Ben Johnson

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Catholic Health Association collaboration with Obama admin on mandate a ‘scandal’: Catholic leader

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson
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WASHINGTON, D.C., February 14, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Almost immediately after President Obama announced the details of his “accommodation” on Friday morning, Catholic Health Association (CHA) President Sr. Carol Keehan registered her support, long before any other Catholic organizations had the opportunity to analyze the White House’s statement, let alone to issue a statement for or against. Some in the Catholic Church are calling Keehan’s close working relationship with the administration in drafting a measure that still violates their common religious beliefs a “scandal.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that the president called three people before delivering his speech on the birth control mandate Friday morning: Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB); Sr. Keehan; and Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Richards and Sr. Keehan issued statements supporting the accommodation almost immediately after the speech. The White House had seen Keehan’s endorsement before delivering the speech, which would require health insurance companies to provide contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilization to employees or religious institutions “free of charge.”

John Brehany, executive director of the Catholic Medical Association, told LifeSiteNews.com, “I think it’s a scandal that [CHA’s] statement mirrored that of Planned Parenthood so closely in tone and timing. Christian prudence demands a much higher threshold of scrutiny before jumping on the bandwagon, especially given the clear attack on religious freedom and the clear attack on the Catholic Church inherent in this decision.”

Sr. Keehan said the CHA was “pleased and grateful that the religious liberty and conscience protection needs of so many ministries that serve our country were appreciated enough that an early resolution of this issue was accomplished.” Several news outlets balanced CHA’s statement against Planned Parenthood’s, leaving the impression the accommodation has satisfied leaders on both sides. 

However, conspicuously missing from initial coverage was any statement from the Roman Catholic bishops, who were apparently still scrambling to make sense of the “accommodation.” Cardinal-designate Dolan wrote a pastoral letter on February 10 shortly after the accommodation had been announced, stating any sign of openness from the administration is “a welcome first step. We must study it carefully. However, we cannot let up in our concern for the protection of religious freedom and the reverence for conscience which are at the heart of American values.” Bishop Thomas G. Doran of Rockford, Illinois, went further, saying while he deferred to the USCCB to make a final determination, “it first it appears that this is still material co-operation with evil.”

A statement later in the day from the USCCB blasted the accommodation as insufficient to address their concerns. According to the bishops, the mandate “continues to involve needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions, and to threaten government coercion of religious people and groups to violate their most deeply held convictions.”

New e-mails show the White House had already lined up Sr. Keehan’s support, and that she had provided White House insiders a copy of her statement before releasing it to the press. Darron Paul Monteiro, associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement (OPE), e-mailed a copy to “friends”  Friday morning, writing: “I wanted to be sure you saw Sister Carol Keehan’s statement on the new regulation being proposed and finalized later this morning.”

This has led some to question whether she had a deeper role in the announcement.

“I am a team player,” Bill Donohue of the Catholic Defense League said in a statement e-mailed to LifeSiteNews.com, and Sr. Keehan “would never be on my team.”

“At a minimum she had a call before hand, and maybe more,” Brehany said. “I do think it’s a scandal.”

The Office of Public Engagement (OPE) is headed by Valerie Jarrett, named by political observers as the president’s most influential adviser. Attendees have exposed the fact that OPE regularly holds “Common Purpose” meetings with friendly activists to coordinate support for its policies. 

Apparently, Sr. Keehan enjoyed greater access than the USCCB, which wrote on Friday, “We just received information about this proposal for the first time this morning; we were not consulted in advance.”

It would not represent the nun’s first collaboration with the Obama administration on a policy her bishops opposed. Last June, Francis Cardinal George said, “Sr. Carol and her colleagues are to blame” for the passage of the president’s health care bill. “The Catholic Health Association and other so-called Catholic groups provided cover for those on the fence to support Obama and the administration,” he wrote. Such groups, Cardinal George said, had “weakened the moral voice of the bishops in the U.S.” and caused “confusion and a wound to Catholic unity.”

As a token of his appreciation for her support, President Obama rewarded Sr. Keehan with one of the ceremonial pens used to sign the bill. 

At least one other Catholic organization has publicly supported the accommodation. The Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) issued a statement that it “acknowledges and appreciates the compromise that President Obama has made to accommodate religious institutions in regard to the birth control mandate under the Affordable Care Act. We commend the Obama Administration for its willingness to work with us on moving toward a solution, and we look forward to working out the details of these new regulations with the White House. ”

The Catholic Medical Association, which is the largest association of Catholic physicians in North America, insisted,  “[T]he flawed attempts at ‘compromises,’ announced by the Obama administration to date, should be completely reversed.” This echoes the USCCB’s call to entirely rescind the HHS mandate.

