Along with New York’s Cardinal-designate Dolan, Cardinal Raymond Burke, new Los Angeles Archbishop Gomez and a few others, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput is among the most influential of the Roman Catholic Church leaders in America, as well as an accomplished, experienced and very temperate participant in public policy debates in the public square. His 2008 book Render Unto Caesar remains must reading for any MSMer who truly wants to understand why and how Mass-attending Catholics vote, and his essay in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer is a model of forceful, persuasive objection to the president’s attempt to oblige the Roman Catholic Church to directly or indirectly pay for “morning after” pills, sterilization or contraception.
Archbishop Chaput’s piece includes a specific rejection of the President’s charade compromise from Friday, a bit of information that ought to make it into every article written on the bogus rewrite of the mandate. The Archbishop’s position is unique in one respect: He is the most influential Catholic prelate in a light blue state. If he chooses to do so, he can issue a letter to be read every week during the weeks leading up to the election from every pulpit in his vast Archdiocese. Ask Michael Barone how much such an escalation would matter, especially if the Archbishop’s lead is followed in Erie and Pittsburgh, and especially if it is closely followed in the Archdiocese he just left to lead Philadelphia –Denver, where the Archbishop is greatly loved and respected by that Catholic community.
Bravo to the Archbishop for speaking clearly, and quickly, on the Friday’s absurdity. Whether or not the Manhattan-Beltway media elites listen, Mass-attending Catholics will, and all their supporters in the movement to preserve religious liberty and rights of conscience.
The key graphs from the Archbishop’s piece:
[N]o similarly aggressive attack on religious freedom in our country has occurred in recent memory.
The current administration prides itself on being measured and deliberate. The current HHS mandate needs to be understood as exactly that. Commentators are using words like “gaffe,” “ill conceived,” and “mistake” to describe the mandate. They’re wrong. It’s impossible to see this regulation as some happenstance policy. It has been too long in the making.
Despite all of its public apprehension about “culture warriors” on the political right in the past, the current administration has created an HHS mandate that is the embodiment of culture war. At its heart is a seemingly deep distrust of the formative role religious faith has on personal and social conduct, and a deep distaste for religion’s moral influence on public affairs. To say that this view is contrary to the Founders’ thinking and the record of American history would be an understatement.
Critics may characterize my words here as partisan or political. These are my personal views, and of course people are free to disagree. But it is this administration – not Catholic ministries, or institutions, or bishops – that chose the timing and nature of the fight. The onus is entirely on the White House, which also has the power to remove the issue from public conflict. Catholics should not be misled into accepting feeble compromises on issues of principle. The HHS mandate is bad law; and not merely bad, but dangerous and insulting. It needs to be withdrawn – now.