Archbishop Chaput: HHS Mandate Dangerous and Insulting

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Archbishop Charles Chaput of the Philadelphia Archdiocese has never been one to mince words, and he does not disappoint in regard to the Mandate and the “compromise”.


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services refused on Jan. 20 to broaden the exception to its mandate that nearly all Catholic employers must cover contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization in their health-care plans.  


An “accommodation” offered Friday by the White House did not solve the problem. Instead, it triggered withering criticism from legal scholars such as Notre Dame’s Carter Snead, Harvard’s Mary Ann Glendon, Princeton’s Robert George, and Catholic University of America president John Garvey, along with non-Catholic scholars including Yuval Levin, the religious liberty law firm the Becket Fund, and numerous Catholic and other organizations.  


Many Catholics are confused and angry. They should be.  


 Quite a few Catholics supported President Obama in the last election, so the ironies here are bitter. Many feel betrayed. They’re baffled that the Obama administration would seek to coerce Catholic employers, private and corporate, to violate their religious convictions.  


But it’s clear that such actions are developing into a pattern. Whether it was the administration’s early shift toward the anemic language of “freedom of worship” instead of the more historically grounded and robust concept of “freedom of religion” in key diplomatic discussions; or its troubling effort to regulate religious ministers recently rejected 9-0 by the Supreme Court in the Hosanna Tabor case; or the revocation of the U.S. bishops’ conference human-trafficking grant for refusing to refer rape victims to abortion clinics, it seems obvious that this administration is – to put it generously – tone deaf to people of faith.  


 Philadelphians may wish to reflect on the following facts: The Archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Human Services spends $278 million annually on services to the community. About 4,000 employees make up our secretariat’s workforce. Catholic Social Services is the largest social-service agency in Pennsylvania and the largest residential care/social-service subcontractor with the Department of Human Services of the City of Philadelphia.  


There’s more. Archdiocesan Catholic Health Care Services is the largest faith-based provider of long-term-care services to the poor and elderly in the five-county area, and the seventh-largest nationally. And our Nutritional Development Services ministry serves more than eight million meals a year to schoolchildren, summer programs, and child-care centers. It also provides 2 million pounds of nonperishable food to needy families and the elderly through its Community Food Program.  


Much of the money used by these ministries comes from public funding. But of course, the reason these ministries are trusted with public funding is that they do an excellent job. The service relationship works well without compromising the integrity of either the government or the Church. In fact, in a practical sense, government often benefits more than the Church.

It’s also important to note that many millions of the dollars disbursed are resources directly donated by faithful Catholics to carry out their Gospel mission to serve the needy. For the Church, this makes perfect sense: As a believing community, we share our resources freely and gladly. We’ll cooperate with anyone in service to the common good, so long as we are not forced to compromise our religious beliefs.   But the HHS mandate, including its latest variant, is belligerent, unnecessary, and deeply offensive to the content of Catholic belief. Any such mandate would make it morally compromising for us to provide health-care benefits to the staffs of our public-service ministries. Moreover, we cannot afford to be fooled – yet again – – by evasive and misleading allusions to the administration’s alleged “flexibility” on such issues. The HHS mandate needs to be rescinded.  


 Many critics are focusing on the details of this or that particular version of the HHS regulation – the narrowness of the religious exemption, the breadth of the mandate, the hollowness of the grace period. As useful as this approach may be, it risks wandering into the weeds. The White House response on these points is ambiguous and weak. The true magnitude of the issue is getting lost as just another debate about details. 


 In reality, no similarly aggressive attack on religious freedom in our country has occurred in recent memory.  


 The current administration prides itself on being measured and deliberate. The current HHS mandate needs to be understood as exactly that. Commentators are using words like “gaffe,” “ill conceived,” and “mistake” to describe the mandate. They’re wrong. It’s impossible to see this regulation as some happenstance policy. It has been too long in the making.  


Despite all of its public apprehension about “culture warriors” on the political right in the past, the current administration has created an HHS mandate that is the embodiment of culture war. At its heart is a seemingly deep distrust of the formative role religious faith has on personal and social conduct, and a deep distaste for religion’s moral influence on public affairs. To say that this view is contrary to the Founders’ thinking and the record of American history would be an understatement.  


Critics may characterize my words here as partisan or political. These are my personal views, and of course people are free to disagree. But it is this administration – not Catholic ministries, or institutions, or bishops – that chose the timing and nature of the fight. The onus is entirely on the White House, which also has the power to remove the issue from public conflict. Catholics should not be misled into accepting feeble compromises on issues of principle. The HHS mandate is bad law; and not merely bad, but dangerous and insulting. It needs to be withdrawn – now.

