Cardinal Who Once Compared Gay People to Klan Warns Church is Being “Despoiled”

Small update below.

Via the website Catholic Culture, Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George frets that Catholic hospitals will be forced to close down rather than comply with the contraceptive coverage requirement. In the process, Cardinal George, who has previously compared gay rights parades to the Ku Klux Klan, issues a parade of doozies, including a warning that the church is  being “despoiled of her institutions.” 

George later apologized for the KKK comment. But seriously, who would think of that in the first place?

George maintains in his comments about the HHS mandate that the government requirement for the contraception coverage may force Catholic hospitals to “secularize,” something he compares to “theft” with calamitous results: “the Church will not be permitted to have an institutional voice in public life.” He suggests that the HHS requirement leads us down a path to a society akin to the Soviet Union (“We fought a long cold war to defeat that vision of society.”) (Meanwhile, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is “reaching out to priests” as she figures out how to implement the new rule.) George adds:

The strangest accusation in this manipulated public discussion has the bishops not respecting the separation between church and state. The bishops would love to have the separation between church and state we thought we enjoyed just a few months ago, when we were free to run Catholic institutions in conformity with the demands of the Catholic faith, when the government couldn’t tell us which of our ministries are Catholic and which not, when the law protected rather than crushed conscience. The state is making itself into a church.

Oh, to be able to perform an exegesis of that paragraph! Allow me an attempt:

  • “Manipulated public discussion:”=controversy ginned up over long-accepted health care insurance coverage and accompanying accommodation for religious objections. 
  • “The bishops would love to have the separation of church and state we thought we enjoyed just a few months ago…”=like when the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops enjoyed a personal meeting with the President of the United States on this issue? Or when both the USCCB and Catholic Charities had representatives on the Advisory Council to the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships? Or when the Chair of a powerful Congressional committee holds hearings at your behest?
  • “When the government couldn’t tell us which of our ministries are Catholic and which are not”=We would please like an exemption from generally applicable laws that everyone else has to comply with, exemptions that are not envisioned or required by settled law on the Free Exercise Clause.
  • “The state is making itself into a church.”=Um, what?

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email