Shutting Down theFacts (en español)
October 11, 2013
At this writing the
impasse that has shut down most federal government operations is in its tenth
day, with each major party blaming the other for this terrible situation. Recently a pro-abortion web site, called RH Reality Check ("RH" for "Reproductive
Health"), created a brief flurry of commentary by claiming to find the real
culprits: the Catholic bishops!
The group noticed
that the bishops' conference wrote to House and Senate members the week before
the shutdown, once again asking them to include the policy of the Health Care
Conscience Rights Act (HR 940, S. 1204) in "must-pass" legislation like the
Continuing Resolution or debt limit bill.
The bishops have been making similar requests for many months, during
which the Administration's mandate for including contraceptives, female
sterilization, and some abortifacient drugs in almost all health plans has
moved toward implementation. Now a final
rule has been issued, making little change in an "accommodation" that gives no
adequate relief to faith-based charitable and educational institutions – and it
will be imposed on these organizations beginning January 1. Hence this final plea that Congress address
the rule's threat to religious liberty and freedom of conscience before the
year is out.
RH Reality Check has never liked
Catholics. Last year its senior legal
analyst wrote that "the Catholic Church is one of the few, if not the only
religion that is fundamentally antithetical to any notion of women's
reproductive health, freedom, and justice."
But this time it made two giant leaps: (1) If the bishops care about
this issue, they must not care about anything else in the funding bills, and
(2) they must be demanding that the government shut down if they can't get
Of course the
bishops' letter said nothing of the kind.
And a second letter from the bishops' conference urged Congress to serve
the basic needs of the poor and vulnerable in its funding decisions and to
avoid a shutdown, as it managed to do in 2011.
There was never any threat to oppose these bills, much less to shut down
critics apparently assume that conscience protection would kill any funding
bill of which it is a part. But that's
quite a claim. Congress has routinely
been approving conscience clauses as part of its funding bills for many years –
including a broad religious exemption from the contraceptive mandate in federal
employees' health plans. And on its own merits, the conscience bill the bishops
now support would handily pass the House, and last year received 48 votes in
the Senate – just short of a majority.
The current congressional impasse is, in part, over more sweeping proposals
to delay or "defund" the entire health care reform act – proposals the bishops
have not supported, instead seeking to address specific problems that prevent
many people from embracing the benefits of expanded health coverage in good
to health care for those in need, while respecting everyone's moral and
religious convictions, is a very sensible middle ground – the kind of
compromise that might help get government moving again, if enough members of
Congress listen. So sensible, it seems,
that the anti-Catholic crowd has to make up bogus stories to try to derail it.
Mr. Doerflinger is Associate Director of the Secretariat of
Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. To learn about the bishops' advocacy on conscience rights, visit www.usccb.org/conscience.
Join the Bishops' Call to Prayer and Fasting for Life, Marriage & Religious Liberty. Visit www.usccb.org/pray or text "FAST" to 99000. Join the Movement!