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Catholic Bishops Expanding the Scope of the Hobby Lobby Ruling

To accommodate means changing something to suit someone’s wishes, or providing them with something they demand and it typically involves making something fit to satisfy one person.  For some Americans, no personal accommodation is suitable unless it impacts the entire population and over the past six years, no religious accommodation can satisfy the religious right. President Obama has made myriad accommodations for religious organizations to continue restricting women’s access to contraceptives, and yet it appears nothing short of an outright ban, and criminalization, of all forms of birth control will satisfy the United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

All this week, the USCCB met in Baltimore to devise, and settle on, a liturgical plan to force implementation of Vatican morality principles to ensure that more American hospitals adhere to Vatican contraception bans and “do not cooperate immorally with the unacceptable procedures conducted in other health care entities.” The coded message, and overriding theme, in that USCCB statement is that the bishops are pushing hard to restrict women’s healthcare options in America under the purview of the Vatican; something the Papal contingent on the Supreme Court set in motion with their personhood, anti-contraception, Hobby Lobby ruling.

The spate of meetings focused on high  priorities for U.S. Bishops regarding how best to exert greater Vatican control over American women’s reproductive healthcare decisions, effectively oppose same-sex marriage, and incite more fear among the religious right that President Obama is infringing on their  religious freedom. Although the President has bent over backwards to accommodate the Vatican’s Humanae Vitae edict banning all forms of artificial birth control, the bishops are conspiring to exert greater control over more women’s reproductive health.

Apparently, the Bishops are dissatisfied with the scope of Hobby Lobby decision their lapdogs on the Supreme Court handed down, and decided to broaden the decision themselves to force an ever-growing number of secular hospitals and doctors to adhere to Catholic morality in the Humanae Vitae through “mergers and partnerships.”

According to a USCCB press release, the bishops concocted a plan to revise, and tighten, Catholic directives governing not only Catholic hospital morality rules, but those hospitals they “may be connected with,” intend to merge with, or have partnerships with. The bishops’ revisions affect all mergers and affiliations with what they labeled “secular hospitals that cause scandals,” and will force them to incorporate Vatican principles enacted in Catholic institutions so they do not “cooperate immorally with unacceptable procedures.” Translation; hospitals providing women with comprehensive reproductive healthcare are immoral and scandalous.

What the Bishops are unhappy about, and decided to change by a vote of 213 to 2, was a merger between a secular hospital, Burdett Care Center, and a Catholic hospital St. Mary’s. The secular hospital, Burdett was rightfully committed to providing the very best and widest possible spectrum of reproductive and maternity care to its patients, and St. Mary’s limited or banned reproductive options; Catholics demanded that the secular hospital abided by their medical morality edicts. However, after several years of negotiations, the parties reached a deal where a brand new Burdett Care Center was housed on its own floor within the newly named Samaritan Catholic hospital. The secular hospital was supposed to be free from the Vatican’s morality restrictions Samaritan followed, and provided birth control and performed tubal ligations. If a women’s life was in danger due to miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy, doctors were allowed to treat them according to accepted standards of the medical profession, or in Vatican parlance, immoral and scandalous medicine.

Justifiably, women’s groups and reproductive rights advocates are worried. Their concern is that the bishops will enforce Vatican morality rules on all health providers remotely connected to Catholic Health Initiatives affecting everything from employment contracts for doctors and nurses at Catholic facilities to deals with third-party suppliers such as testing labs. The domestic program director for Catholics for Choice in Washington, Sara Hutchinson Ratcliffe, said “The scope of Catholic health care in this country is big. The restrictions on reproductive healthcare that the bishops already place on Catholic health systems are far-reaching and growing. Any changes the bishops make to further limit care should be very concerning to everyone.”

As it is now, and it is expanding rapidly, Catholic healthcare systems account for at least one in six hospital beds in America. The longstanding USCCB policies already demand that when Catholic and secular health organizations merge or affiliate, the non-Catholic one must agree and conform to “respect church teaching and discipline.” Like the Hobby Lobby ruling where women must agree to conform to the evangelical Green family’s pseudo-biblical teaching and discipline. The USCCB teachings and morality edicts for Catholic and secular mergers and affiliates are contained in a document governing every Catholic hospital, clinic, nursing home, doctor, and health-care business in America.  Within the 72 morality directives are bans on abortion, sterilization, and birth control, and include restrictions on fertility treatments, genetic testing, and end-of-life options. Those restrictions are about affect more Americans whether they are victims of Catholic healthcare providers or not.

According to Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, the revisions are crucial because Catholic health initiatives have expanded greatly. The Bishop said that besides buying up and merging with secular hospitals across the country, they have been, and are, spending tax-free money “buying up physicians’ practices and much more. It makes it really very important for us to do everything we can to illuminate Catholic principles in cooperation.” Translation; use mergers and partnerships to enforce Vatican bans on all manner of “artificial birth control” on a greater number of women.

It is important to reiterate that it was the United States Council of Catholic Bishops that masterminded the Hobby Lobby decision, personhood movement, and convinced evangelicals their religious liberty was under siege. Prior to 1980, the religious right supported both abortion and contraceptives, but when their racial segregation crusade threatened their free tax-exempt money, they embraced the Vatican bans as their cause célèbre to elect Southern Republicans. Now that the Papal-five on the Supreme Court demolished the establishment and exercise clauses of the 1st Amendment, the USCCB are onward Christian soldiers on a mission to impose the Vatican’s Humanae Vitae edicts on, and control over, the greatest number of women.  Sadly, America has no King Henry VIII to tell the Vatican to sod off and protect women from a tyrannical church.


Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion. Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn't look good. Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.

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