Category Archives: Religious Liberty

Cardinal Newman Society Thanks USCCB for Standing Against the HHS Mandate

The Cardinal Newman Society today thanked Cardinal Timothy Dolan and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for pointing out the ways in which the Feb. 1, 2013, proposed rules from the Department of Health and Human Services still fail to address core concerns with the sterilization/contraception/abortion mandate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Catholics are left no choice but to oppose the mandate and will be comforted and strengthened by the support and leadership of the nation’s Catholic bishops.

The current movement toward defining first-class religious institutions of Catholic education, Catholic health care, and Catholic charity as second-class institutions is unacceptable.  The Cardinal Newman Society stands at the ready to continue supporting the efforts of Catholic educational institutions to protect their God given Catholic identity and religious liberty.

The Cardinal Newman Society will continue encouraging its members to  pray for our bishops and all American citizens engaged in the struggle to uphold our constitutionally protected religious rights.

U.S. Bishops to Administration: HHS Proposal Falls Short

While the U.S. Bishops acknowledge that the Administration’s proposed Health and Human Services’ rule demonstrates some movement, they officially said that the “accommodation” falls short of addressing their concerns, a statement released today said.

“Throughout the past year, we have been assured by the Administration that we will not have to refer, pay for, or negotiate for the mandated coverage. We remain eager for the Administration to fulfill that pledge and to find acceptable solutions—we will affirm any genuine progress that is made, and we will redouble our efforts to overcome obstacles or setbacks,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), in the statement. “Thus, we welcome and will take seriously the Administration’s invitation to submit our concerns through formal comments, and we will do so in the hope that an acceptable solution can be found that respects the consciences of all. At the same time, we will continue to stand united with brother bishops, religious institutions, and individual citizens who seek redress in the courts for as long as this is necessary.”

Cardinal Dolan listed three key areas of concern: the narrow understanding of a religious ministry; compelling church ministries to fund and facilitate services such as contraceptives, including abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization that violate Catholic teaching; and disregard of the conscience rights of for-profit business owners. These are the same concerns articulated by the USCCB Administrative Committee in its March 2012 statement, United for Religious Freedom.

Cardinal Dolan said the new proposal seemed to address one part of the church’s concern over the definition of a church ministry but stressed that “the Administration’s proposal maintains its inaccurate distinction among religious ministries.”

“It appears to offer second-class status to our first-class institutions in Catholic health care, Catholic education and Catholic charities,” said Cardinal Dolan. “HHS offers what it calls an ‘accommodation’ rather than accepting the fact that these ministries are integral to our church and worthy of the same exemption as our Catholic churches.”

Cardinal Dolan also highlighted problems with the proposed “accommodation.”

“It appears that the government would require all employees in our ‘accommodated’ ministries to have the illicit coverage—they may not opt out, nor even opt out for their children—under a separate policy,” he said.

He also noted that “because of gaps in the proposed regulations, it is still unclear how directly these separate policies would be funded by objecting ministries, and what precise role those ministries would have in arranging for these separate policies. Thus, there remains the possibility that ministries may yet be forced to fund and facilitate such morally illicit activities.”

Cardinal Dolan also said the proposal refuses to acknowledge conscience rights of business owners who operate their businesses according to their faith and moral values.

“In obedience to our Judeo-Christian heritage, we have consistently taught our people to live their lives during the week to reflect the same beliefs that they proclaim on the Sabbath,” Cardinal Dolan said. “We cannot now abandon them to be forced to violate their morally well-informed consciences.”

Religious Liberty Groups Disappointed with HHS Mandate Rule

The Obama Administration today floated proposed rules to attempt to alleviate religious concerns about the Health and Human Services’ contraceptive mandate under the Affordable Care Act.

The administration tried to put a positive spin on the accommodation. The 80-page proposal attempts to simplify and expand the existing definition of a “religious employer” by creating accommodations for non-profit organizations who self-certify as religious organizations that have an objection to providing contraceptive coverage.

