Michael Gaynor
Cardinal Dolan v. USCCB on whether President Obama is honorable
By Michael Gaynor
October 20, 2012

In proclaiming President Obama to be honorable, Cardinal Dolan did what the USCCB said should not be done.

Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan is Archbishop of New York and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Earlier this year Cardinal Dolan stated with respect to the Obama Administration's HHS mandate:

"...it is not just about sterilization, abortifacients, and chemical contraception.

"Pure and simple, it's about religious freedom, the sacred right, protected by our constitution, of any Church to define its own teaching and ministry.

"When the President announced on January 20th that the choking mandates from HHS would remain — a shock to me, since he had personally assured me that he would do nothing to impede the good work of the Church in health care, education, and charity, and that he considered the protection of conscience a sacred duty — not only you, but men and women of every faith, or none at all, rallied in protest. The worry that we bishops had expressed — that such government control was contrary to our deepest political values — was eloquently articulated by constitutional scholars and leaders of every creed. Even newspaper editorials supported us!"

After that, Cardinal Dolan invited President Obama to speak at this year's Al Smith Dinner, which was televised on CSPAN.

At the Al Smith Dinner on October 18, 2012, Cardinal Dolan declared that both major party presidential candidates, President Obama and Governor Romney, are honorable men.

In proclaiming President Obama to be honorable, Cardinal Dolan did what the USCCB said should not be done.

Even if Cardinal Dolan's invitation to speak at the Al Smith Dinner should not be treated as an honor, his declaration that President Obama is an honorable man was an honor.

If Planned Parenthood honored President Obama, it would make sense.

After all, President Obama is the most pro-abortion President in American history and Planned Parenthood is in the abortion business.

In June 2004, the USCCB issued a statement, "Catholics in Political Life" (http://old.usccb.org/bishops/catholicsinpoliticallife.shtml).

Therein, it is stated in pertinent part: "Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions."

In trying to defend his invitation to President Obama to speak at the Notre Dame graduation and receive an honorary degree in 2009, Father John Jenkins stated (www.lifesitenews.com/news/archive//ldn/2009/apr/09040808):

"Because the title of the document is 'Catholics in Political Life,' we understood this to refer to honoring Catholics whose actions are not in accord with our moral principles. This interpretation was supported by canon lawyers we consulted, who advised us that, by definition, only Catholics who implicitly recognize the authority of Church teaching can act in 'defiance' of it. Moreover, fellow university presidents have told me that their bishops have told them that in fact it is only Catholic politicians who are referred to in this document.

"In addition, regardless of how one interprets the first sentence, the second is also important. It reads: 'They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.' In every statement I have made about the invitation of President Obama and in every statement I will make, I express our disagreement with him on issues surrounding the protection of life, such as abortion and embryonic stem cell research. If we repeatedly and clearly state that we do not support the President on these issues, we cannot be understood to 'suggest support.'

"Finally, the document states that 'we need to do more to persuade all people that human life is precious and human dignity must be defended. This requires more effective dialogue and engagement with all public officials....' However misguided some might consider our actions, it is in the spirit of providing a basis for dialogue that we invited President Obama."

This "justification' is sheer sophistry, predicated on a tortured definition of defiance.

Not "only Catholics who implicitly recognize the authority of Church teaching can act in 'defiance' of it."

Additionally, assuming that Father Jenkins was well meaning, his invitation obviously did not dissuade the Obama Administration from issuing the HHS mandate that the Archdiocese of New York is challenging in federal court.

This statement is not ambiguous: ""Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions."

It specifies "those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles," NOT only Catholics "who act in defiance of our fundamental principles."

President Obama defied those "fundamental principles" not only by signing an executive order on January 23, 2009 reversing the ban that prohibits funding to international family planning groups that provide abortions, but also by having his Secretary of Health and Human Service issue a mandate that violates religious liberty.

On May 21, 2012, the Archdiocese of New York filed a federal lawsuit against the HHS mandate and issued the following press release (www.archny.org/news-events/news-press-releases/index.cfm?i=24537):


"In order to protect our religious liberties from unwarranted and unprecedented government intrusion, the Archdiocese of New York has filed suit in federal court today seeking to block the recent Health and Human Services mandate that unconstitutionally attempts to define the nature of the Church's religious ministry and would force religious employers to violate their consciences. The Diocese of Rockville Centre has joined in the lawsuit.

"Named as defendants in the suit are the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The lawsuit was filed at federal court in Brooklyn. Other lawsuits also objecting to the HHS mandate were filed today in federal district courts throughout the nation by other Catholic (arch)dioceses, institutions and organizations.

"Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, said about the lawsuits filed in New York and elsewhere, 'We have tried negotiation with the Administration and legislation with the Congress, — and will keep at it — and there's still no fix. Time is running out, and our precious ministries and fundamental rights hang in the balance, so we have to resort to the courts now.'

"The Archdiocese of New York has filed this suit because the federal government is requiring religious organizations, under penalty of law, to provide, pay for, and/or facilitate access to services that are contrary to their deeply held and constitutionally-protected religious beliefs.

"An equally grave concern is that while the government has recognized a religious exemption to these mandates, it is so narrowly worded that many — if not most — religious institutions such as Catholic hospitals, nursing homes, schools, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters do not qualify for it. Incredibly, under the government's exemption standard, these Catholic institutions would not qualify because they do not discriminate against non-Catholics who might come to them seeking assistance. Nor do they discriminate against non-Catholics in their hiring practices. Further, in order to qualify for an exemption, a religious institution must submit to an invasive federal government inquiry into its religious beliefs and practices, conferring powers on government that are forbidden by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Specifically, for an institution to know whether it is religious enough to meet the government's exemption standard, it must submit to an investigation whereby federal employees determine the religion of those employed and served by the entity, whether their beliefs are the same as the institution, and whether the institution hires and serves 'primarily' those of the same beliefs.

"For the Archdiocese of New York and its institutions, this situation is of particular concern since we have been subjected for nearly a decade to a mandate by New York State to provide services that are contrary to our religious beliefs.

"In 2002, the New York State Catholic Conference objected to state legislation that directed Catholic institutions providing prescription drug coverage through standard commercial insurance policies to include coverage for contraceptive drugs and devices, which are proscribed according to Catholic teaching. The Conference had enthusiastically supported major components of this legislation designed to ensure and expand healthcare for women, but sought to remove the objectionable provisions. The legislation passed and was signed into law without the Conference's recommended amendments. Regrettably, the law includes an intrusively narrow definition of religious institutions similar to that in the current federal HHS mandates.

"Suit was brought against the State of New York's law on the basis of this objectionable requirement. The case was lost, leaving Catholic institutions with commercial insurance in the regrettable position of either violating their religious conscience or canceling employee benefits. Those entities that chose to retain commercial plans have only done so 'under protest.'

"The dilemma facing Catholics institutions in the State of New York has now, under the HHS mandate, become a national issue. The current federal lawsuit attempts to remedy this injustice on a federal judicial level in a way that was unattainable on the New York State level."

Father Jenkins's controversial speaking invitation and honorary degree award were counterproductive instead of helpful.

Cardinal Dolan's declaration that President Obama was mind-bogglingly mistaken. It was much more than civility and undeserved. Cardinal Dolan should pursue a favorable decision on his lawsuit on the merits instead of opine that President Obama, champion of abortion, violator of religious liberty and deceiver of Cardinal Dolan according to Cardinal Dolan, is honorable.

© Michael Gaynor


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.)

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Michael Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member... (more)


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