Skip to main content

While Stephen Colbert was roasting Cardinal Timothy Dolan at Thursday's Al Smith Dinner in New York, the organization Dolan heads was quietly confessing that it got burned by the Republican Party's hostage-taking of the federal government and U.S. debt ceiling.  In the opening paragraph its press release, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (UCCSB) "welcomed the decision of federal government leaders to agree to end the partial government shutdown." But it was only near the end that the bishops admitted their role in manufacturing the crisis in the first place.

You might have missed the ersatz mea culpa if you stopped after reading the statement of Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, California, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development:

"The shutdown has had a widespread impact on many people, especially the poor, who suffered for lack of basic services during the period.  With the government now open, beneficiaries of government services, particularly the elderly and children, can hope to resume a normal life with a safety net securely in place."
But the shutdown that had a "widespread impact on many impact" occurred only because conservative hardliners—including the UCCSB—tried to blackmail a president determined to protect the full faith and credit of the United States over birth control. Their price?
In a September 26 letter, Archbishop Lori and Cardinal Seán O'Malley of Boston, chair of the bishops' Pro-Life Activities committee, called for legislation that preserves "religious freedom and the right of conscience for all who take part in our health care system."

They urged that the policy of the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (H. R.  940/S.  1204) be incorporated into must-pass legislation such as the Continuing Resolution and debt ceiling bill.

If that extortion sounds familiar, it should. Because just days ago, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan demanded it be paid as part of any agreement to reopen the government and avoid a global economic catastrophe in the wake of America's looming default, as you can read below:

Ryan argued that the House would need those deadlines as "leverage" for delaying the health-care law's individual mandate and adding a "conscience clause" -- allowing employers and insurers to opt out of birth-control coverage if they find it objectionable on moral or religious grounds.
To put it another way, Ryan and the Catholic bishops were demanding Congress abort the U.S. economy if their demands to restrict access to contraception were not met.

The bishops' September 26 ransom note wasn't their first.

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 have been unprecedented, it would have been cataclysmic. 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 in 2011:
"That would be a financial disaster, not only for our country but for the worldwide economy."
Not to mention for "the least of these."

Mercifully for the American people, that did not come to pass this week. Instead, as Stephen Colbert showed last night, the joke is on Cardinal Dolan.

Originally posted to Jon Perr on Fri Oct 18, 2013 at 11:19 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site