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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Sister Carol Speaks to Winters

Michael Sean Winters and Sister Carol Keehan have done more than anyone else I know to advance a constructive discussion of the issues surrounding the standoff between the Obama Administration and the Catholic community over the HHS Mandate in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It is therefore fitting that Sister Carol spoke with Michael yesterday upon news that the Catholic Health Association (CHA) that Sister Carol leads had come out with a fresh proposal for reframing the HHS Mandate in ways that address what many people, Catholic or not, view as a dangerous redefinition of religious institutions imbedded in the original HHS directive. It is my hope that the Obama Administration will listen with complete attention to what is being proposed and who is proposing it. Sister Carol is the key voice of people like me who support the broad goals of the ACA but who can not and will not accept the Mandate's wording. She has been consistent in those views for months and the statement that CHA released yesterday is Obama's clear path forward to satisfying the legitimate grievances of some of his most loyal supporters. Michael's complete report on his interview with Sister Carol is here, but I thought this was a key part of his post:

Here is a decisive moment, especially for those of us who have been largely supportive of the Obama administration, and especially of the ACA. A few weeks ago, when several Catholic organizations filed suit against the HHS mandate, some denounced the suits and questioned the motives of Fr. John Jenkins and Cardinal Donald Wuerl and others. Now, the question must be posed to them: Do you really, really think that Sr. Carol’s conclusion that the accommodations are unworkable can be dismissed or ignored?
Professor Stephen Schneck, of Catholic University’s Institute for Policy Research & Catholics Studies, quickly answered that question in the negative and sided with CHA. “Morally, the distance that the accommodations offered to conscience concerns for religious institutions such as hospitals, charities, and universities was theoretically sufficient,” Schneck wrote in a statement. “I supported the accommodations initially for that reason. However, in recent weeks it's become clear that the practical difficulties of maintaining that distance were far too onerous for the accommodations to work.”
Like Keehan, Schneck reaffirmed his support for the ACA. “I remain completely supportive of the intentions of the Affordable Care Act. But all religious institutions--including religious hospitals, charities, and universities--should be allowed complete exemption from its contraception mandate. Several workable fixes to this policy problem have been suggested by many who are friendly to the Affordable Care Act. I encourage the administration to consider them.” It is noteworthy as well that the USCCB, which opposed the passage of the ACA has never once called for its repeal but instead has advocated that any objectionable parts, like the HHS mandate, be fixed.

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