Who speaks for the Catholic Church? The Obama Administration wants to pretend that the Catholic Church is a kind of loosed association of churches and institutions, a sort of confederation where different people speak authentically for the Church.

That is why pundits defending the Administration’s assault on religious freedom cite the Catholic Health Association or the Jesuit Order or Notre Dame leaders as if there is no one who represents the Church in a definite way. In citing these organizations, they give the impression that they are not really violating the conscience of Catholics nor impinging on religious freedom. All false.

The Catholic Church is not a confederation of separate entities with the bishops being only one voice in a cacophony.  Who speaks for the Church in America? First, the Pope. He is the pastor of all the faithful and presides over every authentically Catholic institution. Second, the Bishops. The individual bishop is the pastor of all the faithful in his Diocese, the Vicar of Christ over that portion of the faithful entrusted to him. Every truly Catholic institution in his Diocese responds to him; some bishops do a better job than others in reigning in weiward institutions but, as a matter of right, the bishop presides over every Catholic institution in his Diocese. Then, the Bishops in Conference speak for the Church in America. No authentic Catholic institution in our country can rightfully counter  or oppose the Bishops. When that happens, right order, sacred order, is violated.

Yes, regrettably, some in the Church often speak as if they have a say above the Bishops. For example, the Catholic Health Association’s president, Sister Carol Keehan, publicly applauded the administration’s “accommodation.”  The Administration readily used her name, as an useful tool, to pretend that Catholics do not have any one voice representing them.  They also used Catholic Charities, until Catholic Charities made it very clear that they are not on Obama’s camp.Discussing with Chris Wallace, White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew was asked about the concerns and opposition of the bishops and he readily went into the “divide and conquer mode”:

“I would point to the statement put out by the Catholic Health Association, which knows a fair amount about . . . health care in this country. They thought this was a very good solution.”

And?  The Catholic Health Association is not an authentic voice for the Catholic Church!  It does not matter what they think when it comes to representing what the Catholic Church stands for.  As George Weigel recently stated: “In the administration’s view… primacy in the Catholic Church is not conferred by the Pope, but by the White House.