May 112017
 

One of the developments of the last two Presidential Administrations has been the use of Religious Sisters to support their goals.

President Barack Obama said that the Affordable Care Act—AKA Obamacare—would not have been enacted had it not been for Sister Carol Keehan. She was at the signing center for the “Affordable Care Act” and was given the pen the President used to sign the bill. She did not hold out for the traditional 30 pieces of silver.

“And it’s true, I just love nuns, generally. I’m just saying,” said Obama.

That love did not apply to the Little Sisters of the Poor or other religious groups as the so-called “Contraception Mandate” was forced on them where multiple accommodations led to no real accommodation and only to the courts where this is still not resolved.

Recently on May 4th.

President Donald Trump invited members of the Little Sisters of the Poor on stage ahead of his signing of a religious liberty executive order Thursday.

“We know, all too well, the attacks against the Little Sisters of the Poor,” Trump said, “Incredible nuns who care for the sick, the elderly and the forgotten.”

So finally the problems the Little Sisters of the Poor had has been resolved. Well not really. The Executive Order is weak sauce and the problem should have been taken care of at HHS where the “Contraception Mandate” was created as an interpretation of ACA.

So again we have Nun Props for a President to use. (Yeah I know their Sisters, but Nun Props flows better). I felt embarrassed for the Little Sisters of the Poor being used for a photo op. Time will tell if the actual problem gets fixed, but so far President Trump seems to like the idea of appearing to want to protect Religious Freedom over actually doing something. Yeah typical politician.

Jan 152016
 

I was glad to see this from my Bishop.

The Catholic bishop of the Diocese of St. Augustine wrote this week to Mayor Lenny Curry and the City Council that any expansion of the city’s anti-discrimination law to cover sexual orientation must have “strong conscience exemptions” for churches, religious organizations and private businesses.

The Most Rev. Felipe J. Estevez said while the church is opposed to “unjust discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” a change in the law must ensure that people providing employment, housing and public accommodations can still make decisions guided by their “sincerely and deeply held religious beliefs.”

Estevez’s letter highlights the contentious question of where to draw the line on religion-based objections to expanding the anti-discrimination law to cover lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

A bill supported by City Councilmen Tommy Hazouri and Aaron Bowman would exempt any “religious corporation, association or society” from being subject to the anti-discrimination law regarding LGBT people.

Estevez’s letter says the exemption should be broader to cover church entities, religious nonprofits, professionals, and the private businesses of “people with strongly held contrary religious beliefs.” Source

A necessary letter considering the trend of the narrow view of religious liberty as espoused and enforced by the Obama administration. Very glad the Bishop mentioned private businesses.

The authors of the law talk about striking the “right balance”, as if rights can be taken a way or shifted to make everybody even as Procrustes would do.

Mar 302015
 

I don’t really need to write anything about the idiotic backlash to Indiana’s version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Others have taken up the task much more ably. So mostly I will point you to others with minimal commentary.

First off, Brandon Vogt replies to Apple’s CEO Tim Cook misguided editorial about how such laws are “dangerous”. His post nicely points out where Tim Cook is wrong What Apple’s CEO Gets Wrong About Discrimination and Religious Freedom. Like Brandon I am a fan of Apple’s products and have been impressed with Tim Cook’s overall leadership. Personally I have been less than impressed with his other forays into the political realm. Under his time as CEO an app was banned from the app store. It was an app developed by the group behind the Manhattan Declaration in support of social goals including the dignity of marriage. Tim Cook talks about religious freedom, yet this app which also called for Freedom of Religion was banned. I found this political censorship rather egregious.

Tim Cook like President Obama has a very confused view about exactly what religious liberty means. Apparently it only regards your ability to attend worship services and not actually acting on your beliefs if it conflicts with political correctness.

Ross Douthat at the NYT times posts some questions for critics of this bill. He provides seven questions about future steps in regard to this issue. Although I doubt these critics for the most part are interested in answering these questions.

Kevin Jones at the Catholic News Agency wrote No, Indiana did not just pass a law discriminating against gay people. Here’s why. He provides examples from multiple others states who have instituted the same law and the positive results.

