Whose rights, exactly, is the Catholic Church asserting in challenging the Obama administration on contraception? It certainly isn’t the rights of Catholic women, and it’s hard to see who else’s rights the bishops are invoking — except their own.
The church is up in arms that the administration is requiring insurance plans to include contraception coverage. The rule has a conscience clause that protects the free exercise of religious organizations, but the church complains there isn’t a similar exemption for organizations associated with religions whose employees do not need to be religious adherents. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is apoplectic, threatening to use every means at its disposal to stop what they argue is a trashing of their beliefs.
The Catholic Church has long been at odds with its own members on same-sex marriage, where one poll showed 71% of Catholics believe civil same-sex marriage should be allowed. But that is nothing compared to the complete divide between church hierarchy and its members when it comes to contraception. Ninety-eight percent of Catholic women defy the church’s ban on “artificial” contraception, which is within the margin of error of complete disobedience.
And that’s not Catholics who just hold a belief, as they do with same-sex marriage. That is Catholics who actually use birth control.
So the bishops, who do not need contraception, are demanding a rule for their non-religious employees that even their religious employees don’t seem to particularly want.
I believe in the importance of conscience clauses, as does Jon Rauch. I even think there is some value in using them to appease unreasonable fanatics if it will achieve some significant political goal.
Here, there is nothing at stake but the power of the bishops to demand in the civil world a rule they cannot enforce in their own domain.