The Boston Pilot has made yet another mistake–this time by publishing an endorsement of a political candidate on the front page of the archdiocesan paper, and by not fact-checking the piece. A careful fact-check would have revealed a series of incorrect statements or flat-out misrepresentations of facts and reality. If there is one thing that gets the blood boiling here at BCI, it is when people say or publish things that are objectively deceptive. That is the case here.
BCI is not getting into politics and preferred to not even comment on this issue. However, we have been hit by a number of messages and complaints from readers since this was published. These include Catholic lawyers and pro-life, pro-family activists who provided BCI with extensive documentation. Since the official archdiocesan newspaper, The Boston Pilot, chose to publish the Catholic News Agency story on the front page, and since the story is laden with false information, BCI feels compelled to correct the misrepresentations. This will take us several posts.
Here is a link to the CNA story from the front page of The Boston Pilot: “Pro-family advocates defend Romney’s record on life, marriage.”
A group of nine individuals from pro-family organizations in Massachusetts have written an open letter defending Mitt Romney’s record of protecting marriage, promoting a culture of life and supporting religious freedom during his time as governor of the state. The Dec. 30 letter attempts to “set the record straight” after Romney’s commitment to life and marriage was questioned in media reports.
Among the signatories were Raymond L. Flynn and Mary Ann Glendon, both former U.S. Ambassadors to the Holy See, as well as former executive director of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, Gerald D. D’Avolio.
First problem: the letter itself reads like a political endorsement: Essentially, “Ray, Mary Ann, Gerry, et al say Mitt Romney is a good guy and defend his record.” It has no place in the archdiocesan newspaper, let alone on the front page. If “Msgr. G. says President Obama is a good guy,” does that belong on the front page of The Pilot as well so that everyone gets equal ink? The Catholic Church should be stating the views of the Catholic Church on certain issues and can distribute voter guides that list the publicly-stated positions of various candidates on a number of issues of importance to the Catholic Church, but the Church cannot endorse political candidates. In this case, The Pilot did not specifically endorse Mitt Romney, but it published a letter through with others gave their implicit endorsement. They should not have published this at all.
Second problem: Neither the CNA article nor The Pilot disclosed the affiliations of several of the signatories with the Romney campaign. For example, Mary Ann Glendon is a chairperson of the Romney Justice Advisory Committee, announced by his campaign on August 2, 2011.
The Chairpersons of the Advisory Committee – Judge Robert Bork, Professor Mary Ann Glendon, and Richard Wiley – issued a joint statement saying, “…We fully support Mitt Romney’s campaign and look forward to working with other members of the committee as we advise him on today’s pressing legal issues.”
Kristian Mineau, one of the signatories, is president of the Massachusetts Family Institute. BCI was informed of this 2007 NY Times report that discusses how MFI received a $10,000 donation from Mitt Romney. Coincidentally, not long afterwards MFI stopped criticizing Romney as “taking liberal stands during his first years as governor,” and instead “Mr. Mineau sought to enlist other Massachusetts social conservatives in signing an open letter supporting the governor.” Romney also is reported to have given $15,000 to Mass Citizens for Life. Coincidentally, another signatory, Joseph Reilly, is former Chairman of the Board, Massachusetts Citizens for Life and husband of Evelyn Reilly, public policy director for MFI. During most of his tenure as governor, Massachusetts Citizens for Life was critical of Romney, but in the months after receiving the donation, by coincidence, its officials issued favorable statements about his record.
If people and their organizations are going to accept money from a political candidate or serve as chairpersons of their political campaign sub-committees, their affiliations should be disclosed– and furthermore, their endorsements should not be published by a Catholic archdiocesan newspaper.
Third problem: a lot of what is in the actual letter itself that claims to “set the record straight” is in fact incorrect and misleading. BCI will fact-check what Romney did or did not do around three issues–emergency contraception (the “morning after pill”) forced on Catholic hospitals, Catholic Charities being mandated to allow adoption by gay couples, and “gay marriage.” Hold onto your seats.
