The Royal Heffernans

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Monday, January 30, 2012

No Dodging This One

Catholics attending Mass on Sunday, Jan. 29, got the news directly from the pulpit that the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has grave reservations regarding certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). Regulations implementing the law require employers to include coverage of sterilization and contraception services in health insurance plans offered to their employees. The Church teaches that sterilization and contraception are sinful and wrong. Thus, the Bishops have said that Church institutions cannot and will not comply with the law.

An unequivocal line has been drawn. And Catholics will have to choose one side or another.

Many Catholics will probably tell you that, despite Church prohibitions, they have no problem with contraception or sterilization (abortion is a different story). But the Church has always recognized the primacy of individual conscience, so to a certain extent, one can disagree with Church teaching yet still be Catholic. In the present situation, however, one’s personal views toward contraception and sterilization are not the real issue. At issue is the fact that the US government is requiring a religious institution to provide access to, and financially support the utilization of medical services that directly conflict with its core beliefs.

If the government and the Church both stand their ground, institutions and individuals who call themselves Catholic will be put in a very uncomfortable and unfamiliar position. US Catholics have generally been able to “render unto Caesar” without running afoul of Church precepts. Roe v. Wade and stem cell research may be seen as possible exceptions, but in neither case did the government mandate direct, explicit financing by the institutional Church: Catholics retained the freedom to disagree, oppose, and refrain from participating in the proscribed activity. The Affordable Care Act requires operational and financial participation under penalty of law. There’s the difference, and there’s the rub.

Catholic institutions include significant numbers of educational and health care organizations whose employees and clients number in the millions, and whose economic impact is counted in the billions. Will they forsake their Catholic identity to comply with the law? Will they risk fines and imprisonment in defense of Catholic teaching? Either way, the face of American Catholicism will be forever changed.

The Church is at a crossroads, and this generation of American Catholics, perhaps for the first time, has been enjoined by their leaders to take a public stand on a matter of religious belief. It is a call to civil disobedience with all the unpleasant consequences it implies. How will the call be answered?


ian said...

I know how this guy (points to self) is answering the call - free vasectomy!

Kevin said...

Did anyone tell dad that he's not supposed to make serious posts about legitimate topics?

While I freely admit I'm against Obamacare for various reasons, I think this will be an interesting issue. Mostly because there is now a way to challenge Obamacare in the courts, and I think this has Supreme Court written all over it. The First Amendment specifically says that "Congress shall make no law shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof". Seems pretty clear to me that since the Church has always stood its ground on the use of contraception (except for Africa where AIDS is running rampant, which is where the government will dig in to show the Church is not against contraceptives), so requiring the Church to comply with a law that contradicts core values impedes with the First Amendment.

I hope the Church wins this one. Not so much because I dislike Obamacare or because I don't think that contraception should be available to the masses, but more because I'm tired of big government getting bigger. I especially don't like a law that both flies in the face of the First Amendment, and requires a compliance with regulations that go against core religious teachings.

I sit next to a huge Democrat at work, and he happens to be Catholic. In talking to him, his political beliefs trump his Catholic beliefs, and he feels Obamacare and requiring access to contraceptives and sterilization is the right thing to do. In the end I think this will be more of a political battle than a religious matter. Religion is just going to be the weapon with which both sides fight.

Teddy said...

Whoa, looks like Kevin used the "James Madison was drunk on gin early draft copy" of the Constitution for his quote!

The First Amendment specifically says that "Congress shall make no law shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof".

I'm not going to worry too much about this one. It will clearly be challenged, and I suspect it won't even make it to the Supreme Court. It's so cut and dry.

However, this should be a cautionary tale to those idiot Democrats who support their leaders' agenda at all cost. The more control you give the federal government (taxes, infrastructure, schools, retirement, healthcare), the more rights you give up. The very definition of slippery slope here.


Kevin said...

My bad on the copy/paste.

"Me fail english? Thats unpossible!"

ian said...

Oh, cut the First Amendment crap. The ACA is not doing any of the following:
- Forcing Catholics to condone the use of contraceptives
- Forcing Catholics to use contraceptives
- Forcing Catholic institutions to provide contraceptives to their employees
- Forcing Catholic institutions with Catholic-only employees to provide contraceptive coverage

This particular facet of the ACA is simply requiring Catholic institutions to provide contraceptive coverage if they employ non-Catholics. This seems very reasonable to me and I see no reason to object to it. According to the CDC 98% of Catholics have used contraceptives. I am one of them, and I won't be a hypocrite.

States rights, indeed, Ted - this exact same law is already on the books in 28 states. Catholic Charities challenged the law in New York and lost.

As for Republican/Democrat, big government v. little, and all that bullshit - grow up. I can't believe any of my siblings would buy that crap. Under Republican leadership the DHS - an agency that threatens your First Amendment rights a lot more than contraceptive coverage ever could - was created with a $100b annual budget and 200k employees. I'm not picking on one party, I'm just pointing out a common misconception. One party is just as crooked as the other. By and large they all bend over backwards to lobbyists. The trick is to find the individuals, those rare politicians that go against the flow, and put your trust in them. You need to pay a lot closer attention than simple party affiliation - that's lazy reasoning. If you're voting straight tickets, I will punch you in the head at Thanksgiving.

We're a smart, educated family. Don't accept conventional wisdom as gospel. Challenge yourself and others to really understand the issues and form your own conclusions based on the facts.