Dolan Dinner and the Cost of the Contraceptive Mandate

August 19, 2012

The controversy over Cardinal Dolan inviting Obama to the Al Smith Dinner continues.  There are many excellent comments we would like to share, but time and space does not permit, and we want to get back to Boston issues in our next post.

Still, let us go one last round for now to share a few things you may have not yet seen on the actual costs and fines associated with the Obama contraceptive mandate, and then more on Dolan dinner invitation.

Never clearly stated publicly by the bishops to our knowledge is how the mandate could financially cripple Catholic family-run private businesses, in addition to Catholic religious entities.

As the National Catholic Register reported, Time’s Up for Catholic Business Owners to plan for offering contraceptive coverage or face steep fines.  They report on new guidelines from the National Catholic Bioethics Center.

Whenever their company’s next health plan kicks in, these employers must prove that their workers have access to co-pay-free contraception, sterilization and abortion drugs, or they’ll incur heavy fines.

“[B]eginning in January 2014, an employer with more than 50 full-time equivalent employees could incur a penalty of approximately $2,000 per employee per year beyond the first 30 full-time employees not offered a health plan, as well as incur the potential legal actions taken by employees and the federal government.”

Business owners must also weigh how a withdrawal of coverage will likely affect their employees.

“The principles of stewardship and justice require employers to care for their employees; by virtue of the way in which health insurance is generally provided in the United States, this care typically includes health-insurance coverage,” the [National Catholic Bioethics Center] guidelines note.

“A sudden change in this approach could leave many employees and their families uninsured or underinsured, with little time to adjust and find affordable, quality alternatives.”

Meanwhile, employers who seek to offer plans that exclude morally objectionable services will soon face “exorbitant penalties of $100 per day per employee, as well as the potential legal actions taken by employees and by the federal government.”

Employers could refuse to pay these fines “as a form of legitimate civil disobedience against the unjust governmental mandate,” but that decision comes with “hefty legal risks that could equally threaten the livelihoods of all involved.”

One family-owned company who sued to be able to operate their business in accord with their religious beliefs is Hercules Corp. They won a preliminary injunction, but are not nearly out of the woods yet.  Here is their story, and an estimate of the costs of compliance with the Obama HHS mandate:

If Hercules had not prevailed, it would have been required to begin offering its 265 employees abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception coverage and related counseling as of November 1, the date its self-insured health care plan renewed. Because it is a private, for-profit family business, it is excluded from the mandate’s narrow religious exemption and, like all non-religious employers, is ineligible for a year-long “safe harbor” that simply delays the religious freedom violations caused by the mandate. Alternatively, it could have chosen not to comply with the mandate or to drop insurance coverage altogether for its employees, facing steep monetary penalties under Obamacare either way.

What would this fine on faith look like? If it chose to buck compliance with the mandate, starting on November 1, Hercules would be fined $100 per employee per day of non-compliance. With 265 employees, Hercules’ fine would have amounted to $800,000 per month—almost $10 million per year. If Hercules were to take the more likely action of dropping health care coverage to avoid facilitating the mandate, thereby forcing its employees into government-run exchanges, it would face a fine on faith of approximately $2,000 per employee per year, for a total of $530,000 per year.

But dismay over the mandate is not limited to the monetary impact of government-imposed fines for the free exercise of faith. In its court filings and arguments in the case, the Obama Administration has consistently pressed a view of religious liberty so narrow as to render this fundamental freedom meaningless. It has attempted to read into constitutional and statutory protections for religious freedom a condition that would suspend its application in the business context, forcing business owners to abandon their religious and moral convictions as a condition of participating in commerce. For example, the Administration’s brief opposing the preliminary injunction argued that the “Plaintiffs’ free exercise claim fails at the outset because for-profit, secular employers generally do not engage in any exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment.”

Accepting the Administration’s logic would limit the application of religious freedom to individuals alone, acting within their houses of worship on weekends. It would effectively push religion out of every sphere of public life and restrict the free exercise rights of adherents to live out their faiths in their day-to-day lives. The Administration does not appear to perceive religion as something that people of faith strive to live out daily in every aspect of their lives, however imperfectly.

Cardinal Dolan recognizes some of the the implications, as he noted in his August 1 blog post about religious freedom:

Yes, the Archdiocese of New York has joined dozens of others in filing a lawsuit against the administration and HHS, arguing that the mandate is unconstitutional.  And, yes, the administration has granted a one-year reprieve to religious agencies whose conscience would be violated by this mandate.  (That’s right – the government acknowledges that this will be a problem for many religious agencies.  But their response is, essentially, “too bad.”)

What will happen when the year is up?

I suppose one option would be for those agencies to stop offering health insurance to their employees, and pay a $2000 per employee penalty.  While some would argue that the agencies would, in fact, save money by choosing this option, it hardly seems to be the right and just way to treat your co-workers, does it?

Another option is to continue to offer health insurance, but, honoring our conscience, not include these objectionable services. There would be a $100 fine per day for each person who qualified for the coverage.  Let’s assume that an agency has 50 people for which it would be subject to this penalty.  At $100 per day, per person, over the course of the year it would pay a penalty of $1,825,000.  ($100 x 50 people x 365 days).  That’s a steep penalty from the government in order to try and convince religious agencies to turn their back on their conscience. That’s money that will then not go to serve those in need.  Many of our services could not survive this heavy penalty.

A third option, I suppose, is to capitulate and accept the strangling mandate…I don’t want to go there.  We just finished a Fortnight for Freedom, and the saints we honored – Saint Thomas More, Saint John Fisher, Saint John the Baptist, Saints Peter and Paul – would not want us to go there, either.

Yes, St. Thomas More, St. John the Baptist, Saints Peter and Paul, St. Edmund Campion, and many others would not want us to go there. So what option does Cardinal Dolan suggest? And what is he doing to emulate those saints and martyrs?  Among other things, he is proceeding with the Al Smith dinner and his defense of his invitation to President Obama using the excuse that we should practice civility.