We start with emergency contraception in this post.
The letter says:
“Some press accounts and bloggers have described Governor Romney in terms we neither have observed nor can we accept. To the contrary, we, who have been fighting here for the values you also hold, are indebted to him and his responsive staff in demonstrating solid social conservative credentials by undertaking the following actions here in Massachusetts.
Affirmed the culture of life. Governor Romney vetoed bills to provide access to the so-called “morning-after pill,” which is an abortifacient…
Yes, in 2005 Romney vetoed a bill to provide access to the so-called “morning-after-pill,” but what the signatories and The Boston Pilot fail to tell people is that a) Romney had publicly claimed the bill did not apply to private religious hospitals, and b) he reversed his own July 2005 veto against abortifacients by signing an October bill seeking a federal waiver to expand distribution of Plan B abortifacients. Even more troublesome is that shortly after Romney vetoed the requirement that hospitals offer Plan B to rape victims, Romney reversed himself and issued an executive order on December 8, 2005, against the legal opinion of his own State Department of Public Health, instructing all Catholic hospitals and others to provide the chemical Plan B “morning after pill” to rape victims! Surely, the letter signatories know this.
With help from several readers who asked to remain anonymous but gave permission for us to use their ideas and content, BCI has reconstructed the sequence:
1975. Massachusetts statute passed which allowed private hospitals to opt out of abortion, sterilization, and contraception.
Prior to July 25, 2005, when Gov. Romney vetoed the emergency contraception bill, the legislation had already been modified to expressly remove any amendments which would NOT allow that 1975 statute to prevail. (Although the House had added an amendment to S. 2073 that specifically applied the 1975 statute protections and the Senate had offered its own amendment stating the new bill superceded the 1975 statute, in the end both amendments were taken out, so the 1975 law prevailed and remains in force). See this July 2005 Mass Catholic Conference Notes from the Hill from when Mr. D’Avolio was Exec Director of MCC, but since removed from the MCC website. Even if the 1975 statute were not in place, Article II of the Massachusetts Constitution still guarantees freedom to practice religion without interference by the government.
December 7, 2005: In view of the 1975 statute and the removal of any provision in the 2005 legislation that impacted that 1975 conscience exemption, the Dept of Public Health wrote the regulations to exclude Catholic and private hospitals. This was announced on December 7, 2005 and described in this Boston Globe article, “Private hospitals exempt on pill law“:
“The state Department of Public Health has determined that Catholic and other privately-run hospitals in Massachusetts can opt out of giving the morning-after pill to rape victims because of religious or moral objections, despite a new law that requires all hospitals who treat such victims to provide them with emergency contraception…
The ruling, which the department plans to outline to hospital CEOs in a letter this week, says the new law applies to all hospitals but does not nullify a statute passed years ago that says privately-run hospitals cannot be forced to provide abortions or contraception.
”We feel very clearly that the two laws don’t cancel each other out and basically work in harmony with each other,” Paul Cote Jr., commissioner of the Department of Public Health, said in an interview yesterday.
The Department of Public Health decision is welcome news for Catholic hospitals who do not provide emergency contraception and feared that the new law would make them do so”
But, pro-abortion groups started protesting. Then Lt. Governor Kerry Healey objected (her pro-choice views on this issue were long a matter of the public record). Apparently, Romney’s own staff was waffling. His legal counsel, Mark Nielson, claimed the new law superseded the preexisting conscience protection statute, even though there was nothing in the bill to indicate this, and Nielson was claiming the bill said something the authors of the bill had purposely left out. (Coincidentally, Nielsen had run for Congress in 2000 as a pro-abortion candidate and received over $7K from pro-abortion groups). It appears Romney himself was not sure if he was going to run for re-election as Governor (in which case he needed to be a “moderate”) or he was going to run for President (in which case he needed to be a “conservative”). Listen to this audio clip for the story.
