious exemption.
In this digital age, perhaps this is how the nation’s Catholic bishops can best motivate their flock to act, as President Obama would say, by “taking off the bedroom slippers and putting on the marching boots” to join in fighting this potential unprecedented threat.
But, should Catholics be optimistic?
After all, for all of the USCCB’s “dancing with wolves,” what has its approach achieved with the Obama administration?
- The White House has moved away from upholding the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage at the Federal level as the union of a man and a woman, and bolstering the rights of states not to recognize same-sex unions performed elsewhere.
- The end of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
- And, now, the Sebelius’ regulations that include contraceptives and abortofacients.
Perhaps this “behind-the-scenes, make nice” approach to negotiating with the Obama administration is wrongheaded.
Why doesn’t the USCCB come forward into the public arena—using cable television and talk radio venues—and challenge those, like Ms. Sebelius and those who hold her definition of “Catholic,” to defend how it is possible as Catholics to propose federal regulations that are antithetical to Church teaching? Should catechizing the nation not be the USCCB’s first priority?
“Taking the case to the public” undoubtedly would allow the USCCB to educate the public. At the same time, it might also generate greater attention and respect for Church teaching as well as put more boots on the ground.