Xavier University’s “moderate” approach to healthcare coverage: A breach in the firewall?

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In this election cycle, much has been made about the importance of establishing a “firewall” in certain states so that a candidate’s electoral college numbers don’t collapse.

When it comes to defending the faith against insurgents, one might hope the nation’s Catholic universities and colleges would provide the Church a “firewall of firewalls.”  After all, haven’t they proclaimed themselves to be the places “where the Church does its thinking”?  Where better to turn for a reasoned defense of the Church and its teaching than through its institutions of higher education?

Of course, as the pundits have been opining, it takes only one breach of the firewall to accelerate the process of potentially losing that firewall and, hence, increasing the probability of losing the election…or, in this instance, weakening one institution’s Catholic identity and providing “cover” for others to do the same.

Has that firewall wall been breached?

According to Inside Higher Education, the President of Xavier University in Cincinnati, the Reverend Michael J. Graham, SJ, has reversed himself.  This “Catholic university in the Jesuit tradition” will now continue to provide employees artificial contraception coverage as part of the institution’s healthcare coverage.


The Reverend Michael J. Graham, SJ
President, Xavier University (Cincinnati, OH)


Last April, Fr. Graham announced that Xavier had been covering contraception but no longer would, effective July 1, 2012.  In a letter to employees, Graham wrote that offering such coverage was “inconsistent” for a Roman Catholic institution.

Correct!  That’s defending the firewall.

However, that was then and this is now.

Between then and now, Fr. Graham’s decision and letter provoked an outcry.  A number of Xavier University faculty and staff wanted to know who Fr. Graham or the institution were to dictate so-called “healthcare options” to married couples, to non-Catholics, and to those who don’t agree with Church teaching concerning artificial means of birth control.  After all, that’s not being inclusive, is it?  Then, too, they wanted Fr. Graham to explain why he made the decision and issued his letter without consulting Xavier employees first.  That’s not very collegial, is it?

In the face of this tide of opposition, Fr. Graham agreed to postpone implementing the change until December.  Perhaps Fr. Graham was biding his time while waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule.

But, once again, that was then and this is now.

Between then and now, the Supreme Court ruled in June, upholding Obamacare.  The opinion was written by the Chief Justice, himself a Catholic.  Talk about being provided intellectual and legal cover to allow the firewall to be breached!

Fr. Graham subsequently decided that since Xavier University would be required to provide contraceptive coverage as part of the institution’s healthcare coverage beginning August 1, 2013 anyway, the University would continue providing it to employees.

No doubt about it.  The firewall has been breached!

In an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer, Fr. Graham blamed himself for how he handled this issue. But, he went even further.  While strongly disagreeing with the Obamacare mandate, Fr. Graham said he “believes universities should set a moderate example for the nation.”

The president of one of those institutions where the Church is supposed to do her thinking has decided his institution should “set a moderate example for the nation”?

Why so?

Could the rationale be that Church teaching tramples upon the religious freedom of those who freely choose to work at Catholic institutions, like Xavier University, yet don’t believe what those institutions represent?  Then, too, borrowing from the example of St. Isaac Jogues, SJ, and his companions, why alienate all of those people when, simply by leaving the door open to them, they can be evangelized?  And what will it matter anyway?  After all, providing artificial means of contraception as part of nationalized healthcare coverage is going to be required of those institutions come August 1, 2013.

The rationale is problematic and the firewall has been breached.  How long will it be before presidents of the other U.S. Catholic universities and colleges seize upon Fr. Graham’s reasoning and follow Xavier University’s lead?

This battle is not about “healthcare options.”  It’s all about the much larger war to delegitimize Church teaching.

Where’s the reasoned defense to come from, now that this firewall has been breached?



To read the Inside Higher Education article, click on the following link: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/10/29/catholic-college-reverses-course-covering-contraception#ixzz2AhJ4Ca00

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  1. Setting a moderate example…by completely caving in.

    Derek Smalls Syndrome in action: the need to be lukewarm water between fire and ice.

  2. Of course Xavier U. will next explain how it is moderate and inclusive to pay for abortion. Then they will explain why Catholic hospitals need to perform abortions for needy non-Catholics. Then they will ….

  3. The Jesuits, or a lot of them, have and will continue to be out of step with their Bishops, Cardinals and the Church. The Order was suppressed once before, is the time coming to do it again?

  4. What happened to the effort on the part of the USCCB to re-evaluate which universities could call themselves “Catholic?” If an institution isn’t following Church teachings, how can it be part of the Church? Could I be a kosher deli if I served ham sandwiches?

  5. Devil’s advocate here: it isn’t as if the Bishops have denied the Eucharist to Pelosi, Biden, and Sebelius (or Senator Kennedy or…) I would say the firewall was in fact breached ages ago. I will admit that this is another disappointment in a very long line of them.

  6. There’s nothing in the recent record of Jesuit institutions to suggest they are Catholic, so this isn’t a surprise.

  7. Instead of an assault I will pray for him.
    The attack is heaviest upon our clergy.
    If we sacrificed more and prayed more for them a breach in the firewall may have been averted.
    I was to quick to pile on.
    Excuse my earlier post.

  8. Good example, Phillip. I will add Reverend Michael J. Graham, SJ and his superior to my prayer intentions – especially on Nov. 2, All Souls Day.

  9. I like the suggested rename to Laodicean University. Seems appropriate.

    Personally, I don’t understand why employers are involved in the healthcare issue in the first place. Why would we ever want them to make any decisions for us in our non work life.

  10. Employers don’t make decisions for you. You don’t have to work for anyone whose policies you don’t like. But that’s not the American way now, is it? When we don’t like someone’s way of doing things, we don’t respect their consciences and wishes and use our freedom to do our own thing, no. We file lawsuits, we call Jessie Jackson or Sandra Fluke, we scream and whine to the leftist media, we call down the full authority of the federal government to force people to give us what we want, when we want, like the pathetic, snot-nosed pampered brats that we are.

  11. “Employers don’t make decisions for you” a great point. Our consciences are free!

    Another point:
    The idea that we are owed a wage or a salary for our work is one thing.. the “benefits” have always been discretionary, right?

  12. Philip’s response is most correct.

    My reaction, disappointment at yet another member of the clergy seemingly embracing the secular culture, was inappropriate and I should not have called Fr. Graham a coward.

    My apology to him and I will increase my efforts to pray for him, and other members of the clergy that they may truly reflect Catholic teachings.

  13. WHOA!!! Of course, We must pray for our clergy, Should go without saying. This Jesuit priest is OFF THE MARK! Father Graham is leading his sheep to HELL !!!! OR We can offer weak kneed responses to a lost priest leading a lost group of (what are supposed to be educated) elite catholics. Like our Jesuit fathers, We can just cruise the “love boat” through the “lukewarm water” to HELL singing Billy Joel songs…. “i’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints, the sinners are much more fun”

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