The HHS mandate: A supporter's view.
Catholic Church’s unfair attack against Obama
By Joan Vennochi, Boston Globe Columnist
Last Sunday, the Catholic Church declared war on President Obama. Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida quickly took up the cause, signaling the outlines of a serious religious rumble to come in 2012.
The president should be ready for the fight, knowing that on this one he is right.
At Sunday Mass, Catholic parishioners across the country were read letters denouncing the Obama administration’s recent decision to require religiously affiliated hospitals, colleges, and charities to offer health insurance coverage to employees for contraception and the “morning-after pill.’’ On Monday, Rubio, a Republican star who is often mentioned as a VP candidate, introduced a bill that would override the Obama policy by allowing religious institutions that morally oppose contraception to refuse to cover it.
But not all employees of Catholic institutions are Catholics. Why should their employers impose their religious beliefs on them and deny coverage for birth control and other medical care? As long as those Catholic institutions are getting taxpayer money, they should follow secular rules. That’s the Obama administration’s argument, and it makes sense.
But if truth is a casualty of war, reason is an even more specific casualty of culture war. Obama can’t let the other side frame the argument, which it is already doing in typically ferocious fashion.
I happened to be attending Mass on Long Island, N.Y., when the priest took to the pulpit to read from an address Pope Benedict XVI gave last month to US bishops, in which the pope decried “radical secularism.’’ Benedict did not specifically mention Obama’s name, but the priest informed parishioners the pope was referring to the president. He also said Obama’s policy represented “totalitarianism’’ and an attack on religious freedom and the Catholic Church. The priest went on to quote from a recent opinion piece written by Bishop David A. Zubik of Philadelphia, who argued that the Obama administration “has just told the Catholics of the United States, ‘to hell with you!’ ’’
Now the bishops are basically saying to hell with Obama, and the GOP is seizing the opportunity to join forces with a constituency that can play an important role in presidential politics. Recent history shows that when the Catholic Church goes after Catholic politicians, it can be a real problem for them.
In 2004, many bishops made an issue out of John Kerry’s abortion rights support by threatening to deny communion to the Catholic Democratic presidential nominee. On election day, George W. Bush, a Republican who opposed abortion rights, won the Catholic vote. Kerry was unprepared for the attacks and remained silent about his faith, a stance he now regrets. In a speech he gave at Pepperdine University in 2006, he said, “Despite this New Englander’s past reticence of talking publicly about my faith, I learned that if I didn’t fill in the picture myself, others would draw the caricature for me.’’
After Obama picked Joe Biden, a Catholic, as his running mate in 2008, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops criticized Biden for pro-abortion comments. But their targeting of Biden was not enough to derail the Democratic ticket. Obama ultimately won the Catholic vote over John McCain by a 54 to 45 percent margin, in large measure because voters were more focused on the country’s post-Labor Day economic meltdown. Recent polls, however, show Obama’s support from Catholics is slipping. If the issue of health insurance coverage for contraception becomes a major rallying cry, it could evolve into a real problem for Obama. Republican Mitt Romney, the front-runner who is now running as an anti-abortion candidate after previously expressing support for Roe v. Wade, is already showing signs of strength with Catholic voters.
On the larger health care reform issue, this president has the moral high ground, if only he would take it. A church that is supposedly dedicated to feeding the hungry and clothing the naked wouldn’t want to leave it to insurance companies and free markets to decide who gets to see a doctor and who gets care - would it?
Obama isn’t trying to regulate religion or undermine Catholicism. He’s telling Catholic leaders they can’t regulate the beliefs of those of other faiths. That’s fitting in a country that treasures religious freedom, but also values separation of church and state.
(End of story, my comments follow.)
First I would like to point out that it will be Catholics such as the writer of that piece who will provide cover for this and future actions of the President against the Church. The woman is evidently well educated, communicates well and provides what passes for thoughtful arguments. So anyone finding Church teaching rather uncomfortable will be able to look to such proponents of secular thought and feel justified in picking and choosing what part of Church teaching to be bound by.
