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Church v. State: The unreported scandal involving Dan Rooney & the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh

| Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

In any town in America, particularly among Catholics, this would be considered a “scandal.” Strangely, there's virtual silence on the subject in Pittsburgh.

What scandal?

As everyone in Pittsburgh knows, Steelers owner Dan Rooney has been gung-ho for Barack Obama. In 2008, Rooney, reportedly a lifelong Republican, endorsed Obama for president. His support apparently hasn't waned. Quite the contrary, he recently hosted at Heinz Field a huge promotional fiasco for ObamaCare alongside its poster girl, Kathleen Sebelius, Obama's HHS secretary.

OK, so Rooney supports Obama and ObamaCare. That might annoy conservatives but where's the scandal?

The answer is that Dan Rooney is a lifelong Roman Catholic. He's reportedly a devout one, a daily communicant and pro-life. And as every Catholic reading this column knows, the bishops regularly struggle with prominent Catholics who support public officials and policies that advance abortion. Rooney is doing that not only in heartily supporting Obama, but in steadfastly stumping for ObamaCare.

In most dioceses, such activities earn the person a meeting with the bishop; the bishop is obligated to schedule a heart-to-heart. In some cases, especially when the individual persists in defiance of the bishop, the individual is denied Holy Communion. Cardinal Raymond Burke, head of the Vatican's Supreme Court, has repeatedly affirmed that pro-choice politicians (like Nancy Pelosi) should be denied Communion.

It's crucial to understand that Kathleen Sebelius herself, who's also Catholic, has been through this. When she was Kansas governor, Sebelius had a militant abortion record. Her bishop prohibited her from receiving Communion.

The bishops have been consistent and nonpartisan in applying this. For instance, Rudy Giuliani, a pro-choice Republican, was told not to present himself for Communion.

This applies not only to politicians. It applies to any Catholic public person advancing the abortion cause. That brings us back to Dan Rooney.

Bishop Zubik is surely alarmed by Rooney's activities. Zubik has been one of the most vocal bishops blasting ObamaCare's abortion provisions — namely, the horrendous HHS mandate requiring all Catholic institutions to violate their church's core teachings by subsidizing abortion drugs (i.e., abortifacients).

Zubik received national attention when he wrote an extraordinary column for the Pittsburgh Catholic bearing the title “To hell with you.”

What provoked that? The answer was Obama's HHS mandate. In response, Catholics nationwide sent letters to Obama and Sebelius, pleading that their religious freedom be honored.

Well, Obama and Sebelius answered Catholics. Or, as Bishop Zubik memorably put it: “The Obama administration answered you and me. The response was very simple: ‘To hell with you.'”

Wrote Zubik: “At no other time in memory or history has there been such a governmental intrusion on freedom. ... It undermines the whole concept and hope for healthcare reform by inextricably linking it to the zealotry of pro-abortion bureaucrats. The mandate would require the Catholic Church as an employer to violate its fundamental beliefs concerning human life and human dignity. ... It is really hard to believe that it happened.”

Yes, it is.

Zubik's Pittsburgh Diocese responded by joining 42 other Catholic plaintiffs in filing 12 lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of Obama's HHS mandate. That was May 21, 2012, a kind of D-Day for the Catholic Church. One commentator called it “legal Armageddon.”

Think about what this means in light of Dan Rooney's current actions: Rooney is aggressively pushing legislation so abusive that his diocese took the extraordinary step of filing a lawsuit against the legislation. And he's doing so in his diocese. It's a flagrant repudiation of his bishop.

What's going on here? I can't imagine this isn't a major issue in the offices of the Pittsburgh Diocese. It's scandalous. Why the silence in the media?

Paul Kengor's most recent book is “The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mentor.” His other books include “The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism” and “Dupes: How America's Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.” His column appears the first Sunday of every month.

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