Much has also been made of the fact that Indiana’s law reflects the 1993 federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed by a nearly unanimous Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. Hillary Clinton who came out against Indiana’s law of course did not explain this. So yes you can play a “gotcha” game with critics, but to really no gain. What Congress passes is almost always about what is popular at the moment and not some action to be held for all time. That politicians will support something while it is popular and then support the contrary when the contrary is popular. Look at all the about-faces on same-sex marriage among Democrats for the most part.

One more aspect of this as Ross Douthat wrote:

I don’t think the view taken by these florists/bakers/photographers is necessarily mandated by orthodox Christian belief.

I’ve listened to what Al Kresta has also said along the same lines. From a moral theology view exactly what level of cooperation with evil is involved in these cases? My initial reaction is that in some of these cases it would indeed be cooperation with evil. Other cases it might be considered remote material cooperation. Regardless the person whose conscience has made that determination should not be forced to do otherwise. When I was a liberal I remember that freedom of conscience was a big deal and often talked about. Although probably is was always the case that supporting freedom of conscience was contingent regarding what you were objecting to.

Feb 252015
 

There has been a lot of noise recently regarding Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco new contract for teachers working for the Archdiocese.

First a little history.

SAN FRANCISCO — Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco has approved language for a new high-school teachers’ contract and handbook that calls on faculty to avoid publicly challenging the Church’s position on issues like same-sex “marriage” and abortion.

The existing teachers’ contract expires on July 31. The new one has not been finalized and is under negotiation with the local Catholic teachers’ union, the San Francisco Archdiocesan Federation of Teachers, Local 2240.

In contrast, the faculty handbook is not subject to negotiation and is developed by the archdiocese.

Now, those handbooks will be updated for the 2015–16 school year with descriptions of key points of Catholic doctrine. The new language that will be incorporated into the handbook was presented in a “Statement of the High Schools of the Archdiocese of San Francisco Regarding the Teachings and Practice of the Catholic Church.”

Archdiocesan officials said the statement represents the religious beliefs formally affirmed by the schools, but individual teachers will not be required to sign documents that attest to their own beliefs in these doctrinal teachings. Source

Subsequently:

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – Students and parents from schools controlled by the Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco protested at Saint Mary’s Cathedral on Ash Wednesday, saying the church should stay out of teachers’ bedrooms and drop proposed morality clauses in teacher contracts.

On Ash Wednesday, one of the holiest days on the Catholic calendar, the students and parents are hoping Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone will change his mind on the clauses, as the church heads into 40 days of Lenten reflection.

First off the new contract has no statements regarding a teacher’s private life and much less there sex life. Specifically this applies to publicly contradicting Church’s teachings. I wonder how many of these protesters would protest the Hatch Act? As a veteran I certainly was aware of the Hatch Act and some restrictions placed on me regarding the political realm.

Still what I find ironic about the Lenten protest is that it is a heck of way to start Lent implying you are doing something in the bedroom contrary to Church teaching.

Then some California lawmakers stepped in:

A group of California lawmakers asked Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco to remove “morality clauses” from a proposed contract for teachers in high schools under his jurisdiction, reported the Los Angeles Times.

The new language in the contracts direct teachers in four archdiocesan high schools to avoid public statements or actions that oppose Church teaching on contraception, pre-marital sex or homosexual relationships. My story on the proposed change in contract language is here.

In their letter to the archbishop, the California lawmakers argued that the morality clauses “conflict with settled areas of law and foment a discriminatory environment in the communities we serve.”

To which the Archbishop replied in part:

“Would you hire a campaign manager who advocates policies contrary to those that you stand for and who shows disrespect toward you and the Democratic Party in general?” he wrote in his reply to eight state legislators who had criticized Catholic standards for school employees.

The archbishop suggested a hypothetical situation in which Democratic politicians employ a “brilliant campaign manager,” though a Republican, who is willing to work for them and not speak or act contrary to his employers or his employers’ political party.

“Now, let’s say that this campaign manager you hired, despite promises to the contrary, starts speaking critically of your party and favorably of your running opponent, and so you decide to fire the person,” the archbishop continued in a Feb. 19 letter. He suggested this firing would be done not for hatred of Republicans, but because the employee “violated the trust given to you and acted contrary to your mission.” Source

Not that using logic with lawmakers is  a fruitful game. Still it is a good analogy. There have also been complaints about designating the teachers as ministers which is really a result of U.S. Supreme Court’s 2012 free exercise case, Hosanna Tabor, which ruled in favor of a Lutheran school in an employment dispute.

