I’ve had it up to my ears with the moralizing, fact-twisting, narrow-minded U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Last Sunday, Bishops all across the land sent out terse pronouncements calling the Obama Administration’s new rule requiring Catholic hospitals, universities and other Catholic institutions who employ non-catholics to provide insurance coverage for contraception “a severe assault on religious liberty.” which will force the church to “violate its beliefs by providing coverage for medications and procedures we believe are immoral.”
Now wait just a minute. Before you swallow this ludicrous gobbledygook from an all boy’s club of Catholic Monsignors, consider the concession these fellows are demanding:
What they want is a blanket exemption from the rules that will apply equally to all American businesses who provide health insurance for their employees. This exemption would deny all women in the employ of the church, whether they are Catholic or not, the right to choose contraception for family planning. This is the assault on religious liberty, not the other way around. These millions of non-Catholic employees (and for that matter, the 98% of Catholic women who use or have used contraception) have the same right to choose contraception as all other American women. Do they not have the constitutional right of freedom from the religious dictates of their employer?
There is nothing in the new rule that denies any religious freedom to anybody anyway. Catholics who choose not to use contraceptives may freely continue to abide by that choice. There is no mandate requiring Catholic hospitals have to offer contraception or morning-after pills. The mandate simply requires all Catholic and other religious institutions who employ non-Catholics to include coverage for contraception in their insurance plans. The new rule has nothing whatsoever to do with the rights of the institution, which to my mind has no rights in the matter in any case. (The constitutionality of such a mandate has already been ruled to be constitutional by the United States Supreme Court. )
If the Bishops’ logic were to prevail in this dispute, what is to prevent any Catholic businessman who morally opposes contraception from deciding that he won’t offer his employees coverage for it? What if a businessman morally opposes all vaccines? Could he decide that he was exempt from providing the children of his employees coverage for inoculations for polio, chicken pox or the flu? Perhaps he’s a Christian Scientist who doesn’t morally believe in doctors and hospitals at all? Considered in that light it seems to be a ridiculous argument.
On the other hand, if this debate somehow puts the whacko, wingnut, right-fringe Rick Santorum on either end of the Republican presidential ticket, I’ll be very glad of it.