Read what Mary Ann Kreitzer said at Les Femmes – The Truth:

Every time I read one of these rah-rah civility, can’t-we-all-just-get-along posts I think of other members of the hierarchy (and saints) from the past who acted just a little bit differently with death-dealing politicians.

I can’t imagine, for example, Clemens von Galen Bishop of Munster preaching about Hitler’s euthanasia program and then inviting him to dinner for a happy old time of respect and civility. And then there’s Cardinal Joseph Mindszenty tortured by the commies. I’m sure they would happily have appeared arm in arm with him for a photo op if he would only play nice. He preferred house arrest and isolation in the American Embassy. And then there’s John the Baptist who made Herod feel just a little uncomfortable. Do you think he would have attended Herod’s birthday party? And what about St. Maximilian Kolbe on whose feast day Cardinal Dolan was writing. These are men from the past with the backbone to stand up to evil men and call them to repentance. I can’t imagine them even making the silly statements we’ve seen coming from the Archdiocese.
But then the Nazis and the Commies were killing “born” people not tiny out of sight, out of mind babies in the womb. As for Herod…well, that was so long ago and everybody knows John was pretty eccentric and not really to be imitated. Besides, the unborn aren’t really quite like the rest of us. They’re just fetuses and you can’t expect a cardinal of the Church today to act like they deserve the same kind of respect and civility as a President of the United States.
Cardinal Dolan, with all due respect, I don’t buy your excuses for inviting Obama to dinner. The little murdered peers of my grandchildren deserve better. And for that matter, so do my children and grandchildren.

Here’s what I posted as a comment on the Cardinal’s blog responding to his defense of inviting Obama for dinner :

Christ ate with the low level outcasts of the culture. He never broke bread with Herod or Pilate. If we believe what we say about the babies being equal to the rest of us, eating with Obama and giving him a photo op laughing it up with you, Your Excellency, is like sitting down for a yuck with Hitler while his administration was killing the Jews, the gypsies, Catholic priests, political enemies, etc. As a mom of five and grandmother of twenty-one I can only say that I see little evidence in your act that you believe unborn babies are actually as important as bishops and cardinals. If Obama favored stabbing a bishop in the head and sucking out his brains there is no way you would entertain him for dinner. I will certainly pray for you and your brother bishops who have treated faithful Catholics in the pew like bothersome and brainless poor relations. Inviting Obama to the dinner is a scandal and there is no way to put a gloss on it that makes it less of a scandal!

BCI could not have put it better than this.  There is no other way to describe the Obama dinner invitation than to call it a scandal.  BCI also wonders how many Catholics are unaware of the extent to which the Obama HHS mandate could financially cripple or shut down private family-run businesses and Catholic institutions. Meanwhile, Catholic Charities and Cardinal Dolan are honoring the man behind it all with a speaking platform at the Al Smith dinner. Things are getting worse and worse for faithful Catholics, not better.  What do you think?


Doubts About Dolan’s Defense of Dinner

August 15, 2012

Cardinal Dolan has come out with a blog post explaining the decision to invite President Obama to the Al Smith dinner .  We are glad that Cardinal Dolan has at last given an explanation in his own words.  But, his defense still leaves us, along with many Catholics, shaking our heads with doubts about the decision. Below are excerpts from the blog post by Cardinal Dolan, with our commentary inline. We would like to give Cardinal Dolan the benefit of the doubt, but we remain skeptical.

Last week I was out in Anaheim for the annual Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus. It was, as usual, a most uplifting and inspirational event.

In his rousing address to the thousands of delegates, representing 1.8 million knights, Dr. Carl Anderson, the Supreme Knight, exhorted us to a renewed sense of faithful citizenship, encouraging us not to be shy about bringing the values of faith to the public square…

He then went on to announce a promising initiative of the Knights of Columbus to foster civility in politics…

[BCI] Where has the civility displayed in recent years by the Knights toward pro-abortion, pro-gay-marriage politicians who are also members of the K of C gotten them? Has it changed any hearts, minds or votes of these so-called “Catholic” Knights in elected office who consistently act in defiance of our moral principles? If it was producing some impact, then great–by all means keep at it. But if it is not producing any change, maybe displaying yet more civility towards them is not a winning approach. If the “carrot” approach does not motivate change, then try the stick instead.

For seven decades, the Al Smith Dinner here in New York has been an acclaimed example of such civility in political life. As you may know, every four years, during the presidential election campaign, the Al Smith Dinner is the venue of history, as it is the only time outside of the presidential debates that the two presidential candidates come together, at the invitation of the Al Smith Foundation, through the archbishop of New York, for an evening of positive, upbeat, patriotic, enjoyable civil discourse.  This year, both President Obama and Governor Romney have accepted our invitation. I am grateful to them.

[BCI] With all due respect, so what if the dinner has been an example of civility in political life for seven decades? What became of the civil discourse with candidate Obama 4 years ago at this same dinner? Now his policies that violate our religious freedom and mandate contraceptive coverage could result in the shut-down of Catholic Charities, a beneficiary of the dinner.  We have never had as anti-Catholic a President as we have today, who is working as actively and in as un-civil a manner as Obama to oppose all of our moral principles and religious freedoms. If the dinner now causes scandal by the invitation and presence of Obama or other pro-abortion anti-Catholic politicians, should it continue this way just because it has been held for a while?  

…I am receiving stacks of mail protesting the invitation to President Obama (and by the way, even some objecting to the invitation to Governor Romney).

[BCI] Glad to hear the mail is getting through. In Boston, our mail to the Cardinal does not get through to him at all.

The objections are somewhat heightened this year, since the Catholic community in the United States has rightly expressed vigorous criticism of the President’s support of the abortion license, and his approval of mandates which radically intruded upon Freedom of Religion. We bishops, including yours truly, have been unrelenting in our opposition to these issues, and will continue to be.

[BCI] The objections have been massively heightened this year. We appreciate your vigorous criticism of the President’s support of the abortion license and your criticism of his mandates that radically intrude upon our Freedom of Religion.  Do you plan to be unrelenting in your vigorous criticism of the President’s support for abortion and intrusion on our Freedom of Religion in your public comments at the Al Smith dinner?

