Bishops Call For Civil Disobedience Against Health Care Law

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) fired another shot in the expanding war on health care and their efforts to redefine protections granted for religious liberties.

The USCCB issued a “call to action” calling for a “Fortnight for Freedom”. During the two week period from June 21 to July 4 to focus “all the energies the Catholic community can muster” for religious liberty. This includes a promise not to abide by any laws that come into conflict with those beliefs, such as providing health benefits to employees in a non-discriminatory fashion.

So no matter how the Supreme Court rules, the Bishops plan to ignore the law either way.

It’s important to remember that the majority of practicing Catholics diverge from the leadership on this issue. Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, issued the following statement:

“The bishops have been pursuing the religious liberty theme for some time now. They set up their ad hoc committee in 2011 and convinced the pope that this was a major issue in American politics when they met with him in January. Their strategy is twofold: they have sought to redefine religious liberty so that it is limited to policies and issues that they support, and in order for them to get their way, they are happy to deny the religious liberty of those who wish to be free from the dictates of the US bishops.
“The bishops’ idea of ‘freedom’ means that employers, and not medical professionals, should choose which safe, preventive, legal medications and procedures their employees can access—and which they can’t. This means, for example, that without shouldering unreasonable expense, hundreds of thousands, if not millions of women would not be able to use family planning to decide when and whether to become pregnant or even to protect their health.

“The bishops’ idea of ‘religious liberty’ proposes that one narrow interpretation of one religious tradition should be allowed to run roughshod over the religious beliefs of every single American. The ruling from the Department of Health and Human Services on contraception addresses a pressing public health issue: protecting women’s health. The bishops have failed to convince Catholics in the pews to follow their prohibitions on contraception. Now, they want the government to grant them the legal right to require each of us, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, to set aside our own guaranteed freedom from government-sanctioned religious interference in our lives. This is a strange definition of the ‘common good’—a central Catholic belief. The bishops’ concept of religious liberty means they would get the liberty to deny ours.

“The bishops’ statement argues that their consciences are being violated by the government. This misuse of the term conscience may be their most disingenuous deviation from common understanding. Catholics believe that each person has a conscience, an inviolable and personal inner core that informs our decision making and compels each of us to act in the way that we have decided is morally correct. Whether in religion or in public life, we all understand the notion of conscientious objection—sometimes people of good will cannot, in good conscience, just ‘follow orders.’ But, in the face of these widely accepted principles, the bishops are trying to find a work-around. They are asserting that a hospital, a university and an HMO all have a conscience that can be offended by offering the healthcare coverage guaranteed to all American employees. In the bishops’ view, their consciences, or even a wholly imaginary institutional conscience, trump that of the individual, and they want special exemptions written into law to prove it.

“Religious freedom is an expansive rather than a restrictive idea. It has two sides, freedom of religion and freedom from religion. It is not about telling people what they can and cannot believe or practice, but rather about respecting an individual’s right to follow his or her own conscience in religious beliefs and practices, as well as in moral decision making. The protections we put in place to preserve religious freedom do not—and should not—be considered to permit religious institutions or individuals to obstruct or coerce the exercise of another’s conscience.”

The leadership of the Catholic Church is embracing policies and driving actions that totally disregard the important history of anti-poverty and social justice aims of so much of Catholicism. But without a significant change in that leadership there is no way the Church changes course which means these battle lines are only going to grow more entrenched in the coming months and years.

Related Stories:

Xavier University Kicks Employees Off Contraception Coverage

Catholic Church Blocks Birth Control For Poor In Philippines

Photo from Keith Allison via flickr.


Jim G.
Jim G.5 years ago

I'm sorry- some of us know Vatican II met with a very close stance regarding birth control. And that the current views of the Papacy today regarding contraception- was not a unanimous vote by any means back in the 60's.

What about the Catholics who cant afford to have children in this economy? Are they damned to hell simply because they practice safe sex?

I'm just hoping some of the open minded Jesuits will reform the priestood, clergy, and papacy one day with Vatican III. That apparently- is what it is going to take before the faith is dead.