According to the proposal, employees of, or students at exempted organizations could still receive contraceptive services, such as sterilization, contraception, and drugs that cause abortion, through a separate, individual insurance provider. As described by Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, deputy director of policy and regulation with the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, costs would be paid by the issuer.

“No federal funds or employer dollars will be used to fund contraceptive coverage,” said Brooks-LaSure. “The services are paid for through a reduction in user fees from the federally-funded exchange.”

“Under the proposed rule, no non-profit organization will be force to pay for, or provide contraceptive services,” said Brooks-LaSure. “Universities, hospitals, and charities won’t have to arrange, contract, provide, or refer for contraceptives.”

Religious liberty, legal, and advocacy groups, however, were universally disappointed with the proposal.

“Religious institutions who are not primarily in the business of spreading the faith – likely hospitals, schools, etc. – can have the exemption after a complicated ‘self-certification’ procedure, but their employees and students will get free contraception without their employers’ input – under separate policies issued directly from the insurance company,” said Helen Alvare in a statement made through the organization Women Speak for Themselves.

“We are extremely dissatisfied with this inadequate proposal,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has filed numerous lawsuits on behalf of Catholic dioceses, universities, and family-owned businesses to protect their religious liberty.

“The proposal has nothing to do with the millions of family businesses or business owners who are having their rights violated,” said Duncan. “It does nothing to change the scope of, or broaden, the religious employer exemption, and it offers no concrete guidelines for how self-funded entities are to avoid the requirements of the mandate that violate their consciences. Even those who qualify for the accommodation will have concerns about remaining conduits for drugs and devices that raise the same kind of conscience-problems that have been there all along.”

“The document proposes three different proposals,” said Duncan. “The document provides no concrete guidance for self-insured entities, and the administration has made it clear that for-profit organizations, such as Hobby Lobby, have no religious claims to make with respect to the mandate.”

“In this proposed rule, it appears that Catholic schools and colleges may not be required to provide the mandatory insurance directly, but insurance companies will nevertheless provide the immoral coverage to employees and students,” said The Cardinal Newman Society in a press statement released today.  “This is an accounting gimmick that serves the Obama administration’s radical goal of forcing such coverage on all Americans, except those who are employed by houses of worship.  The Administration continues to violate Americans’ freedom with an absurdly narrow view of constitutionally protected religious activity.

“Religious freedom will not be protected until every organization, business and individual is exempted from purchasing or otherwise financially supporting insurance for sterilization, contraception or abortion.”

Statement of The Cardinal Newman Society on Proposed HHS Rule

The Cardinal Newman Society today released the following statement:

The Obama administration today proposed a rule responding to serious concerns that its policy mandating insurance coverage of sterilization and contraception (including drugs that cause abortion) violates religious freedom.  While the outcry of religious leaders, organizations, employers and faithful Americans has been clear and unambiguous, the Obama administration has barely made a move toward a more just policy.  The mandate is still unacceptable, and the newly proposed “accommodation” is inadequate.

Catholics are left no choice but to stand firmly opposed to the mandate.  We are grateful especially to the Catholic bishops, the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty for their leadership and for continuing the fight to defend the religious freedom of Catholics and all Americans.  We pray for them and stand with them in this fight.

It is important to note that the proposed rule is just that: a proposal.  The final rule could be dramatically different, and there will be powerful opposition from many parties.

In this proposed rule, it appears that Catholic schools and colleges may not be required to provide the mandatory insurance directly, but insurance companies will nevertheless provide the immoral coverage to employees and students.  This is an accounting gimmick that serves the Obama administration’s radical goal of forcing such coverage on all Americans, except those who are employed by houses of worship.  The Administration continues to violate Americans’ freedom with an absurdly narrow view of constitutionally protected religious activity.