So, my correspondents ask, how can you justify inviting the President? Let me try to explain.

For one, an invitation to the Al Smith Dinner is not an award, or the provision of a platform to expound views at odds with the Church. It is an occasion of conversation; it is personal, not partisan.

[BCI] No one has said the invitation to the dinner is an award. But the USCCB, of which Cardinal Dolan is President, has also said we should not honor or give platforms to those who act in defiance of our moral principles, which Obama clearly does. How is it not an honor to be the keynote featured speaker at a nationally-known fundraiser?  How is it not an honor to be the dinner guest of the Cardinal Archbishop of New York and President of the USCCB? And even if Obama does not use this specific dinner as an occasion to expound views at odds with the Church, the dinner by this Catholic organization and hosted by the Catholic Archbishop of NY is still is giving Obama a public platform that suggests support for his actions. The Foundation website says, “Indeed, the occasion has evolved into something of an opportunity for speakers – particularly ones whose mien is typically quite serious – to show, through quips and slightly irreverent humor, that they can poke fun at a political issue, an opponent, or themselves.” This sounds like a platform.  To honor or give a platform to those who act in defiance of our moral principles is contrary to the direction from the USCCB in their 2004 document, Catholics in Political Life.

Two, the purpose of the Al Smith Dinner is to show both our country and our Church at their best: people of faith gathered in an evening of friendship, civility, and patriotism, to help those in need, not to endorse either candidate. Those who started the dinner sixty-seven years ago believed that you can accomplish a lot more by inviting folks of different political loyalties to an uplifting evening, rather than in closing the door to them.

[BCI] Interesting how the spin about the purpose of the Al Smith dinner keeps changing. The Foundation says the dinner is “a living memorial to an uncommon public figure.”  The Foundation also says, in the days before Saturday Night Live, the Al Smith dinner served as a kind of “proving ground for the candidate as entertainer,” as one reporter described it.

Three, the teaching of the Church, so radiant in the Second Vatican Council, is that the posture of the Church towards culture, society, and government is that of engagement and dialogue. In other words, it’s better to invite than to ignore, more effective to talk together than to yell from a distance, more productive to open a door than to shut one. Our recent popes have been examples of this principle, receiving dozens of leaders with whom on some points they have serious disagreements. Thus did our present Holy Father graciously receive our current President of the United States.  And, in the current climate, we bishops have maintained that we are open to dialogue with the administration to try and resolve our differences.  What message would I send if I refused to meet with the President?

[BCI] With all due respect, this seems to be comparing apples and bananas. Recent popes have received leaders who visited the Vatican and asked to meet with the Holy Father.  These one-on-one meetings have taken place in a private audience behind closed doors and are an opportunity to engage in dialogue. Sometimes photos have not been allowed (e.g. with Nancy Pelosi).  The very public Al Smith fundraiser dinner is hardly an opportunity to engage in discourse and dialogue to try and resolve differences with the administration.  Furthermore, by not exercising the option to invite Obama, that does not say you are “refusing to meet with the President.” If the President invites you to the White House to meet with him to discuss how to resolve our serious disagreements, by all means you should accept the invitation and meet with him.

Finally, an invitation to the Al Smith Dinner in no way indicates a slackening in our vigorous promotion of values we Catholic bishops believe to be at the heart of both gospel and American values, particularly the defense of human dignity, fragile life, and religious freedom. In fact, one could make the case that anyone attending the dinner, even the two candidates, would, by the vibrant solidarity of the evening, be reminded that America is at her finest when people, free to exercise their religion, assemble on behalf of poor women and their babies, born and unborn, in a spirit of civility and respect.

[BCI] So the dinner will include Cardinal Dolan vigorously promoting values including the defense of human dignity, fragile life, and religious freedom? Does anyone really believe that Obama will come away believing that America is at her finest when people, free to exercise their religion in ways that the President is actively taking away from us, assemble on behalf of poor women and their unborn babies that Obama uses taxpayer dollars to kill in the womb? Did attending the dinner in 2008 as a presidential candidate change Obama and make him more supportive of Catholic moral principles? If what we have seen since then from Obama is a reflection of what he got from the 2008 dinner, can we take any more?

Some have told me the invitation is a scandal. That charge weighs on me, as it would on any person of faith, but especially a pastor, who longs to give good example, never bad. So, I apologize if I have given such scandal. I suppose it’s a case of prudential judgment: would I give more scandal by inviting the two candidates, or by not inviting them?

[BCI] We appreciate that you have come to see that the invitation is seen by many faithful Catholics as a scandal, and we also appreciate your apology.   There was not scandal in past years when pro-abortion candidates were not invited to the dinner, so it seems that you have indeed given more scandal by inviting the two candidates. The question now is, what do you plan to do since you have given such scandal to the country?

No matter what you might think of this particular decision, might I ask your prayers for me and my brother bishops and priests who are faced with making these decisions, so that we will be wise and faithful shepherds as God calls us to be?

[BCI] You have our prayers.

In the end, I’m encouraged by the example of Jesus, who was blistered by his critics for dining with those some considered sinners; and by the recognition that, if I only sat down with people who agreed with me, and I with them, or with those who were saints, I’d be taking all my meals alone.

[BCI] With all due respect, this example of Jesus, who dined with sinners in private to try to convert them is being used once again to compare apples and oranges. Judie Brown, of the American Life League, put it well in this column, What Would Jesus Do?

While it is true that Jesus dined with sinners, it was for the purpose of converting their hearts, of teaching them His laws, and of inspiring them to change sinful behaviors. President Obama has been invited to dine with Cardinal Dolan and others, but the goals of this dinner are not the same goals Jesus held. Today’s commentary addresses this and explains why we are beseeching the cardinal to have his own change of heart. 