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Keeping a Promise

As faithful readers of this blog know, I was a very reluctant, and late, supporter of Donald Trump in 2016.  I grudgingly


  1. I believe that those who use contraception actually have lower medical costs than those who don’t. A couple who has 6 children will have used resources for 6 pregnancies and 6 newborns, which is more expensive than a couple who has 5 children and 10 years of contraception, or 5 children and sterilization. If a woman has a medical condition that would be exacerbated by pregnancy, contraception also reduces medical expenses. Be careful what you ask for. The current ruling has the expenses of choosing TO reproduce distributed among those who choose not to.

  2. As usual, Abp. Chaput is on the money. I disagree, however, with one sentence:

    “The White House response on these points is ambiguous and weak.”

    The WH is responding very clearly and firmly. It will lie, obfuscate and try to distract us from its consistent position. But it will not be moved.

    We are at war. The thing is we’ve always been at odds; the bishops just thought the situation could be tolerated. But tolerance only works in one direction with the Left. This situation is reminiscent of the film Braveheart. The heads of the clans thought their situation was tolerable with the English. But of course, it was always going to end in war. I know it’s not very Catholic of me, but now that both sides are facing each other, like William Wallace, I’d kinda like to go “pick a fight.”

  3. Gail-

    I think I understand . . . if you could explain who the “you” is in “Be careful what you ask for.” If it’s the current administration, then I snicker alongside you. If not, then perhaps some exposition to further develop this interesting idea.


  4. “At its heart is a seemingly deep distrust of the formative role religious faith has on personal and social conduct, and a deep distaste for religion’s moral influence on public affairs. To say that this view is contrary to the Founders’ thinking and the record of American history would be an understatement.

    The HHS mandate is bad law; and not merely bad, but dangerous and insulting. It needs to be withdrawn – now.”

    This time the Philistines are on the Hill in our Capitol are loading dangerous and insulting weapons of distrust, distaste with a vengeance barely disguised behind reasonable presentations:
    on the internet wideworld to children and adults, …children
    on the productions of MSM,
    on school curricula,
    on entertainment venues,
    and on the appearances/statements of their catholic ‘co-workers’.

    This with public funds they don’t have.
    They’ll use all their insinuations to destroy knowledge of good and bad in the name of inclusivity.

  5. I wonder if Abp Chaput will finally stop crawling into bed with the radical illegal alien lobby like Rep Guitierrrez demanding children of illegal aliens get instate tuition. IOW, he think taxpayers ought to help finanace the breaking of our immigration laws. Maybe he will stop showing contempt for legitimate Catholic viewpoints on issues like immigration and capital punishment. Make no mistake Chaput is part of the problem.

    Lest anyone think this has nothing to with the present problem. Think again. It has everything to do with it.

  6. I wish people would stop and think a minute…this is a First Amendment Freedom of Religion Issue. It’s not a special “Catholic” issue or “Evangelical” issue. It’s not a “contraception/abortion” issue, either. The freedom to practice religion is a large part of the reason why America exists. And is still the reason why so many continue to come here. Freedom of Religion was so important to our Founding Fathers that they put it first in the Bill of Rights. Doing an end-run around it by the diktat of unelected officials is extremely dangerous, setting precident for other end-runs around the Bill of Rights. So, this is something ALL Americans need to be concerned about.

    Further, and just to quantify, by nature the Christian faith is evangelical. We are required as part of our Baptism to go out and live the Gospel. It’s an active Faith. It’s not like a coat where you put it on and take it off depending upon the climate. It’s more like a second skin. Something that is deeply a part of a person. So, it is offensive to Christians, and all people of faith, when the government tells us how we are now going to have to practice our Faith or be punished if we don’t acquiesce. This mandate is completely antithetical to Christianity because it is hampering our ability to live the Gospel as we are called to do. To serve others in need, no matter who they are or what they believe.

    Catholics wake up! It’s St. Jude time.

  7. People keep talking about what percent of Catholics agree or whatever. Even if ONLY ONE Catholic thought that God didn’t want him to pay for abortifacients, he would have the RIGHT not to do that. Even if I made up my own religion tomorrow, and I thought God did not want me to bathe, I should have the right to refrain from that.

  8. CatholicLawyer, Wow. Powerful article with many truisms.

    I am not sure I entirely agree with saying the bishops embraced Obamacare. The bishops always expressed disapproval based on inadequate respect for pro-life issues and a lack of conscientious objection. But, the article’s overall point is in agreement with mine. Even with pro-life and conscientious objection considerations, Obamacare is poison. A Church of the past the articles describes would recognize it as so.

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