Religious freedom will not be protected until every organization, business and individual is exempted from purchasing or otherwise financially supporting insurance for sterilization, contraception or abortion.

Federal Government Could Exempt Some College Student Health Plans

Inside Higher Education is reporting of an unexpected proposal by the Department of Health and Human Services that will allow student health plans self-funded by colleges to qualify as “minimum essential coverage” under the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) requirement that individual Americans must participate in a qualified health plan. The proposed regulation would exempt such plans from the requirements imposed on other student health plans. The proposal would affect only about 30 private and public research universities that self-fund their student health insurance plans.

The article by Doug Lederman, points out that some consumer advocates are concerned that additional institutions may seek to self-fund their plans as a way to avoid new requirements.

“Without federal protections and only minimal state oversight, self-funded plans are free to discriminate based on preexisting conditions, offer limited coverage with low annual limits on benefits, and commit a number of consumer abuses that the ACA was designed to eliminate,” said a health care advocacy group report issued last summer.

Observers, however, don’t feel that’s very likely.

“If a university is currently buying or contributing to a student insurance plan, they might decide to self-fund,” said Matt Bowman, senior legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom. “A lot of schools don’t feel the need to fund a student plan.”

In fact, some schools, such as Franciscan University of Steubenville, in response to the ACA and HHS’ contraceptive mandate, decided to drop its requirement that students purchase insurance coverage.

“In mid-April, Franciscan sent a letter to parents and students, informing them that with the threat of the HHS mandate looming and the immediate cost to students rising rapidly, it would no longer require students to have health insurance,” a May 23 Franciscan University of Steubenville statement said. “Because of that, the letter went on to explain, it would also no longer be able to offer students the option of purchasing health insurance through the University.”

According to the Inside Higher Education article, the federal government’s proposal would affect many of the Ivy League institutions and the University of California system which operate self-funded student health plans.

Judge Dismisses CUA’s HHS Challenge on Timing Grounds

Another challenge to the Department of Health and Human Services contraceptive mandate has been dismissed by a federal judge who decided that it’s too early to hear the lawsuit as the Obama administration has promised changes to the mandate to satisfy concerns about religious freedom.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, a President Barack Obama appointee, dismissed the case filed by The Archdiocese of Washington, The Catholic University of America, Consortium of Catholic Academies, Archbishop Carroll High School, and Catholic Charities of D.C. reportedly saying, “If after the new regulations are issued, plaintiffs are still not satisfied, any challenges that they choose to bring will be substantially different from the challenges in the current complaint.”

The Affordable Care Act requires that employer-supplied health-care plans cover contraception. The archdiocese and 42 other Catholic organizations, including the University of Notre Dame and The Catholic University of America, filed lawsuits last year arguing that the mandate violates freedom of religion guaranteed in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Religious nonprofits have not been forced by the government to violate their conscience yet because the Obama administration  extended a “safe harbor” clause to religious non-profits that delayed enforcement of the mandate on them until at least after Aug. 1.

“While  we are disappointed by the decision, we are not discouraged in the   least because the judge based her dismissal solely on procedural  grounds; she  did not rule nor make any judgments on the merits of our  case,” a Catholic University spokesperson told The Washington Times.

The University of Notre Dame recently saw its lawsuit dismissed on similar grounds. Belmont Abbey College saw its lawsuit dismissed late last year only to see an appellate court reinstate it. Many expect the Administration to announce a change to the mandate in coming months.

There have been over 44 lawsuits against the mandate and over 130 plaintiffs.

Notre Dame Professor Defends HHS Mandate

University of Notre Dame law and theology professor Cathleen Kaveny wrote in Commonweal Magazine that the Obama administration is not attacking religious liberty with its HHS mandate and any attempt by the bishops to say otherwise is a “canard.”

Kaveny takes the bishops to task for opposing the mandate and writes that the USCCB’s criticism “is rooted in a mistaken assumption about how our law operates” and that the mandate “makes sense in our pluralistic society.”

