“Can Obama win his battle with the Catholic Church?”
The words scrolled across the bottom of my screen. The cable channel “experts” were debating the President’s mandate that Catholic institutions provide employee insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization, and abortion inducing drugs.
“The President is helping women with their reproductive health needs,” one of the pundits noted. “But how will the voters respond?” the host replied.
Indeed, the President of the United States instigated a battle with an entire church, and did so quite intentionally. And it’s futile to now ask “can he win?” (he’s already scoring political points– I’ll explain in a moment).
Americans should instead be asking some different questions: Why have we come to accept a U.S. President’s attack on a church as normal, as though it’s nothing more than the subject of armchair quarterbacking? Why do polls show that nearly half of the American electorate wants to re-elect him? And why did a clear majority of American Catholics vote to empower this man in the first place?
After touching-off a global fury with his ruling on healthcare expenditures within religious organizations, the President announced last Friday that he would allow an “attempt to accommodate” (notice that he did not propose to “exempt”) religious organizations with the mandate. Rather than requiring religious groups to pay for birth control, Barack Obama plans instead to require all insurance companies to offer birth control to all women that they insure, and to do so at no extra cost to their customers.
Reaction from prolife leaders to the “accommodation” was swift and negative, while many pundits still argued that it was un-constitutional. Yet the non-profit, Washington, DC-based Catholics United, Inc., offered its blessing on Mr. Obama, noting that “the new regulation will ensure that Catholic hospitals, universities and social service providers that are religiously opposed to contraception and sterilization do not have to provide or even refer for those services, while also requiring insurance companies provide contraceptive services free of charge to any enrollee who wishes to have the coverage.”
And herein lays President Obama’s political victory: he has yet again driven a wedge between some of the Catholic laity, and many of the Catholic clergy. He jabbed a stick in the collective eye of Catholic Church hierarchy over teachings that some Catholics don’t take seriously to begin with, and he now has at least some Catholic lay-organizations praising him for being reasonable and negotiable – even as Catholic Clergy remain disgruntled, and “un-reasonable.”
And notice how the President has yet again advanced his legacy of transforming the collective American psyche. According to Catholics United, hospital, university and social service workers will be able to live within their personal moral convictions, not because each human individual is endowed by their creator with the right to do so (as the U.S. Constitution tells us), but because Barack Obama’s “new regulation” will allow it to happen.
It’s disgraceful and frightening – and it’s brilliant politics by the President. Catholics and pundits like to pretend that the Church is monolithic on “sanctity of life” issues, but it is not. This was apparent when Father John Jenkins invited President Obama to speak at Notre Dame University in 2009.
Some Catholic clergy and laity were outraged at the time, yet Father Jenkins, the university’s President, insisted that it was a good thing. Sure, Barack Obama is the most enthusiastic abortion supporting President ever. But he belonged at Notre Dame because, as Father Jenkins noted, he is a symbol of “overcoming racial barriers.”
And here we are in 2012. The President proactively created a crisis (as community organizers and agitators do); he then repositioned himself as the sensible moderator; and he has now once again received the blessing and approval of American Catholics that are more in love with him, and Democrat politics, than they are with their church’s teachings.
But notice, further, what is being ignored by both the faithful, and not-so-faithful: a loss of personal freedom. The President of the United States is using his bully pulpit to force private businesses (insurance companies) to provide a service, while forbidding those businesses from being compensated for it. This tramples upon the right to private property, and our most basic understandings of human freedom, yet Catholics United not only fails to question this, they actually have blessed it – and they don’t seem to even consider what the constitutional ramifications of this might be.
Catholics, of all people, should know better - especially given the recent legacy of the late Pope John Paul II. Born in communist Poland and forced to flee to the U.K. to complete his theological studies (the Soviet Union apparently did not issue “accommodations” as President Obama has so benevolently done), Pope John Paul II warned the world after Eastern Europe’s collapse about the evils of government controlled economies.
Yet today, many American Catholic clergymen remain ambivalent to their Church’s recent teachings on economics and liberty. Many of them blessed Barack Obama’s candidacy, willingly handed-over more control of private economic resources to our government by approving of Obamacare, and now seem shocked that a politician is using that power in selfish and destructive ways.
It’s difficult to know if American Catholics will regain an adequate understanding of human liberty anytime soon. But Barack Obama will no doubt continue to score points with his own “true believers.”
Austin Hill is an Author, Consultant, and Host of "Austin Hill's Big World of Small Business," a syndicated talk show about small business ownership and entrepreneurship. He is Co-Author of the new release "The Virtues Of Capitalism: A Moral Case For Free Markets." , Author of "White House Confidential: The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History," and a frequent guest host for Washington, DC's 105.9 WMAL Talk Radio.