E.J. Dionne against the Church

As Quin Hillyer observed a while back, E.J. Dionne has made the descent from a thoughtful liberal columnist into a left-wing hit-man and, finally, a flagrantly dishonest left-wing hit-man. From his Washington Post column on the 12 lawsuits filed around the country by 43 Catholic institutions against the Obamacare “preventive services” mandate, one will learn precisely nothing except what a shill he is.

In my notes on University of Notre Dame v. Sebelius, one of the 12 lawsuits brought by 43 Catholic organizations, I linked to the complaint and urged readers to check it out. If Dionne has troubled himself to read any one of the complaints filed in these lawsuits, he shows no evidence of it in his column.

Dionne seeks to portray the lawsuits as the product of a right-wing, anti-Obama cabal among bishops who are aligning the institutional Church with the political right. Speaking as a member in good standing of the right-wing anti-Obama cabal, I have to ask: Where have these guys been?

The anti-Obama cabal among the bishops is one that, according to Dionne, seems to extend to the Vatican. What is the evidence that Dionne adduces to support the charge that politics rather than faith and conscience lie behind the lawsuits? There is none. Dionne does not even purport to weigh the merits of the claims asserted in the lawsuit. I wonder why.

Dionne also fails to mention that among the many plaintiffs in the lawsuits is that famous right-wing bastion — the University of Notre Dame. Again, I wonder why. Is it because it belies the thesis of his column?

Dionne implies that the Vatican is a party to the cabal that he decries in his column. So who speaks for the Church? Insofar as one can ascertain from his column, it is Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California. It’s a heavy load to carry, but Blaire is equal to the task. Blaire expressed concern that some groups “very far to the right” are turning the controversy over the contraception rules into “an anti-Obama campaign.”

What groups are those and what evidence supports the charge? Hey, I’m getting tired of asking these questions.

Dionne’s account of the events leading to the lawsuits is, as you might expect, worthless:

[T]he president fashioned a compromise under which employees of Catholic organizations such as hospitals and social service agencies would still have access to contraceptive services but the religious entities would not have to pay for them. This compromise was accepted by most progressive Catholics, though many of them still favor rewriting the underlying regulations to acknowledge the religious character of the church’s welfare and educational work.

But where the progressives favor pursuing further negotiations with the administration, the conservative bishops have acted as if it never made any concessions at all. Significantly, Blaire identified with the conciliatory approach. As Clarke wrote, “Bishop Blaire believes discussions with the Obama administration toward a resolution of the dispute could be fruitful even as alternative remedies are explored.”

These issues are raised and addressed on the merits in the complaints filed in the 12 lawsuits. If Dionne has read any one of the complaints, such as Notre Dame’s, he is indeed dishonest. But I don’t think he has. If that is the case, he is just a left-wing loudmouth with a soapbox in the Washington Post.

FOOTNOTE: I found Dionne’s column online yesterday when the Minneapolis Star Tribune posted it on its home page. For readers who get their news from the Star Tribune, Dionne’s column would have been the first they heard of the lawsuits. The Star Tribune is a pitiful excuse for a newspaper.

PAUL ADDS: Some of our truly long-time readers may remember that I used to have the E.J. Dionne beat. Once a week or so, I would dissect a Dionne column. Dionne must have noticed because he corresponded with me a couple of times. I should add that, in doing so, he was very much a gentleman, which was consistent with what I had heard about him.

The Dionne beat made for easy blogging. Too easy, in fact, so I gave it up.

When I took my “leave of absence” from blogging, I stopped reading Dionne. Since returning to Power Line, I’ve been unable to re-acquire the habit.

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