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Memo to the Catholic Bishops

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

To the Members of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops:

It may have taken a few days to sink in, but by now you should all have realized that President Obama has opened a massive assault on the Roman Catholic Church in America the likes of which none of you have ever experienced and for which few of you have prepared.

My guess is only a handful of you believed it could come to this. This is America, after all, where the "first freedom" listed in the First Amendment is religious freedom. When next you gather you might usefully conduct a poll as to how many really believed such a thing could happen.

Most of you are good men, and some extremely good men, but you have never been in a struggle with the government the likes of which your brothers in other places have endured. The American government has always been at least an ally of the Church's social teachings, right? Sure, there is the problem of some Democrats pushing for late-term abortions, and of some academics arguing that the tax exempt status of all churches is an unconstitutional "establishment of religion."

But you just laughed off the idea that the government could actually threaten your very existence.

That is, however, what has happened with the promulgation.

"What came down was the most sweeping and restrictive set of regulations that we’ve seen,” Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory said of the new Health and Human Services Department regulations mandating that all health insurance plans provide for contraception, including sterilization and the "morning after" pill.

"We cannot --we will not-- comply with this unjust law, declared Archbishop Olmsted in Phoenix, in a bold letter to his flock that implied what former United States Senator Rick Santorum openly declared the only option on my radio program Wednesday: "Civil disobedience." Here is my full exchange with Senator Satorum on the subject:

HH: I read the letter from Archbishop Olmsted of Phoenix on the air. Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles has written a new article in First Things. It’s shocking, actually, what’s going on. Should this be a centerpiece of whoever the nominee’s campaign is?

RS: I talked about it in every speech I’ve given today. And here’s what I said, though, Hugh. I said that I took issue with the Catholic Bishops Conference, because Hugh, you may remember, they embraced Obamacare.

HH: Yes.

RS: They embraced it and said…here’s what I said to them. Be careful when you have government saying that they can give you rights, that you have a right to health care, and government’s going to give you something, because once you are now dependant on government, they, not only can they take that right away, they can tell you how to exercise that right, and you can either like it or not. And that’s the problem. That’s what the Catholic Bishops Conference didn’t get, that there’s no free lunch here, folks. If you’re going to give people secular power, then they’re going to use it in a secular fashion. And that’s why, you know, I hate to say it, but you know, you had it coming. And it’s time to wake up and realize that government isn’t the answer to the social ills. It’s people of faith, and it’s families, and it’s communities, and it’s charities that need to do this as it has in America so successfully for so long.

HH: Rick Santorum, what do you advise Catholic hospitals, Catholic colleges, Catholic…the centers of poverty assistance, the adoption agencies? What do you advise them to do in the face of, as Archbishop Olmsted said, we cannot comply with this unjust law?

RS: Civil disobedience. This will not stand. There’s no way they can make this stand. The Supreme Court, eventually, this thing’s going to get to the Supreme Court just like the ministerial hiring issue that was just decided by the Supreme Court the other day. And it was a 9-0 decision that said the Obama administration can’t roll over people of faith when it comes to hiring. Yet in the face of that decision, this radical, secular government of Barack Obama continues to have faith be the least important of the 1st Amendment. And I just think they fight. They fight in the courts, and they fight by civil disobedience, and go to war with the federal government over this one.

Talk about tough love. Senator Santorum says it straight, and the taste is bitter. You were played. The left took your support for nationalizing health care and repaid your support with a conscience-enslaving requirement that the Roman Catholic Church pay for contraception, sterilization and "the morning-after pill."

Give it a year. The president's appointees will have you paying for abortions. That or pay the price of civil disobedience.

What that price might be is still vague. Fines and penalties? Loss of tax exempt status? Who knows? But keep in mind that this gang blindsided you on the regs, and they will work with Eric Holder's Department of Justice to blindside you on the enforcement as well. Payback time for all those Right to Life Marches and the controversies over who should receive the Eucharist.

To paraphrase the old saying, "Paybacks are (on the road to) Hell."

The central question is what will you do, and not next quarter or even next month, but right now? Sure, the letters went out, and appeals to the faithful have been made. Lawsuits are probably being explored. (They ought to have been filed yesterday, in the federal district court in the D.C. Circuit. Time's a wasting.)

But what are you going to do in the realm of politics. This isn't even a question of defending your own Church but of your duty to defend the unborn and the right of conscience and the free exercise of faith.

There is one step you must take.

You have to consider issuing a declaration obliging American Roman Catholics of good conscience to vote against the re-election of the president and every member of his party at every level. Do you want the regulations revoked? Then this is what you must do, and soon.

The Manhattan-Beltway elite media will shriek. The professional atheists and their allies who are your long-time opponents will scream. But if you are serious about your job of defending the faith, this is what you must do.

Whatever you decide to do, you need a media strategy much better than the one deployed in fits and starts across the country. Most Catholics are even now unaware of what just happened. Letters from the pulpit? That's it?

A suggestion: Task a cross section of senior bishops from cross the country, say Archbishop Dolan of New York, Chaput of Philadelphia, Olmsted of Phoenix and Gomez of Los Angeles, and dispatch them on a tour of many cities, at each stop holding a press conference and explaining what has happened and how they will be back with the specific resolutions adopted by the Conference.

"[Go to war with the federal government over this one," is how Senator Santorum put it, by which of course he meant the sort of non-violent war that Occupy protestors excel at before they become violent.

The bad news is that you are very timid by nature, lulled into complacency by a tradition of religious freedom that didn't exist when Charles Carroll risked all his massive land and wealth to sign the Declaration of Independence.

You are far from media savvy, and you are afraid of offending some Democrats in the pews. Get over it, or get over the Church's teachings, as it really has come down to a choice that cannot be postponed.

This is not your father's Democratic Party. This isn't even your Democratic Party, those of you who grew up proud of John F. Kennedy and even happy proponents of the Bishops' letters of the 1980s castigating Ronald Reagan on economics and defense issues.

These people want to destroy you, and behind their soft smiles and long meetings and densely-written regulations, there is an agenda, and your submission to the cultural values of the left is on it. Where was the president when this went on? Do you really think he didn't sign off on this? Has he returned any of your calls? Did you even try to call him?

Or did some in your number immediately set about figuring out why there was nothing you could do?

Understand, you could have this regulation pulled in a matte of days or weeks. But you would have to be bold, blunt and unwilling to "compromise." And you would have to go public against the president.

So, are you shepherds, or not? If so, protect your flocks.

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