Matt C. Abbott
Priests differ on SCOTUS Obamacare decision
By Matt C. Abbott
July 5, 2012

I asked two respected, politically astute Catholic priests — Fathers John Trigilio and Phillip De Vous — to comment on the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld Obamacare. While both priests oppose Obamacare (as do I), they have differing views on the court's ruling.

Father Trigilio's commentary (slightly edited):
    I am truly grateful to live in a country where the first freedom guaranteed in our Constitution is the freedom of religion. I am also grateful that our Declaration of Independence explicitly states in writing that our inalienable rights come from God (our Creator) and the first and foremost is the right to life. The democratic-republic we live in is supposed to govern with truth and justice via the rule of law. Law is an ordinance of reason promulgated by legitimate authority, i.e., one who has care of the community, and which promotes and serves the common good.

    Unfortunately, I do not have full confidence in our current system of jurisprudence. Yes, we have many fine judges and attorneys who are committed to truth and justice. But the system is being abused by those who have another agenda. My younger brother was killed by an underage drunk driver on July 5, 1997. The medical blood test which unequivocally established that the accused was very much over the legal limit even if he had been of drinking age (which he was not), was suppressed by a judge on a minuscule legal technicality. My brother was killed just three blocks from home and the person who ran into him served no time in jail and paid no fine whatsoever. Even his driving license was not suspended or revoked. Ironically, if you drive away from a gas station without paying for the fuel, the law will suspend your license. Get too many parking tickets, and you can have your license revoked. Kill a human being with your automobile while under the influence or driving while intoxicated, however, and nothing happens. I find that obscene.

    Likewise, I find the recent SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) ruling on Affordable Care Act equally obscene. A legal technicality has once again spit in the eye of justice. Semantics have replaced duty. Every judge is supposed to seek truth and justice in every trial. On the one hand, we are told that the act is not constitutional under the commerce clause, but it is a lawful levying of a tax and thus is constitutional. The mandate of Health and Human Services implements this law and violates our first constitutional freedom, the freedom of religion. It does this by obligating Catholic schools and hospitals and businesses to provide or subsidize medical procedures that are intrinsically opposed to the natural moral law and de facto violate the religious conscience of the believers of that creed. Dioceses and parishes are 'exempt' by legal fiat, not because it is wrong to impose such measures. Catholic hospitals, nursing homes, colleges and universities and businesses (like Eternal Word Television Network) will be compelled to provide or subsidize abortions, sterilizations, euthanasia and contraception to anyone who works for them.

    Imagine if the government told a hospital it had to provide cigarettes to any employee who smoked, or pay fines and taxes that allow the smoker to get free cigarettes. Yet that is what will happen when Catholic hospitals are told they must provide 'reproductive health care' to any and all employees.

    Contraceptives often work as abortifacients, which do not prevent conception, but rather prevent implantation of an already fertilized egg. Once fertilization of the egg occurs, however, there is conception and there is a new and distinct human being in the womb, whether it is attached to the uterine wall or in the fallopian tube. Human DNA is present and once conception takes place, that DNA is distinct and separate from all the rest of the mother's body, which has her unique DNA. The unborn baby has similar DNA, but it is not identical, for he or she is a new human being at this moment.

    What bothers me most is that important issues like religious freedom and health care are erroneously portrayed as in opposition to one another. Caring for the sick is corporal work of mercy. Respecting the conscience and the religious beliefs of others is equally sacred. Since abortion and contraception are currently legal in our country, those who have no qualm of conscience can obtain these without fear of being arrested. At the same time, however, they are not inalienable rights. No one can demand them. They can obtain them but no one is obligated to provide them if either violates their conscience. If as a restaurant owner I freely choose not to serve alcohol, I am under no moral or legal obligation to secure a liquor license, nor am I obliged to serve alcohol. If someone wants it, they can get it themselves at the local liquor store or go to a different restaurant that serves booze.

    Under ACA, HHS will force hospitals, schools, insurance companies, and other businesses to provide or subsidize contraceptives, abortion and euthanasia to anyone they employ. Why not force these institutions to provide or subsidize cigarettes free of charge to their workers? Yet, what do we see? Hospitals and other public places forbidding smoking not only inside but even outside the building because cigarette smoking causes cancer. Abortion and abortifacient contraceptives and euthanasia are also lethal and deadly to innocent human beings. How can the government force anyone to provide something dangerous if they choose not to do so?

    Whether President Obama reforms his current law or Governor Romney repeals it and replaces it with a different piece of legislation, all citizens must be concerned and get involved. Socialized medicine is not an inalienable right, but the right to life is, and so is religious freedom. One danger in placing too much confidence in the court system is that individual judges can let you down. Having a pro-life president and Congress can ensure the possibility of a pro-life judge getting on the Supreme Court, but there is no guarantee. Today, to appease the judicial committee, presidents often nominate safe judges who have little or no paper trail. Their previous decisions are vague or non-existent on the issue of the right to life of the unborn. Hence, to pass the Senate, we get people who have not expressed much, if anything, on this important matter.