…the HHS regulations must balance the religious-liberty interests of all employers against the legitimate expectations of employees and the government’s public health goals. In organizations that have been completely exempted from the mandate—such as parishes and dioceses—employees are more likely to share, or at least accept, the moral views of their employers. Consequently, it will not seem unfair to deny access to treatments that are inconsistent with an employer’s religious views. Nor will it greatly affect the public health objectives of the law, assuming this class of beneficiaries is less likely to use contraception even if it were freely available.

But many Catholic institutions, such as hospitals and colleges, employ and serve non-Catholics. Initially, these institutions did not qualify for any exemption. But in response to criticism from the bishops and others, HHS created a second category of exemption, “to accommodate non-exempt, nonprofit religious organizations.”

Doesn’t this sort of accommodation make sense in our pluralistic society? HHS emphasizes that the different treatment accorded these religious organizations does not imply that the second group is less religious than the first. Instead, HHS recognizes that the employees in the second group likely have different needs and different values than those in the first group. The vast majority of Americans (including most Catholics) think the use of contraception can be a way of fulfilling their moral obligations, not betraying them.

The bishops rightly note that faith-based employers have a religious-liberty interest at stake in the mandate. They sometimes forget, however, that the employees of these institutions also have religious-liberty interests.

Kaveny writes that she finds the suggestion by The Catholic Health Association to broaden the total exemption category to include religiously sponsored hospitals and universities while providing contraceptives under another government program is “attractive” but she makes it clear that she rejects the “canard” that the mandate is a cynical attack on religious institutions.

This is hardly the first time that Kaveny has undercut the bishops on important issues. In October of last year in the weeks leading up to the election, Kaveny undercut the strongly stated positions of a number of bishops who warned Catholics against voting for gay “marriage” and abortion-rights supporting politicians.

Kaveny was quoted in the heterodox National Catholic Reporter at the time saying, “I don’t know if they can say this has to be the priority that you’re voting on … without any consideration of what the alternatives are and how likely electing someone is to actually make those things happen.”

George Weigel Urges Notre Dame to Courageous Witness of Faith

Earlier this month, Catholic writer George Weigel took to National Review Online to scold the University of Notre Dame for what he called missing “a golden opportunity” to take a public stand for life and religious liberty in an advertisement during their national championship game. Notre Dame strongly objected to that characterization.

On January 3rd, Weigel wrote a piece called “Notre Dame Punts” in which he wrote:

I wouldn’t be surprised if Our Lady is very unhappy these days with the administration of her university. That unhappiness should be shared by all who understand the singular place that Notre Dame holds in both the American Catholic imagination and the American imagination about Catholicism. For given an unprecedented opportunity to do some evangelical witnessing before what many believe will be the largest audience ever to watch a college football game, Notre Dame has punted.

Both contenders for the BCS championship get a free 30-second spot on the ESPN broadcast, during which they can say whatever they want about themselves. Insofar as I’m aware, the spots are not subject to censorship by either the BCS or the politically correct managers at ESPN (as Super Bowl ads are subject to censorship by the equally p.c. leadership of the National Football League). It’s an open field, and you can, as Vince Lombardi would have said, “run to daylight” with impunity.

Now if you imagine yourself, as Notre Dame does, to be the particular embodiment of the Catholic ethos in the United States, you might see this as an opportunity to address, in a non-aggressive but unmistakable way, one or another (or both) of the two causes that define serious, culture-forming Catholicism in 21st-century America: the pro-life cause and the cause of religious freedom.

University officials acted quickly with communications and public-information officials contacting both National Review and Weigel’s office, reportedly claiming that Weigel’s column was based on a “false premise” in that ESPN advertising policies would have made it impossible for the University to run such an advocacy ad during the BCS championship game.

