Whose conscience?

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.

18 Comments for “Whose conscience?”

  1. posted by North Dallas Thirty on

    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.


    Having someone else pay for your contraception is not and has never been a right.

    Having the ability to decide how you will observe your religious beliefs is.

    And if those who work for Catholic organizations wish to purchase contraception with their own money, they are perfectly free to do so.

    You attempt to speak on behalf of “Catholic women” is, to say the least, insulting to those Catholic women who agree with the Church’s decision that it does not need to pay for things that are in direct opposition to its beliefs. You do not speak for them, and your attempt to do so is shown as nothing more than pathetic rationalization for what is at its core anti-Catholic bigotry on your part.

    The ultimate hilarity, Link, is that contraception is not and has never been a gay and lesbian issue. But it is a wonderful pander for those of you who consider your role in the world to be pinkwashing left-wing antireligious bigotry as being LGBT supportive. And it also fits nicely with the attitude held by gays and lesbians like yourself that irresponsibility should be rewarded and self-control should be mocked.

    • posted by Doug on

      How much self control and responsibility did the Catholic Church exercise in allowing all those pedophile t continue molesting children?

      • posted by North Dallas Thirty on

        Funny, Doug, you and your fellow gays and lesbians have no problem with covering up child molestation; indeed, you scream and bleat that investigating it is “homophobic”.

        Furthermore, given how ILGA, the international leadership of the gay and lesbian community, not only accepted NAMBLA as a member, but passed resolutions in support of NAMBLA and its goals of child sexualization for decades, clearly you don’t have a problem with it.

        But of course, that’s how bigots like you work. You would never presume to condemn gays and lesbians for molesting children, or gay and lesbian organizations for supporting child molesters. You simply are attacking Catholicism, not taking a moral stand against child molestation.

  2. posted by Matt on

    Mr. Link,

    The questions of whether something is right or not does NOT depend on the number of people who hold a particular position.

    “it’s hard to see who else’s rights the bishops are invoking — except their own.”

    Do you really believe that only groups that hit a certain size or certain number of adherents have rights? You are rejecting a fundamental tenet of the Constitution and of Western political thought generally, which is that *individuals* have rights. Not groups.

    Even if the Catholic Church shriveled up to just 2% of its current adherents, those 2% would still have, or *ought* to have, the same rights.

    You write about gay issues — about a small minority and its place within the majority — at the so-called “Independent Gay Forum” and *this* is the way you choose to frame your argument about the contraception/Obama administration/Catholic Church issue?

  3. posted by Houndentenor on

    If this argument holds then what about Quakers paying income taxes which in part fund wars which they find morally objectionable?

    The most important point here is that the Catholic Church can’t even convince its own membership not to use contraceptives, yet we have Santorum expressing a wish to make them illegal. These people don’t live in the real world.

  4. posted by North Dallas Thirty on

    If this argument holds then what about Quakers paying income taxes which in part fund wars which they find morally objectionable?

    OK; since owning a gun and being well-trained in how to use it is a specific Constitutional right, Quaker-owned and -affiliated businesses and organizations should be required to pay for guns and training for any of their employees who want one – or they are violating their employees’ constitutional right to guns and training.

    Or put differently, gay- and lesbian-owned businesses and organizations should be required to pay for reparative therapy for any of their employees who want it, and failure to do so means that they are violating their employees’ rights to have whatever they deem necessary paid for.

    This is the issue with the Obama Party and the gays and lesbians it owns like Houndentenor: they insist that, unless you pay their bills for them and buy them the things they want, you’re violating their “rights”.

    • posted by BobN on

      The thing is, gay- and lesbian-owned businesses should be required to pay for legitimate medical care. If the ex-gay stuff weren’t utter quackery, it would be covered and, until recently, probably was in many places. Probably still is.

  5. posted by Jorge on

    I agree with Stephen Miller and ND30. To suggest this is something that is in the best interests of all Americans is highly suspect.

    First, this was a decision made by one person (Kathleen Sebellus), which has occurred under the authority of the Obamacare law, a law ostensibly designed to ensure total national healthcare coverage. With it, we see conservatives worst fears about big government power grabs realized.

    This is not just about contraception. This bill includes the morning after pill as requiring coverage. Most Christians religions (certainly including Catholicism) consider the morning after bill to be abortion. Furthermore, the distinction between churches and religious schools on one hand, and religious universities, hospitals and charities on another, is arbitrary. All of them include organizations that are affiliated with, or even answer directly to, a church.

