WASHINGTON -- Even with a new federal proposal that third-party administrators pay the costs of contraceptives for religious employers who object to the coverage, the health reform law's contraceptive mandate "remains radically flawed," according to the U.S. bishops.
When the president chose to not grant an exemption from the mandate that employer-provided insurance should include contraceptive coverage, some bishops called the decision an act of war on the church and religious freedom.
With due respect, I believe this overstated matters considerably. This is especially so, since the president responded promptly to begin discussions on how the ethical concerns of the church might be met more satisfactorily. In particular, the president proposed that no Catholic employer would be directly asked to supply contraceptive coverage; instead, that coverage would be provided by the employer's insurance company.
To a good many theologians, this worked well enough to avoid formal cooperation with evil, but left unanswered how the problem could be avoided where a Catholic employer did not use a third-party insurer, but was self-insured. Discussions continue, with some now suggesting that it might be possible to create a public entity by implementing regulation to offer the contraceptive benefit in this self-insured context in a way that similarly separates a Catholic employer.
While the words “Obama administration” and “Catholic” have been used together in recent weeks frequently to only highlight discord between the executive branch and the U.S. bishops over the administration’s mandate requiring coverage of contraceptives in health care plans, federal funding figures may tell a different story.
It’s a story of “partnership” and of the “deep respect” the president has “for the work of Catholic organizations around the country that are serving people and are helping the most vulnerable,” says one senior White House official.
Speaking in an exclusive phone interview late last week, Joshua DuBois, head of the White House’s Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, pointed to the administration’s efforts to help funnel funds -- estimated by the White House to total some $1.5 billion since 2008 -- to agencies like Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services in evincing that partnership.
Faith leaders and poverty experts Wednesday called the new House GOP budget proposal "immoral" and "irresponsible."
The budget released the previous day by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., included deep cuts to programs that would unfairly burden the poor, middle-income families and senior citizens, said Fr. Thomas Kelly, who participated in a phone conference with the media.
BALTIMORE -- Legalizing same-sex marriage is about protecting human rights and dignity, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley told a national gathering of about 400 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics on March 16.
A little more than two weeks before, O'Malley, a Democrat and a Catholic, had signed into law a bill allowing same-sex marriage in the state of Maryland.
The governor received a standing ovation when he arrived to give a luncheon speech at the Seventh Annual Symposium on Catholicism and Homosexuality, and an even longer ovation at the end of his brief talk.
Speaking on "the dignity of every individual," he said, "I think at the end of the day, all of us want the same thing for our kids. We want our children to grow up in caring conditions and loving homes, protected equally under the law.
Four years ago, a friend told me that he was voting for candidate so-and-so for president because it would be best for the business in which he worked. My friend is a good man, but in this case he had it wrong. The measure of a candidate can’t be my business, my taxes, my state, or even my family. The ultimate measure for a voter is not any personal interest, but the ancient standard of the common good. Born out of Greek and Roman philosophy, the common good described the goal of political life, the good of the city (the pólis), and the task entrusted to civic leaders.
After centuries of Christian scholarship and debate, we arrive at the definition in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, taken from Vatican II, and ultimately from Pope John XXIII in Mater et Magistra (1961):
According to its primary and broadly accepted sense, the common good indicates “the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily.”
I haven't always seen eye to eye with President Barack Obama. We disagree on abortion, the troop build-up in Afghanistan and a recent tendency to ignore those who have his best interests at heart.
That said, I have no basis to question or doubt the importance of faith in president's life or his unswerving commitment to ensure religious freedom for all. In a new book, Lift Up Your Hearts, I elaborate why it is that the president is so impressively well-informed on this sensitive topic, but suffice it to say that the president's integrity in these matters is well summarized by the nightly prayer he has revealed to many that "we can live with one another in a way that reconciles the beliefs of each with the good of all."
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- If there is any Catholic bishop in the U.S. who probably didn't need a bigger platform, it would be William E. Lori, who was named Tuesday (March 20) by Pope Benedict XVI as the next archbishop of Baltimore.
For the past decade, Lori has led the Diocese of Bridgeport in Connecticut's Fairfield County, but in recent months he's become the public face of the hierarchy's new signature issue: the fight for "religious freedom."
Taking a conciliatory tone and asking for a wide range of public comment, the Obama administration announced this afternoon new accommodations on a controversial mandate requiring contraceptive coverage in health care plans.
Coming after a month of continued opposition from the U.S. bishops to the mandate, which was first revised in early February to exempt certain religious organizations, today’s announced changes from the Department of Health and Human Services make a number of concessions, including allowing religious organizations that self-insure to be made exempt.
Also raised is the possibility that the definition given for religious employers in the original mandate could be changed.
News of the changes came as a senior White House official told NCR in an afternoon phone interview unrelated to the new proposed rules for the contraceptive mandate that while the Obama administration and Catholic leaders may have “some points of disagreement” over a number of concerns, the president has “dramatically expanded” the federal government’s connection with Catholic organizations.
If ever the country needed bed rest and a chance to dose up on Prozac or the antidepressant of your choice, it’s now. Through some 20 televised debates and hundreds of interviews, Republican aspirants to the presidency assaulted the nation’s intelligence, or what was left of it, with displays of venality, egomania, pandering, deception, self-delusion, self-promotion and scripted nonsense -- and that’s just from Newt Gingrich.
America’s capacity for low comedy or high cons may be deep but a point must come when it’s too much. It could have happened around the 19th debate when Gingrich -- pardon, Professor Gingrich -- was running low on ideas to impress voters. After he proposed turning schoolchildren into janitors, he went over the moon by promising -- by the end of his second term as president, no less -- that he would have built a colony on, where else, the moon. That led Ron Paul, in a flash of welcomed wit amid the dross, to suggest we “send some politicians up there.”