Next, her arguments.
One, the use of contraception or the facilitation of that use is an intrinsic evil. By providing insurance coverage of contraceptives, a Catholic business or business owner is participating in that evil. It's called mortal sin and it damns us to Hell. It doesn't matter if the one contracepting is not Catholic and has no belief in Church teaching. By facilitating the procurement of contraception a Catholic has committed that sin. End of story.
Two, this doesn't mean we're to actively prevent the use of The Pill or other means to prevent pregnancy. If it did you can bet there'd be a hell of a lot of prolife supporters stopping traffic at the nearest abortion facility. We have to allow for the exercise of free will. An example might be that while I'll counsel a diabetic not to eat a candy bar, if they buy and eat one in my presence I'll do nothing. It's called allowing the exercise of free will. Yes, there are limits but for purposes of this post I'm just sketching out the outlines of the Church teaching.
So if Suzy wants to obtain The Pill and I'm running the widget company she works at, I'm bound by Catholic teaching to NOT help her pay for it. Suzy can buy it out of her own pocket, she can consume it in front of me and tell the world how I couldn't prevent her exercise of "choice". That is ideally how this plays out.
The HHS mandate forces the owner of the widget company to pony up for Suzy's optional meds, regardless of his personal convictions.
By the way, why is pregnancy or the chance of it so routinely and automatically placed in the same category as a bona fide health risk? The vast majority of women who get pregnant or run the risk of it are voluntarily sexually active. The last time I heard, humans aren't on the same level as beasts i.e. totally incapable of controlling their lustful impulses. To put it another way, nobody dies from the dreaded Hawaiian disease known as "Lak-a-Nooki".
I'll close by making the observation that the battle lines are becoming clearer, soon the Church will have it's members choosing for greater fidelity towards it's teaching or opting out in greater numbers. I pray for the strength and conviction to be numbered amongst the former group.
God's will be done.
You know, Sub - I think most of us are missing the big point here. The government should not be issuing mandates for anything to do with insurance. Period.
The second issue is that insurance should be owned by the person, not the company he works for. Lose your job, lose your insurance. Doesn't make one bit of sense.
Adrienne, you are so right. Almost everything that the government has involved itself in is totally unconstitutional, but our entire government has become so corrupt from the very top to the very bottom, both political parties.
The Congress rights and passes unconstitutional laws, the presidents sign them into law, and the U.S. Supreme Court backs them up.
Sub, you said: "I pray for the strength and conviction to be numbered amongst the former group."
Well, I am with you 100%. God bless.
Adrienne, you're right on the money with this. Unfortunately the concept of personal responsibility is fast becoming extinct.
MRG, I'm beginning to wonder if there are any honest politicians left? All the hopefuls seem to get knocked out of the running.
The whole problem with Obamacare is that it's a series of Band-Aids covering cancer lesions: it simply doesn't address the core issue, which is that healthcare is too damned expensive even with insurance. Without employer subsidies, insurance is too expensive for those of us who live in the bottom 20% and is impossible to get if you have pre-existing conditions. However, as soon as you start to describe a system remotely resembling British National Health, everyone starts screaming, "EEK! SOCIALISM! BIG GOVERNMENT! BAD BAD BAD!" So what about us in the lower 20% ... is the only reasonable answer "If they be like to die, then they had better do it and decrease the surplus population"? Some of the arguments I've seen — on putatively Catholic sites, no less — have come perilously close to saying, "Not my problem." But if we're to stick to our Catholic beliefs, then it IS our problem. I'm no fan of government, either — I tend to think if you want something well and truly f***ed up you give it to a committee or a government bureau — but there are just some things that (to paraphrase Chesterton) if they're worth doing at all, they're worth doing badly. But Obamacare gives us the big government without any form of reasonable cost control; it just feeds tax dollars to the major pharmaceutical and insurance companies.
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