    Universal contraceptive coverage is not an urgent health care need. Something like 96% of American couples already use family planning. Contraceptives are available over the counter; NYC even hands out condoms for free. Among many, many reasons why our health care system was said to need reform, the availability of contraception wasn’t even on the map. This decision is highly arbitrary and completely unnecessary.

    Given the religious sensitivities at stake, I would have expected more thought to have gone into a decision on what forms of health care religious organizations can be forced to fund, on how the government can effectively advance a minor interest in ensuring access to contraception. Instead, one person made an administrative decision from a behind a desk at 5PM, and she was empowered to do so under a law passed roughshod through Congress with only one party’s support which did not contain any discussion or debate about even the possibility or requiring religious organizations to fund birth control methods that border on abortion.

    This is not health care reform. This is health care war. And the idea that some people on this site are using the bad history of some religions as a justifaction to attack their rights and interests shows them to be in the pocket for interests that do not respect the letter and spirit of the Constitution and the values of religious freedom. Obamacare must be repealed, and this action must be repealed immediately by executive order January 2013.

    • posted by CB on

      I have to jump in to disagree on your point that contraceptive coverage is “not an urgent healthcare need.”. Hormonal birth control is used to treat a variety of health problems, including PCOS and endometriosis. Many forms of hormonal BC are expensive, and there is no good reason female employees should be denied this coverage.

  6. posted by Jorge on

    One more thing. You know that unanimous Supreme Court decision a couple of weeks ago stating that there is a “ministerial” exemption to anti-discrimination laws, and it allows a religious school to fire a “called” teacher with impunity? At least one concurring justice pointed out that a church must under the First Amendment be allowed to decide who is and is not its organization, and further, that not all relgions even share the same ideas about who is an is not a religious “employee”.

    You know the Obama adminsitration tried to argue that there is no such thing as a religious exemption? Well you can see why! Because a church otherwise has the ability to fire a “called” employee who uses contraception. Taken to its logical conclusions, we should be left with a law that requires religious hospitals to fund contraception–okay, fine–but which allows them to look through its billing records and fire any employee, especially any “called” employee, who purchases contraception.

  7. posted by BobN on

    The Catholic bishops have succeeded in manufacturing an issue. There is so much dishonesty and misrepresentation coming from them, it’s, well, sinful.

  8. posted by Jorge on

    I’m not clear on what you think they are manufacturing.

    The idea that RU 486 is an abortion drug? It is longstanding Catholic teaching that life begins at conception.

    That Catholic organizations will now be required to pay for RU 486?

    This is a very simple issue: the First Amendment guarantees the Catholic Church the freedom not to purchase abortion drugs. Where, as here, the line is blurry, the government should exercise caution.

    • posted by BobN on

      28 states require them to do things contrary to Catholic teaching. Not a word for decades.

  9. posted by Pete Soares on

    Except for Gail Collins in today’s NYT, no one seems to be noting that Catholicism is only one of the many, many religious denominations we have in this country whose beliefs could affect the health-care coverage they provide their employees if there’s a religious exemption.

    Can Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse to cover surgery and blood transfusions, which they consider sinful? Can the Witnesses and Orthodox Jews ban clinic visits on the Sabbath from their health plans? Can religious organizations that believe sex outside of marriage is a sin refuse to provide contraceptive coverage to single women, even if they provide it to married women? What about churches that don’t believe in medicine, but only the power of prayer? Can the Christian Science Monitor, for example, refuse to provide health-care coverage entirely since it violates the church’s core beliefs?

    This is really about NOT singling out one religion with an exemption. If you do it for one, you have to do it for all — and then there’s chaos.

    I cannot for the life of me understand why the Administration is not making these points.

  10. posted by Paula on

    Have to agree with Pete here. The Catholic church, when operating a hospital is an employer of nurses, aides, doctors, etc. that expect fairness. They should be obliged to follow labor laws without exception. Imagine the chaos if every private employer to claim an exemption based on a religious belief?
    Another nit… the church is not being asked to pay for these drugs directly, they are being asked to enable the insurance company that provides coverage to their employees to pay for contraception. The insurance is not free, most employees pay a considerable portion of the HC insurance costs these days.

  11. posted by The Zombie Issue | Just Above Sunset on

    […] David Link again points out that the vast majority of Catholics use birth […]

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