Immediately after we launched the No Dinner for Obama campaign, a concerned Catholic wrote to us and said:

      Did not Jesus Himself dine with, seek the company of, and take audience with sinners, tax collectors, rabbis, and Pharisees who all believed and preached falsities? Who are we to stray from His example? Who are we to discriminate against a leader of many instead of dining with him, and trying to convince him of the true word of Jesus Christ?

My initial reaction was to feel sorrow for this fellow because he was sincerely trying to excuse the public embrace by members of the hierarchy of a man who has done nothing to advance any precept of the natural law. Obama is not confused about what he is doing to the Church. His actions are, and have been, intentional.

Furthermore, as author and columnist Phil Lawler wrote recently,

      When Jesus sat with tax collectors, the dinners were private. They were not “photo ops” for political candidates. The Lord could speak directly to the hearts of his dining companions, and convert them. Remember, St. Matthew left the tax-collecting business to follow Christ. Does anyone believe that after the Al Smith Dinner, Obama will decide to rescind the contraceptive mandate?

Following the dinner, America will see front-page photos and stories that feature Cardinal Dolan sitting with Obama, laughing and having a great time. Such images send a message to America that all is well between the leader of the United States of America and the leader of the American Catholic Church.

I am not sure who will be the most gravely scandalized by the photo op, but the point is that Obama is a danger to freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, and all that we hold dear as Christians in America. Our campaign is not a campaign of discrimination or negativity, it is an effort to follow Christ’s admonition to his disciples (Luke 17: 1-2): “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.”

We are all called to be faithful, and sometimes that means making difficult decisions or taking unpopular actions in order to defend Christ and His Church. This is not a time for squeamishness or half-hearted attempts to uphold a tradition which, in the case of the Al Smith Dinner, needs to be broken.

[BCI] BCI thinks Cardinal Dolan faces any of several choices to eliminate the scandal created by the 2012 Al Smith Dinner:

  1. Uninvite President Obama
  2. Cancel the dinner
  3. Continue with the dinner as planned, but Cardinal Dolan mitigates the damage and scandal by not personally attending–and the media is banned from the dinner, with no photo opps or cameras permitted

What do you think?


“The Church of Nice” – NY Archdiocese Explanation of Obama Invitation

August 11, 2012

The flap over Cardinal Dolan inviting President Obama to the Al Smith dinner continues, and the explanation by a senior official with the Archdiocese of New York for inviting President Obama to the dinner left much to be desired. The last part of their explanation sounds like it is straight out of the Boston Archdiocese playbook:

The message is also that we can set aside our deeply-held differences and leave the partisan politics at the door for an evening, speak nicely and politely to each other, and work together for a common cause in the service of the poor.

Sound famliar?  The key principle of the “Church of Nice” is to be nice and polite to each other and work for a common cause. To paraphrase what several commenters have said elsewhere, if we were in Germany during the Holocaust, would we “set aside our differences” and invite Adolf Hitler to such a dinner where we have nice, polite conversation, despite his role in the slaughter of millions of innocent people?  Is being “nice and polite” to work for the common good why Cardinal O’Malley keeps Jack Connors around despite his support for pro-abortion political figures whose policies work against the mission of the Catholic Church?  Is this why Cardinal O’Malley did not criticize Mayor Menino for his position that Chick-fil-A should not be in Boston because their leadership supports traditional marriage?  The list goes on and on.

Play the ChurchMilitant.TV video below, or read excerpts below:

Here are some of the key points you should note from this video and a prior one:

The high-ranking NY archdiocesean official who responded said: “people need to take a deep breath, relax a second, and think carefully about this.” The tone is condescending and the implication is that anyone who disagrees with the archdiocese hasn’t thought carefully enough.

The archdiocese, through this official, is saying the “dinner is not a religious event in any way” because it’s administered by the Al Smith Foundation, not the archdiocese. Also wrong or at best, misleading. To suggest it is not a Catholic Church event is a lot of baloney. What this official fails to tell us is that ON the board of the foundation itself and head of the board is Cardinal Timothy Dolan. Auxiliary bishop Dennis Sullivan, Vicar General of the New York Archdiocese, is also on the Board. It has their seal of approval. To try and suggest there is some healthy separation between the Foundation and the Archdiocese is insulting. The money raised by the dinner goes to support the Archdiocese of NY Catholic Charities. The primary figure at the dinner is the Cardinal archbishop of New York. The Foundation’s board of directors has seats occupied by the two highest ranking clerics from the archdiocese, and the archdiocese heavily promotes the dinner and benefits from greatly from it.  While it’s technically true is isn’t a religious event such as the Mass, it most certainly is a Catholic event. Catholicism is celebrated at the dinner, right down to the very reason for the dinner–that Al Smith was the first Catholic to run for president on his party’s ticket in 1928. So, it’s disingenuous to try and paint this as merely a civic event.

The NY archdiocesan official said “politicians who speak at the dinner are not getting any award or honor by the Church.”  Though Obama is not being given an “award,” it most certainly is an honor to be invited to keynote a prominent dinner.   Exactly what situation arises where someone is invited to speak at a fundraiser – as THE headliner – and it is not considered an honor? Do the organizers not consider it an honor when they extend the invitation?  What is it to honor someone?  It’s to call them out, set them above others, and call them out as someone worthy to listen to, follow, or emulate.

If the archdiocese doesn’t REALLY have that much to do with the event, then why did Cardinal Dolan extend invitations to the keynote speakers. Why is an employee of the archdiocese writing on the official archdiocesan page about it? Is the archdiocese in the habit of paying employees to write their own personal opinions on its page about things with only a passing relation to the archdiocese?

The official said, “When everyone wakes up the morning after, the struggle will resume.”  This comment is perhaps the most grating of all, as well as the most telling. It says plainly and implies that the struggle can be broken from. Show us anywhere where the Blessed Lord, the saints, doctors of the church, fathers of the Church, and martyrs suggested you could break from the struggle.  Why are we taking a break from the struggle? To hob-nob with the man who wants to strangle the Church?  Do we really suppose his administration at the White House is taking a break from enforcing the wicked  HHS mandate on the Church?