One story today said the Archbishop was now backtracking. Joan Desmond continues her excellent reporting on the story with this piece of information.

The Archbishop has not repealed anything. He is adding explanations, clarifications, and material on Catholic social teaching, via a committee of religion teachers he is establishing. The committee is to expand some areas of the material to be included in the faculty handbook, and clarify other areas by adding material. Nothing already planned to go in is being removed or retracted or withdrawn.

With respect to the use of the word “ministers,” the Archbishop only said that “ministers” is no longer being considered. That is all the Archbishop said. The word currently being used is “ministry.” Nonetheless, the Archbishop did say that he would work hard to find language that satisfies two needs. One is the need to protect the rights of the teachers in the Catholic high schools to have complaints fairly treated. The other is the right of the Archdiocese to run Catholic schools that are faithful to their mission. Language must be identified that meets both needs. Even if a substitute for “ministry” is found, the substitute must guarantee that the teachers in the Catholic archdiocesan high schools promote the Catholic mission of the institutions.

Her story also includes information on the lengths the Archbishop is going in working with the teachers in clarifying the language of the contract.

And of course the typical reaction of Democrat politicians “That’s a nice school system you have there, it would be a shame if something happened to it.”

On Monday, Assemblymembers Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) and Kevin Mullin (D-San Mateo) urged an assembly committee to investigate working conditions at the high schools administered by the San Francisco archdiocese,” reported the CBS local news.

Jul 082014
 

The Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge has issued a statement decrying a decision by the Louisiana Supreme Court that could compel a local priest to testify in court about confessions he might have received. The alleged confessions, according to legal documents, were made to the priest by a minor girl regarding possible sexual abuse perpetrated by another church parishioner.

The statement, published Monday (July 7) on the diocese’s website, said forcing such testimony “attacks the seal of confession,” a sacrament that “cuts to the core of the Catholic faith.”

The statement refers to a lawsuit naming the Rev. Jeff Bayhi and the Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge as defendants and compels Bayhi to testify whether or not there were confessions “and, if so, what the contents of any such confessions were.”

“A foundational doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church for thousands of years mandates that the seal of confession is absolute and inviolable,” the statement says. ”The position of the Diocese of Baton Rouge and Fr. Bayhi is that the Supreme Court of Louisiana has run afoul of the constitutional rights of both the Church and the priest, more particularly, has violated the Establishment Clause and the separation of Church and State under the first amendment.”

The state high court’s decision, rendered in May of this year, demands that a hearing be held in 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge, where the suit originated, to determine whether or not a confession was made. It reverses an earlier decision by the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeals dismissing the original lawsuit filed against Bayhi and the diocese.

The case stems from a claim by parents of a minor that their daughter confessed to Bayhi during the sacrament of reconciliation that she engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior with grown man who also attended their church. Court documents indicate the child was 12 years old at the time of the alleged sexual abuse.

A criminal investigation by East Feliciana Sheriff’s Office into the alleged sexual abuse was ongoing when the accused church member died suddenly in February 2009 of a heart attack.

The civil lawsuit in question, filed five months later in July 2009, names the late sexual abuse suspect, as well as Bayhi and the Baton Rouge diocese, as defendants. The suit seeks damages suffered as a result of the sexual abuse, noting that abuse continued following the alleged confessions.

Source: NOLA.com: 

Maybe the Louisiana Supreme Court thought the case involved Anglicans and not Catholics. From a story a week ago.

ANGLICAN ministers told during confession about serious crimes such as child sexual abuse shouldn’t be obliged to keep them secret, the church has declared.

THE ruling means ministers are only obliged to keep serious offences secret if “reasonably satisfied” they have already been reported to police.

Representatives of the Anglican Church of Australia approved the amendment on Wednesday at the church’s national parliament in Adelaide.

The legislation also covers other serious offences, including domestic violence.

Sydney barrister Garth Blake, who proposed the amendment, said it would ensure the church did not “act as a cloak” for offenders.

However, the legislation will only become active once adopted by individual dioceses.

Originally published as Confession not all confidential: Anglicans

Really we need to send copies of I Confess to members of their court.

Oh and yes I linked to this story primarly as an excuse to create the above graphic.

