US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Lying about the HHS mandate: Accidentally or on purpose?

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

As the PR machine connected to last week's simultaneous lawsuit against the HHS mandate continues its rollout, most recently with a joint appearance by Washington, D.C.'s Cardinal Donald Wuerhl and Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore on EWTN, I'm becoming more and more disturbed by what I'm hearing, primarily because I am hearing what I can only describe as misinformation coming from the mouths of these bishops. If they are doing it on purpose, they are lying, plain and simple.

Grant Gallicho has already done the hard work on this over at Commonweal, documenting instance after instance of misinformation. Grant calls it "fact-checking," but I'm wondering if it couldn't also be called "lie-detecting." Neither of these bishops has any excuse for being ignorant of the actual text of the original mandate nor of the subsequent proposed revisions that have come out from the White House since. Nevertheless, they, along with NYC's Cardinal Timothy Dolan in his CBS interview, continue to repeat demonstrably false information about the mandate and the institutions to which it applies.

To my eye, this looks like a well-planned and carefully orchestrated PR campaign, the purpose of which is not entirely clear to me. It is obvious that the bishops are speaking from a common set of shared talking points that are meant to create a perception about the mandate that is quite different from the reality.

Whether their goal of overturning the mandate is laudable or not, it is unseemly for prominent Roman Catholic bishops--two of them cardinals--to make demonstrably false claims on national television, regardless of their aim. The bishops continue to insist that they and they alone speak for the church on this issue, but they simply must not do so if they are unable to speak truthfully. And I think we all deserve to know just who is putting these words in their mouths, who is part of the campaign, and who is bankrolling it.