In the great civil rights struggle to secure the right to life for all, Archbishop John Roach, testifying on behalf of the Catholic Bishops, expressed the guiding vision: “We are committed to full legal recognition of the right to life of the unborn child, and will not rest in our efforts until society respects the inherent worth and dignity of every member of the human race.” (November 5, 1981 Statement before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution)
On January 20, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reaffirmed a rule that virtually all private health care plans must cover sterilization, abortifacients, and contraception. The rule is set to take effect August 1, 2012.
Non-profit religious employers that do not now provide such coverage, and are not exempt under the rule’s extremely narrow definition of religious employer, will be given one year—until August 1, 2013—to comply.
Responding to the announcement, Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, stated: “In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences.” Cardinal-designate Dolan continued: “To force Americans to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their healthcare is literally unconscionable. . . It is as much an attack on access to health care as on religious freedom.” Noting that the Obama administration “has now drawn an unprecedented line in the sand,” the Cardinal-designate urged that the HHS mandate be overturned. “The Catholic bishops are committed to working with our fellow Americans to reform the law and change this unjust regulation.”
WASHINGTON—The Catholic bishops of the United States called “literally unconscionable” a decision by the Obama Administration to continue to demand that sterilization, abortifacients and contraception be included in virtually all health plans. Today’s announcement means that this mandate and its very narrow exemption will not change at all; instead there will only be a delay in enforcement against some employers.
“In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences,” said Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Read more at U.S. Bishops Vow to Fight HHS Edict.
Howard Hubbard, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York, has written several letters to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Religious Freedom in the Middle East and a letter to the United States Congress on International Religious Freedom but we could not find a single statement by Hubbard on the subject of Conscience Protection at home in the USA. (USCCB Religious Freedom) [I would be very grateful if anyone knows of such a statement you could provide the link or a copy.]
But Hubbard, Roman Catholic Bishop of the diocese of Albany, New York, responded to an op-ed column by Maureen Dowd, “Cooperation in Evil,” (NYT, October 1, 2011), in which Dowd comments: “The church has aggressively meddled in politics on abortion, trying to defeat candidates who support abortion rights and prevent some liberal politicians from receiving Communion. But American bishops have been inconsistent in preaching their values.” In a letter to the editor published by the New York Times on October 4, 2011, Hubbard cites the USCCB document, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” a [rather lengthy, 45-page book[let]] which he writes is a “statement overwhelmingly adopted by the full body of bishops in 2007, is clear evidence of consistency in ‘preaching their values.’ We condemn abortion, euthanasia, genocide, torture, racism and the targeting of non-combatants in acts of terror or war as ‘intrinsically evil.'”
Well, the statement may have been adopted by the “full body of bishops” and may be, at least in Hubbard’s assessment, “clear evidence of consistency in “preaching their values” (I purposefully emphasized the “their“) but “their” does not read in any way, fashion or form to be the Church’s values or the received or held values of the faithful. While I don’t doubt for a moment that Hubbard’s laundry list of condemned evils reflects his own beliefs; any flesh and blood human being is compelled to condemn such abhorrent practices! That said, Hubbard is noted to be [one of the] most liberal RC bishops in the United States, and has indeed preached his values in the diocese entrusted to his pastoral care (see our post Condoning the Failure Option). And he has been inconsistent in reconciling his own and representing the Church’s and the majority flock’s beliefs!
In his October 2008 monthly statement, “Voting with a Catholic Conscience,” Hubbard writes: “The Church calls for a different kind of political engagement: one shaped by the moral convictions of a well-formed conscience and focused on the dignity of every human being, the pursuit of the common good and the protection of the weak and the vulnerable.
“The Catholic call to faithful citizenship affirms the importance of political participation and insists that public service is a worthy vocation.
“As Catholics, we should be guided more by our moral convictions than by our attachment to a particular political party or interest group. When necessary, our participation should help transform the party to which we belong; we should not let the party transform us in such a way that neglects or denies fundamental Christian values and moral truths.”
Even without commenting on the empty clichés of that statement, the boilerplate statements, we note that the bishop refers several times to the lengthy document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” but very honestly I don’t know of anyone at all who has heard of the document nor where there is any indication of where to get it. (The only reason I have one is because I need it in my writing activities; it’s long and not an easy read for anyone with a real life!).