Healthcare is a right to all people. No matter race, color, sex, or creed- or what the differences in one's creed leaders- might demand.

I'd like to call to account the Passage Matthew 9:10-13 and for a change of heart from the higher ups in the faith.

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jim G.
Jim G.5 years ago

I'm a Catholic and this kind of stuff disturbs me. I defended others who hated my beliefs when the priests raped the young years ago. That it was their abuse as children that never got treated thanks to gay rights and the APA in 1971... that banished such treatment of abused people.

I will give the Bishops credit- at no guns are allowed in Church still. When that goes, well I guess atheism finally calls me. More meat on Friday during Lent and all that- its hard enough being teased by the Atheists about that at work or in social gatherings today.

The womens rights thing I will not touch too much. Women are allowed to be Catholic Chaplins today, whether the Papacy condones it or not- who knows.

But this- healthcare? They're against it?

Christian Democracy was born out of Catholic Social Teaching and Pope Leo XIII way back when- and this right is a right that should be provided to all under his theories. Yes I know, they are condemed by current Papacy and all...

Pope Benedict, and to the order of Catholic Bishops:

What about the Catholics who have suffered outsourced jobs overseas or corporate contract work today - that provides no healthcare possibilities- at all? It is a reality- for us. What about the folks who can barely afford to survive- and cannot afford private healthcare plans- on their own?

I'm sorry- some of us know Vatican II met with a very close stance regarding birth control. And that the current views of the Papacy today regardin

Tricia Hamilton
Tricia Hamilton5 years ago

You people SUCK!!!

Ed G.
Ed G5 years ago

Just because the catholics don't want to have anything to do with birth control they are willing to cut off their noses to spite the 99 percent of the Catholic base. That is some stupidity, even for Catholic Bishops. We now see them for what they really are dinosaurs that are looking at the meteor that is about to hit earth.

Kimberlee W.
Kimberlee W5 years ago

Inga - Danny Thomas is Lebanese. Yes, the Catholic Church dictates their policies.

Iona - That's like comparing bananas to a chair. This is a matter of the fact that their church OWNS a lot of properties and businesses. That, to me, is when they leave the church's front door and walk into Commerce's back door. Sorry, but health care is necessary for a person's being, well or otherwise. And funding contraceptive services is NOT the same as funding abortion services. Please don't try to compare the two - one is controversial, the other is not.

(sorry David K., I had to get my 2 cents in too)

Glenn M.
Glenn Meyer5 years ago

“Religion was invented when the 1st con-man met the 1st fool.”
- Mark Twain

“People who believe in talking snakes should be ridiculed.”
-Bill Maher

“I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers. That is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.” -Stephen Hawking

"So long as the people do not care to exercise their freedom, those who wish to tyrannize will do so; for tyrants are active and ardent, and will devote themselves in the name of any number of gods, religious and otherwise, to put shackles upon sleeping men."
-- Voltaire

Mike and Janis B.
Janis B5 years ago

These evil men are so far from the message of Christianity it is almost laughable. Those who abide by their rules are blinded by folly not faith.

john casablanca
john casablanca5 years ago

I am a Roman Catholic male and i vehemently disagree with the Catholic Bishops.
In the United States our Constitution calls for separation of religion and state. these
men are highly educated and know this. These men take the vow of celibacy, that
does not mean they have the right to tell women or anyone for that matter, whether
or not to use contraception.They then claim that their "consciences" are being
violated. Conscience is a matter of choice from right and wrong, not a religious
avenue. Where were all these Bishops when the various priests were molesting
children. All religions should not be given tax exempt status, other then the
monies collected during services, all other monies and assets should be
taxed. That would give the Pope and Bishops something to ponder over.

Iona S.
Iona S.5 years ago

Seems to me that requiring Catholic institutions to fund contraceptive and abortion services for their employees is rather like requiring Jewish or Muslim employers to provide pork in their canteens.

Inga S.
Inga S5 years ago

Darryll G. = St. Jude Hospital is NOT a Catholic Run institution. It was founded by a Jewish man.... Danny Thomas.