Not really, but that’s what it’s felt like for the past week or so. To anyone who wants a little history of the Catholic Church in the United States, check out:
One way to figure out which side of an issue you should be on is to see who else is on that side. I learned this when living in California, the land of the ever-expanding propositional ballot. Those measures were often written to purposely confuse and confound the voter, so I would always check to see who wrote the proposition and who was for and against it.
So, let’s take a look at Pres. Obama’s so-called “compromise” on the HHS mandated “free” contraception coverage. Does this regulatory language presented to us on February 10 actually do what the White House said it would: remove the obligation from churches and religious institutions to provide and pay for birth control coverage, including contraception and abortifacients?
On the “for” side (Obama has given us something we can live with/something we like/we’re happy, very, very happy), we have:
On the “against” side (Obama continues to violate the First Amendment/this “compromise” was no compromise/this is insulting), we have:
Okay, time to pick your side; I know mine.
It seems as though the past few weeks have been all church (all the time), all government (all the time), and all individual liberty (all the time). Between the new HHS health care mandates that caught the Roman Catholic Church by surprise to the censoring of the Archbishop of the Military Services by the Army’s Office of the Chief of Chaplains, it truly has been an intersection among “the Church, the State, and the Person.”
One of the best summaries is that of Jonathan Last of the Weekly Standard:
…It is now a requirement of Obamacare that every Catholic institution larger than a single church—and even including some single churches—must pay for contraceptives, sterilization, and morning-after abortifacients for its employees. Each of these is directly contrary to the Catholic faith. But the Obama administration does not care. They have said, in effect, Do what we tell you—or else.
The beginnings of this confrontation lay in an obscure provision of Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which stated that all insurers will be required to provide “preventive health services.” When the law was passed, “preventive” was not defined but left to be determined at a later date.
This past August, Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius finally got around to explaining the administration’s interpretation of the phrase. Based on a recommendation from the Institute of Medicine, the administration would define “preventive health services” to include contraceptives, morning-after pills, and female sterilization. And they would interpret the “all insurers” section to include religious organizations, whatever their beliefs….
As soon as Sebelius released this decision, the Catholic church panicked. The Conference of Catholic Bishops reached out to the administration to explain the position in which it had put them. But the tone of their concern was largely friendly: Most Catholic leaders were convinced that the entire thing was a misunderstanding and that the policy—which was labeled an “interim” measure—would eventually be amended.
The reason for this optimism was that more than a few important Catholics had previously climbed out on a high branch for Obama politically, and for his health care reform as a matter of policy. …
So most Catholics took the president at his word when he met with Archbishop Timothy Dolan last fall and assured him that when the final version of the policy was eventually released, any fears would be allayed.
That was their mistake. Obama telephoned Dolan on the morning of January 20 to inform him that the only concession he intended to offer in the final policy was to extend the deadline for conformity to August 2013. Every other aspect of the policy enunciated by Sebelius would remain rigidly in place.
It’s unclear whether Obama anticipated the blowback which resulted from this announcement, or perhaps even welcomed the fight. The liberal Catholic establishment nearly exploded….
The reason liberal Catholics were so wounded is twofold. First, this isn’t a religio-cultural fight over Latin in the Mass or Gregorian chant. The subjects of contraception, abortion, and sterilization are not ornamental aspects of the Catholic faith; they flow from the Church’s central teachings about the dignity of the human person. Second, Obama has left Catholic organizations a very narrow set of options. (1) They may truckle to the government’s mandate, in violation of their beliefs. (2) They may cease providing health insurance to their employees altogether, though this would incur significant financial penalties under Obamacare. (The church seems unlikely to obtain any of Nancy Pelosi’s golden waivers.) Or (3) they may simply shut down. There is precedent for this final option. In 2006, Boston’s Catholic Charities closed its adoption service—one of the most successful in the nation—after Massachusetts law required that the organization must place children in same-sex households.
Which means that what is actually on the block are precisely the kind of social-justice services—education, health care, and aid to the needy—that liberal Catholics believe to be the most vital works of the church. For conservative Catholics, Obama merely confirmed their darkest suspicions; for liberals, it was a betrayal in full.…
Read it all, and I don’t care about your politics, but if you knew Pres. Obama’s history on abortion, there is absolutely no reason in the world why you would think he would have exempted anyone from these provisions. I guess the bishops didn’t do their homework, or chose to ignore or not believe what is public record.
And even if the church institutions get an exemption, it leaves the rest of us of all religions to pay for these same services whether we think they’re moral or not.
What of the Catholic and other religious laity? Who speaks for them?
When the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) through the years urged that the government install universal health care, they may have been working from what they perceived as Christian motives (corporal acts of mercy) but what they were really encouraging was government intervention in all aspects of an individual’s life.
Once the bishops finally realized that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) included language that allowed for government-funded abortions, they tried to stop the legislation’s passage but it was too late. Sister Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association, eagerly supported the legislation, along with other Catholic people religious, and for too many years, much of the laity had heard from the bishops how health care coverage was something the government should provide.
Obamacare passed, and now the bishops are upset that Catholic institutions will be required to cover contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients. They are right: requiring this coverage is an assault on the First Amendment (prohibiting the free exercise of religion) and a massive interference in how churches and institutions are run, but it doesn’t end there.
What of a Catholic or other religious layperson who owns a business who will now be required to offer this coverage to his employees? The owner will have to provide, and pay for, what he considers morally evil. The bishops do a disservice to all concerned laypeople when they regard the matter as settled if religious institutions end up exempt. Why are the bulk of church members left to fend off the government intrusion for themselves?
USCCB has forgotten the church’s own principle of subsidiarity, that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority–something the federal government definitely is not. In pushing for universal health care controlled by the government with exemptions for religious churches and institutions only, the bishops have left everyone else to fend for themselves in trying to oppose government mandates.
They may get their exemption, but we will not.