Monthly Archives: January 2012

Kathleen Sebelius and her HHS regulations: A violation of religious liberty and inconsistent with the Catholic faith…

Evidently, President Obama has allowed his minion, U.S. Secretary for Health and Human Services (HHS), Kathleen Sebelius, to set forth his administration’s argument concerning religious liberty for the 2012 election.  Today, Ms. Sebelius announced that HHS would implement regulations mandating health insurance coverage for sterilizations and  contraception, including some that cause abortion.

Interestingly, there was a “compromise”: To allow religious groups one year to comply with the regulation.

The Motley Monk has been chronicling the development of this story, hoping that Ms. Sebelius—who is Catholic—would eventually have an “Emmaus moment” and see the light.   Instead, with this decision, she remains steadfastly aligned with the U.S. pro-abortion lobby.

One can only guess why Ms. Sebelius does so.

Perhaps the exemption is designed to allow the regulation to be litigated, as Belmont Abbey College has already brought suit.  The list of defendants include: the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: U.S. Department of Labor; U.S. Department of Treasury; and, the departmental secretaries.

 

In a News 14 Report late last year, the President of Belmont Abbey College, Dr. William Thierfelder, said the healthcare mandate is a violation of the institution’s constitutional rights and religious values:

This is a much bigger case and this effects every American.  In other words, if they can do this to us they can do this to everybody.

Thierfelder said Belmont Abbey College will not comply with the mandate and because of noncompliance, the institution will receive recurring fines.  This potentially could cause Belmont Abbey College to close.

Perhaps the reason Ms. Sebelius allowed the one year exemption was that she knows it is illegal, violating the First Amendment, and is likely to be overturned by the Courts sometime in late 2012 or 2013.  That would allow the Obama administration to promote its pro-abortion credentials during the election while at the same time tell pro-life forces that the matter is being litigated and, while it is, the status quo remains in place

Forget the truth.  What matters are the votes, pro-abortion and pro-life.  Maybe the truth is that today Ms. Sebelius “split the difference” to win some votes for her mentor.

 

To read the HHS Secretary’s statement, click on the following link:
http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2012pres/01/20120120a.html

To read about the Belmont Abbey College suit, click on the following link:
http://www.foxcharlotte.com/news/politics/Belmont-Abbey-College-Sues-Federal-Government–134156948.html

To see the News 14 Report, click on the following link:
http://triad.news14.com/content/local_news/649904/belmont-abbey-college-sues-over-mandate-to-require-contraceptive-coverage

 

Pope Benedict: Religious Freedom Under Threat in America

 

Pope Benedict, judging from this address on January 19 to American bishops in Rome, apparently understands the high stakes in the outcome of this year’s election, even if many American Catholics do not:

Dear Brother Bishops,

I greet all of you with fraternal affection and I pray that this pilgrimage of spiritual renewal and deepened communion will confirm you in faith and commitment to your task as Pastors of the Church in the United States of America. As you know, it is my intention in the course of this year to reflect with you on some of the spiritual and cultural challenges of the new evangelization.

One of the most memorable aspects of my Pastoral Visit to the United States was the opportunity it afforded me to reflect on America’s historical experience of religious freedom, and specifically the relationship between religion and culture. At the heart of every culture, whether perceived or not, is a consensus about the nature of reality and the moral good, and thus about the conditions for human flourishing. In America, that consensus, as enshrined in your nation’s founding documents, was grounded in a worldview shaped not only by faith but a commitment to certain ethical principles deriving from nature and nature’s God. Today that consensus has eroded significantly in the face of powerful new cultural currents which are not only directly opposed to core moral teachings of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but increasingly hostile to Christianity as such. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Gingrich, Media Bias and the Mainstream Media as Morality Police

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Gingrich turned the tables effectively on John King of CNN last night at the final debate prior to the South Carolina primary on Saturday.  Here is the transcript:

JOHN KING: And just as speaker Gingrich surged into contention here in South Carolina, a direct fresh character attack on the Speaker.

And Mr Speaker, I want to start with that this evening.

As you know, your ex-wife gave an interview to ABC News and another interview with The Washington Post. And this story has now gone viral on the internet.

In it, she says that you came to her in 1999, at a time when you were having an affair. She says you asked her, sir, to enter into an open marriage.

Would you like to take some time to respond to that?

GINGRICH: No, but I will.

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office. And I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Is that all you want to say, sir?

GINGRICH: Let me finish.

KING: Please.

GINGRICH: Every person in here knows personal pain. Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things. To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary a significant question for a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine.