Nov 262013
 

Continuing the slow news day for Catholics:

Everyone knew the HHS Mandate was going to end up in the Supreme Court. Now it’s happening.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge to the controversial Health and Human Services mandate which requires organizations to provide insurance coverage for contraception, abortifacient, and sterilization to employees.

The Obama administration appealed to the high court after the mandate got struck down by a federal appeals court in favor of Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma City-based arts and crafts chain owned by a Christian family.

Now, don’t pretend to guess for one second that you know how the court will decide on this. We don’t. Nobody does. I can hope. I can pray that religious liberty is spared for a few more years. But I have no idea. Who knows what John Roberts will say. I mean, Roberts doesn’t even know what he’s going to say. Sometimes I don’t think he knows what he’s saying as he’s saying it.

God bless all those who have fought the mandate in court. Keep praying folks. It’s crunch time.

(Creative Minority Report)

Well whatever happens likely it will have nothing to do with the Constitution. I just have zero trust in the Supreme Court. Praying indeed.

Nov 132013
 

‘Special Message’ On HHS Mandate At Conclusion Of General Assembly

… Yet with its coercive HHS mandate, the government is refusing to uphold its obligation to respect the rights of religious believers. Beginning in March 2012, in United for Religious Freedom, we identified three basic problems with the HHS mandate: it establishes a false architecture of religious liberty that excludes our ministries and so reduces freedom of religion to freedom of worship; it compels our ministries to participate in providing employees with abortifacient drugs and devices, sterilization, and contraception, which violates our deeply-held beliefs; and it compels our faithful people in business to act against our teachings, failing to provide them any exemption at all.

Despite our repeated efforts to work and dialogue toward a solution, those problems remain. Not only does the mandate undermine our ministries’ ability to witness to our faith, which is their core mission, but the penalties it imposes also lay a great burden on those ministries, threatening their very ability to survive and to serve the many who rely on their care.

The current impasse is all the more frustrating because the Catholic Church has long been a leading provider of, and advocate for, accessible, life-affirming health care. We would have preferred to spend these recent past years working toward this shared goal instead of resisting this intrusion into our religious liberty. We have been forced to devote time and resources to a conflict we did not start nor seek.

As the government’s implementation of the mandate against us approaches, we bishops stand united in our resolve to resist this heavy burden and protect our religious freedom. Even as each bishop struggles to address the mandate, together we are striving to develop alternate avenues of response to this difficult situation. We seek to answer the Gospel call to serve our neighbors, meet our obligation to provide our people with just health insurance, protect our religious freedom, and not be coerced to violate our consciences. We remain grateful for the unity we share in this endeavor with Americans of all other faiths, and even with those of no faith at all. It is our hope that our ministries and lay faithful will be able to continue providing insurance in a manner consistent with the faith of our Church. We will continue our efforts in Congress and especially with the promising initiatives in the courts to protect the religious freedom that ensures our ability to fulfill the Gospel by serving the common good.

This resolve is particularly providential on this feast of the patroness of immigrants, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini. She was a brave woman who brought the full vigor of her deep religious faith to the service of the sick, the poor, children, the elderly, and the immigrant. We count on her intercession, as united we obey the command of Jesus to serve the least of our brothers and sisters.

Interesting and accurate choice of words “of the mandate against us”.

Via Rocco Palmo

From a story yesterday on Bishop David Zubik of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

PITTSBURGH — The Roman Catholic bishop of Pittsburgh said Tuesday that he will refuse to sign a document allowing its health plan to provide birth control and abortion coverage for employees of a diocese-related charity, even if it means paying fines.

The Pittsburgh diocese and its counterpart in Erie are challenging federal health care law changes that require contraceptive and abortion coverage in employee health plans. Tuesday’s hearing was focused on whether U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab should block the government from enforcing the mandate while the dioceses pursue their lawsuits claiming the requirements violate their First Amendment right of religious freedom.

The Justice Department contends the church is exempt and that its charitable affiliates can be accommodated so they don’t have to pay for the coverage they object to.

Last year a judge dismissed a previous lawsuit the Pittsburgh diocese filed over the same issues, saying it has not been harmed by the new health care legislation and that the government had promised to take steps to address religious objections. But the diocese sued again, saying the final regulations that take effect Jan. 1 are worse than the proposed regulations that prompted the earlier lawsuit.

