SOUTH BEND, IN —The Obama administration intends to force Notre Dame and other Catholic schools to become enablers for student fornication.While Father Jenkins nevertheless maintains his silence, a Notre Dame professor speaks up: “The immorality of birth control is no longer a teaching of the Catholic Church.” The contraception mandate for students. In a notice of March 16, the Obama administration confirmed the forthcoming imposition upon religiously affiliated colleges and universities of the obligation to include coverage for contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization in their student health insurance programs. (See Kaiser Health News and Federal Register.) Thus, Ms. Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law student who told Congress that someone else ought to pay for the eye-popping $1,000 a year she and her Georgetown friends spend for contraception, will get what she wants. She is, she says, “very pleased.” These student benefits are to be provided the same way they are to be provided to the insured employees of religiously affiliated schools under the Obama “accommodation.” The school’s insurer will be obliged to deal with the students and bear the cost, and the school will have to cooperate with the insurer so it can carry out the program. Because of a legal technicality, this student benefit will not be required of self-insured plans, but Notre Dame’s plan is insured. It is open to all students, and graduate and international students are automatically enrolled unless they provide proof of other insurance. This student benefit provision will go into effect this coming August except for religiously affiliated schools, which have until the following August to comply. The contraception mandate for employees of self-insured religiously affiliated organizations. In the notice, the Administration also described how the Obama “accommodation” will apply to self-insured employee benefit plans of religiously affiliated employers. Notre Dame’s plan is self-insured. We analyzed in a previous bulletin the “accommodation” as it will apply to insured plans. The plan is to be essentially the same for self-insured plans. That is, the administrator retained by the employer to manage the plan will notify the employees of the coverage, pay the claims and bear the costs. The employer will be required to provide necessary assistance to the administrator. The thorny question of how these administrators are to recover their costs is left to a later proceeding. They cannot offset those costs by the alleged (and doubtful) savings the Administration says will benefit insurers through increased contraception. The Administration, perhaps unsurprisingly, does not suggest how it will prevent either the administrator or the insurer from shifting the cost to the employer by building it into the overall fee or premium, respectively. The encroachment upon religious liberty is the same respecting both types of plans. The objectionable insurance coverage is linked to the employer’s benefit program – without it, there would be no coverage – and the employer is required to cooperate with the administrator or insurer to enable it to provide the benefit. In traditional terms, this is material cooperation with evil. For the government to attempt to force the employer into it is an assault upon religious liberty and the Church. We note also briefly that the plan is objectionable in other respects as well. For example, there will be no protection at all for individual employers – say, Notre Dame graduates – who object on religious grounds to furnishing and paying for this coverage for their employees. Comments will be received for 90 days; thereafter there will be a formal rule-making proceeding with another comment period; and the final rule will be promulgated _______ the election. Choose “before” or “after.” You win! The Bishops reaffirm continued opposition to the mandate while Father Jenkins remains silent. On March 14th, the Administrative Committee of the USCCB reaffirmed the bishops’ opposition to the Obama “accommodation” and to the mandate. (The Administrative Committee is composed of USCCB committee chairmen and key bishops from across the country. It handles important matters between the bishops’ semiannual meetings. Bishop Kevin Rhoades, Notre Dame’s ordinary, is a member.) George Weigel summarized the outcome:
The bishops have rebuffed calls for a tactical retreat; the analysts who have not grasped the sea-change in perspective of the bishops Conference have been confounded; the Catholic Lite brigades have been challenged to think again . . . ; and those who have supported the bishops thus far have been affirmed in their work.”Though Father Jenkins opposed the mandate before the Obama “accommodation,” as we have reported, he is not among those who have “supported the bishops” in opposing the “accommodation.” Even the threatened planting of contraceptives in Notre Dame student pockets and purses by the Obama administration has not yet drawn a statement from him. So there is little to add to our last bulletin’s report on Father’s confounding silence.His last word remains his “applau[se]” of Obama’s “willingness to work with religious organizations” and praise of his worthless “accommodation” as a “welcome step.” Father’s hope that “unclear and unresolved issues” would be settled amicably remains unrealized. Discussions between the Administration and the USCCB have foundered. There is, to be sure, a host of empty messages from his office responding in identical words to a great many entreaties to Father Jenkins from alumni to speak up. “The Office of the President” wrote that Father Jenkins“ will continue to monitor the evolving situation, remain in dialogue with the Bishops and other Catholic organizations and institutions, and will speak in his own voice when and if appropriate.” Father Jenkins, then, has concluded it would not be “appropriate” for him to endorse the bishops’ rejection of the Obama “accommodation” nor to join Cardinals Dolan and George, Notre Dame’s Bishop Kevin Rhoades, over 60 Notre Dame faculty members, and hundreds of other educational and religious leaders in endorsing the statement denouncing the “accommodation” that was prepared by Professor Carter Snead of the Notre Dame Law School; John Garvey, the president of The Catholic University of America; professors Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard Law School and Robert George of Princeton; and Yuval Levin of the Center for Ethics and Public Policy. “The Office of the President” added one near-risible note in an effort to shore up the letter: the claim that Cardinal Dolan, by praising Fr. Jenkins for telling a White House caller that he or she should tell Cardinal Dolan about the imminent announcement of the “accommodation,” had “publicly affirmed” Father Jenkins’s “approach.” It