The Catholic Betrayal of Religious Freedom


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ABSTRACTThe Catholic Betrayal of Religious Freedom - George Weigel - National Review Online Get FREE NRO Newsletters   Log In   |   Register Follow Us Everywhere         April 16 Issue  Subscribe to NR  Renew  April 16 Issue   |   Subscribe   |   Renew Home The Corner The Agenda Campaign Spot The Home Front Right Field Bench Memos The Feed Media Blog Critical Condition Larry Kudlow David Calling Exchequer Phi Beta Cons Planet Gore UK Between the Covers Radio Derb Tweet Tracker NR / Digital Subscribe: NR Subscribe: NR / Digital Give: NR / Digital NR Renewals & Changes Shop! Donate Media Kit Contact Zubrin: Carbon Emissions Are Good Derbyshire: March Diary Costa: The Ron Johnson Factor Hanson: Iran’s Win, Win, Win Bomb Habeeb: Too Young to Die Sowell: Argument from Disparity Charen: Violence and Family Breakdown Fonte: Saving Sovereignty Prager: They Don’t Know Us Lowry: Meltdown with Keith Olbermann Pipes: It’s Not Road Rage, It’s Terrorism O'Sullivan: The Significant ‘Little War’ Lopez: Desperately Seeking Women Ponnuru: The Culture Warrior Geraghty: Senate 2012 Outlook Fund: Penny Anti Interview: Ringing a Bell for Liberty Barone: The Constitution’s Comeback Sowell: The Death of Mrs. G Murdock: Socialist Hong Kong? New on NRO . . . Close To: Your Email: Your Name: Subject: February 20, 2012 4:00 A.M. The Catholic Betrayal of Religious Freedom Liberal Catholics abandon their crown jewel. By George Weigel Archive Latest RSS Send Patty Murray, Nancy Pelosi, Rose DeLauro, and Kathleen Sebelius Print Text   Comments 208 George Weigel  I t was not surprising that ill-educated Catholics in Congress rushed to embrace President Obama’s “accommodation” on the HHS mandate on sterilization and contraception (including possible abortifacients), or that the faux accommodation was defended, if risibly, by another embodiment of Catholic Lite, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. One does not look to Senator Patty Murray, or to Representative Rose DeLauro or Nancy Pelosi, or to Secretary Sebelius, to learn anything about Catholic doctrine or the history of the Church’s teaching on moral issues. Nemo dat quod non habet , as the scholastic philosophers used to say: No one gives what (s)he does not have. The willingness of the Catholic Health Association and its president, Sister Carol Keehan, to embrace the Obama shell game was also unsurprising; CHA is a trade association far more concerned about a friendly relationship with HHS and access to federal largesse than about Catholic solidarity on a question of first principles. CHA’s role in helping to pass Obamacare clarified for all with eyes to see what the association understands to be its primary interests. These interests define its true loyalties, which were on full display when Sister Carol helped the White House roll out the Obama “accommodation” ruse and sell it to an eager-to-be-sold press. Advertisement But what about the intellectuals? What about the insistence of self-identified “liberal Catholic” commentators, op-ed columnists, and journals that the HHS mandate had nothing to do with religious freedom, or, later, that the “accommodation” met any legitimate religious-freedom concerns? What is going on when these Catholics provide intellectual and political cover for the Sebeliuses, DeLauros, Murrays, and Pelosis in their insistence that this is all about “preventive services” necessary for “women’s health”? Many of these liberal Catholics had, of course, provided similar cover for Obama during the 2008 campaign, so in that sense it was less than startling that their partisanship trumped once again. Still, there was something different, something tragic, about this particular trahison des clercs . In throwing a robust concept of religious freedom over the side, liberal Catholics were betraying their own noblest heritage. It took the Catholic Church the better part of the late 19th and early 20th centuries to develop a robust Catholic concept of religious freedom. In that process of doctrinal development, the key experience was that of the Church in the United States, and the key intellectual figure was an American Jesuit, Father John Courtney Murray. Murray embodied an older form of liberal Catholicism, and he deployed it with intellectual virtuosity to midwife a new Catholic understanding of the modern state and of the democratic project, which eventually reshaped the thinking and practices of the entire Church. At the intellectual center of that development was Murray’s work on religious freedom. And at the empirical center of this evolution of Catholic self-understanding was the Catholic experience in the United States. The American arrangement on church-and-state relations was a novelty for the Catholic Church. When it was deemed appropria.......