The official said, “we can still show respect for his office, and for him as a person, and treat him with civility.  It gives us an opportunity to act as Christians, and show some love to our adversaries.”  Again, a very telling comment.  The implication is that to oppose him (Obama), is to somehow not show him respect. That to call him out for his death-dealing policies is to not treat him with civility. And that is showing love for our adversaries.

THAT, in one short phrase sums up EVERYTHING that has gone wrong in the Church in the past 50 years  To speak the truth boldly and plainly is  somehow not love. Love has been absolutely confused with the concept of being nice and politically correct. This distortion has allowed the leaders of Church to totally abdicate their roles as fathers who love and die for their children. Fathers say the tough things.

You want to talk about love and true charity? The most perfect way to demonstrate true charity would be to set an example for not only Barack Obama, who is trapped in his own evil and needs rescuing as well, but to lift up the spirits of tens of thousands, if not millions of Catholics dismayed and shocked over this and un-invite Obama. That would be a true statement of authentic charity.

In the “Church of Nice,” what else is there to see other than this weak-kneed statement by the NY archdiocesan official, “The message is also that we can set aside our deeply-held differences and leave the partisan politics at the door for an evening, speaking nicely and politely to each other.”  There it is–at the end of the day, it all boils down to just being nice. The Church of Nice. Sacrificing our Lord to be nice.

Here is the petition to have Obama disinvited. Please sign it. For the sake of true charity, we ask Cardinal Dolan to rescind the invitation or, as one writer put it at RenewAmerica, “Cancel the Dinner.”


Chicago Cardinal Speaks out on Chick-fil-A, Boston Cardinal Maintains Silence

August 1, 2012

Cardinal George of Chicago has “slammed Chicago mayor’s comments on Chick-fil-A marriage flap” in a July 29 blog post. Meanwhile, the Boston Archdiocese and Cardinal O’Malley have remained silent on the national and local controversy.

For those supportive of Chick-fil-A, today has been dubbed Chick-fil-A appreciation day.  Visit a Chick-fil-A store to show your support for the chain’s religious values.  In Massachusetts, they are located in the Burlington Mall and Northshore Mall in Peabody.

Here is an excerpt from the LifeSiteNews article on the flap:

Cardinal George slams Chicago mayor’s comments on Chick-fil-A marriage flap

CHICAGO, July 31, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Cardinal Francis George, the Catholic Archbishop of Chicago, has taken aim at remarks by the mayor and an alderman of Chicago slamming Chick-Fil-A’s public stance in support of true marriage.

“Recent comments by those who administer our city seem to assume that the city government can decide for everyone what are the ‘values’ that must be held by citizens of Chicago,” Cardinal George wrote in a “Reflection on ‘Chicago Values’.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is also co-chair of President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign, told the Chicago Tribune last week that he agreed with the reasons for Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno’s effort to stop Chick-fil-A from opening a new restaurant in the city based on CEO Dan Cathy’s “bigoted, homophobic” views.

Cathy, who is famously outspoken in his Christian beliefs, had said that he was “guilty as charged” for supporting traditional marriage…

“Chick-fil-A’s values are not Chicago values,” Emanuel told the Tribune. “They’re not respectful of our residents, our neighbors and our family members. And if you’re gonna be part of the Chicago community, you should reflect Chicago values.”

The following day mayoral press secretary Tarrah Cooper issued a statement saying, “The Mayor simply said that Chick-fil-A’s CEO does not share Chicago’s values…he does not believe the CEO’s values are reflective of our city,” according to a Sun-Times report.

But Cardinal George begs to differ with the mayor’s understanding of ‘Chicago values’. “I was born and raised here, and my understanding of being a Chicagoan never included submitting my value system to the government for approval,” he wrote. “Must those whose personal values do not conform to those of the government of the day move from the city?

“I would have argued a few days ago that I believe such a move is, if I can borrow a phrase, ‘un-Chicagoan.’”

The Cardinal said that support for gay “marriage” has become “a litmus test for bigotry.” But, he pointed out, Jesus affirmed true marriage “when he spoke of “two becoming one flesh (Mt. 19: 4-6).”

“Was Jesus a bigot? Could Jesus be accepted as a Chicagoan? Would Jesus be more ‘enlightened’ if he had the privilege of living in our society?” the cardinal asked.

Here is the full text of Cardinal George’s statement, followed by some of the comments from readers.

Reflections on “Chicago values”

By Francis Cardinal George, OMI

Recent comments by those who administer our city seem to assume that the city government can decide for everyone what are the “values” that must be held by citizens of Chicago. I was born and raised here, and my understanding of being a Chicagoan never included submitting my value system to the government for approval. Must those whose personal values do not conform to those of the government of the day move from the city? Is the City Council going to set up a “Council Committee on Un-Chicagoan Activities” and call those of us who are suspect to appear before it? I would have argued a few days ago that I believe such a move is, if I can borrow a phrase, “un-Chicagoan.”

The value in question is espousal of “gender-free marriage.” Approval of state-sponsored homosexual unions has very quickly become a litmus test for bigotry; and espousing the understanding of marriage that has prevailed among all peoples throughout human history is now, supposedly, outside the American consensus. Are Americans so exceptional that we are free to define “marriage” (or other institutions we did not invent) at will? What are we re-defining?

It might be good to put aside any religious teaching and any state laws and start from scratch, from nature itself, when talking about marriage. Marriage existed before Christ called together his first disciples two thousand years ago and well before the United States of America was formed two hundred and thirty six years ago. Neither Church nor state invented marriage, and neither can change its nature.

Marriage exists because human nature comes in two complementary sexes: male and female. The sexual union of a man and woman is called the marital act because the two become physically one in a way that is impossible between two men or two women. Whatever a homosexual union might be or represent, it is not physically marital. Gender is inextricably bound up with physical sexual identity; and “gender-free marriage” is a contradiction in terms, like a square circle.