is simply inane to draw from Cardinal Dolan’s expressed appreciation of Father Jenkins’s courtesy an endorsement of his failure to embrace the bishops’ denunciation of the “accommodation.” Inferences, Implications, and Reparations It is worth noting that Father Jenkins’s failure to criticize the “accommodation” does not merely sideline Notre Dame. Rather, it weighs against the bishops. The calamitous Notre Dame/Obama incident has linked Father Jenkins with Obama in the public mind. This has led to a good deal of comment during the current controversy, as we have reported. A Wall Street Journal editorial listed Father Jenkins as one of Obama’s “allies among Catholic liberals,” and even the Bishops’ Conference includes Father with Sister Carol Keehan and E.J.Dionne, Jr. among prominent “Catholics who have long supported this Administration and its healthcare policies.” In these circumstances, most observers will surely take Father’s silence to signify a willingness to accept the “accommodation.” This would be an unhappy reminder of Notre Dame’s regrettable role during the 1960’s in what noted Catholic author Russell Shaw calls the “less-than-glorious history” of the Church’s flaccid approach to government involvement in contraception. Drawing on Donald T. Critchlow’s well-known book “Intended Consequences,”Shaw writes that a “major object” of the promoters of government support of contraception was softening the position of the Church. He continues with this painful passage:
Helping the process along was a series of off-the-record conferences sponsored at the University of Notre Dame from 1963 to 1967 by the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, with the cooperation of Notre Dame president Father Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., and his assistant, George Shuster. These talks brought together liberal Catholic academics, Planned Parenthood officials and leaders … like John D. Rockefeller III, a determined supporter of contraception and, later, abortion …. to formulate an acceptable liberal position for the church on family planning.”Father Jenkins has the opportunity to write a brighter chapter. A different Notre Dame voice rings out. As Father Jenkins has fallen silent, another Notre Dame voice has been raised, that of Professor Gary Gutting, who says he is Catholic and who teaches an introductory course to freshman as well as courses in philosophy of religion. Writing in The New York Times Online Opinion pages, Professor Gutting assertsthat the debate over the Obama mandate is misguided because it is based on the mistaken assumption that the Catholic Church teaches that birth control is immoral. To be sure, that is what the Pope and bishops teach. But no matter. “It is not for the bishops,” Professor Gutting declares, “but for the faithful to decide the nature and extent of episcopal authority.” This is “above all true,” he continues, “in matters of sexual morality, especially birth control, where the majority of Catholics have concluded that the teachings of the bishops do not apply to them.” (He says nothing about sterilization or abortifacients, presumably because he doesn’t have a poll ready at hand.) He concludes with this arresting revelation: ” The immorality of birth control is no longer a teaching of the Catholic Church.” As Matthew Arnold of the Cardinal Newman Society trenchantly observed: “Gutting’s argument would seem to have Jesus telling Peter, ‘upon this poll I will build my Church.’” Professor Gutting evidently does not conceal his views from students. One of them posted this description of him on the Internet: “Anti-religion, Anti-Catholic, Anti-deist shouldn’t be teaching at Notre Dame.” As we have stressed from the start, the secularization of originally religious schools begins and ends with the faculty. Notes:
- Father Jenkins and the March for Life. For the third successive year, Father Jenkins led a large Notre Dame contingent of students, faculty, and staff in the January March for Life. He also celebrated Mass for the group in Bill Dempsey’s Arlington VA parish, where the students stay each year. Father delivered a fine homily, Bill reports, which we wish we could reproduce, but Father spoke extemporaneously. Father Bill Miscamble, the president of Notre Dame’s Faculty for Life, concelebrated.
Actions like this and Father’s initial protest of the mandate and his criticism of the Administration’s initial rebuff of all objections fuel hope that he will yet take a leadership role. The Church truly needs Notre Dame now, as the Church and America needed Father Hesburgh during the Civil Rights era.
- The public opposes the mandate. The Democrats’ effort to turn this episode into a vote-gaining dispute over contraception has so far failed. Both a New York Times/CBS and a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll show that substantial majorities of both women and men oppose the mandate as applied to religiously affiliated organizations.
- Young alumni “Dear Fr. Jenkins” campaign. A group of young Notre Dame alumni have organized an Internet campaign to post daily one or more letters from alumni urging Father Jenkins to take a leadership role.
- A legislative effort fails. Legislative relief was blocked by the Democrats in the Senate. The vote was 51-48. Thirteen Catholic Senators, all Democrats, voted against relief, while Democratic Senators Bob Casey and Joe Manchin joined all nine Republican Catholic Senators in support. Legislative relief depends on the outcome of the November election.
- Court cases multiply. To the lawsuits we have previously reported should be added one by an individual Catholic employer and another by seven state attorneys general, a Catholic high school, two Catholic social service agencies, a Catholic insurance provider, and two Catholic nuns.
- Dr. Woo’s farewell. For a moment of inspiration and encouragement, read Dr. Carolyn Woo’s “Taking Stock” farewell essay. The long-time Dean of the Mendoza College of Business, Dr. Woo has left to take charge of Catholic Relief Services. Under her inspired leadership, Mendoza has maintained a high proportion of Catholics on the faculty and a strong Catholic character while ascending to the very top of secular rankings. This year marks the third year in a row in which its undergraduate program isranked first in the nation by Bloomberg. More, its MBA program moved up 12 slots to #25 in the U.S. News & World Report 2012 rankings.
- Write Fr. Jenkins and the Fellows (especially the CSC Fellows) urging that Father take a leadership role in supporting the bishops’ opposition to the mandate. Contact information is in the column to the right. If you wish to write Board members also, contact information can be found here.
- Send the young alumni sponsors of the “Dear Fr. Jenkins” website letters for them to post. The address: http://dearfrjenkins.tumblr.com/