Ben Johnson

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

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 14, 2012, ( – 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, “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, 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.

Steve Jalsevac Steve Jalsevac Follow Steve

Today’s chuckle: Rubio, Fiorina and Carson pardon a Thanksgiving turkey

Steve Jalsevac Steve Jalsevac Follow Steve
By Steve Jalsevac

A little bit of humour now and then is a good thing.

Happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers.

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Building of the European Court of Human Rights.
Lianne Laurence


BREAKING: Europe’s top human rights court slaps down German ban on pro-life leafletting

Lianne Laurence
By Lianne Laurence

STRASBOURG, France, November 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – The European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that a German regional court violated a pro-life activist’s freedom of expression when it barred him from leafleting in front of an abortion center.

It further ruled the German court’s order that Klaus Gunter Annen not list the names of two abortion doctors on his website likewise violated the 64-year-old pro-life advocate’s right to freedom of expression.

The court’s November 26 decision is “a real moral victory,” says Gregor Puppinck, director of the Strasbourg-based European Center for Law and Justice, which intervened in Annen’s case. “It really upholds the freedom of speech for pro-life activists in Europe.”

Annen, a father of two from Weinam, a mid-sized city in the Rhine-Neckar triangle, has appealed to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights at least two times before, Puppinck told LifeSiteNews.

“This is the first time he made it,” he said, noting that this time around, Annen had support from the ECLJ and Alliance Defense Fund and the German Pro-life Federation (BVL). “I think he got more support, better arguments and so I think this helped.”

The court also ordered the German government to pay Annen costs of 13,696.87 EUR, or 14,530 USD.

Annen started distributing pamphlets outside a German abortion center ten years ago, ECLJ stated in a press release.

His leaflets contained the names and addresses of the two abortionists at the center, declared they were doing “unlawful abortions,” and stated in smaller print that, “the abortions were allowed by the German legislators and were not subject to criminal liability.”

Annen’s leaflets also stated that, “The murder of human beings in Auschwitz was unlawful, but the morally degraded NS State allowed the murder of innocent people and did not make it subject to criminal liability.” They referred to Annen’s website,, which listed a number of abortionists, including the two at the site he was leafleting.

In 2007, a German regional court barred Annen from pamphleteering in the vicinity of the abortion center, and ordered him to drop the name of the two abortion doctors from his website.

But the European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that the German courts had "failed to strike a fair balance between [Annen’s] right to freedom of expression and the doctor’s personality rights.”

The Court stated that, “there can be no doubt as to the acute sensitivity of the moral and ethical issues raised by the question of abortion or as to the importance of the public interest at stake.”

That means, stated ECLJ, that “freedom of expression in regard to abortion shall enjoy a full protection.”

ECLJ stated that the court noted Annen’s leaflets “made clear that the abortions performed in the clinic were not subject to criminal liability. Therefore, the statement that ‘unlawful abortions’ were being performed in the clinic was correct from a legal point of view.”

As for the Holocaust reference, the court stated that, “the applicant did not – at least not explicitly – equate abortion with the Holocaust.”  Rather, the reference was “a way of creating awareness of the more general fact that law might diverge from morality.”

The November 26 decision “is a quite good level of protection of freedom of speech for pro-life people,” observed Puppinck.

First, the European Court of Human Rights has permitted leafleting “in the direct proximate vicinity of the clinic, so there is no issue of zoning,” he told LifeSiteNews. “And second, the leaflets were mentioning the names of the doctors, and moreover, were mentioning the issue of the Holocaust, which made them quite strong leaflets.”

“And the court protected that.”

Annen has persevered in his pro-life awareness campaign through the years despite the restraints on his freedom.

“He did continue, and he did adapt,” Puppinck told LifeSiteNews. “He kept his freedom of speech as much as he could, but he continued to be sanctioned by the German authorities, and each time he went to the court of human rights. And this time, he won.”

ECLJ’s statement notes that “any party” has three months to appeal the November 26 decision.

However, as it stands, the European Court of Human Rights’s ruling affects “all the national courts,” noted Puppinck, and these will now “have to protect freedom of speech, recognize the freedom of speech for pro-lifers.”

“In the past, the courts have not always been very supportive of the freedom of speech of pro-life,” he said, so the ruling is “significant.”

As for Annen’s pro-life ministry, Pubbinck added: “He can continue to go and do, and I’m sure that he does, because he always did.”  

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A vibrant church in Africa. Pierre-Yves Babelon /
Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete

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‘Soft racism’: German Bishops’ website attributes African Catholics’ strong faith to simplemindedness

Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete
By Pete Baklinski

GERMANY, November 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) --  The only reason the Catholic Church is growing in Africa is because the people have a “rather low level” of education and accept “simple answers to difficult questions” involving marriage and sexuality, posited an article on the official website of the German Bishops' Conference posted yesterday. The article targeted particularly Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, the Vatican's prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and ardent defender of Catholic tradition.

First Things blogger Leroy Huizenga, who translated a portion of the article, criticized the article's view as “soft racism.”

In his article, titled “The Romantic, Poor Church,” editor Björn Odendahl writes: 

So also in Africa. Of course the Church is growing there. It grows because the people are socially dependent and often have nothing else but their faith. It grows because the educational situation there is on average at a rather low level and the people accept simple answers to difficult questions (of faith) [sic]. Answers like those that Cardinal Sarah of Guinea provides. And even the growing number of priests is a result not only of missionary power but also a result of the fact that the priesthood is one of the few possibilities for social security on the dark continent.

Huizenga said that such an article has no place on a bishops’ conference website. 

“We all know that the German Bishops' Conference is one of the most progressive in the world. But it nevertheless beggars belief that such a statement would appear on the Conference's official website, with its lazy slander of African Christians and priests as poor and uneducated (Odendahl might as well have added ‘easy to command’) and its gratuitous swipe at Cardinal Sarah,” he wrote. 

“Natürlich progressives could never be guilty of such a sin and crime, but these words sure do suggest soft racism, the racism of elite white Western paternalism,” he added. 

African prelates have gained a solid reputation for being strong defenders of Catholic sexual morality because of their unwavering orthodox input into the recently concluded Synod on the Family in Rome. 

At one point during the Synod, Cardinal Robert Sarah urged Catholic leaders to recognize as the greatest modern enemies of the family what he called the twin “demonic” “apocalyptic beasts” of “the idolatry of Western freedom” and “Islamic fundamentalism.”

STORY: Cardinal Danneels warns African bishops to avoid ‘triumphalism’

“What Nazi-Fascism and Communism were in the 20th century, Western homosexual and abortion ideologies and Islamic fanaticism are today,” he said during his speech at the Synod last month. 

But African prelates’ adherence to orthodoxy has earned them enemies, especially from the camp of Western prelates bent on forming the Catholic Church in their own image and likeness, not according to Scripture, tradition, and the teaching magisterium of the Church. 

During last year’s Synod, German Cardinal Walter Kasper went as far as stating that the voice of African Catholics in the area of Church teaching on homosexuality should simply be dismissed.

African cardinals “should not tell us too much what we have to do,” he said in an October 2014 interview with ZENIT, adding that African countries are "very different, especially about gays.” 

Earlier this month Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels, instead of praising Africa for its vibrant and flourishing Catholicism, said that African prelates will one day have to look to Europe to get what he called “useful tips” on how to deal with “secularization” and “individualism.” 

The statement was criticized by one pro-family advocate as “patronizing of the worst kind” in light of the facts that numerous European churches are practically empty, vocations to the priesthood and religious life are stagnant, and the Catholic faith in Europe, especially in Belgium, is overall in decline.

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