(APPLAUSE)

My – my two daughters – my two daughters wrote the head of ABC and made the point that it was wrong, that they should pull it, and I am frankly astounded that CNN would take trash like that and use it to open a presidential debate.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: As you noted, Mr Speaker, this story did not come from our network. As you also know, it is a subject of conversation on the campaign. I’m not – I get your point. I take your point.

GINGRICH: John, John, it was repeated by your network. You chose to start the debate with it. Don’t try to blame somebody else. You and your staff chose to start this debate with it.

(APPLAUSE)

Let me be quite clear. Let me be quite clear. The story is false. Every personal friend I have who knew us in that period said the story was false. We offered several of them to ABC to prove it was false. They weren’t interested because they would like to attack any Republican. They’re attacking the governor. They’re attacking me. I’m sure they’ll presently get around to Senator Santorum and Congressman Paul.

I am tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans.

(APPLAUSE) →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Another Win For Governor Quinn: Illinois Has the Lowest Credit Rating of all the States!

 

I have designated Governor Quinn of my homestate of Illinois the worst governor in the country.  Not content to rest on his laurels, Governor Quinn has continued to misgovern the Land of Lincoln with the skill of a spendthrift who is afraid that he has a cent somewhere that remains unspent.  Such diligence will always reap a reward, and one has now come to Quinn:

Illinois, unable to solve its long-running financial problems, was given the lowest credit rating of any state in the country by Moody’s Investors Service on Friday, a move that will increase costs to taxpayers.

A second agency, Standard & Poor’s, left its Illinois rating unchanged but warned of a negative outlook that could lead to a downgrade in the future. A day earlier, Fitch Ratings also left the rating unchanged and declared a stable outlook.

Lower credit ratings generally mean the state winds up paying more interest when it borrows money by selling bonds.

Both Moody’s and S&P said they are troubled by Illinois’ failure to balance its budget and strengthen government pension systems, although a tax increase and other measures have helped.

Moody’s cited “weak management practices” and a recent legislative session that “took no steps to implement lasting solutions.”

Moody’s now rates Illinois “A2,” below any other state. Only one state, California, qualifies for the next-highest rating. All the rest are ranked higher. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Live-Blogging the CNN South Carolina Debate

With the field reduced to four and the possibility that this is the last significant Republican primary debate, the moment appeared ripe for a live blog. Feel free to discuss in the comments.

By way of disclaimers, I’ll mention that I dislike all of the candidates to varying degrees and that Macallan’s 12 may or may not be influencing some of my remarks:

8:05: CNN says we will have audience questions. Oh, great.

8:07: Romney mentions how long he has been married and his kids. I wonder if that remark was influenced by any recent events…

8:09: And CNN leads off with the ex-wife story. Newt blames CNN and the news media for lowering the level of discourse; says the story is false. Not clear what part is false, though. Update: The ‘open marriage’ part.

 8:13: What do the other candidates think about the ex-wife story: Santorum says personal life is part of what people examine. Romney says get to the ‘real’ issues. Ron Paul disses media, says nevertheless he’s proud of his long marriage. Not sure what the best tack is there. I like Santorum’s.

8:15: Ron Paul, to the shock of all observers, says that we need to get the government out of the way.

 8:17: Bain Capital. Newt says the business model was leverage, cash out, and leave’em. Romney responds with: let’s get America working again! Then, as the moderator presses, that ‘free enterprise works’! Then describes job creation record at Bain again….mentions Dominoes pizza…”there’s nothing wrong with profit”. “Freedom makes America strong!” I suppose we are lucky Newt didn’t respond to the initial question with “Marriage is great!”; “Marriage works!”; and “Marriage makes America strong!”

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Newt Is (or at Least Was) Kind of a Jerk

Marianne Gingrich’s claim that Newt wanted an open marriage is the news story of the day.  In all honesty, this doesn’t tell us that much more about Newt than we didn’t know already.  Some have already said that this is no worse than simply cheating on your spouse, and, politically speaking, this might not have any impact at all on the race.

That being the case, it does serve as a forceful reminder that Newt Gingrich is kind of a jerk.  In fact, I think that if his ex-wife’s claims are true (and admittedly, we don’t know for certain), then it is even a bit creepier than just having an affair.  It indicates that Newt is not that concerned about the feelings of other people.  Based on what we know of the man, he gives off a vibe that he views other people as simply pawns.  While he would hardly be the first such personality to become president, it doesn’t mean we should be so flippant about allowing such a man to obtain the highest office in the land.