“We think the decision is a trainwreck in terms of religious freedom, women’s health, and economics,” Brehany told LifeSiteNews. “Barring any further details that we’re missing, we still see it as very wrong.”

“I hope that a spirit of discernment will prevail,” he said.

The offices of Francis Cardinal George, Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, and Bishop Robert Vasa did not return messages before deadline.


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Quebec groups launch court challenge to euthanasia bill

LifeSiteNews staff
By LifeSiteNews staff

As announced when the Quebec legislature adopted Bill 52, An Act respecting end-of-life care, the citizen movement Living with Dignity and the Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia, representing together over 650 physicians and 17,000 citizens, filed a lawsuit before the Superior Court of Quebec in the District of Montreal on Thursday.

The lawsuit requests that the Court declare invalid all the provisions of the Act that deal with “medical aid in dying”, a term the groups say is a euphemism for euthanasia. This Act not only allows certain patients to demand that a physician provoke their death, but also grants physicians the right to cause the death of these patients by the administration of a lethal substance.

The two organizations are challenging the constitutionality of those provisions in the Act which are aimed at decriminalizing euthanasia under the euphemism “medical aid in dying”. Euthanasia constitutes a culpable homicide under Canada’s Criminal Code, and the organizations maintain that it is at the core of the exclusive federal legislative power in relation to criminal law and Quebec therefore does not have the power to adopt these provisions.

The organizations also say the impugned provisions unjustifiably infringe the rights to life and to security of patients guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. They further infringe the right to the safeguard of the dignity of the person, which is also protected by the Quebec Charter.

In view of the gravity of the situation and the urgent need to protect all vulnerable persons in Quebec, they are requesting an accelerated management of the case in order to obtain a judgment before the Act is expected to come into force on December 10, 2015.


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Colorado baker appeals gvmt ‘re-education’ order

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By LifeSiteNews staff

A Colorado cake artist who declined to use his creative talents to promote and endorse a same-sex ceremony appealed a May 30 order from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to the Colorado Court of Appeals Wednesday.

The commission’s order requires cake artist Jack Phillips and his staff at Masterpiece Cakeshop to create cakes for same-sex celebrations, forces him to re-educate his staff that Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act means that artists must endorse all views, compels him to implement new policies to comply with the commission’s order, and requires him to file quarterly “compliance” reports for two years. The reports must include the number of patrons declined a wedding cake or any other product and state the reason for doing so to ensure he has fully eliminated his religious beliefs from his business.

“Americans should not be forced by the government – or by another citizen – to endorse or promote ideas with which they disagree,” said the cake artist’s lead counsel Nicolle Martin, an attorney allied with Alliance Defending Freedom. “This is not about the people who asked for a cake; it’s about the message the cake communicates. Just as Jack doesn’t create baked works of art for other events with which he disagrees, he doesn’t create cake art for same-sex ceremonies regardless of who walks in the door to place the order.”

“In America, we don’t force artists to create expression that is contrary to their convictions,” added Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “A paint artist who identifies as homosexual shouldn’t be intimidated into creating a painting that celebrates one-man, one-woman marriage. A pro-life photographer shouldn’t be forced to work a pro-abortion rally. And Christian cake artists shouldn’t be punished for declining to participate in a same-sex ceremony or promote its message.”

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In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, to make a wedding cake to celebrate their same-sex ceremony. In an exchange lasting about 30 seconds, Phillips politely declined, explaining that he would gladly make them any other type of baked item they wanted but that he could not make a cake promoting a same-sex ceremony because of his faith. Craig and Mullins, now represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, immediately left the shop and later filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division. The case now goes to the Colorado Court of Appeals as Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Craig.

“Jack, and other cake artists like him – such as those seen on TV shows like ‘Ace of Cakes’ and ‘Cake Boss’ – prepare unique creations that are inherently expressive,” Tedesco explained. “Jack invests many hours in the wedding cake creative process, which includes meeting the clients, designing and sketching the cake, and then baking, sculpting, and decorating it. The ACLU calls Jack a mere ‘retail service provider,’ but, in fact, he is an artist who uses his talents and abilities to create expression that the First Amendment fully protects."

Celebrity cake artists have written publicly about their art and the significant expressive work that goes into the artistic design process for wedding cakes.


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Prisoner of conscience Mary Wagner appeals her conviction

Tony Gosgnach
By Tony Gosgnach

TORONTO -- As promised, Mary Wagner has, through her counsel Dr. Charles Lugosi, filed a formal notice of appeal on numerous points regarding her recent, almost two-year-long court case that ended on June 12.

