Over at NRO, Michael Walsh asks New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, head of the USCCB, to channel his legendarily pugnacious 19th century predecessor, Archbishop “Dagger John” Hughes, to fight Obama’s* assault on Catholic institutions:

In 1844, faced with a Nativist threat to burn down St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral (at Prince and Mott streets), John J. Hughes, the Irish-born bishop (and later first archbishop) of New York, gathered several thousand of his mostly Irish parishioners and deployed them around the church. Any attack on the cathedral, warned the man known as “Dagger John,” would be repulsed with force. The Nativists backed down.

During the Civil War, Hughes undertook a secret mission to Europe at the personal request of Abraham Lincoln, to rally support for the Union cause and keep Britain from entering the war on the side of the Confederacy. This he did in part by explaining the facts of the life to the English: that they’d have no luck in raising troops in restive, famine-stricken Ireland to fight against America, and a great deal of trouble if they tried.

Those were the days of the two-fisted Irish clergy, who understood their dual American roles as both the spiritual leaders of their people and — when necessary — political figures as well. But those days are long gone (Cardinal O’Connor was the last of the line).

So who will protect the American Church from the latest threat, this one from the hatchet-faced secretary of Health and Human Services (and why does such a department even exist?), Kathleen Sebelius, and her boss President Obama?

And this is only the beginning — if the Obama administration, hanging by its fingertips heading into the next election — can be this bold about its inherent anti-constitutionalism and practical anti-Americanism (hello, recess appointments; come on down, Keystone pipeline), just think of what’s in store during a second term when “fundamental change” really gets rolling.

It’s good to see the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops making noises about suing the government, but it would be even better to see Archbishop (and Cardinal-designate) Timothy Dolan get out front on this issue in a very public way. “Conscientious objectors” and “civil disobedience” were all the rage on the left during the Vietnam War and the draft,” and it’s high time we tried the same tactic on them: Catholic institutions should simply ignore the law, refuse to implement it, and refuse to pay the Obamacare fines — and dare the Left utter a peep about “higher morality.” There are 77 million Catholics in the U.S., and an awful lot of them vote.

In other words, Archbishop Dolan and his confreres ought to ask themselves, What Would Dagger John Do? No need for mobs this time, just morals. But if they’re not going to vigorously defend their own faith, in a Church Militant sort of way, who will?

Here in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, we have our own “Dagger John” in Fr. Martin Fox — the Piqua Puncher:

In 236 years, never has our government interfered with your freedom to practice our faith. We have been free to live our faith here; until this moment.

If we do not comply, we will be fined. I tell you, as long as I am your pastor, we will not obey! They can take me to jail.

Now, we have hope that the courts will strike this down, it’s so outrageous. But we might have hoped the courts would do the right thing 40 years ago, but they didn’t.

Who will speak up? There are 70 million Jonahs; 70 million Apostles in this country. God calls us.

I sprinkled you with water today, recalling your baptism. You were chosen to share his mission; you’ve already been called.

* The omission of the word “President” before the White House occupant’s name isn’t accidental. That gangster isn’t worthy of the title.