Knights of Columbus panel offers conservative Catholic response to contraception mandate
Last night, Georgetown’s Knights of Columbus held a symposium on “Religious Freedom and Healthcare.” The program included a set of conservative religious, political, and legal figures discussing the Obama administration’s recent decisions on the religious conscience exception to the requirement mandating contraception be included in health insurance policies, the intentions behind it, and the proper Catholic response to it.
The symposium’s cast included Timothy Shah of the Berkley Center’s Religious Freedom Project as the moderator of the discussion; Monsignor Charles Pope, pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian as well as the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.; Kellie Fiedorek, Staff Counsel for Americans United for Life; Thomas Peters, the prominent blogger of American Papist run through CatholicVoteAction.org, laid out the steps by which President Barack Obama “exploited” his power to pass the insurance mandate that would “force women to receive access to life-ending drugs”; and Scott Lloyd, Assistant Director of Public Policy for the Knights of Columbus, went over some of the legal details of the mandate.
Starting the night off with the Lord’s Prayer, the panel was observed by a group of roughly 25 people, including the Knights. Shah opened the discussion up for each member to speak briefly so that there would be time for questions and comments at the end. Peters, the American Papist, held nothing back in his criticism of the administration’s decisions:
Before we decide where to go from here, we must first stop to analyze what the Left did to get us here. The Obama administration has exploited it’s power, ignoring the constitution, by way of eight relatively easy steps. First, it has the power. Obamacare provided the federal government with power over the health insurance industry. Second, the power of the HHS mandate allowed Senator Mikulski to make sure insurance plans cover abortion drugs. Third, Obama brought in the experts. Not one of the sixteen members on the deciding committee was pro-life. Fourth, they ignored the media’s response. It was a sham. Fifth, the HHS was an edict and held no care for dissent. Sixth, the administration waited for backlash and gave a phony compromise in response. Seventh, they manipulated the media and claimed the religious right was leading a ‘war on contraception.’ Eighth, and perhaps most disappointingly, Obama exploited the Catholic supporters of the mandate and used them to his advantage.
Peters offered three responses to counteract this “exploitation,” which included the knowledge by the Catholic community that such mandates were imminent, that the real means of victory are “in the ballot box,” and the realization that the “Church does not become stronger in times of persecution,” but that the Catholic community needs to make sure that the United States remains a place where children can grow up and practice religion freely. During the Q&A, he suggested that the Catholic community may need to take the eight steps and mirror them “with morality.”
Lloyd and Fiedorek mainly stayed on legal and political matters. Lloyd discussed the accommodations for religious institutions in the mandate and how they narrowed it down to individual churches which do not always provide health insurance. He made light of Cardinal Daniel DiNardo’s recent comments that “Jesus himself would not qualify for the Department of Health and Human Services ‘religious employer exemption’” which drew a few snickers from the audience. Fiedorek reiterated that the mandate was not about contraception, but a direct attack on religious freedom, as “anyone can walk into a Walgreen’s and find inexpensive contraception.”
Pope’s discussion was varied, partially describing his involvement in a largely African-American parish that he has trouble leading to the realization of the wrongfulness of the Obama administration, and, in following his denial of the Catholic church being victimized, went over a humorous parable of a Kosher deli being forced to sell ham sandwiches by the government. This was done in order to metaphorically describe the government forcing religious institutions to provide insurance plans that included contraception, including Plan B, often called “the morning after pill,” or “the abortion pill.” His discussion pondered the need for Catholic unity and action.
During the Q&A, Georgetown’s own Fr. Stephen Fields asked about what strategies the Catholic community might utilize in the this fight for religious freedom. More fiery remarks came from Peter A. Gabauer, Jr., a Knights of Columbus State deputy for the District:
If our religious liberty is smashed, it will ruin this nation. The new Dr. King memorial does not mention God even though his profession was in the ministry. But like him, we better be prepared to go to march together, and to go to jail together!
Photo: Will Collins