Now, we know that Newt has had a conversion, and that people change over the course of their lives.  Perhaps the Newt from the mid 1990s is not the same man that he is today.  We can’t really judge the state of a man’s soul, and I don’t propose to do that now.  But we have to consider a couple of things.  First of all, as we are all too well aware, simply becoming a Catholic does not make one a saint.  We are abundantly aware that we are all sinners, and though we all hope that a closer relationship to Jesus fostered through the Church makes us better people, it’s still a struggle.

More importantly, this didn’t happen when Newt was a young man.  Newt was nearly two decades older than I am right now when this all happened.  Yes, men older than Newt have had conversions of the heart.  But a conversion is not necessarily a transformation into a completely new man.

I don’t know what kind of person Newt is right now.  But I know what he has been, and I’m not going to turn a blind eye to an individual’s character simply because people on the other side of the aisle are all too willing to do so.

Vatican Archivists Discover Unfinished Papal Encyclical!!

(cross-posted at Acts of the Apostasy)

(AoftheAP) Calling it the “most exciting archival discovery in the post-Reformation era”, Vatican archivists have announced that in October 2011, they discovered what they believe to be the unfinished 13th Rosary Encyclical penned by Pope Leo XIII.  Pope Leo XIII, who had a strong devotion to our Blessed Mother,  issued 12 encyclicals on the rosary between the years 1883-1898.  It is believed this newly found incomplete one was started several months before he died in July 1903.

“We’ve translated the text,” Fr. Hugo Thistleway said at yesterday’s press conference, “and it’s entitled Decursu Saeculorum, taken from the first sentence of the encyclical: ‘Decursu saeculorum, sanctissimam Matrem pietatis manifestatio per fideles in recitatione a sanctissimo Rosario nuncupatur’, which translates to: ‘Throughout the ages, devotion to our Blessed Mother has been expressed by the faithful in the recitation of the Holy Rosary’.”

In all, the encyclical totals six and a half pages, and is clearly incomplete.  But its content has caused an immediate  controversy at the Holy See, as Pope Leo XIII indicated in very precise language how the rosary is to be prayed.  Namely, that the only means by which to receive grace and indulgences from recitation, is to pray the rosary in a counter-clockwise direction.  According to the encyclical, praying the rosary in a clockwise direction would ‘bear no fruit and Heaven would be closed to the petitioner and his pleas’ (‘…fructum nequaquam facient, quod caelum claudatur, et preces eius et actori.’).

“Due to its incompleteness, there is uncertainty as to the encyclical’s binding nature upon the faithful,” Thistleway said.  “But make no mistake, this is huge.”

Fr. Thistleway demonstrated Pope Leo XIII’s instructions to those gathered at the press conference.  “If you hold out the rosary at the crucifix, and let the beads hang down, what the encyclical is saying is that the first decade must be the one to the left of the crucifix, the second decade to the left of the first, and so on, all away around until you return to the crucifix.  Starting to the right would be wrong – not necessarily sinful, at least according to several moral theologians I’ve spoken to, but wrong nonetheless.” →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Breaking News: Perry Out

Inevitable, but it’s still a bummer.

Well this should be a slow news day, what with Santorum being declared the winner in Iowa, Perry resigning, and the Marianne Gingrich interview.

Rick Santorum Won Iowa

After a recount, the vote tally from the Iowa Caucuses show that Rick Santorum defeated Mitt Romney by a whopping 34 votes.  Previously Romney had been declared the winner by eight votes.

In the grand scheme of thing, this means little.  It doesn’t change the delegate vote one iota.  It does mean that the talking point that Romney won both Iowa and New Hampshire needs to come to a halt.  It is funny to read stories about this development suggesting that the Iowa caucuses were a split a decision, yet when Romney was considered to have won there was no such talk.  He might as well have won by 8,000 votes judging by some of what was said in the aftermath.

I do note that there seems to be a lot of confusion about the vote tally.

The deadline for final certification of the results was Wednesday. Party officials said eight precincts failed to follow the rules and fill out the official forms on caucus night, meaning those results can never be certified, while other precincts turned in forms that didn’t meet the legal requirements.

And yet we continue to allow this state to have over-sized influence on the nomination process.  Are we prepared to just ignore Iowa yet?

Anyone Else Noticing that Romney is a Lousy Politician?

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Romney, a/k/a the Weathervane, is a lousy politician.  I do not mean that in a pejorative sense but in a descriptive sense.  Being a politician is a job that requires a certain set of skills and abilities.  The Weathervane is giving every sign of not being very good at being a politician.  Current evidence of this includes the following:

1.  The Bain Mess-The Weathervane had to know that the Obama campaign would use his work at Bain Capital against him, but he seemed completely flat-flooted when Gingrich raised the issue.  The responses from the Romney campaign thus far have been lacklustre.

