I think anyone who knows me knows that it takes a lot to get me riled up. Over the last couple weeks, however, I’ve reached my boiling point a number of times. Yes, I get fired up when I read statements from the bishops, sharing in their outrage over this HHS mandate and what it means for our religious freedom. But even more, I get almost uncontrollably furious when I read the arguments from the other side:
From the combox on an ABC News post:
“Sounds to me as if the Catholic Church is trying to use the United States Government to enforce Catholic birth control doctrine on women who happen to work for Catholic employers.” (My response: Kathleen Sebelius is the government official here. If anyone is using the government to enforce anything, it’s Sebelius using her power as a government official to try to change Church doctrine she happens to disagree with. There’s clearly confusion in this comment about who is acting and who is being acted upon.)
“Well, as far as I am concerned [Obama] is preserving The Constitution. If my employer happens to be a catholic business I expect to have the same rights all other women get in this country. My choice, I trump. If we have to make special laws for religion Sharia comes to mind.” (My response: Your choice, you pay. The Church shouldn’t have to pay for a service that is neither medically necessary nor morally acceptable according to Catholic teaching. Your right to use birth control does not mean the right to have it paid for by someone else.)
Or these points from an opinion piece at juneauempire.com:
“[T]he HHS mandate does not require anyone to purchase or use birth control, rather it merely requires that those who want it have access to it.” (My response: False. By requiring insurance to cover birth control, the HHS mandate, in effect, requires employers to purchase birth control whether their employees use it or not. That’s what makes it employer-paid health insurance…)
“Framing this as a debate about religious liberty neglects the Catholic Church’s inconvenient truth, namely that birth control is wildly popular in the United States; 99 percent of American women and 98 percent of American Catholic women use birth control. Thus portraying the HHS mandate as an ‘unconscionable’ blow to ‘the religious liberty of all citizens’ only highlights the profound disconnect between the conscience of the church and the consciences of women in this country.” (My response: First of all, are 98 of American Catholic women even sexually active or of child-bearing age? Doubtful. Even so, the use of contraception by Catholic women, as with any sin committed by a Catholic, does not change what the Church teaches about it. And it certainly doesn’t give the government the right to force the Church to fund it. What Mr. Hood fails to recognize here is that the blow to religious liberty referred to has very little to do with contraception itself and everything to do with a government mandate that tells religious entities what they must endorse.)
“[N]umerous Catholic institutions already offer contraceptive coverage for their female employees and have for years.” (My response: Again, the misdeeds of its members in no way changes Catholic teaching. Just because some already do, doesn’t mean the rest should be forced to.)
“[C]ivil rights law and common sense both tell us that selectively removing preventative care and prescription items that apply only to women from employer health plans is blatantly discriminatory.” (My response: The only reason it can be called discriminatory, the way I see it, is because condoms aren’t prescription items, so they can’t be covered by insurance anyway. If they were prescribed and could be covered, rest assured, the Church would refuse to cover those as well, thereby giving equal treatment to men and women.)
And my personal favorite from the combox at Creative Minority Report:
“The only overreaching here is by the Church, which believes it has the right to reach into the bedrooms of everyone who sweeps the floors in its hospitals or teaches classes in its universities. Soon it will be saying that it shouldn’t have to pay anyone, because they might use the paycheck to purchase contraceptives — it’s the exact same argument.” (My response: If the Church were to financially support contracepted acts, that’s when it would be inappropriately reaching into bedrooms – not the other way around. The Church shouldn’t fund your bedroom activities. The Church is culpable if it pays for coverage that includes birth control. It is not culpable for what you choose to spend your own cash on.)
A couple final thoughts…
I don’t have any specific examples listed here, but in many of the items I’ve read in the last few days, the rhetoric supporting the HHS mandate treats birth control as a medical service that women need. First off, one of my greatest pet peeves is when people confuse need and want. You don’t need that new big screen TV, you want it. You don’t need the latest version of the iPhone, you want it. No woman needs birth control, though many undeniably want it. The supporters of the mandate would have you think that the Church is denying these women some life-saving treatment when birth control is, in fact, much more comparable to cosmetic surgery or laser hair removal. No one needs those things. They are luxuries, vanities. (I do realize that plastic surgery can be used for people who have severe deformities or burns and can make their lives much better. What I’m referring to as a luxury are the nose jobs and breast enhancements. Totally unnecessary.) Health insurance is supposed to be there to catch you when you fall – it’s the contingency plan when something unexpected happens, like a car accident or cancer or a stroke. Your homeowners’ insurance doesn’t cover improvements on your kitchen; automobile insurance doesn’t cover tinted windows or fancy hubcaps or even oil changes; and yet, health insurance, by government mandate, must cover the equivalent.
The other thing that seems to be overlooked in this debate – indeed, I haven’t even alluded to it in any of my responses above – is that it’s not just about the Catholic Church. It’s about people like JP Catholic graduates who are trying to start their own businesses. We are supposed to be starting businesses that impact culture for Christ by adhering to the teachings of the Catholic Church, but such a goal is literally impossible under this mandate. Everyone is talking about the charities and the hospitals and the universities – believe me, that worries me too because it includes JP Catholic – but no one is remembering the Catholic small business owners who are earnestly trying to live out their faith. Even if their business, as a business, has nothing to do with Catholicism per se, that doesn’t mean that they, as individuals, aren’t trying to live authentically Catholic lives. But if they are forced, as employers, to provide insurance that covers birth control, they are left with a choice of either violating their conscience and abandoning Church teaching or shutting down their business. The effect of their business shutting down might not be earth-shattering in the same way that hospitals and charities shutting down would be, but the obliteration of an individual’s freedom to live according to his faith will certainly cause a wide crack in the foundation of this great country.