What’s more, the troubling statement comes in a section entitled “Doctrine Counts,” (we agree, but doctrine must be efficaciously taught!) where the bishop writes:
“We must weigh these issues in a fashion that neither treats all issues as moral equivalents (for example, giving abortion and racism the same moral status as the federal standard for the minimum wage or the best policies to combat global warming) nor reduces Catholic social teaching to one or two issues. Catholics often face difficult choices about how to vote. A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil. [But no instruction is given on how to assess the magnitude of the “intrinsic evil,” totally lacking in effective guidance or teaching on how racism differs from a minimum wage standard, which for most is either rhetorical or irrelevant, depending on ones sociocultural status!]
“As Faithful Citizenship teaches, “those who knowingly, willingly and directly support public policies or legislation that undermine fundamental moral principles coöperate with evil. Voting for candidates who hold such an unacceptable position would be permissible only for grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or position preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.” [So this statement would mean that we shouldn’t vote for Mario Cuomo who lives in concubinage and does not oppose abortion but receives communion from the bishop’s hands?]
I recently published an editorial on Schizoid Catholics; it seems I was right on the mark if this HHS debacle is sustained.
We also note that “the use of the death penalty, resorting to unjust war … and the failure to respond to those who are suffering from hunger or a lack of health care, or an unjust immigration policy are all serious moral issues that challenge our consciences and require us to act.”
This is where the bishop gets confusing. Hubbard has been taken to task on this blog for “knowingly, willingly, and directly supporting” public figures (Andrew Cuomo, for example, see our page Bad! Bishop Hubbard) who “undermine the fundamental moral principles” of the Catholic Tradition and even some non-Catholic faiths, and yet he refutes, rebuffs, and contests a journalist’s factual remarks pointing out just such “coöperation with evil.”
I find it very odd that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany’s official rag, The Evangelist, does not list a single mention of conscience, contraception, human life, abortion, etc. in its “Top 2011 Headlines” (Kate Blain). Why is this? In fact, the ‘faithful citizenship document” receives but one single sentence hidden (November 22, 2011) in the voluminous multipart “Rome Diary” series commemorating the bishop’s most recent ad limine visit to Rome (October 2011). One might ask the editor of the Evangelist why this silence is so deafening. We did and the Evangelist promptly answered (see the Addendum, below). The issue of the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment has been around and under intense discussion since at least 2010!
Bishop at prayer? Maybe. But actually bishop Howard Hubbard is watching a CBA victory over Schenectady in the a championship game at Pepsi Arena. (Luanne M. Ferris / Times Union) Well, we all have our priorities, don’t we?
I would ask bishop Hubbard when he last addressed a statement to Nancy Pelosi, to Barack Hussein Obama, to Justice Scalia, to Andrew Cuomo or the myriad Catholic politicians and opinion leaders on the bishop’s A-list regarding “coöperation with evil?” Or the last time he refused or instructed denial of sacraments to recalcitrant, obstinate, derelict apostate heretical public figures who, on a routine basis “cooperate with evil!”
The National Committee for a Human Life Amendment is dedicated to pursuing this vision. The organization’s objectives include educating citizens, developing pro-life legislative networks, and offering programs in support of pro-life legislation. Among its various activities, NCHLA produces educational and program resources, communicates with leaders about legislative priorities, and presents legislative seminars throughout the year. In a special way, NCHLA assists dioceses, state Catholic conferences, and Catholic lay groups. The Committee also works closely with the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
We contacted the Evangelist, the official newspaper of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany (New York) as to whether the Evangelist covered this issue of the Obama administration’s Health and Human Services Department requirement that employers must include contraception and abortion-inducing drugs in health-care coverage, and Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship with the question: “If the Evangelist has covered either of these subjects in 2010, 2011, or more recently, can you please let me know in which issues?”
The Evangelist promptly wrote back : “We have covered both issues. You’re not finding them in the online archives because for the most part, the stories come from the news service and we do not have the rights to post them online. You may find them at www.catholicnews.com. ”
The editor of the Evangelist informs us that the paper will be running “two major stories on the HHS issue” in the February 1st issue of the Evangelist. Whether they will be canned stories from the news services or whether they will be relevant to the Albany Diocese is yet to be seen. We wait with bated breath.