In a follow-up piece entitled “Dear Notre Dame” that appeared at National Review Online on January 8th, Weigel defended himself:

What Notre Dame might have done, with the creativity (and tenaciousness) that have long attended the university’s communications and public-relations efforts, would have been to show the variety of religious traditions and practices at Notre Dame, allude to the university’s many theological, philosophical, and legal contributions to the Catholic Church’s defense of religious freedom, and then end the ad, as I suggested, with something like “We’re Notre Dame: And we defend religious freedom for everyone, at home and abroad.” A similar creativity and determination might have helped craft an ad highlighting the service that Notre Dame students provide to women in crisis pregnancies.

Perhaps the censors at ESPN would have objected even to this kind of self-presentation by the university. Would it then have been beyond the capabilities of Notre Dame’s public-relations apparatus — which had pulled out all the stops to defend the university’s 2009 award of an honorary doctorate of law degree to an unaccomplished president of the United States who had opposed any legal restraint on abortion, including partial-birth abortion, during his tenure in the Illinois Senate and the United States Senate — to challenge ESPN, publicly, asking why the statement that “we’re pro-life” or “we’re for religious freedom” (two affirmations at the core of Notre Dame’s identity as a Catholic institution of higher learning) constituted “political advocacy or issue-oriented advertising”? Since when is defending the First Amendment, or agreeing with Mr. Jefferson on the inalienable right to life, a matter of untoward (presumably because partisan) “political advertising”?

Notre Dame might have lost that argument, ESPN being what it is. But the university would have done a real public service by fighting the good fight and publicly challenging those who imagine that the defense and promotion of core American values are “partisan.”

To that, Dennis Brown, Notre Dame spokesperson, responded in the combox at NRO:

Mr. Weigel now contends that Notre Dame erred in privately communicating with him that his original column was based on a false premise.

He is wrong – again.

Mr. Weigel falsely claims in his latest attack that ESPN’s policy against “issue-oriented” advertising applies only to paid commercials. With some research he would have found on Page 9 of ESPN’s Advertising Standards & Guidelines that the prohibition on “issue-oriented” spots includes the 30 seconds of public service announcement (PSA) airtime that the network provides to colleges and universities at halftime of televised athletics events. To be sure, I checked with ESPN’s Commercial Operations office, which confirmed that a pro-life PSA such as Mr. Weigel suggested would have been rejected. Of course, this was not news to us. We have been producing these spots for decades and are well aware of this policy at ESPN and all of the networks.

In addition, for Mr. Weigel to suggest we spend thousands of dollars on a PSA that we know would be rejected just to “publicly challenge”  the network would be foolish stewardship.

We will state again – this time publicly – that Mr. Weigel’s criticism of Notre Dame was unwarranted and unfair.

But Brown’s comments don’t deal with the virtue of attempting and perhaps failing. Weigel makes it clear that sometimes the attempt is worth it even when failure in assured. He wrote that Notre Dame has staked a strong claim to complete autonomy when it comes to the Catholic Church but withers in the face of ESPN:

In 1967, legendary Notre Dame president Father Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., was one of the key figures in the “Land O’ Lakes Statement” by Catholic college and university leaders, a watershed in the evolution (or, as some would say, auto-deconstruction) of Catholic higher learning in the United States. The second sentence of the Land O’ Lakes statement reads as follows: “To perform its teaching and research functions effectively the Catholic university must have a true autonomy and academic freedom in the face of authority of whatever kind, lay or clerical, external to the academic community itself.”

Notre Dame, and many other Catholic colleges and universities, have used that statement to justify a certain “autonomy” from the teaching authority of the Catholic Church, whether that authority be represented by the Vatican or by local bishops. Does such a bold defense of the university’s autonomy apply to the “authority . . . external to the academic community itself” that is ESPN, in the matter of Notre Dame’s self-presentation on national television broadcasts? That seems not to have been the case, this time.

