America’s Catholic bishops have drawn a line in the sand. They aren’t going obsequiously to Kathleen Sebelius’ Department of Health and Human Services trying negotiate a broader definition of Obamacare’s conscience clause. Instead, they’re calling for open defiance – civil disobedience. They’re refusing to pay for contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs. They’re invoking the legacy of the Reverend Martin Luther King and encouraging American Catholics to disobey their government in this matter. As their letter says: “It cannot be obeyed and therefore one does not seek relief from it, but rather its repeal.”
This will damage for President Obama’s reelection chances, but I don’t think he understands yet how bad it is going to be for him. Did his reelection campaign pick this fight? Did they tell George Stephanopoulos to ask Mitt Romney that contraception question out of the blue during the presidential debates to begin orchestrating the alleged Republican “war on women”? Was this a calculated threat meant to solidify the female vote in November? If so, it’s going to backfire, bigtime.
Warning the president two months ago that he had the gauntlet in hand and was about to throw it down, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York invoked another Democrat president: “President Johnson said, as an American, I look to the church – I look to religion as a beehive. If you leave them alone, they’re going to give you tons of their honey. But if you stick your head in there, you’re going to get stung bad.”
“I didn’t leave the Democrat Party. The Democrat Party left me,” said Ronald Reagan and the same applies to this writer. I left shortly after Bill Clinton was elected president, but Reagan left back in the fifties. When meeting new people and exchanging information, I sometimes say I’m a “Boston-Irish-Catholic-former Democrat.” Usually there’s a slight pause, then maybe a small chuckle, and sometimes a turning away. Some say, “Ah. A former Democrat,” and grin comprehendingly. They know I’ve separated myself from the party of my forebears and that helps them begin to understand my world view and my spiritual view.
My ancestors going back three generations were all Boston-Irish-Catholic-Democrats, members of the clan. In order of priority, the men were Irish-Catholic-Democrats from Boston. The women were Catholic-Irish-Democrats from Boston. Catholicism was first for the women, but not usually the men. The women were not as interested in politics as the men, but politicians were interested in them. Ward bosses pressed them to vote Democrat in every election and they did. Their husbands’ and sons’ jobs often depended on them turning out every vote in their family, even some who may have died already. As the quintessential Boston-Irish-Catholic-Democrat politician’s slogan went: “Vote early and often for Curley.” That would be himself: James Michael Curley – former mayor, congressman, and governor of Massachusetts. Once, he was reelected as a “guest of the state” in his jail cell.
My education was in Catholic schools in Greater Boston from the second grade through high school. I was thoroughly trained in the conservative Roman Catholicism of the age. My local diocese was headed by Richard Cardinal Cushing, great friend of the Kennedy family whose scion, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was elected congressman, then senator, then president in 1960. Those were exciting times for a member of the clan growing up. My ilk didn’t just run Boston; they ran the whole state. Democrats were pro-union, pro-life, and anti-communist. They believed homosexuality was a perversion and that government at all levels should help the poor. They didn’t change, but the Democrat Party did, not on the issues of unions and welfare – not at first – but on all the rest they just flipped.
They became the party of abortion. No Democrat president will appoint a justice to any federal court who isn’t dedicated to Roe V Wade. While not overtly pro-communist, they’re so consistently socialist in their wealth-redistribution and regulatory bureaucracies, that there are virtually no more conservatives in the party. They’re coming to resembling Sweden and Greece more than the Democrat party of my youth.
Many conservatives abandoned the Democrat Party in the 1980s and became “Reagan Democrats.” Hardcore union types, however, didn’t. They stayed on, but how many will continue now that the USCCB has thrown down that gauntlet?
Less than three years ago, Obamacare was rammed through Congress with the open support of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Now, however, the USCCB is preaches open defiance of Obama’s contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drug mandate that is part of the bill. The veil of political naivete has fallen away from the bishops’ eyes. How is this going to play out for the president?
We’ll know late into the evening of the first Tuesday in November.
Family Security Matters Contributing Editor Tom McLaughlin is a (now retired) history teacher and a regular weekly columnist for newspapers in Maine and New Hampshire. He writes about political and social issues, history, family, education and Radical Islam.