2.  Tax Returns-Did the Weathervane really think that he could go through this campaign without releasing his tax returns?  Now he says that he will release his current tax return sometime in the Spring.  He has also sheepishly stated that his tax rate is around 15% due to his income largely being from investments.  His tax returns should have been released months ago.  By now they would be an old issue and harmless to him.  Instead, his stubborness about releasing the tax returns has transformed a non or minor issue into one that could hurt him badly.  Idiocy.

3.  Out of Touch-Talking about his speaking engagements in 2010 and early 2011 the Weathervane said that he made very little money on them.  The very little money was 374K.  Romney might as well hang a sign from his neck stating “out of touch rich guy”. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Ron Paul’s Foreign Policy: Golden Rule or Relativism?

If you move about those regions of the internets in which righteous display their moral superiority by posting sixty second video clips showing just how bad their opponents are, you have probably seen headlines lately along the lines of “Christians Boo Jesus” or “Republicans Mock Golden Rule”. Of course, one hardly needs to watch the clip, because in the dualism that is politicization, everyone already knows that they’re right and their opponents are wrong. But after the fifth or sixth iteration, I had to go ahead watch Ron Paul (who else) present his Golden-Rule based foreign policy to boos. Here’s the clip in question:

Or if, like me, you tend not to watch posted videos, here’s the money quote:

“My point is, that if another country does to us what we do to others, we aren’t going to like it very much. So I would say maybe we ought to consider a golden rule in foreign policy. We endlessly bomb these other countries and then we wonder why they get upset with us?”

Now, this sounds superficially high minded, and some people who really are high minded seem lured by it. Kyle, who has an genuine and expansive desire to understand “the other” has his dander up and says: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

The War on the Drug War

I caught a little of the Mark Levin show tonight, and he had a Ron Paul supporter on his show.  He gave the gentleman a good deal of time – two segments in fact – and was actually gracious to the caller.  The Paul supporter spent most of his time talking about the seminal issue of our day, the one issue that is truly on the mind of every American voter: the drug war.

There are legitimate reasons to oppose the prohibition on drugs.  I don’t particularly agree with this philosophy, but it’s not outside the bounds of reasonable discourse.  What baffles me is the attention that libertarians pay to what is a fairly minor issue.  We are still suffering economically, with an unemployment rate that is hovering at about 8.5 percent, and a real unemployment rate that is significantly higher.  Our national debt is out of control.  Soon Obamacare will be fully implemented, thus making the debt problem and our health care even worse.  Meanwhile, President Obama shrugs off the Constitution like it is some dusty old piece of parchment in making “recess” appointments, and has an Attorney General who continues to obfuscate about a horribly botched gun operation in Mexico.  And yet this guy wanted to talk about the drug war.

Sometime ago I once watched a Libertarian convention, and watched speaker after speaker rail about the criminalization of marijuana.  I had the same reaction then as I did this evening: this is really the hill you want to die on?  Sure, if you want to make this a part of your platform, knock your socks off.  But to make this one of the focal points of your outrage against the government?  Really?

We all have issues that we care about more deeply than do other people.  It just strikes me that libertarians would be better off focusing their attention on matters that are a tad more relevant to people living in the real world.

 

Aligning with Catholic identity: An embrace or artful strategic communications and public relations?

With the 2012 election year well underway, the Obama administration’s intransigence concerning healthcare entitlements as these impact religious institutions, in general, and Catholic hospitals and educational institutions, in particular, continues to boil on the backburner.

At issue are some of the regulations concerning the implementation of the 2009 Obamacare law issued by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, and scheduled to take effect on August 1, 2012.  Especially disconcerting for the U.S. Catholic Church is the particular regulation requiring new insurance plans for women to cover all contraceptives approved  by the Food and Drug Administration with no co-pays or other cost sharing.


While the regulation provides an exemption for some religious employers, it is not broad enough to cover Roman Catholic and some Protestant institutions.  And even though religious organizations can be exempted from the regulation, the organization’s purpose must be to inculcate religious values, it must primarily employ and serve people holding the  same religious beliefs, and be considered a nonprofit organization under provisions of the tax code that cover churches and religious orders.  Furthermore, the exemption applies only to employer-sponsored health coverage, not the individual plans that some colleges and universities offer to  students.

Commenting on this regulation last October 5, the Chair of the U.S.  Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, said:

The HHS’s “religious employer exemption” is so  extremely narrow that it protects almost no one.  Jesus himself, or the Good Samaritan of his famous parable, would not qualify  as “religious enough” for the exemption, since they insisted on helping people  who did not share their view of God.