Moreover, a reader commenting on Weigel’s article also notes that Notre Dame has responded aggressively to Weigel while failing to respond similarly to the vicious attack on Notre Dame and the Catholic Church that appeared recently in The Washington Post.  Brown has responded, claiming that the difference is that Weigel made a factual error that deserves correction, while the Post column was simply opinion.

Fr. Jenkins Makes Ironic Plea for Civility

Fr. John Jenkins, C.S.C., the president of the University of Notre Dame, has a piece in The Wall Street Journal pleading for civility in debate. This is not the first time that Fr. Jenkins has used that word. In fact, calls for “civility” have become something of a hallmark of his presidency of the University.

In recent years, there have reportedly been on-campus panel discussions on civility, a University forum called “A More Perfect Union: The Future of America’s Democracy,” and posters urging students to take the “Notre Dame Pledge for Virtuous Discourse,” which encourages students to engage in respectful dialogue. And in 2009, “civility” was one of Fr. Jenkins’ most often used defense of his decision to honor pro-abortion rights President Barack Obama.

Now, Fr. Jenkins writes in The Wall Street Journal:

Civility is sometimes derided in the modern world, where bluntness and even coarseness have somehow come to be celebrated in many quarters. But civility is not a minor virtue. It is not an attempt to impose someone’s notion of courtesy, and it is certainly not an attempt to suppress speech. Civility is what allows speech to be heard. It is an appeal to citizens never to express or incite hatred, which is more dangerous to the country than any external enemy.

A more sincere effort to persuade one another would remind us why the Founders believed this country could improve on history: We were the first society in many centuries with the chance to use free speech and sound argument to debate our way toward a better future.

That path is still open, and as promising as ever.

Ironically, Fr. Jenkins’ tenure at Notre Dame has been marked not by robust, civil engagement with the culture in defense of Catholic values, but by reticence to uphold the University’s Catholic identity and retribution against Fr. Jenkins’ critics. Notre Dame had 88 men and women (including a priest and a nun) arrested on campus for peacefully protesting the honoring of Obama in 2009 — and then refused to drop charges despite the University’s soft treatment of protesters in prior years. The University abruptly ousted pro-life Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Bill Kirk, who opposed Fr. Jenkins’ honors to President Obama, followed by one of Fr. Jenkins’ leading critics, David Solomon, from his leadership of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture.

Fr. Wilson Miscamble, C.S.C., a history professor at Notre Dame, argued last October in The Irish Rover that true civility should never to be mistaken for “saccharine niceness” or “wimpish” silence in the face of growing threats to religious liberty, marriage and human life:

Some appear to use their advocacy for civility as a cover to stifle genuine debate, especially over important issues. This is false civility because it becomes not simply a vehicle to prevent serious discussion but also a weapon to use against one’s political foes.  Sometimes, too, civility serves as a refuge to disguise the fact that its advocates want to avoid taking tough public stands on difficult issues.  Sadly, present day Notre Dame provides evidence of these practices.

Of late Notre Dame has mounted a careful public relations effort to display the range of worthy causes for which it is willing to “fight.” All are commendable, and it is inspiring to see publicized Notre Dame’s efforts to combat natural disasters, to protect the health of children, and to rebuild war-torn communities. How much more commendable and inspiring it would be if Notre Dame placed its prestige and influence in support of other important causes that are less likely to attract universal approval? We will know that Notre Dame has moved to a new level of courage and conviction when it airs TV spots during its football games that testify to its willingness to fight for the lives of the unborn — and in defense of traditional marriage.

In the end, Notre Dame is confronted with a crucial decision: whether we wish at our very heart to be a Catholic university. Will we be a place that pursues the truth and is willing to defend it? Will we be a place that holds firmly that there are moral absolutes and that the defense of them trumps mere tolerance? Will we be a place where genuine civil dialogue occurs in the context of true courage and conviction?

We can and should debate these issues in civility. But we should never invoke civility as a way to avoid taking a stand.

