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It seems as if the Obama Administration’s rule change requiring that contraception (to those who want it) be insurance-paid commodities was seen to be a nuclear missile aimed directly at St. Peter’s in Rome.
But mostly just by the bishops…. The fuss! The hierarchy’s view of sexuality is- and has always been, about 160 years behind science- and popular understanding, not to mention practice. Humanae Vitae was the most dismal failure, in my opinion, to come out of the era of the Second Vatican Council. The chain attached to a wall in a room that no longer existed. (see below)
And some people realize that. In The Boston Globe today, Joan Vennochi says that the hierarchy is manufacturing a war against the president:
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.
…Obama isn’t trying to undermine Catholicism. He’s telling Catholic leaders they can’t regulate the beliefs of those of other faiths.
Keith Soko in The National Catholic Reporter agrees that a war is brewing but it may be one-sided:
But which Catholics would really be against providing access to contraceptives in health care coverage for women? Is it the 90-some percent of Catholic married couples of child-bearing age who use contraceptives? Is it the 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women who use contraceptives? No, it is not.
So who would it be? It must be a small minority.
One, of course, is the U.S. bishops and the rest of the Catholic hierarchy, including the Vatican. They are all men. In 1968, Pope Paul VI published the “birth control encyclical” called Humanae Vitae (“Of Human Life”), which affirmed the Catholic church’s opposition to contraception. This was in spite of the pope’s own commission, which voted 75 out of 90 in favor of changing the church’s teaching and allowing contraception for married couples. Immediately, Catholic theologians issued a statement arguing against the document’s methods and conclusions. Years later, the long pontificate of Pope John Paul II began, with him reaffirming the “official” Catholic teaching against contraception, despite the fact that most Catholic theologians disagreed and most Catholics rejected the teaching.
So, the bishops are taking moral “high ground”- which is designed to… well, what, exactly? Soko gives us some insight:
If the U.S. bishops and the conservative Catholic and Christian media are going to appeal to “conscience,” then they better allow for the well-informed consciences of Catholics and non-Catholics who work at Catholic institutions to make their own decisions.
No one is forcing Catholics to use contraception. It is merely stating that they should have access to contraception. Many Catholic theologians have argued that it is a fair and just decision that respects the ability of Catholic and other women to follow their own consciences and make decisions as responsible adults about their own health care and that of their families.
And they also must respect the well-informed consciences of professors at academic universities whose job is the pursuit of knowledge and truth, and for some, the pursuit of justice as well. This includes Catholic theologians who are trying to give advice on improving the church. Since the bishops and others have introduced this into the public arena, they need to respect the consciences and expertise of those voices without the threat of job loss or excommunication.
This is not a question of teaching Catholic doctrine in a classroom; this is wrestling with public policy in a democratic and pluralistic society, and that can get messy. And Catholic teaching has in the past acknowledged that public policy and morality are two separate things. Everything that Catholic teaching argues is immoral is not illegal, as that would not always be practical public policy.
Which Catholics are really against providing contraceptive coverage? My guess is not many, but they are vocal. And probably most of them would be men. Men controlling women. History marches backward.
The bishops are always decrying “cafeteria catholicism”- for the way some pick and choose what they’d like to believe and practice. You gotta believe the whole package, they say. But their use of conscience is carefully controlled and shifty- picky and choosy, if you will. But not according to them.
Credibility, boys, credibility. The people will notice.
“It is now quite lawful for a Catholic woman to avoid pregnancy
by a resort to mathematics,
though she is still forbidden to resort to physics and chemistry.”