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Fruits of Hobby Lobby

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Ed Morrissey at Hot Air brings to us the news that the Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby is already having an impact:

 

Late yesterday, the first fruits of the Hobby Lobby decision fell into the lap of EWTN, the Catholic satellite television station which has fought the HHS mandate into the appellate court. Today would have been the first day that EWTN would have to start paying ruinous fines for refusing to provide free contraception and sterilization in its health insurance coverage. Fortunately, the Eleventh Circuit granted a stay not long after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby:

In a resounding victory for religious freedom, today EWTN was granted last minute relief from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, one day before the world’s largest religious media network would be forced to violate its deeply help religious convictions or pay crippling fines to the IRS on July 1.

After the district judge recently issued a disappointing ruling against the global Catholic media network, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed an emergency appeal to the Eleventh Circuit. Pending that ruling, the Becket Fund urged the Supreme Court and the Eleventh Circuit to step in to protect EWTN from being forced to provide contraceptives and potentially life-terminating drugs and devices that violate its Catholic teachings. Thanks to the Eleventh Circuit’s decision today to grant temporary emergency relief to the Catholic network, EWTN can now freely practice what it preaches while it pursues its claims in court.

“On the same day as the Hobby Lobby decision, the Eleventh Circuit protected religious ministries challenging the same government mandate,” said Lori Windham, Senior Counsel at the Becket Fund. “It’s time for the government to stop fighting ministries like EWTN and the Little Sisters of the Poor, and start respecting religious freedom.”

“We are thankful that the Eleventh Circuit protected our right to religious freedom while we pursue our case in court,” said EWTN Chairman and CEO Michael P. Warsaw. “We want to continue to practice the same Catholic faith that we preach to the world every day.”

The order itself is worth reading. The official unanimous order from the three-judge panel officially states that “we express no views on the ultimate merits of EWTN’s appeal in this case,” but that’s not true for Judge Pryor. In a 28-page concurrence, Pryor goes on at length as to why EWTN is likely to prevail on the merits of the case. And in doing so, Pryor takes particular aim at the so-called “accommodation” cited in Hobby Lobby and the arrogance of government instructing Catholic institutions on theology.

The Network has asserted, without dispute, that it “is prohibited by its religion from signing, submitting, or facilitating the transfer of the government-required certification” necessary to opt out of the mandate. The Network further asserts that, by requiring it to deliver Form 700 to the third-party administrator of its health insurance plan, the United States has forced the Network “to forego religious precepts” and instead, contrary to Catholic teachings, materially cooperate in evil. Midrash Sephardi, Inc. v. Town of Surfside, 366 F.3d 1214, 1227 (11th Cir. 2004). If it fails to deliver that form, the Network faces $12,775,000 in penalties a year. 26 U.S.C. § 4980D(b)( 1). If that is not a substantial burden on the free exercise of religion, then it is hard to imagine what would be. …

It is neither our duty nor the duty of the United States to tell the Network that its undisputed belief is flawed. See Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., No. 13-354, slip op. at 36-37 (U.S. June 30, 2014). The Supreme Court has instructed that “it is not for us to say that the line [drawn by the religious believer] was an unreasonable one. Courts should not undertake to dissect religious beliefs. . . .” Thomas v. Rev. Bd. of the Ind. Emp ‘t Sec. Div., 450 U.S. 707, 714, 101 S. Ct. 1425, 1430 (1981). The United States flouts that instruction by treating an undisputed religious belief as a disputed question of law. But “it is not for us to say that [the Network's] religious beliefs are mistaken or insubstantial.” Hobby Lobby, No. 13- 354, slip op. at 37. We must instead “determine whether the line drawn [by the Network] reflects an honest conviction, and there is no dispute that it does.” Id. at 37-38 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

Pryor also takes aim at other appellate circuit decisions in similar cases denying injunctive relief in the basis of the accommodation, calling their reasoning “rubbish”, emphasis mine: Continue reading

Archbishop Chaput and the Media

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One of the most irritating aspects of life for faithful American Catholics over the past several decades has been how quiet most of our bishops have been in the face of outrageous attacks on the Church.  Too many of our bishops have acted as if they had their spines surgically removed upon consecration.  Fortunately there have always been a handful who have been willing to speak out and suffer the media attacks that then ensue, along with the ambushes of heterodox Catholics frequently eager to lend a hand to anti-Catholics in their ceaseless war against the Church.  One of the more outspoken bishops is Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, who has never been afraid to proclaim the truth, and to do so eloquently.  He is at it again over at First Things.

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Greetings and Shameless Plug

Greetings to all the American Catholic readers. It is a great pleasure and honor to join this esteemed group of bloggers. I am looking forward to joining a lively debate on all things Catholic. A brief word about myself, I tend to try to transcend labels such as liberal or conservative, etc. I am always in search of being “simply Catholic.”

I wanted to kick things off, but giving a shameless plug for the University of St. Thomas. I am currently on the beautiful campus of EWTN studios. On Thursday, April 22nd, EWTN’s Life on the Rock will feature 9 members (6 students, 3 faculty) of the University on their show (8pm EST/7pm CST). I have spent the last couple of weeks helping to prepare these students for their appearance. I am very proud of all of them. I hope you will tune in to learn more about this great Catholic university.

