Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Kathleen Sebelius, has announced that a new rule is coming “in the near future” that will both provide women with free contraception and respect religious liberty. The catch is that she’s not meeting with bishops to iron out the “compromise” but with dissident “Catholic health leaders” and union bosses.
According to Politico, Sebelius says she’s conducting meetings with clergy, insurers and health leaders to try to make the controversial HHS mandate work for all.
“We’ve begun outreach. I have talked to Catholic health leaders, I’m reaching out to priests. We’re also talking to union leaders, we’re talking to our partners at labor who run the self-insured plans to figure out a strategy,” Sebelius told reporters at a conference in D.C. on Tuesday
“We intend to propose a rule in the near future on some implementation strategies that I think do exactly what the president says –- which is make sure women have preventive health services and respect religious freedom,” Sebelius said.
Red flags are popping up all over this announcement, and Catholic blogger Thomas Peters of CatholicVote.com has taken notice.
“One obvious conclusion to take from this is that our combined pressure on the administration has forced Sebelius and Obama to move faster than they had originally hoped,” Peters writes. “After all, they would prefer to delay any actual compromise until after the election. And then, who knows what they will do. They certainly won’t be worried as much about losing the Catholic vote.”
However, what is most revealing about this prospective “compromise” is who has been left out of the talks – namely, the bishops.
“She claims to be talking to ‘Catholic health leaders’ (i.e., Carol Keehan of CHA, as usual), ‘priests’ (hmm, I bet I know which ones) and … not bishops, not the USCCB, not heads of Catholic universities or major institutions but … ‘union leaders’ and ‘our partners at labor who run the self-insured plans’,” Peters points out.
“She means the union leaders who have had their self-insured plans exempted from Obamacare’s mandates through special favors and waivers, at the same time as a huge number of Catholic dioceses and employers who also self-insure are required to follow the mandate.”
Since when did union leaders become the leaders of the Catholic Church?
“This is getting absurd. Whatever compromise comes out of these talks between Big Labor, Sr. Keehan, and a few dissident priests will be unsatisfactory. Kathleen Sebelius and President Obama have once again revealed their chronic inability to do anything except snub and attempt to undermine the bishops.”
Peters also points out the glaring double standard in this latest round of “talks.”
“Can you imagine the White House negotiating new labor policy without consulting or even inviting the head of the AFL-CIO? And yet Big Labor has a place at the negotiating table where the U.S. Bishops should actually be!”
He concludes by saying that there comes a point when we just have to realize that we can’t negotiate with ideologues like Sebelius and Obama.
That time has definitely come and gone.
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