Full Disclosure — I’m a Roman Catholic whose children attend parochial school. I have struggled mightily with that decision, not the least of which being because of the shameful molestation cover-ups. But that’s not the only reason. I think anyone should be allowed to marry, regardless of who they are. I don’t have a problem with two consenting adults making their own decisions about most everything. I ardently support a woman’s right to reproductive choice.
I’ve made my peace with this over the years, deciding that no one can define my spirituality for me and knowing that the loudest voices don’t represent everyone. I like going to church weekly and if I didn’t go, I’d probably never have exposure to the material and point of view I hear at Mass. But since this contentious election wrapped up, I’m back on the rocks, this time about the posturing over “religious freedom.”
The controversy — On January 20, 2012, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that health care plans have to offer FDA-approved contraceptives free of charge, as well as sterilization procedures. Religious organizations have been provided an exemption, but not religiously-affiliated organizations that serve the general public. For example, my parish would be covered by the exemption, but probably not Catholic Hospitals. Current Catholic teaching is that birth control is wrong and that life begins at conception. As a matter of historical reference, I’ll point out that it hasn’t always been this way.
Now there’s a resurgence of bloviating, brinksmanship, and sore-losering . Circulating around Facebook is a homily by a local priest, saying that if these rules are in force, Catholic institutions will close down rather than comply. Adults are wailing; children are crying; teeth are gnashing. Two things are for sure. First, if I’d been there, I would have walked out, probably never to return. Second, this edge of the abyss is all Obama’s fault.
Not so fast on that second one. This parishioner has a few points to make.
1) The mandate to provide birth control as a part of health insurance has been in effect since 2000, via the EEOC. George Bush made no effort to repeal it in his eight years. Not once did I hear threats and outcries. To wit:
In order to avoid violating Title VII in the future:
Respondents must cover the expenses of prescription contraceptives to the same extent, and on the same terms, that they cover the expenses of the types of drugs, devices, and preventive care identified above. Respondents must also offer the same coverage for contraception-related outpatient services as are offered for other outpatient services. Where a woman visits her doctor to obtain a prescription for contraceptives, she must be afforded the same coverage that would apply if she, or any other employee, had consulted a doctor for other preventive or health maintenance services. Where, on the other hand, Respondents limit coverage of comparable drugs or services (e.g., by imposing maximum payable benefits), those limits may be applied to contraception as well.
Respondents’ coverage must extend to the full range of prescription contraceptive choices. Because the health needs of women may change — and because different women may need different prescription contraceptives at different times in their lives — Respondents must cover each of the available options for prescription contraception. Moreover, Respondents must include such coverage in each of the health plan choices that it offers to its employees. See 29 C.F.R. part 1604, App. Q&A 24; Arizona Governing Committee v. Norris, 463 U.S. 1073, 1081-82 n.10 (1983).
2) Non-profits associated with the Catholic Church serve and employ people from all — and no — faiths. There is no religious litmus test. They don’t make anyone sign a pledge to uphold their current standards of morality as defined by the Catholic hierarchy. So we can do whatever we want as long as we don’t talk about it? Yes, “looking the other way” has served the Church so well up to this point. Here is a coverage summary:
- Viagra? Yes, covered, no questions asked.
- Condoms? Nope.
- Abortion? Never, even in cases of rape or incest.
- A system to hold men as accountable as women in the cases of unwanted pregnancy? Come on! That’s ridiculous.
3) There are a multitude of reasons why people take birth control pills – endometriosis, migraine headaches, fibromyalgia to name just three. Do women who suffer from these and other conditions not deserve a full arsenal of treatments? Ditto for hysterectomy and oophorectomy
4) This is America, land of individual rights. If the Catholic Church is going to serve and employ people who don’t adhere to their moralistic guidelines, why should they be allowed to offer a discriminatory health care package? In what way does all this posturing change anything? There seems to be this underlying idea that if coverage for birth control is available to women, we are going to abandon our morals and start screwing our way to hell. I am reminded of a bumper sticker that says, If you can’t trust me with a choice, how can you trust me with a child?
5) The picking and choosing of rules to follow by many of my fellow Catholics would be funny if it weren’t so infuriating. I don’t believe any woman makes any of these decisions lightly and they certainly don’t occur in a vacuum. There are people who want to make sure that every pregnancy is brought to term, but then offer no support after birth. In fact, once born, these children just might end up in the 47% of the country dismissed as “moochers.“
Not only do the majority of American Catholics believe that birth control should be covered, but also the majority voted to reelect President Obama. The extreme views expressed by the American bishops are out of step with the flock, and in danger of further alienating people like me who were already hanging by a thread. Not that the Church has to change based on social standards, but if they want to be effective, they need to stay at least a little bit relevant.
6) This all could have been avoided if we have single-payer health care, like a whole bunch of the rest of the first world. But nooooo… that would have been SOCIALISM.
People (namely — male, unmarried men religious) who never have to suffer the consequences continue to try to make the rules. And now I’m teetering on the brink of walking away without looking back, wondering how long it will take before the American Catholic Church collapses from irrelevance.
While we’re on the topic of moochers, a closing note about personal responsibility. You hear about that pretty often from the right side of society. But, if Catholic social welfare organizations close their doors, that’s going to be President Obama’s fault.
If these organizations cease operations, it’s because they CHOOSE to close their doors over this issue, not because they were shuttered by the government. If they close a single social services agency, it will be because they chose stridency over this issue OVER their commitment to social services.
Personal responsibility. A virtue that applies only to others?