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During his short time in the Holy See, Pope Francis has had two clear messages for his faithful in the United States. Decrying those who "seek selfish profit," Francis in May pleaded with "those in public office to make every effort to give new impetus to employment." And just last month, the Bishop of Rome warned that the Catholic Church had grown too "obsessed" with social issues like abortion, birth control, and gay marriage. "It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time," Pope Francis explained, "The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent."

Apparently, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops did not read the memo. The USCCB has demanded that Congress shut down the federal government and trigger a global economic calamity by refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless "unless religious employers were given a special right to deny birth control coverage to their employees."

In their September 26th letter to House members, Archbishop of Baltimore William E. Lori and Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston added theirs to the GOP's ever-growing list of ransom demands. They opened their "Dear Representative" letter:

We are writing once again, as Chairmen of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities and Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, on an increasingly grave concern to our Church and many others: Preserving religious freedom and the right of conscience for all who take part in our health care system.

We have already urged you to enact the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (H.R. 940/S. 1204). As Congress considers a Continuing Resolution and debt ceiling bill in the days to come, we reaffirm the vital importance of incorporating the policy of this bill into such "must-pass" legislation.

The two "are writing once again" just in case members of Congress forgot their earlier blackmail threat. In March, Terence Jeffrey of CNS explained how the bishops' planned to extort the President of the United States:
If the Republican-controlled House were to agree to the request of the Catholic bishops and move this week to include H.R. 940 in the "must-pass" CR, the Democrat-controlled Senate and President Obama would have a choice to make. They could choose to preserve the administration's power to force Catholics and other Christians to act against their faith, reject the House-passed CR, and thus risk a shut down of the federal government...

If, instead, the Republican-controlled House fulfilled the Catholic bishops' request by including H.R. 940 in a bill to lift the debt limit, the Democrat-controlled Senate and President Obama would face a similar choice. In this case, it would be between preserving the administration's regulation forcing Catholics and other Christians to act against their faith and preserving the administration's authority to continue borrowing money to pay the expenses the government is now running in excess of its revenues.

Such a scenario would not only be unprecedented, it would be catastrophic. That warning wasn't issued by the Obama administration but came from House Speaker and noted Catholic John Boehner. As he put it just after picking up the Speaker's gavel:
"That would be a financial disaster, not only for our country but for the worldwide economy. Remember, the American people on Election Day said, 'we want to cut spending and we want to create jobs.' And you can't create jobs if you default on the federal debt."
But what the U.S. bishops can do is needlessly impoverish millions of people in the United States--and tens of millions more worldwide-if their demands that contraception access be curtailed are not met. In 2007, Argentina's Jose Mario Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) declared, "The unjust distribution of goods persists, creating a situation of social sin that cries out to Heaven and limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many of our brothers." But in the United States, the Conference of Bishops led by O'Malley, Lori and Cardinal Timothy Dolan remain "obsessed" with social issues. Jesus said the meek will inherit the earth and the poor the kingdom of Heaven. To get its way, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is perfectly content to make more of them.

Originally posted to Jon Perr on Tue Oct 08, 2013 at 06:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Street Prophets .

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