My friend John Grogan, an active Catholic and liberal Democrat who practices law in Philadelphia, writes this afternoon about the HHS rule, and the despair this situation has put him in. (By way of background, John has long been active in the social justice wing of the Church, and comes from a traditional working-class Catholic Democratic family that strongly holds to the Church’s social teachings, as well as being staunchly pro-life. This e-mail, which I post with his permission, is in response to this moronic New York Times editorial, which denies that there was ever a religious liberty question at issue here. John writes:

It’s cancel the Times time as far as I am concerned.  Check my thinking on this but (peyote-smoking Native Americans to one side) this HHS thing is the most serious intrusion into religious liberty in my lifetime.  I can think of no other instance in my life time where the federal government (a) sought to compel acts that violate clearly held religious beliefs; (b) defended that action by purporting to instruct the religious body involved which of its activities were truly religious (parish activities) and what were not (educational and health care ministry) and by suggesting that the religious body’s own understanding of its teaching and its mission was undeserving of weight  due to opinion polls regarding the attitude of the members of that body; and (c) did so by means of administrative regulation, i.e., not through a legislative process but by executive fiat.

AND the mainstream media and civil rights left saw no problem.  It is truly astounding and scary.

It is scary that Obama, whom I thought to be a subtle thinker and a civil libertarian, tried this tack in the first instance, when it had NO political logic, even on the most crass political analysis in support of it, and where apparently the defaults of his approach were well explained by his Vice President and others. It is more scary that the Left appears to be so results-oriented that it cannot see the danger of Obama’s approach, i.e., it does not understand how awful it would be if a President Gingrich adopted the same approach to implement his vision of what American health requires, nor the rather pristine Constitutional issue. I have long expected the Right to run roughshod over civil liberties to get to a desired result; I did not expect the Left to do so, and now its colors are clear.

Obama, The Times, Gail Collins and the whole batch have to be smarter than their arguments. It is not conceivable to me that they could come by the sloppiness of their thinking honestly. Which leaves the bigger question: What gives? Absolute contempt for the Church? An absolute embrace of a certain kind of cultural/scientific consensus that “all reasonable people hold” and that those who do not thereby forfeit their rights to conscience? This smells to high heaven of the Oxbridge-Brussels, latte-drinking elitism that was my only worry about Obama, who never met a supposedly meritocratic BoBo hoop he couldn’t jump through backwards with ease. This smells like contempt for the silly people clutching their rosaries.

What to do?  I suspect that had the “compromise” now offered been the deal from the start, none of this would have happened. As we see, the Church has learned to deal with various kinds of regulations in various contexts; a flexibility that is called “compromise” when Obama does it but is called “hypocrisy” when the Church does it. But it wasn’t offered, and Obama tried an egregiously unconstitutional and frighteningly coercive tack instead — despite, apparently, repeated public and private assurances that he would not do so. I do not see how anyone serious trusts him now. What can be done by executive fiat can be undone by executive fiat. The safest course for the Church and for civil liberties generally is to seek legislative protection (I do not know the merits of the Republican bill, but something legislative needs to be done) or go to court, although the compromise offer may scotch the pristine constitutional violation.  I do not see how the Church can congratulate him and say thank you. What he tried to do was indefensible.

Whither universal health care? Nowhere does the Times mention that the bishops (yes the Republican-leaning, sex-obsessed, kid-bothering bishops) have been the leading and at times only voice for universal health care in this country for years. The idea that this whole to-do was hatched by the bishops to kill Obamacare is absurd. The bishops desperately want to be champions of universal healthcare but have been ignored and or actively antagonized by this administration. Once again, as it did in 1980 and in 1992, the Democratic Party has made a fateful choice: we do not want or need Catholics of conscience in our party. And for what – to advance a pro-abortion agenda in the short term and an Oxbridge view of who should run the world in the long. It is sick-making.

Am I missing something?

UPDATE: I couldn’t figure out why several of you in the comments were attributing to me things that John Grogan said. Then I saw that I had forgotten to put John’s e-mail into a block quote. I’ve not published several of your comments because you analyzed Grogan’s e-mail points as if I had made them. It’s my fault for failing to properly delineate between my intro and John’s writing. I didn’t publish another of your comments because calling John an “old, well-off white guy” is not only a cheap shot, it’s only half-right. He is white, and he is a guy. Besides, calling somebody an “old, well-off white guy” is not exactly a meaningful or effective way to counter his argument. Try harder.

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