    A hundred and fifty years ago, the pertinent question was: What is your position on slavery? Fifty years ago it was racial segregation. People had a right to know if judges believed in civil rights. Being vague is not good enough. Today, the crucial question is about the inalienable right to life. Does it exist? When?

    We must elect pro-life politicians to the House, Senate and presidency, but also we need to demand from those nominated to the Supreme Court that they will defend and promote justice for all citizens, those inside and outside the womb. Human beings have rights from their Creator. The executive, legislative and judicial branches have no authority to grant, rescind, deny or create any human rights whatsoever. Their job is to defend and protect the rights all human beings have from their human nature.

    Justice was not served, nor was truth upheld. Legal technicality is a stratagem used to obfuscate justice, not pursue it. What makes the recent Supreme Court decision even more enigmatic is what Kim Daniels of Catholic Voices USA writes:

      Championed by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, that mandate requires most employers to provide free coverage for contraceptives, abortion-causing drugs, and sterilizations even when doing so violates their deeply-held religious beliefs. Often called the 'HHS mandate,' this regulation was not before the court this time around, and the court's ruling did not affect it at all. It remains in force and under challenge; some 56 plaintiffs have filed suit against it in 23 separate cases across the country.

      In her separate opinion — joined by Justice Sotomayor, Justice Breyer, and Justice Kagan — Justice Ginsburg notes that beyond the provisions directly at issue in the healthcare case, other constitutional provisions limit the power of the federal government: 'A mandate to purchase a particular product would be unconstitutional if, for example, the edict impermissibly abridged the freedom of speech, interfered with the free exercise of religion, or infringed on a liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause.'

    Note that last sentence. Justice Ginsburg and her three fellow justices deem any mandate which violates a person's conscience or religious freedom is unconstitutional. Justice Roberts can call it a tax and President Obama can call it a penalty, but in the mandate is the unconscionable violation of our basic and first constitutional freedom. Freedom of religion and the integrity of the individual conscience cannot be sacrificed just to make a political policy expedient. Whether Congress utilizes the commerce clause or its taxing authority, what is really at stake is the soul of America.

    The right to life and religious freedom are not in any way, shape or form equal or subservient to people's access to elective treatment and procedures. Persons have access to contraceptives at any pharmacy, and, sadly, even to abortion procedures at Planned Parenthood facilities. But under no circumstances should taxpayers, schools, hospitals, insurance companies and businesses be coerced or compelled to provide or subsidize them. Fining or taxing those who fail to provide these non-essential and controversial measures is repugnant to reason and justice.

    This law must be repealed and redone from scratch. We need to overhaul the medical care system as a matter of social justice, but national health care is not the panacea. Justice demands we respect religious freedom and individual conscience while first and foremost respecting and defending the right to life of all human beings. Creating unreasonable debt for the nation, families and individuals, whether this generation or those to follow, is no solution, either. Weakening national defense or violating human rights is just as insane and unjust. Neglecting the sick and dying is no option, but remember: The ends never justifies the means.

    Let's elect politicians and install judges who truly seek truth and justice for all men and women, born and unborn. All three branches of government need to put the common good first and politics last. Law is to be a tool for man to use to protect him, not enslave or endanger him. Laws that deny human rights, like the right to life and religious freedom, are not valid laws and should be replaced by ones that are.

Father De Vous' commentary (slightly edited):
    The SCOTUS has handed Governor Romney and conservatives in general several campaign advantages for the fall election.

    Obama cannot run against the Supreme Court, which he desperately wanted to do. He has consistently acted in an Alinsky-ite manner toward the Supreme Court by ridiculing and menacing them in public. After all, he was hoping that four conservative white guys and an 'Uncle Tom,' as some African-American leaders in the past and in the present refer to the brilliant Justice Clarence Thomas, would strike down his law in order to give him a partisan battering ram. He was seeking an FDR-like strategy to run against the court. Frankly, I agree with the pundits: Chief Justice Roberts' majority position is crassly political — a set of conclusions seeking a rationale.

    Romney can run against the tremendous unpopularity of the law, especially as health-care costs soar, further damaging economic growth and businesses as they are already pricing in the market disturbances that will only be exacerbated. Romney can use his experiment in Massachusetts to illustrate why he knows best that Obamacare can't work, as he can pivot from: 'We had a problem in Massachusetts that our citizens asked us to address. We did the best we could and it didn't work Massachusetts like I thought, despite our best and most thoughtful efforts, so I know it won't work for a nation of 300 million, given the complexities of the health marketplace and the necessary role of privacy and liberty in the intimate reality of one's choice of's why...and here's my plan...' Conservatives cannot just rest on repeal; they must offer sensible, accountable, easily accessible market-based solutions.