The reason this issue continues to boil on the backburner during this election year is that the nation’s Catholic colleges and universities may have awakened from their sleepy “catholic” identity to protest that, as Catholic institutions of higher education, they would be required to offer health insurance that covers those contraceptives and abortofacients despite the fact that Church teaching is opposed to them.

In November, 2011, Belmont Abbey College filed a lawsuit, seeking an injunction to keep the federal government from implementing the regulation.

The President of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, Michael Galligan-Stierle, said: “Conscience is now moved to the margins and is no longer protected.”

And, in a  letter to HHS Secretary Sebelius, to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the University of Notre Dame’s President, Reverend John Jenkins, CSC, wrote:

It is an  impossible position.  This would compel Notre Dame to either pay for contraception and sterilization in violation of the church’s moral teaching, or to discontinue our employee and student health care plans in violation of the church’s social  teaching.

In contrast, the Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of  Church and State, Reverend Barry Lynn, believes a broader exemption is not only  unnecessary but also unconstitutional.  Lynn is of the opinion that since Christian and Catholic colleges and  universities accept federal money in the form of loans and grants, they should then be required to play by the government’s rules.  In an interview with Inside Higher Education, he said:

Denying contraceptive coverage to students because of religious belief isn’t  an issue of freedom of religion.  That seems wildly broad, painfully at  odds with the reality of good health care in America, and utterly unnecessary  under the Constitution.  What’s not sensible is declaring that every  belief you have needs to trump the generally applicable rules.

 

So, what has all of this to do with the 2012 elections?

The Motley Monk wouldn’t at all be surprised to discover that President Obama is waiting to see what his polling numbers look like come late Spring 2012.  If the President needs “the Catholic vote” (The Motley Monk disputes that such a monolith exists today), then the President’s minions at his Chicago election headquarters and White House policy operations office will figure out a way to “thread the needle.”

The outcome?

Some type of exemption that satisfies both pro-life and pro-abortion advocates.

Perhaps the good news is that at least some leaders of U.S. Catholic higher education are aligning themselves in public with Church teaching.  Or, might it be good strategic communications and public relations on their part, meaning that this is an artful way of seizing the argument and appealing to Catholic parents that the tuition they must pay for an undergraduate education at their institutions is worth the cost?

The Motley Monk thinks it likely that it’s a bit of both.

 

Political Miscellania: 1/17/12

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The first of our Political Miscellanias for 2012.

1.  Newt Gingrich v. The Food Stamp-President-Gingrich demonstrated at the debate last night why he was once in first place  in the race.  He is unwilling to let the media set the terms of the agenda;  in the cut and thrust of debate he is unmatchable;  and he is invincibly politically incorrect, at least on the stump.  As to the importance of early jobs, he is correct.  My high school job, scrubbing dishes and floors, taught me some valuable early lessons about work, money and savings that have stood me in good stead throughout my life.

2.  Santorum won Iowa-It looks like Rick Santorum probably won the Iowa caucus.  I have heard that his margin of victory is probably about eighty ballots.

3.  Jon Huntsman drops out-Every Democrat’s favorite Republican has dropped out of the race.  Mandarin Chinese teachers in this country are devastated.  Huntsman’s campaign never took off, and his Waterloo arrived swiftly when he came in third behind Ron Paul in New Hampshire.  Although it obviously did not help him, Huntsman will always have a warm spot in my heart for this campaign commercial:

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November 2, 1983: Ronald Reagan Signs Bill Creating Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday

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Mrs. King, members of the King family, distinguished Members of the Congress, ladies and gentlemen, honored guests, I’m very pleased to welcome you to the White House, the home that belongs to all of us, the American people.

When I was thinking of the contributions to our country of the man that we’re honoring today, a passage attributed to the American poet John Greenleaf Whittier comes to mind. “Each crisis brings its word and deed.” In America, in the fifties and sixties, one of the important crises we faced was racial discrimination. The man whose words and deeds in that crisis stirred our nation to the very depths of its soul was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King was born in 1929 in an America where, because of the color of their skin, nearly 1 in 10 lived lives that were separate and unequal. Most black Americans were taught in segregated schools. Across the country, too many could find only poor jobs, toiling for low wages. They were refused entry into hotels and restaurants, made to use separate facilities. In a nation that proclaimed liberty and justice for all, too many black Americans were living with neither.

In one city, a rule required all blacks to sit in the rear of public buses. But in 1955, when a brave woman named Rosa Parks was told to move to the back of the bus, she said, “No.” A young minister in a local Baptist church, Martin Luther King, then organized a boycott of the bus company—a boycott that stunned the country. Within 6 months the courts had ruled the segregation of public transportation unconstitutional. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

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