Last week, I wrote about how Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid were expressions of the Common Good, enacted with the support of the Catholic Bishops. Indeed, Msgr. John A. Ryan, the head of the Social Action Department of the bishops’ conference, was instrumental in developing both the policies that came to be known as the New Deal and in garnering political support for the Roosevelt program. Politicians and policy makers may present arguments for dismantling these “entitlement” programs, but those arguments will not be rooted in Catholic social teaching.
Historians and others like to rank presidents in terms of their greatness. The exercise has value insofar as it helps to clarify what we can and should expect from our political leaders and, as a parlor game, it is fun to hear why some people advocate for one president over another.
Greatness seems to require two things. First a great president must be a skilled politician, able to harness both public opinion and the intentionally distinct levers of political authority built into our constitutional framework, he must be able to get things done and to get the right things done. Second, the times must require greatness. As written, the Constitution does not vest extraordinary power in the executive and through much of the nation’s history, the key political players were in the Congress not the White House. It is easier to recall Clay and Calhoun and Webster than any of the presidential nonentities who governed in the antebellum era. Great president emerge when there is a systemic, profound crisis that requires greatness.
So, with these criteria, I submit there were four great presidents.
I am delighted to present an incisive look at the new conscience regulations from Professor Robert Vischer, law professor at the University of St. Thomas Law School in Minneapolis. Vischer is also the author of Conscience and the Common Good: Reclaiming the Space Between Person and State (Cambridge Univ. Press 2010). (The link brrings you to Amazon and, after reading Rob's essay, you will want to purchase the book!)
Here is Professor Vischer's commentary:
What do the new Obama regulations tell us about the
future prospects for conscience?
The USCCB today said it was "disappointed" about some aspects of the new conscience regulations issued by the Obama Administration, but also praised other aspects of the new rule. In a press release, Deirdre McQuade, of the USCCB Pro-Life Secretariat, said"
"The Administration’s action today is cause for disappointment, but also offers reasons for hope regarding an emerging consensus in Washington on the need for clear conscience protections for health care providers."
“It is very disappointing that the Administration has chosen to eliminate much of the existing regulation on conscience issued in December 2008. Among other things, the final rule issued today eliminates important clarifications that would have helped in interpreting and enforcing longstanding federal statutes protecting the conscience rights of health care providers. It also eliminates a regulatory requirement that recipients of federal funds certify compliance with those statutes.
Here is the statement issued by the Department of Health and Human Services announcing the new conscience regulations:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, February 18, 2011
Contact: HHS Press Office
Statement from the Department of Health and Human Services on the Regulation for the Enforcement of Federal Health Care Conscience Protections
The administration strongly supports provider conscience laws that protect and support the rights of health care providers, and also recognizes and supports the rights of patients. Strong conscience laws make it clear that health care providers cannot be compelled to perform or assist in an abortion. Many of these strong conscience laws have been in existence for more than 30 years. The rule being issued today builds on these laws by providing a clear enforcement process.
As sure as the sun rises in the East, you can bet that NARAL and NOW will be attacking the Obama administration’s failure to rescind the entire set of conscience regulations proposed by President Bush. But, NARAL and NOW seem not to know the history of liberalism, being busy hijacking liberalism. This is a time for liberals to get back to their roots. Here are some key quotes.
“Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.” John Milton, Areopagitica, 1644.
“Although the magistrate's opinion in religion be sound, and the way that he appoints be truly Evangelical, yet, if I be not thoroughly persuaded thereof in my own mind, there will be no safety for me in following it. No way whatsoever that I shall walk in against the dictates of my conscience will ever bring me to the mansions of the blessed. I may grow rich by an art that I take not delight in; I may be cured of some disease by remedies that I have not faith in; but I cannot be saved by a religion that I distrust and by a worship that I abhor.” John Locke, A Letter concerning Toleration, 1689.
The Obama Administration just announced this morning its new rules regarding conscience protections for healthcare workers.
The new rules came about because of a lawsuit and other challenges to the previous rules issued by President George W. Bush a few days before he left office.
Critics asserted that the old rules were overly broad and did not meet constitutional muster. The new rules are sure to ignite controversy and, in the midst of controversy, it is good to return to first principles.
Next month, the USCCB will team up with the Institute for Policy research and Catholic Studies, Catholic University's on-campus think tank, for an all day seminar on the Church and Immigration. Panels on the history of the issue, current policy concerns and a panel of pundits will be featured. You can read more about the event here and find information about how to sign up to attend.
Yesterday, I wrote about Congressman Paul Ryan’s indictment of President Obama’s budget for its failure to take on the subject of entitlement reform, an indictment that is somewhat deserved but not entirely. As I wrote, I think, or at least hope, the President is laying the groundwork for a large debate in the 2012 elections about how we approach this admittedly complicated issue.
That issue and its complications have gotten inside my skin, and so today I begin a short series of pieces on entitlement reform and how the voice of the Catholic Church can and should shape that debate.
One of the things that bothers me most when someone like Sarah Palin complains about the "lamestream media" is that many journalists take great risks to keep the rest of us informed.
Yesterday, an ABC news reporter, Miguel Marquez, was beaten in Bahrain while trying to cover anti-government protests there. Miguel is an old friend of mine - we met the day he arrived in Washington, fresh from college in New Mexico, in the early 1990s - and I have admired his rise through the ranks, first as a policy adviser to Bill Richardson and subsequently as a television reporter.
The audio of the attack on Miguel has been posted and it is frightening to listen to.
I hope that Ms. Palin will listen to it and, the next time she calls out the "lamestream media" she will think of Miguel and ask herself what she has done to inform the rest of us about the unfolding crackdown in Bahrain - or to inform the rest of us about anything other than the fact that there is good hunting in Alaska.