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Will American Catholics be forced into 'recusancy' system?

February 07, 2012

Looking forward to the possible ramifications of the Obama administration’s HHS mandate, Matthew Cullinan Hoffman wonders whether American Catholics of the 21st century might be put in the same position as the Recusants in England under Queen Elizabeth I.

The HHS mandate stipulates that institutions which do not provide health-care coverage that includes subsidies for contraception and sterilization will face substantial fines. Similarly, Hoffman notes, in Elizabethan England, wealthy Catholics could pay a fine for their failure to embrace the newly established Church of England. Looking forward, he suggests:

As under the old recusancy system, some larger and wealthier institutions might be able to sustain the financial burdens, but smaller ones will simply go bankrupt and be forced to fold, or will publicly violate their religious beliefs to remain in existence. The outcome will be painfully similar to that of other policies that impose morally offensive requirements on Catholics, such as requiring adoption agencies to give children to homosexuals.


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  • Posted by: normnuke - Feb. 07, 2012 6:18 PM ET USA

    Not 'recusancy', but dhimmitude; not to come, but already here.

  • Posted by: CatherineNY - Feb. 07, 2012 6:13 PM ET USA

    Isn't this a bit over-dramatic?The 20 pounds per month fine imposed on Elizabethan recusants would be equivalent to a $96,000 per year in today's money. The HHS "fine" is what any employer with over 50 employees will pay if they do not provide insurance to an employee, and is only $2000 per year -- a whole lot less than the cost of actually providing insurance. Elizabethan recusants also had a few other things to worry about, e.g., torture and execution. I doubt that is going to be the case here