    The economy is still in the tank, loaded up daily with ever-more job killing policies and regulations, the effects of which can easily be seen and illustrated. Right now every sector of the energy industry-to cite one example-is fighting the Obama administration hard.

    Obama certainly can't run as a job creator with unemployment still ticking up and businesses on a capital strike because they fear his anti-business policies.

    Trillion dollar deficits continue pile up. This new entitlement program will only add fuel to the fire of burning money.

    A foreign policy aside: Iran is getting the bomb. All Obama's foreign policy priorities have all failed: Iran's getting nuclear weapons, Syria is in flames; the Saudis, Jews, Jordanians, Iraqis and the Turks are irritated at us for allowing Iran to continue to establish its regional hegemony. China is still devaluing its currency artificially and our Asian allies are irritated that we are failing to counterbalance China to keep it from establishing total regional hegemony, especially in the economic and trade sphere. And on and on and on.

    The Catholic Church and the religious right and much of the religious left are united against his mandate, which violates the constitutional protections of freedom of religion and conscience. Even those in orthodox Catholic, Evangelical, and pro-life [circles] are firmly crystallizing behind Romney and conservatives running in every state for various offices. As long as the bishops don't botch it by dropping the ball in the name of 'being nice' by consistently and, I think, willfully misreading, misunderstanding, and misinterpreting the public square, we've got a premium wedge issue.

    The problem is this: The bishops support an expansive welfare state, the very philosophy and policies that logically led to this mandate in the first place. The USCCB gave theological cover for the passage of Obamacare because the conference believes state-provided healthcare is a 'right.' The bishops just don't like this 'bad part' that affects their institutions and public prestige. The bottom line is that since the New Deal, the bishops have been firmly on the side of an expansive welfare state. To quote Jeremiah Wright: 'The chickens have come home to roost' in the form of a mandate, providing immoral services they've only tepidly (at best) taught clearly about these past four decades.

    And best of all, the SCOTUS just assured us — in the written supreme law of the land — that we are subjects of a limitless taxing authority.

    Romney and conservatives just got one giant step closer to a blow-out victory in November. If you can't beat a guy and an agenda with that record, then politics isn't your vocation. So I alter my initially dark view of the majority opinion a bit: One and a half cheers for the Supreme Court. On election night, I think I'll buy Chief Justice Roberts a drink!
© Matt C. Abbott


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

Click to enlarge

Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He also has an Associate in Applied Science degree in business management from Triton College. Abbott has been interviewed on HLN, MSNBC, Bill Martinez Live, WOSU Radio in Ohio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's 2019 ‘Unsolved’ podcast about the unsolved murder of Father Alfred Kunz, Alex Shuman's 'Smoke Screen: Fake Priest' podcast, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) and WISC-TV (CBS) in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been quoted in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and other media outlets. He’s mentioned in the 2020 Report on the Holy See's Institutional Knowledge and Decision-Making Related to Former Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick (1930 to 2017), which can be found on the Vatican's website. He can be reached at

(Note: I welcome and appreciate thoughtful feedback. Insults will be ignored. Only in very select cases will I honor a request to have a telephone conversation about a topic in my column. Email is much preferred. God bless you and please keep me in your prayers!)


Receive future articles by Matt C. Abbott: Click here

More by this author


Stephen Stone
HAPPY EASTER: A message to all who love our country and want to help save it!

Stephen Stone
The most egregious lies Evan McMullin and the media have told about Sen. Mike Lee

Siena Hoefling
Protect the Children: Update with VIDEO

Stephen Stone
Flashback: Dems' fake claim that Trump and Utah congressional hopeful Burgess Owens want 'renewed nuclear testing' blows up when examined

Bonnie Chernin
Pro-abortion Republicans

Cliff Kincaid
Make Sodom and Gomorrah Great Again

Pete Riehm
The FISA debate misses the point again

Curtis Dahlgren
The year the lions lay down with the LAMB

Linda Goudsmit
CHAPTER 14: Changing Hearts and Minds

Rev. Mark H. Creech
Scriptural sobriety: Challenging assumptions about Jesus’ wine miracle

Jerry Newcombe
The Key to our national motto

Cliff Kincaid
Heaven help us: Trump bails on protecting the right to life

Pete Riehm
It’s not Israel; it’s us!

Bruce Deitrick Price
Rita Kramer's book 'Ed School Follies' exposes how teachers are trained to dumb down America

Paul Cameron
U.S. LGBTs and their harms growing

Linda Goudsmit
CHAPTER 13: Fomenting Race Wars Begins in Kindergarten
  More columns


Click for full cartoon
More cartoons


Matt C. Abbott
Chris Adamo
Russ J. Alan
Bonnie Alba
Chuck Baldwin
Kevin J. Banet
J. Matt Barber
Fr. Tom Bartolomeo
. . .
[See more]

Sister sites