The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is meeting this week to elect a new president. Relations with Washington are at the top of the agenda. Tracking down those relationships is the reality the USCCB compromised two years ago to facilitate Joe Biden’s presidential bid. Now he’s caught up in the repercussions of his own priorities in 2020.
Biden appointees to the Department of Health and Human Services would eliminate freedom of conscience in the name of health care. They propose revising Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act to add mandates on abortion, “gender identity,” and sexual orientation to existing protections against “sex discrimination.” The revision will reverse the right of hospitals and medical practitioners to seek exemption from participating in procedures that violate their religious beliefs.
The USCCB responded with a directive to the laity: “Act now! Tell the federal government to Do no harm to Catholic health ministries. Published on the USCCB website, it prints as a two-page pamphlet for distribution to parishes:
Under the new rule, it would be considered discrimination for a healthcare worker or Catholic hospital to object outright to the performance of gender transition procedures. … [It] also suggests that the government can refuse to honor the right of health care workers and providers not to perform or participate in abortions.
Bishops oppose mandates that jeopardize the operation of Catholic health facilities. Yet they themselves undermined conscientious opposition to abortion — or any morally repugnant surgery — two years ago. Attacks on religious freedom in medical practice are the unintended but predictable consequence of the USCCB’s tacit support for Biden in 2020.
The group refused to confront presidential candidate Biden’s dechristianization agenda: “The Church is involved in the political process but is not partisan. The Church cannot defend any candidate or party. The pose of neutrality and a tedious blind eye to Biden’s contempt for Church teaching and natural law was not strictly an endorsement. But it worked as one through the back door.
Secular humanist agenda
Biden’s ambition to reverse existing limitations on abortion was on full display during his campaign. So did her blessing on gender theory, including transgender ‘rights’ for minors. But the USCCB, determined to keep borders open, bowed its miters to Biden by revising its voter guide ahead of the election. “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” was a 53-page inventory of secular humanist agendas that, by volume, discounted abortion. The sexual revolution has gone unnoticed.
The vademecum cataloged all the evils recognized by the humanitarian left: from the preferential option of liberation theology for the poor, to immigration, to “global solidarity”, to support for United Nations programs and to the censorship of “unfair discrimination”. He called on the United States to be a leader in resolving regional conflicts around the planet. He sought to “humanize globalism.” The “intrinsic evil” of abortion swirled in a seething stream of competitors for attention:
Care for creation is a moral issue. Protecting the land, water and air we share is a religious duty of stewardship and reflects our responsibility to born and unborn children, who are most vulnerable to environmental assaults.
Even universal internet access “regardless of income” has ranked among the moral issues to occupy Catholic consciences. The transgender was not one of them.
This shortcoming puts the USCCB at a disadvantage when it comes to the so-called gender transition. “Act now!” avoids calling into question the root of the problem: the deconstruction of sex. It does not challenge the aims and premises of radical gender theory. Instead, the bishops take refuge in the same appeal to revealed religion that activists are adept at targeting:
If a DOCTOR has a religious belief that God created human beings, male and female, and that we should accept our bodies as beautiful gifts from God, that DOCTOR should not be coerced or penalized by the government to perform procedures of gender transition.
If a RELIGIOUS HOSPITAL believes that God created human beings male and female and that we should accept our bodies as beautiful gifts from God, that HOSPITAL should not be coerced or penalized by the government to perform gender transition procedures.
The guideline cites biblical principles but makes no effort to affirm their rationality. Missing is any examination of sexual politics (e.g., denial of biology and objective reality; wickedness toward norms) that subvert these principles. It provides no reference to scholarship that counters LBGT propaganda. Omissions give ground to gender activists.
No real pushback from the USCCB
Instead of a militant pushback, the USCCB remains on the defensive. He only insists that opposition to “gender transition” is simply a clinical judgment, never an act of bias against individuals. The Bishops cite their own poll: “A study commissioned by the USCCB found that 70 percent of registered voters agreed that objection to the procedure is not discrimination.”
Bishops are required to clarify moral issues. But moral clarity does not come from polling data. The anxious caution of a poll is an admission of timidity in the face of the meteoric rise of gender ideology.
Religious freedom is part of a global civilizational struggle in which the episcopal bureaucracy – with rare exceptions – is reluctant to engage. Freedom of conscience is best guaranteed by vigorous resistance to decivilizing inconsistency that claims the mantle of science for political ends. Unfortunately, this resistance lost substance during the Covid hysteria due to episcopal ambivalence over religious objection to the jab.
Thousands of American Catholics have asked for a conscience waiver from vaccination mandates. The lucky ones had a sympathetic bishop. Many more have been denied cooperation. Pope Francis had declared that vaccination was a “moral obligation” and “an act of love”. Refusing the vaccine was “suicidal”. As a result, some bishops have prohibited priests in their jurisdiction from helping parishioners apply for an exemption.
USCCB’s 2020 coverage follows 40 years of efforts to reduce abortion’s mainstream status among ever-expanding social justice concerns. It’s been a conceptual maneuver since 1983, when Cardinal Joseph Bernardin declared that being pro-life is not just about abortion. A “coherent life ethic” includes all factors that affect material well-being. Bernardin’s dogma proposed “a seamless garment” from which the individual threads cannot be drawn.
It is a tight weave. Last month, Pope Francis appointed Mariana Mazzucato, an American economist and pro-abortion activist, to the Pontifical Academy for Life.
The thought of the seamless garment denies a hierarchy of moral concerns. If no evil can be wrested from the sum of all the others, it is impossible to decide on which question the truth of the Church has the most weight. As Madison, Wisconsin Bishop Donald Hying told his flock in September 2020, “No individual or party can ever represent the totality of our values and beliefs.”
“What is the truth? Two years ago, a procrastinating USCCB left Catholics to answer Pilate’s question on their own. This year he commands the laity to push back the result of his own intentional ambiguity.