Government’s TaskIn our March 5 editorial “Policy, Not Liberty,” we commented on the objections of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to President Obama’s accommodation on the health insurance mandate. We identified, by way of example, “the needs of self-insured institutions” as an obvious problem needing correction. In the weeks since that editorial appeared, the bishops have raised anew serious issues that need attention. A key issue, which we regret we failed to identify in that editorial, is the narrowness of the underlying Department of Health and Human Services regulation maintaining a limited definition of religious institutions, a formula to which the bishops, as well as America in an earlier editorial (“Taking Liberties,” 2/13), objected.
This is not an issue for the United States alone. Archbishop [Silvano] Tomasi, representing the Holy See, observed when speaking to the U.N. Human Rights Council on March 1 on the issue of religious liberty worldwide: “The task of government is not to define religion...but to confer upon faith communities a juridical personality so they can function peacefully within a legal framework.” The church cannot function peacefully in the United States under the current regulatory framework. The existing regulation demands reworking.
There are conflicting reports about how seriously the two sides are engaged with one another at this time. We hope that in the weeks ahead, as the bishops and the administration attempt to resolve their differences over the H.H.S. mandate, the legal definition of religious institutions will take a top priority. We trust that, with good faith efforts, this potentially explosive issue will be defused, and we support the bishops in that effort. — March 12, 2012
I renew my gratitude to the editors for their leadership by example of civility in their engagement of the national discourse; I add praise for their earnest and forthrightness; I promise my continued prayerful best wishes for their work.