Bishop David Zubik testified that he wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he signed a form that allowed the disputed services to be provided to employees. Zubik said the church is being asked to violate an important belief and a matter of conscience.

Many of the Bishops have been concentrating on the fallout from the employee mandate from the HHS effective next year. With no change in the law or really the artificial restrictions from HSS it is hard to see how we are going to effectively deal with this. The choice seems to be between knuckling under or paying the fines and going out of business. Really morally there is no choice but to resist so we will just have to see how the Bishops and Catholics institutions handle this.

Although I think others are in more immediate difficulties. While the employee mandate was delayed, that is not so for the individual mandate. So what happens with a Catholic whose insurance was cancelled and must buy insurance with all the HHS mandated coverages? Price increases will largely be used to subsidize all the new “free” coverage that includes intrinsically evil acts. Hopefully the bishops will speak on this and what level of material cooperation this is. Although I say hopefully in a sort of not-holding-my-breath way. This really is a all-hands-on-deck moment for the Church in America.

Oct 162013
 

An update regarding the Federal lawsuit by the Thomas More Law Center on behalf of Fr. Ray Leonard. Fr. Leonard is a contract preist at the Kings Bay Naval Submarine base in Georgia.

One day after the lawsuit was filed, three U.S. Department of Justice attorneys contacted the Thomas More Law Center to alert Mersino that Father Leonard would be able to return to the base to perform Catholic services. Subsequently, the Navy chain of command confirmed the new guidance.

In a statement released after the government reversed its policy, Richard Thompson, the president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, expressed alarm that contract priests like Father Leonard had been barred from serving Catholics on military bases and described the policy as a “blatant attack on religious liberty.”

“I would never have imagined that our government would ever bar Catholic priests from saying Mass under threat of arrest and prevent Catholics from participating in their religious exercises,” said Thompson.

“Allowing the chapel doors to open and Father Leonard to fulfill his priestly responsibilities does not erase the constitutional violations that occurred. We don’t want this to occur again the next time there is a government shutdown. Our lawsuit will continue.”

The Archdiocese for the Military Services has also expressed alarm about the furloughing of contract priests, who are needed to complement the short supply of active-duty Catholic military chaplains.

Taylor Henry, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said it would have no formal response to the lawsuit. But he told the Register that the Air Force had contacted the archdiocese to confirm that the contract priests would be allowed to return to Air Force bases to celebrate Mass and fulfill other duties.

We will just have to wait and see if the situation has actually been resolved for now.

John Schlageter, the general counsel for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, spoke with the Register earlier this month about the developing situation and frustration that the military appeared to be looking for “alternative” sources of funding to maintain other programs on bases, like sporting events, but there appeared to be less concern about securing Sunday Mass services.

During an Oct. 16 interview, Schlageter told the Register that the Air Force had just notified his office that furloughed contract priests could return to their duties, though it was not clear whether they would be paid.The new guidance designated all Air Force “contract clergy as ‘excepted’ for the purpose of the current shutdown.”

Further, Schlageter said that, on Oct. 10, he had been told that the Department of the Navy had also changed its policy that prevented priests with contracts that began on Oct. 1 from performing their duties. However, the AMS still has not received any formal notice to that effect, and many priests were barred from celebrating Mass on naval bases on Oct. 12. The AMS has not received any new guidance from the Army.

As for what is essential:

In the wake of the government shutdown, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced that many civilian personnel provided “essential” services and thus would not be sent home. However, contract priests were not deemed “essential.”

In a presidential administration where the Constitution is not essential this comes as no surprise.

(source)

Jul 172013
 

By Kathy Schiffer
Ave Maria Radio

Today the USCCB released a new video which reiterates Catholic objections to the Obama Administration’s controversial HHS Mandate. Through the stories of three women, the video explains why all Americans should be upset about this threat to our First Amendment liberties. (source)

A pretty decent video with some powerful testimony and I really like that it also emphasized the religious rights of also secular employers.

My question would be is how actually effective is producing a video that is displayed on the USCCB home page? It will be pretty much by preaching (YouTubing?) to the choir. Certainly picked up by some Catholic online media sources and blogs. Yet will anybody outside of these circles ever see this video. Seems unlikely.