Catholic Advocacy of Torture: A Teaching Moment for the Catholic Bishops?

Writing at Vox Nova, the author known as “Morning’s Minion” has published a post calling for consistency in the application of canon 915 — the denial of Holy Communion to those who “obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin” — in this particular case, the public advocacy of abortion and torture. The post was occasioned by the recent appearance of Mark Thiessien on Raymond Arroyo’s “The World Over”, in which the duo lobbied vigorously in defense of waterboarding:

I think the analogy is clear. Arroyo and Thiessen are both Catholic public figures, and Arroyo in particular is a TV personality on a Catholic TV channel, making the scandal all the more grave. They are clearly “obstinately persevering” in support for an intrinsically evil act. Worse, they actually try to justify it on Catholic grounds. Thiessen has made it his life’s work to claim that some forms of torture are virtuous. Arroyo, again and again, invites defenders of torture onto his show, and instead of confronting them with clear Church teaching, voices his agreement. As [Archbishop Raymond] Burke says, this is “public conduct” that is gravely sinful. I would go further and argue that it is even more scandalous than support for legalized abortion. Most public supporters of abortion do not go on television extolling the great virtues of abortion for women and society. Their argument is more with how it should be treated under the law. But the Arroyo-Thiessen-Sirico cabal are (i) claiming to the faithful Catholics while (ii) making public pronouncements on the positive value of torture.

Catholic debate over torture (and/or what the Bush administration has termed “extreme interrogation”) has been going strong for several years now. It’s online manifestation initiated — to my recollection — with the publication of Mark Shea’s article in Crisis, “Toying with Evil: May a Catholic Advocate Torture?” and subsequent discussion at Amy Welborn’s, in March 2005. From time to time I’ve personally blogged on the various vollies and controversies between various camps as the debate has asserted itself, time and again, over half a decade (has it really been that long?)

That EWTN (“Eternal Word Television Network”) has hosted two explicit defenses of waterboarding — most recently by Thiessien, as well as Fr. Joseph Sirico of the Acton Institute, not to mention Q&A from Judy Brown of the American Life League questioning whether torture should be considered “intrinsically evil” — does not surprise me in the least. As I noted recently, there has been open dispute as to whether waterboarding constitutes torture from many prominent Catholics, including editor Deal Hudson, Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin, and Fr. Brian Harrison (in the pages of This Rock — the flagship publication of Catholic Answers, the largest largest lay-run apostolates of Catholic apologetics and evangelization in the United States). [Note: Austin Ruse of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, a newcomer to the debate, has likewise made it known in the comments of this post where he stands on the matter].

Little wonder that a Pew Forum survey examining “the religious dimensions of the torture debate” found many white Roman Catholics, along with most frequent churchgoers, affirming that the use of torture against terrorists is “sometimes” or “often” justifiable.

With respect to abortion, readers may recall a number of opportune moments during the 2008 presidential elections when Catholic bishops were obliged to speak out, publicly, forcefully and collectively, in correction of blatantly false presentations of Catholic teaching on abortion by Nancy Pelosi and (then) Senator Joseph Biden.

There have been numerous missed “teaching moments” for our bishops and the Catholic Church on the matter of torture.

As Our Modern, Western Culture Begins To Implode, The Catholic Church Is Our Last, Best Hope

Channel surfing the other night, I came across a slew of 1980s “coming of age” movies on cable television. With all of their flaws (too much sexual innuendo, which is mild by today’s comparisons,) one can easily see a positive theme of a bright future and endless possibilities running through this genre of films. I had almost forgotten that in the 1983 film Valley Girl, Julie played by Deborah Foreman actually chastises her hippy parents for their suggestion that if she and her new boyfriend Randy, played by Nicholas Cage, want to explore their sexuality it would be alright by them.  Julie rebukes her parents for having such beliefs as well as the nostalgia surrounding their involvement in the 1960s anti war movement; after all it was the era of Ronald Reagan. Everything seemed possible; it was Morning in America again. Many of these movies were set in California which at the time exuded excitement for those of us growing up in colder, Midwest climates. Economically, California was booming and it was also the heart of a growing and diverse music scene.

Fast forward some 25+ years later and many of today’s films have a dark undercurrent with more than a little subtle leftwing political and cultural propaganda running through them. While there are certainly hopeful signs in Hollywood, especially with the advent of stars like Eduardo Verastegi and his movie Bella and associated Metanoia Films, (Click here for my interview with Eduardo Verastegui,) the secular film industry has fallen even farther into the cesspool. Sadly the Golden State’s economic boom seems but a distant memory, which was bound to occur when California’s Big Government mentality rivaled that of Sweden or the Canadian province of Quebec. The bigger question remains; is California setting the trend once again for the nation and the western world, and if it is what hope is there? The hope remains as it always has not in mortal man and the latest left wing hypothesis about the world’s failings, but in the teachings of the Catholic Church.

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