‘And So Forth’?

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m grateful Meet the Press is giving coverage to religious liberty and conscience. And I look forward to watching David Gregory’s interview of New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan. Excerpts from Sunday’s taped interview hit my inbox today and here’s some of what transpires. David Gregory asks:

What about Obamacare?  You have voiced your displeasure with certain aspects of it in terms of mandates for hospitals and so forth.  What about the overall goal of it?  Do you think it will ultimately prevail?  Would you like it?  Do you think it’s important for the country that universal healthcare insurance is available?

The Catholic bishops of the United States have done considerably more than voice displeasure. Catholics, Evangelicals, Mennonites, and more have had to resort to suing the Department of Health and Human Services for the protection of their religious liberty. In the Hobby Lobby case now being taken up by the Supreme Court, MSNBC is having loads of fun making corporations-are-people-with-religious-liberty jokes (about which I had much to say on Twitter Wednesday, @kathrynlopez), but small businesses – and the occasional arts-and-crafts chain – are run by people, who have religious liberty, yes, even if they sell frilly paper. 

I do hope people get to become more familiar with the Green family who run Hobby Lobby. They are people trying to be truly Christian — living lives infused by the graces of prayer and reflection, real faith, lives transformed by their belief. We need such integrated approaches in business leaders and, needless to say, political leaders. (More on the Greens here.)

During the Meet the Press interview, Cardinal Dolan gives a taste of what Catholics offer in the way of a health-care conversation in America. The bishops wanted to encourage reform but all along warned about conscience — something that Hillary Clinton back in the day and Ted Kennedy were sensitive to but that this president has been adamant in disrespecting through accusation, dismissal, and manipulation. (This has been a rupture it what had been a bit of a bipartisan consensus, a rupture disproportionately influenced by abortion client politics — with Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards in key negotiating rooms about a “health care” policy regulation conceived by abortion-rights advocates, while Cardinal Dolan was lied to.)

From the excerpts:

We bishops have been really kind of in a tough place because we’re for universal, comprehensive, life-affirming healthcare. We, the bishops of the United States, can you believe it, in 1919 came out for more affordable, more comprehensive, more universal healthcare. That’s how far back we go in this battle, okay?

So we’re not Johnny-come-latelies. We’ve been asking for reform in healthcare for a long time. So we were kind of an early supporter in this. Where we started bristling and saying, “Uh-oh, first of all this isn’t comprehensive, because it’s excluding the undocumented immigrant and it’s excluding the unborn baby,” so we began to bristle at that.

And then secondly we said, “And wait a minute, we Catholics who are kind of among the pros when it comes to providing healthcare, do it because of our religious conviction, and because of the dictates of our conscience. And now we’re being asked to violate some of those.”

So that’s when we began to worry and draw back and say, “Mr. President, please, you’re really kind of pushing aside some of your greatest supporters here.  We want to be with you, we want to be strong. And if you keep doing this, we’re not going to be able to be one of your cheerleaders.”  And that sadly is what happened.

Gregory, according to the excerpts released today, also asks Cardinal Dolan about gay marriage, asking if it’s a “settled question.” (The Supreme Court hasn’t even entirely managed to pretend it is!) Dolan makes the point that 

back in 1973 with Roe v. Wade, everybody said, “This is a foregone conclusion. In a couple years, this issue is going to go away. It’s going to be back-burnered.” To this day, it remains probably the most divisive issue in American politics. And as you look at some of the changing attitudes, you say, “Wow, we’re beginning to affect the young with the pro-life message. So we’re not going to give up on it.

That could be a great promo for Clarke Forsythe’s new book on the politics and uncertainty and recklessness surrounding Roe v. Wade back in the day. (I interviewed Forsythe here about it.) And so it continues.

The contentiousness of these debates surrounding neuralgic issues such as life and marriage only increase when people rally around pink sneakers and when talking points are stuck to. On these issues, the hardening of hearts is an enemy of actual help and healing. I’m hopeful that law, no longer a teacher, can at least be a wake-up call, as we realize that the pink-sneakers filibuster was against some protections not only for the unborn late in pregnancies but for women, too! — and as we seriously reflect on what conscience and tolerance and marriage mean, rather than obediently rushing to what might feel like liberation but doesn’t quite work out as the satisfaction advertised.

The good news is, we still do call upon moral authorities now and again, usually toward the end of the year. It’s as if we do want to do this all a bit better and know that there may be room for illumination from someone other than the celebrity or politician with the smoothest claim to hope and change.

(I suppose it’s easier to see at the point of second-term faltering, of course.)

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