Judge Dismisses HHS Case from Colorado Christian University

Timing is everything. Once again, the federal government has been successful in having a lawsuit dismissed on the grounds that it is not ripe for review as the Obama administration has, once again, waved a promise to issue new regulations to accommodate religious objections to the HHS mandate.

The Christian university, which was the first inter-denominational college to file suit against the HHS mandate, falls under the safe harbor provision which reportedly delays enforcement of the mandate against it until next year. When the University filed the lawsuit, CCU President Bill Armstrong called the HHS mandate an “unparalleled attack” on religious freedom.

Eric Baxter, an attorney for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty which is representing the University, told The Cardinal Newman Society that CCU is still considering its options for an appeal. But there’s a precedent for hope as Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic college in North Carolina, saw its lawsuit dismissed on similar grounds last year but recently an appellate court reinstated the case.

Baxter did add, however, that the “burden is now on the government to come up with a rule that will relieve the burden on religious freedom as they have promised to do.”

Reportedly, the government has indicated that there will be some announcement about that in March. “We remain skeptical,” said Baxter. “But now we wait to see what the government does.”

NCReporter Floats Two Profs as Possible Vatican Ambassadors

The Obama administration, entering into its second term, is reportedly searching for a new Vatican Ambassador since former ambassador Miguel Diaz resigned to take  a position as professor of faith and culture at the University of Dayton.

The heterodox National Catholic Reporter is suggesting two names for speculation from Catholic colleges. Both were members of “Catholics for Obama:”

Stephen Schneck of The Catholic University of America and Nicholas Cafardi of Duquesne University. Both would be acceptable to the White House, but might trip some wires on the Catholic side — if not with the Vatican, which typically vetoes an appointment only if there are concerns about personal morality (especially marital status), then with the U.S. bishops.

Schneck is on the board of directors of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good that attempted to generate Catholic support for President Obama’s policies. Schneck also joined with other politically liberal Catholics in an open letter “celebrating” the “accommodation” proposed by President Obama with regard to the HHS contraceptive mandate. He insulted Archbishop William Lori and criticized the Knights of Columbus for their aggressive defense of religious freedom, defended Georgetown University’s selection of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for graduation speaker, accused Republican presidential candidates of promoting “racial division,” and publicly challenged House Speaker John Boehner when he spoke at CUA after defending the University of Notre Dame’s honors to President Barack Obama.

Cafardi, dean emeritus and professor of law at Duquesne University School of Law in Pittsburgh, Pa., accused some bishops of vexing and oppressing people, electioneering and lobbying, and attempting to take away people’s constitutional rights. Cafardi suggested that as a penalty the IRS could remove the Church’s tax exempt status or simply fine those bishops their per diem salaries every day they open their mouths against the HHS mandate or gay “marriage.”

WaPo Columnist Attacks Notre Dame, Catholic Church

Washington Post reporter Michael Leahy won’t be rooting for The University of Notre Dame in their national championship game versus Alabama tonight. Why? The answer isn’t the players, the coaches or the matchups. It’s because of abortion, birth control, and the University’s lawsuit against the HHS mandate.

In what can only be classified as one of the most outrageous attacks on The University of Notre Dame and The Catholic Church, the Washington Post published a column by reporter Michael Leahy offering reasons that Catholics shouldn’t root for Notre Dame. Leahy, who is not above name-calling accuses the Church and the University for being “dogmatic, frustrating change and stifling dissent” as well as a being a “nag.”

He writes:

But our coolness toward Notre Dame also reflected fissures within the Catholic Church, cracks widening to this day over birth control, abortion rights and the broader matter of whether any dissent — particularly tough questions of the Vatican — will be tolerated by the Catholic hierarchy.