Both Church and state do, however, have an interest in regulating marriage. It is not that religious marriage is private and civil marriage public; rather, marriage is a public institution in both Church and state. The state regulates marriage to assure stability in society and for the proper protection and raising of the next generation of citizens. The state has a vested interest in knowing who is married and who is not and in fostering good marriages and strong families for the sake of society.

The Church, because Jesus raised the marital union to the level of symbolizing his own union with his Body the Church, has an interest in determining which marital unions are sacramental and which are not. The Church sees married life as a path to sanctity and as the means for raising children in the faith, as citizens of the universal kingdom of God. These are all legitimate interests of both Church and state, but they assume and do not create the nature of marriage.

People who are not Christian or religious at all take for granted that marriage is the union of a man and a woman for the sake of family and, of its nature, for life. The laws of civilizations much older than ours assume this understanding of marriage. This is also what religious leaders of almost all faiths have taught throughout the ages. Jesus affirmed this understanding of marriage when he spoke of “two becoming one flesh” (Mt. 19: 4-6). Was Jesus a bigot? Could Jesus be accepted as a Chicagoan? Would Jesus be more “enlightened” if he had the privilege of living in our society? One is welcome to believe that, of course; but it should not become the official state religion, at least not in a land that still fancies itself free. Surely there must be a way to properly respect people who are gay or lesbian without using civil law to undermine the nature of marriage.

Surely we can find a way not to play off newly invented individual rights to “marriage” against constitutionally protected freedom of religious belief and religious practice. The State’s attempting to redefine marriage has become a defining moment not for marriage, which is what it is, but for our increasingly fragile “civil union” as citizens.

Francis Cardinal George, OMI
Archbishop of Chicago

Reader comments on the Cardinal George blog post:

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 4:43 PM

I welcome and agree with the Cardinal’s much needed words of wisdom and truth.
One point of clarification, however:
Long before Jesus spoke of “two becoming one flesh”,(Matthew 19:4-6), G-d told Adam and Eve: “This is why a man leaves his father and mother*, and joins himself to his wife and they become one body” (Genesis 2:24).
* Note: FATHER and MOTHER.i.e. male and female parents.
Please continue the good fight, Cardinal George, and may God bless you.

— Martin L.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 4:16 PM

Thank you .. God bless you, Cardinal George, for speaking the unvarnished truth!

Are we now in in Russia or Cuba, with these outrageous overbearing dictates from heavy handed government officials being flung in our faces about what they deem our faith practices and beliefs should be? How dare they!

I pray resolve, courage, commitment
and guidance in the Churches of the Archdiocese and nationwide and its priests and laypeople, especially by our priests from the altar, which has sadly been missing in the local churches I attend Mass, including the Cathedral.

The flock needs to be lovingly armed with knowledge, courage, faith and inspiration in standing up for the Church and our God-given rights.

Christ said we would be persecuted for our worship of Him. If these blatant, despicable attacks on our religious liberty in Obamacare and the current Chick-fil-a kerfuffle are the signs of the time when we will be called to choose Christ, to go along to get along and not make waves, or be punished, then please .. let us be lead from the pulpit by righteous and brave priests guiding us with truth to fortify and help us.

God bless and save us all.

— J. H.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 3:52 PM

Thank you Cardinal George for articulating with insight and balance the truth about what marriage is and is not and for addressing the current trend of narrowness of mind and dialogue that seems to have bound up our national conversation. I always thought I lived in a pluralistic society where everyone’s right to hold one’s own values was assured, at least by government. Are we now moving to a totalitarian State? The current change is disturbing and alarming!

— Fr. Joe C.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 3:38 PM

Thank you, Your Eminence, for speaking out. We hear you all the way to the Archidiocese of Detroit. I’ve been waiting a long time for our Church leaders to respond to what is happening to our core values in the country and you and Cardinal Dolan are great spokesmen.

— Kathy P.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 3:37 PM

Dear Cardinal George,
thank you for your clearly -worded position. I’m a protestant who has recently been in discussion with my gay friend about gay unions. He prefers the word marriage. I prefer the word union for many of the reasons you mention. The question that finally rose to the surface is the one you asked: Is Jesus a bigot. I think the majority of people desiring some sort of governmental, national, edict making uniiversal gay marriage a fact, want very much to make any voice including Christ’s and His Bride’s that say gay marriage is not the same thing as marriage as Jesus defined it, be silenced. I think it may be the winds of persecution.I think we can and should interact with genuine love and grace to people in the LGBT community, especially, but without compromising our understanding of what Our Lord has taught us. And even though I’m not Catholic, we both love the One Who gave Himself for us; the recent government attacks on the Catholic Church have troubled me deeply. I pray God’s peace and presence are yours.
Leslie A.

— Leslie A.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 3:27 PM

Well said, Eminence! Please continue to speak out in this way!

— Mya N.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 3:26 PM

Dear Cardinal,

Well stated! I am so glad to see our church leaders stand up to this persecution. God bless you and your church! Gay activists tell us we should accept all lifestyles without criticism. When we disagree with Home Depot on their support of gay rights, we are considered intolerant. When gay activists disagree with Chick-Fil-A’s CEO on tradition marriage, we are, again, the intolerant ones. They don’t practice what they preach. If they believed what they say, they would just eat at a different fast food restaurant. Just like I choose a Home Depot alternative. What they really believe is ‘if you don’t agree with us, you’ll pay for it’. Where is the tolerance there?

Thank you for not cowering in the corner. Thank you for making a stand. I will be lifting you and your congregation up in prayer.

— Sherrill W.

We encourage and urge Cardinal O’Malley to use this as a teaching opportunity for Boston Catholics and to issue a similar statement. Boston Mayor Menino said, ” “Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston. You can’t have a business in the City of Boston that discriminates against a population. We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion.”

“Inclusion” should mean “including” people whose values might disagree with the personal values of the mayor, and should mean including those who agree with the definition of marriage as it has existed for millenia across all cultures, religions and civilizations. For the Boston Archdiocese to remain silent and not publicly object to the position of “Catholic” Mayor Menino is to leave the impression for millions of Catholics that the Archdiocese of Boston tacitly agrees with Menino. It also says, for all the talk about religious freedom and hooplah over the religious freedom Town Hall Meeting, when push comes to shove, the Boston Archdiocese is not willing to stand up for those freedoms. What do you think?