Justice Fergus O’Donnell of the Ontario Court of Justice rejected every application made by the defence – including for access to abortion center records, public funding, standing for a constitutional challenge and for expert witnesses to be heard – before he found Wagner guilty and sentenced her to five months in jail on a charge of mischief and four months on four counts of failing to comply with probation orders.

He further levied two years of probation, with terms that she stay at least 100 metres away from any abortion site. However, because Wagner had spent a greater time in jail than the sentence, she was freed immediately. She had been arrested at the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site on Lawrence Avenue West in Toronto on August 15, 2012 after attempting to speak to abortion-bound women there. She then spent the duration of the trial in prison for refusing to sign bail conditions requiring her to stay away from abortion sites.

Wagner is using the matter as a test case to challenge the current definition of a human being in Canadian law – that is, that a human being is legally recognized as such only after he or she has fully emerged from the birth canal in a breathing state.

Wagner’s notice states the appeal is regarding:

  • Her conviction and sentence on a single count of mischief (interference with property),
  • Her conviction and sentence on four counts of breach of probation,
  • The order denying public funding,
  • The order denying the disclosure of third-party records,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts on the applicant’s constitutional challenge concerning the constitutional validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts concerning the construction of Section 37 of the Criminal Code,
  • The probation order denying Wagner her constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion on all public sidewalks and public areas within 100 metres of places where abortions are committed,
  • And each conviction and sentence and all orders and rulings made by O’Donnell.

In the notice of appeal, Lugosi cites numerous points on which O’Donnell erred:

  • He denied Wagner her constitutional right to make full answer and defence.
  • He denied Wagner her right to rely on Section 37 of the Criminal Code, which permits “everyone” to come to the third-party defence and rescue of any human being (in this case, the preborn) facing imminent assault.
  • He decided the factual basis of Wagner’s constitutional arguments was a waste of the court’s time and that no purpose would have been served by having an evidentiary hearing on her Charter application because, in the current state of Canadian law, it had no possibility of success.
  • He misapplied case law and prejudged the case, “giving rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias and impeding the legal evolution of the law to adapt to new circumstances, knowledge and changed societal values and morals.”
  • He accepted the Crown’s submission that it is beyond the jurisdiction of the courts to question the jurisdiction of Parliament legally to define “human being” in any manner Parliament sees fit.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code is not beyond the powers of Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code does not violate the Preamble to, as well as Sections 7, 11(d), 15 and 26, of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • He denied Wagner standing to raise a constitutional challenge to the validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code.
  • He ruled that Section 223 of the Criminal Code applied generally throughout the entire Criminal Code and used it to deny unborn human beings the benefit of equal protection as born human beings under Section 37 of the Criminal Code.
  • He denied the production and disclosure of third-party records in the possession of the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site, although the records were required to prove Wagner was justified in using reasonable force in the form of oral and written words to try to persuade pregnant mothers from killing their unborn children by abortion.
  • He denied Wagner the defence of Section 37 of the Criminal Code by ruling unborn children did not come within the scope of human beings eligible to be protected by a third party.
  • He ruled Wagner did not come within the scope of Section 37 because she was found to be non-violent (in that she did not use physical force).
  • He ruled the unborn children Wagner was trying to rescue were not under her protection.
  • He denied Wagner the common-law defences of necessity and the rescue of third parties in need of protection.
  • He denied Wagner public funding to make full answer and defence for a constitutional test case of great public importance and national significance.
  • He imposed an unconstitutional sentence upon Wagner by, in effect, imposing an injunction as a condition of probation, contrary to her constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

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Among the orders Lugosi is seeking are:

  • That an appeal be allowed against conviction on all counts and that a verdict of acquittal be entered on all counts,
  • That Section 223 of the Criminal Code be found unconstitutional  and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, as well as the unwritten constitution of Canada,
  • That the sentence be declared unconstitutional and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and the unwritten constitution of Canada or that a new trial be conducted, with Wagner permitted to make full answer and defence, be given standing to make a constitutional attack on Section 223 of the Criminal Code, with the admission of expert witnesses,
  • That the Women’s Care Clinic abortion site be made to produce third-party records pertaining to patients seen on August 15, 2012 (when Wagner entered the site),
  • And that there be public funding for two defence counsels at any retrial and for any appeal related to the case.

No date has yet been established for a decision on the appeal or hearings.

A defence fund for Wagner’s case is still raising money. Details on how to contribute to it can be found here.


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