I’ve started to write on this topic a couple of times in the past week or so, but have gotten hung up each time on trying to keep it brief. It’s just not a subject that lends itself to brevity. But, together with the fact that my book’s main theme is the need to stabilize and even reduce our population, the events of this morning have me fired up enough to just wade in with my two cents’ worth. First, while attending mass this morning, some guy felt it his duty to interrupt the service and educate the rest of us with a rant about “Obamacare” and the contraception mandate. Later, after returning home and switching on the TV, George Stephanopolous’s round table discussion on this topic on “This Week” on ABC pushed me over the edge.
So the following are some random thoughts on the subject. First of all, there certainly is a valid concern about treading on the 1st amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom by mandating things that violate a religion’s beliefs. That said, it seems to me that there’s a lot of political opportunism here. The president was wrong to mandate that the Catholic Church pay for the cost of insurance coverage that includes contraception. But that concern was laid to rest when he shifted the burden to insurance companies and mandated that they offer it for free to anyone who wants it. The Church doesn’t pay for it, and no one takes advantage of it unless they want to. But that’s not good enough for them. Now it seems that the Church is over-reaching and is just as eager to trample people’s rights to make their own decisions about the use of contraception as they were eager to complain about their own rights being violated. Republicans need to be careful here. If the Church is perceived to be worried less about religious freedom and begins turning this into a fight over contraception, that’s a battle Obama would love to have, because it’s one he can’t lose.
The federal government has no right to require religious groups to violate their beliefs. It has every right – and a responsibility – to pass laws that dictate how business is to be conducted. The problem arises when religious organizations branch out from attending to the spiritual needs of its members and begin operating businesses, like hospitals. It’s not as though something like this hasn’t occurred before. Where was all of this indignation when these businesses (like Catholic hospitals) were required to comply with equal opportunity laws that forbid discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation? Where is the indignation about complying with living wills and other end-of-life directives regarding the termination of life-support for terminally ill patients? Where is the indignation about religious organizations being required to provide health insurance of any kind if they have more than a certain number of employees? (I’m thinking here of Christian Science, who doesn’t believe in health care of any kind.)
What happened to all of the indignation about the plight of people who were unable to afford health coverage of any kind prior to the passage of health care reform? Didn’t the council of American bishops of the Catholic Church eagerly support health care reform? Where is the indignation with American businesses who have been eagerly slashing health care coverage from their benefits?
And isn’t it hypocritical for the world’s biggest champion of never-ending population growth to then decry the unemployment and poverty that follows in its wake – to demand that the government do something to provide care for all these people and then piss and moan about the details? Has it instead volunteered to care for all the poor who can’t afford health coverage? Oh, sure, they’ll toss them a few crumbs – feed them and provide shelters. But I’m talking about expensive, life-saving medical care. Are they willing to provide that?
That’s why I say that there seems to be just a little opportunism going on here by those anxious to fabricate another reason (something beyond the notion of excessive government intrusion into our lives) to rally opposition against “Obamacare.” (By the way, I’ll be writing more about the whole issue of “government intrusion into our lives” in another post.)
Finally, I’ll simply say that the president is right in his philosophy of making contraception free to anyone who wants it. As anyone who reads this blog knows, I haven’t been a big fan of President Obama lately, but he’s right on this one. And the Catholic Church is wrong to try to make opposition to contraception (as distinguished from “birth control,” a term which includes abortion) a matter of doctrine. Just as the president has waded into a quagmire with some clumsy handling of this issue, the Catholic Church just can’t seem to resist wading into every quagmire it encounters. Deeper and deeper it goes, parsing every issue into every conceivable situation, assigning mortal or venial sin status to every conceivable outcome, until the federal tax code pales in comparison to the book of Catholic doctrine. Never mind that Christ Himself had nothing to say on the topic of family planning and contraception (since he’d have been greeted with blank stares at a time when the birth rate barely kept pace with the death rate), the Church can always draw upon some Old Testament verse of dubious relevance. Whatever happened to the main mission of spreading the gospel of love and salvation?
The fact is this: the vast majority of Catholics practice contraception. The only reason that the Church continues to oppose contraception is because it has painted itself into a corner. To now approve the practice would be an admission that prior popes were wrong, calling into question the issue of papal infallibility.
Looking around the church this morning, there were few young people to be seen. No wonder. The longer the Church continues to intrude where it doesn’t belong and drag its feet on admitting to past mistakes, the more its membership and influence will decline. A pity.