 


Boston Archdiocese Silent on Chick-fil-A Fracas

July 28, 2012

BCI is digging through the latest news about Boston Mayor Menino’s criticism of Chick-fil-A and as of this writing, no one can find any statement from the Boston Archdiocese about the recent Chick-fil-A fracas.

For those unfamiliar with the fracas, the fast-food chain wants to open a francise in Boston. Mayor Menino, who, coincidentally, considers himself “Catholic,”  got national attention after telling the Boston Herald that Chick-fil-A was unwelcome in Boston due to an executive’s criticism of same-sex marriage. “If they need licenses in the city, it will be very difficult,” Menino was quoted as saying. The mayor backtracked a little bit and later said he would not block licensing the chain, but amidst a national uproar over the situation, the silence by the Boston Archdiocese is concerning.

In case the archdiocese is at a loss for words, here are a few examples they might draw from:

Boston Globe Editorial: Menino shouldn’t block Chick-fil-A because of president’s views

The president of Chick-fil-A opposes gay marriage. While this view goes against the grain in a state that made history by embracing it, it’s no reason for Mayor Thomas M. Menino to oppose a Chick-fil-A restaurant in Boston.

The fast food chicken sandwich chain was reportedly looking at property near Faneuil Hall…Then company president Dan Cathy stirred national controversy when he said  that “we’re inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.” In response, Menino told the Boston Herald, “Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston. You can’t have a business in the City of Boston that discriminates against a population. We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion.”

But which part of the First Amendment does Menino not understand? A business owner’s political or religious beliefs should not be a test for the worthiness of his or her application for a business license.

Chick-fil-A must follow all state and city laws. If the restaurant chain denied service to gay patrons or refused to hire gay employees, Menino’s outrage would be fitting… But beyond the fact that Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays, the religious beliefs of the company’s top executive don’t appear to control its operations

…using the power of government to freeze the company out of a city sends a disturbing message to all businesses. If the mayor of a conservative town tried to keep out gay-friendly Starbucks or Apple, it would be an outrage.

Ironically, Menino is citing the specific location along the Freedom Trail as a reason to block Chick-fil-A. A city in which business owners must pass a political litmus test is the antithesis of what the Freedom Trail represents.

Boston Business Journal: Balking at mayor’s chicken stand

While the mayor’s support for policies of inclusion is admirable, his threat to deny a company the basic right to open a law-abiding business in a commercially zoned area was philosophically offensive and legally foolish.

As far as we can tell, no one has proven a pattern of Chick-fil-A discriminating against gay employees or prospective employees.

Michael Bloomberg fillets Tom Menino over stance

[New York City Mayor, Michael] Bloomberg, meanwhile, took to the airwaves in Gotham and said he’d welcome Chick-fil-A into Manhattan with open arms. The billionaire businessman-turned-New York mayor said Menino, along with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee, are wrong “to look at somebody’s political views and decide whether or not they can live in the city, or operate a business in the city.”

Even businessmen entitled to their beliefs

So here we have yet another striking example of how the love that once dared not speak its name now wants to slap a muzzle on anyone uttering a word of resistance to its agenda. And this is the crowd that pleaded for tolerance?

Dan Cathy, the president of Chick-fil-A, became a lighting rod for their vilification when he let it be known his life was shaped by biblically founded beliefs, one of which held that marriage is an institution ordained by God, defined through the ages as the union of a man and a woman.

For that affront to political correctness, he’s been portrayed in this town as a small-minded bigot whose business may be allowed here, but certainly won’t be warmly received.

This is civic insanity and it’s spreading like a plague…

There are dozens of other outstanding editorials that put this in proper perspective.  In the midst of a national controversy, a voice of moral clarity from the local archdiocese giving support for the positions expressed by the president of Chick-fil-A seems appropriate. In these challenging times when Catholic Church and our moral views are under fierce attack, is it not appropriate for the Boston Archdiocese to make a statement saying a business owner’s religious beliefs should never be used as criteria to determine whether they can get a business license in Boston?  Where is the commentary on Cardinal Sean’s blog?   Hello!?  Hello!?

(ps. BCI has been on a blogging break to handle other responsibilities and also go on a much-needed retreat and vacation. We are still here and blogging, just on a reduced schedule)


Fortnight for Freedom: Town Hall Meeting with Cardinal O’Malley Mon. June 25

June 24, 2012

The USCCB-sponsored Fortnight for Freedom is underway. All should pray for religious freedom in the U.S. and we should also pray for a change of heart for those who would intentionally or unintentionally be working against religious freedom.

On Monday, June 25 at 8pm, Cardinal O’Malley is hosting a town hall meeting on CatholicTV.  The event will be simulcast on WQOM 1060 in Boston.

“Fortnight for Freedom” will be a lively, hour-long discussion on the challenges to our religious liberty. They will discuss the ways that Americans can promote and defend religious freedom. Join in the conversation at CatholicTV’s Twitter and Facebook pages. Comments and questions will be addressed during the event on CatholicTV’s Facebook page and viewers can also tweet @CatholicTV #Fortnight4Freedom.

We urge all Catholics to attend and participate.  If you want to ask a question, you will need to tweet it or post it to the CatholicTV Facebook page. That means you need to have a Twitter or Facebook account. (BCI is not in a position to guide you through getting on Facebook or Twitter. It is very easy – just ask an Internet-savvy friend or family member if you need help).

If you need any ideas for questions, here are a few BCI hopes will be asked and answered. Feel free to copy them and ask them on Monday.

