The Corner

The White House as Pope

George Weigel chronicles some of the White House divide-and-conquer strategy on the HHS mandate:

That the administration would play divide-and-conquer with the Catholic Church in its attempt to ram through the HHS mandate was obvious from the outset, although the White House was likely surprised by the virtual unanimity of Catholic opposition to the mandate’s announcement on January 20 — a unanimity breached only by the likes of Catholics for Choice, a front group for pro-abortion donors that Lenin would have recognized as a gaggle of “useful idiots.” Indeed, the very rollout of the “accommodation” on February 10 reeked of divide-and-conquer. As Cardinal-designate Dolan has made clear in recent interviews, the White House called Father John Jenkins, C.S.C., president of the University of Notre Dame, with news of the “accommodation,” before it called the president of the bishops conference. Father Jenkins, to his great credit, told the White House that they had the wrong number and that they had to call Dolan. Jenkins later issued a statement welcoming what he took to be the administration’s recognition of “the freedom of religious institutions to abide by the principles that define their respective mission,” although he also expressed concern about “a number of unclear and unresolved issues” to be explored.

The White House posted Jenkins’s statement on “The White House Blog,” along with far more fulsome statements of support for the mandate “accommodation” from CHA, Catholics United, Planned Parenthood, and NARAL-Pro Choice America, and a less extravagant, but still supportive, statement from Catholic Charities. Then on Tuesday, February 14, sharp-eyed observers noticed that Father Jenkins’s statement had disappeared from “The White House Blog” entry on “What They Are Saying: Preventive Health Care and Religious Institutions.” It may be assumed that Father Jenkins, unhappy with the way his statement of February 10 was being spun by the White House into an unambiguous embrace of an “accommodation” the bishops had clearly rejected, asked that his statement be removed from the website — another honorable act on his part, which requires a retraction of my suggestion last Saturday that Father Jenkins and Sister Carol Keehan were, as it were, in the same boat here. Father Jenkins, it seems, knows where primacy in the Catholic Church resides, and it isn’t in the Catholic Health Association.

Read the whole piece here.

I know that there are lots of reasons to be annoyed with Fr. Jenkins vis-a-vis this current White House. Believe me, I have been a critic. But he has not been cheerleading the president on this current affront to religious liberty.

Furthermore, Notre Dame professors have been on the forefront of providing some real clarity on this issue. Carter Snead, from the law school there, was just about the first person I heard from after the president made his remarks Friday and has spearheaded this letter you have seen quoted here, signed by more than a few Notre Dame professors, among over a hundred 300 and then-some and counting — academics, priests, nuns, and very many (majority) laity. Notre Dame is providing some real leadership here. (Which is not surprising, given some of the beacons there. It is not all football and commencements.)


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