And to this day, Notre Dame remains a political and social battleground for American Catholics. The university’s invitation for President Obama to deliver the 2009 commencement address became a national controversy, with conservative Catholics opposing the president’s positions on abortion rights and stem-cell research. And last year, the university filed suit against the federal government, seeking to overturn a requirement in Obama’s health-care law that employers offer insurance plans including contraception coverage — a move that more politically moderate church members resented, concerned that Notre Dame would seek to deprive women, Catholic or not, of such coverage…

Add the consternation over the school’s effort to impose its views of contraception on non-Catholics under the health-care law, and it is easier to understand the ambivalence today about Notre Dame, both the institution and its gilded team.

In such instances, Fighting Irish certitude looks like censorship, and the university becomes an apt symbol of the church that guides it — dogmatic, frustrating change and stifling dissent…

In its defense, the university can point to the graduation rate of its football players — it’s the highest among the big teams in the nation, and this is the first time that the leader in graduation is also tops in the polls — as evidence that the school has its priorities in order. This seems to be Notre Dame’s lasting, self-imposed role in sports: the earnest ethicist, the dogged standard-maker, the nag —  much like the church felt to me in my youth.

Terence Jeffrey writes more about this outrageous column at CNS News.

Notre Dame’s HHS Lawsuit Tossed

An Indiana federal judge on Monday threw out the University of Notre Dame’s challenge to the HHS contraception mandate, according to

Once again, this dismissal is not on the merits of the case but the timing. The decision reportedly states that Notre Dame’s claims weren’t ripe because the Obama administration has yet to finalize the mandate and they promised to modify it at some point in the future.

The federal government had asked U.S. District Judge Robert L. Miller Jr., a Reagan appointee, to dismiss the case on those grounds.

The Becket Fund had urged the court not to dismiss on the grounds that even though the Obama administration has promised to amend the mandate, it has yet to do so and Notre Dame must make budgeting decisions for next year when the “safe harbor” rule runs out.

Miller cited in his decision the Obama administration’s promise to accommodate religious institutions like  Notre Dame that insure themselves.

“Notre Dame lacks standing to  attack the present regulatory requirement because it isn’t subject to that  requirement, and, taking the defendants at their word, never will be subject to  the present regulation,” Miller wrote.

Earlier this year, Belmont Abbey College saw its lawsuit dismissed only to see an appellate court reinstate its lawsuit against the HHS mandate last month.

Tom Monaghan Wins Against HHS Mandate

A federal court in Michigan has reportedly ruled that the founder of Ave Maria University Tom Monaghan may exclude contraception from his employees’ insurance coverage in his personal property management company Domino’s Farms.

Still uncertain is whether Ave Maria, which is also suing the federal government over the HHS mandate, will be exempted as well.

The Michigan court order granted a temporary moratorium on religious grounds for Domino’s Farms — a privately held company headed by Monaghan.

The court order said that forcing Monaghan to choose between his conscience and heavy financial fines is an infringement of his First Amendment rights and “constitutes irreparable injury.”

Monaghan had previously said that the law violates his constitutional rights, and he believed that the mandate “attacks and desecrates a foremost tenet of the Catholic Church” against contraception, sterilization or abortion and that it will “force individuals to violate their deepest held religious beliefs.”

Sotomayor Denies Request to Block HHS Mandate Implementation

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor reportedly denied a request from the Christian-owned Hobby Lobby Stores to block enforcement of the HHS mandate that requires employers to provide insurance coverage for abortifacients.

Hobby Lobby Stores argued that the mandate violates the religious beliefs of its owners.

In her opinion, Sotomayor wrote that Hobby Lobby’s argument did not meet the legal standard for blocking the requirement on an emergency basis. She did say, however, that the company’s lawsuit may continue in the lower courts.

Company officials say they must decide whether to violate their faith or pay exorbitant fines if they ignore the law.

Several Catholic colleges are suing the administration on similar grounds that the mandate violates religious liberty including The University of Notre Dame, Aquinas College, The Catholic University of America, Belmont Abbey College, Ave Maria University, The Franciscan University of Steubenville and the University of St. Francis.