Romney did not listen to the opinions of the Catholic Church, the State Health Commissioner, his own health department, or the intent of the bill writers. Instead, he retreated.
December 9, 2005: Romney announced he was overruling the DPH (but for some reason, did not announce he was also overruling the Massachusetts Constitution). See this Boston Globe article, “(“Romney says no hospitals are exempt from pill law“):
“Governor Mitt Romney reversed course on the state’s new emergency contraception law yesterday, saying that all hospitals in the state will be obligated to provide the morning-after pill to rape victims. The decision overturns a ruling made public this week by the state Department of Public Health that privately run hospitals could opt out of the requirement if they objected on moral or religious grounds.”
Lifesite News reported at the time, “Romney Does Flip-Flop and Forces Catholic Hospitals to Distribute Morning-After-Pill”:
In a shocking turn-around, Massachusetts’s governor Mitt Romney announced yesterday that Roman Catholic and other private hospitals in the state will be forced to offer emergency contraception to sexual assault victims under new state legislation, regardless of the hospitals’ moral position on the issue.
The Republican governor had earlier defended the right of hospitals to avoid dispensing the “morning-after pill” on the grounds of moral dissent. The Boston Globe reported that Romney’s flip on the issue came after his legal counsel, Mark D. Nielsen, concluded Wednesday that the new law supersedes a preexisting statute related to the abortifacient pill.
A constitutional law expert advising BCI says that the LEGISLATIVE INTENT was clearly to allow the 1975 statute to prevail. The formulation of the regulations is supposed to follow the legislative intent. Romney actually violated the law and his oath of office by NOT going with the legislative intent, and overruling the legislative intent (as well as the Constitution).
But it gets worse. It was not merely a legal interpretation by the legal counsel to Romney. He said he personally thought it was the “right thing” for hospitals to provide access to emergency contraception for any rape victims. See this Dec 9, 2005 AP report:
Romney: Catholic hospitals not exempt from offering emergency contraception
By GLEN JOHNSON, Associated Press writer
BOSTON –Facing opposition from women, the Democratic Party and even his own running mate, Gov. Mitt Romney abandoned plans yesterday to exempt religious and other private hospitals from a new law requiring them to dispense emergency contraception to rape victims.The governor had initially backed regulations proposed earlier this week by his Department of Public Health, which said the new law conflicts with an older law barring the state from forcing private hospitals to dispense contraceptive devices or information.
The interpretation would have allowed hospitals operated by the Roman Catholic Church, which opposes abortion, to forego compliance with the new regulation. Opponents accused Romney, a Republican considering running for president in 2008, of trying to assuage social conservatives.
Despite defending the Health Department regulations as late as Wednesday, Romney opened a news conference yesterday by declaring that a fresh analysis by his legal counsel concluded the new law supersedes the old law, and that all hospitals must be required to offer the so-called morning-after pill.
“On that basis I have instructed the Department of Public Health to follow the conclusion of my own legal counsel and to adopt that sounder view,” Romney said. “I think, in my personal view, it’s the right thing for hospitals to provide information and access to emergency contraception to anyone who is a victim of rape,” he added.
The Boston Pilot, the signatories and the archdiocese should have known this. It was also reported in this Boston Pilot article. If the signatories were oblivious to this, then they should retract their letter and also be more careful in the future with fact-checking anything they sign their name to.
BCI must ask the question, how can people like the signatories of this open letter claim to be “setting the record straight” when they, in reality, neglect to share the critical facts and objective information? Instead of “setting the record straight” they are obfuscating the record. The Pilot served to advance this misrepresentation by publishing the CNA article.
BCI will tackle the other issues in separate posts.
ps. In the meantime, if anyone out there is familiar with the constitutional issues around the SJC decision on gay marriage–and in particular, the instructions and training by then-Gov. Romney and his legal counsel to town clerks to issue marriage licenses, please drop us an email.