  • To what extent would you encourage outright defiance of the Obama contraceptive coverage mandate on the basis of it being unconstitutional?
  • Rather than comply with the law or stop offering insurance, would you encourage Catholic institutions to simply defy the law and wait to see if the Obama administration tries to sue us?
  • Cardinal O’Malley, do you still believe, as you said in 2007, that it is bordering on scandal for Catholics to vote for pro-abortion politicians?
  • Cardinal O’Malley, perhaps we cannot see what is happening behind the scenes. What specifically are you doing to help change the hearts and minds of pro-abortion “Catholic” politicians in Massachusetts who also support these violations of religious freedom?  Is there evidence what you are doing is working?
  • Cardinal O’Malley, what can lay Catholics do to encourage you to take stronger action against pro-abortion “Catholic” politicians?  What prevents the Boston Archdiocese from asking pro-abortion “Catholic” politicians on an individual basis to voluntarily abstain from receiving Holy Communion until they change their positions?
  • What do you think of the Catholic Health Association and LCWR for having worked in support of Obamacare, which was in opposition at the time to the U.S. bishops? Have they fractured communion with the bishops? What is the best remedy for that?
  • Polls show 52% of Catholic voters in Massachusetts support physician-assisted suicide today. What is the tactical “ground game” plan for the next 4 months to sway Massachusetts voters to oppose physician assisted suicide in November?
  • Cardinal O’Malley, one your key fundraisers, Jack Connors, Jr, is hosting (or just finished hosting) a $40,000/person fundraiser for President Obama this afternoon.  How is it we can have a member of the Archdiocese of Boston Finance Council responsible for Institutional Advancement who is working against the Catholic Church by publicly fundraising for a politician who wants to violate our religious freedom?  Is that not scandalous?
  • What can lay Catholics do to encourage you to more effectively try to change the heart and mind of Mr. Connors, or if that fails, to ask him to resign from his roles on the Finance Council and with Catholic Schools?

Do attend the Town Hall Meeting–either on the radio, on TV, or via the Internet–and ask your questions.  At the same time, commit yourself to praying this prayer every day:

Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty

O God our Creator,

Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.

We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.

Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome—
for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us—
this great land will always be “one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

There is a need for activism, and also a need for prayer. Let us keep our prayers steadfast on this issue.


Report on Religious Freedom Rallies

June 9, 2012

BCI believes public action to protest the government intrusion on our religious freedom is important, and we are pleased to share a few reports with you on how the Boston rallies went. These rallies took place in 160 cities across the U.S. on June 8, including on Capital Hill in Washington, DC.

On Cardinal Sean’s blog, he reports on the June 8 rally on Boston Common:

rally2

The rally was part of the nationwide effort to Stand Up For Religious Freedom.  In March, 145 cities including Boston each held rallies.  Even more cities participated this time including other local rallies in Worcester and Leominster.

Janet Benestad who is our cabinet secretary for faith formation and evangelization was representing me at the event and was one of the speakers, together with Father Tad Pacholczyk and Sister Olga Yaqob. Scot Landry and George Martell also represented the Archdiocese of Boston at today’s Boston rally.rally5

Other speakers included former Ambassador to the Vatican and Mayor  of Boston Raymond Flynn, Kris Mineau from the Massachusetts Family Institute, young adult Ann-Marie Warner, Herald columnist Don Feder, and Alexis Walkenstein from the Maximus Group.  We appreciate the more than 300 attendees who took a stand today in support of religious freedom on the Common.

These rallies confirm how anxious people are to begin to underscore the importance of religious freedom which is being threatened in so many different venues but particularly with this mandate that redefines Catholic institutions as those that serve exclusively Catholics or are entirely staffed and run by Catholics, in this way eliminating from that category many of our schools, hospitals and other social agencies like Catholic Charities.

The U.S. Bishops recently announced the “Fortnight for Freedom” initiative which will take place from June 21 through July 4.  This special period of prayer, study, catechesis and public action will emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty.  Dioceses and parishes across the country have scheduled special events that support a great national campaign of teaching and witness for religious liberty.  One of the most significant ways we are marking the Fortnight in the Archdiocese of Boston is by holding an interactive live town hall meeting on Monday June 25 at 8pm on CatholicTV, www.CatholicTV.com, and 1060AM WQOM.  We will have some short presentations regarding the issues and what is at stake and then we will take questions from the studio audience and from the viewers who can submit questions via Facebook, Twitter and Email.  Please mark your calendars, join us and perhaps submit a question.

This is a nice report about the rally after the fact.It is unfortunate that more was not done by the archdiocese and Mass Catholic Conference to promote the rally before the event, since this issue should be of great importance for every one of the 300,000+ Mass-going Catholics in the Boston Archdiocese, and we would urge the archdiocese to use its PR and communications engine a bit more actively leading up to these kinds of events. In addition to the Boston rally, there was also one in West Roxbury. Lou reports here that the evening rally in West Roxbury drew nearly 150 people.

The Fortnight for Freedom is coming up soon, and The Pilot has an article about that initiative, as well as the upcoming June 25 town hall meeting with Cardinal O’Malley:

Angela Franks, who teaches at the Theological Institute for the New Evangelization, plans to appear as a panelist on the town hall meeting program. She said she is eager to defend the faith at the town hall meeting that will be broadcast nationally.

“It is important that the message be sent to congress and to the president that this is not an isolated case of a few people protesting, but that all Catholics all across the country recognize that this is a grave threat to the fundamental freedom of religious liberty,” she said.

She said it is important to present a unified voice between communities of Catholics in the United States throughout a network of local groups to dispel misconceptions.

“The mainstream media has tried to imply that the bishops do not have broad support, that this is a war against women, and that women are not supporting the Church and her position on this. So, it is very important for local Catholics to demonstrate that they do stand with the Church,” Franks said.

BCI suggests all readers take part in the town hall meeting and take advantage of this time to submit your questions to Cardinal O’Malley. Ironically, the town hall meeting with Cardinal O’Malley is on the same day when President Obama is in Boston for a series of campaign fundraisers, including one for $40,000/person at the home of Catholic Schools fundraiser and Finance Council member, Jack Connors Jr. (not exactly the presenting of a “unified voice” among Catholics, but that is a topic for another post).

Have a wonderful weekend!


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