Tag: freedom of conscience

And So It Starts – Spinning The Hobby Lobby Case

This is a picture of yesterday’s San Jose Mercury News, front page, above the fold. The headline: CONTRACEPTIVE BENEFIT TAKES HIT Underneath that it reads: COMPANIES THAT OBJECT CAN NOW…

This is a picture of yesterday’s San Jose Mercury News, front page, above the fold. The headline:

CONTRACEPTIVE BENEFIT TAKES HIT

Underneath that it reads:

COMPANIES THAT OBJECT CAN NOW AVOID COVERAGE.

Well, yes, maybe; but mostly no.

  • Fact #1: The only companies that can avoid coverage are those which family run, have strongly held religious beliefs, and are closely run by the family.
  • Fact #2: Most companies will not even consider cutting contraceptive coverage because offering contraception reduces the costs of pre-natal, maternity, and delivery care.

In other words, most people who rely on their health insurance for their contraception (because working people can’t afford the average $9/mo for contraceptive pills, I guess) will still be covered. Contraception will still be widely available and easily accessible, often even free (paid for by the government, that is). It’s just that now the Supreme Court has ruled that a small segment of the population doesn’t have to pay for someone else’s contraception.

Even if you support the use of contraception, there is no war against you.

 

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Action! – Two Quick Thoughts on the Hobby Lobby Decision.

Yesterday’s SCOTUS ruling on the Hobby Lobby case was a welcoming gesture not only towards religious freedom, but also freedom of conscience. Lots of people are commenting; so I’ll offer…

Yesterday’s SCOTUS ruling on the Hobby Lobby case was a welcoming gesture not only towards religious freedom, but also freedom of conscience.

Lots of people are commenting; so I’ll offer a few quick thoughts myself. This decision doesn’t mean that we rest and that the battle is over. Here are two considerations:

  1. Some states, definitely Washington state, already required businesses to offer contraception coverage before the HHS Mandate. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled clearly that closely run family businesses can exempt themselves from the Mandate, I hope that these businesses will be taking the necessary steps, even turning to the courts. For those businesses which have had to pay for the coverage but have not utilized it, I wonder if a good attorney could even get them a reimbursement of funds they were required to pay…illegally.
  2. Health care reform has a long way to go. Justice Alito didn’t say this specifically in his decision for the majority, but some of his language could be taken to hint at it. Setting aside the financial mess of our current system, there are at least two other considerations.
      • 1. We need a movement to challenge the definition of contraception as something that falls under health care. In fact, contraception usually works to keep the female body from working as it should. Definitions are very important. At the UN, for example, the Catholic Church and other organizations have worked effectively to keep the term “reproductive health” from including abortion. If someone is interested, I have an idea for a campaign that could work. I already own the URLs. Just need someone with bandwidth and funds. Contact me offline if you are that person – no looky loos.
      • 2. Health insurance is a mess. It used to be something that only covered major illnesses. For a variety of reasons, many related to employee compensation, it has come to cover just about everything. Maybe we need to curtail health insurance so that it covers major health issues. Then patients might be a little more aggressive in how they navigate their health care, particularly with regard to cost. As far as I can tell, the model where insurance covers just about everything ends up costing doctors a lot in terms of administrative services, which in turn drives up the cost of the medical service delivered.

Yesterday’s witness before the Supreme Court was fantastic. The news coverage that I saw showed mainly pro-lifers. ABCNews interesting identified them as “anti-abortion rights pro-lifers.” I love that “pro-life” got into the mix. That could be the sign of a big shift in language, not unlike when Planned Parenthood started to be identified on cable and network news as “the largest provider of abortions.”  The commentator also said that there were some NOW protesters. But the cameras never showed  them. Hmmmm….

Also the face of the movement against the HHS Mandate was that of young women for whom pregnancy is still relevant. Too often, I’ve seen these protests/discussions/debates carried out by women (on both sides of the issue) who are obviously too old for this to be a personal issue.

And I saw Lori Windham, one of the attorneys for Hobby Lobby, give her remarks on the steps of SCOTUS. She was simply amazing. Her analysis was good, her delivery was great. She did not sound like an attorney.

Despite the work ahead of us, there’s much to celebrate. Cheers!

 

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The Bishops’ New Statement & Some Next Steps

Yesterday, the US Catholic Bishops issued another statement on the HHS mandate, clarifying that the Catholic Church is not backing down: We will continue our vigorous efforts at education and…

Yesterday, the US Catholic Bishops issued another statement on the HHS mandate, clarifying that the Catholic Church is not backing down:

We will continue our vigorous efforts at education and public advocacy on the principles of religious liberty and their application in this case (and others). We will continue to accept any invitation to dialogue with the Executive Branch to protect the religious freedom that is rightly ours. We will continue to pursue legislation to restore the same level of religious freedom we have enjoyed until just recently. And we will continue to explore our options for relief from the courts, under the U.S. Constitution and other federal laws that protect religious freedom. All of these efforts will proceed concurrently, and in a manner that is mutually reinforcing.

The statement ends with a call to prayer. In essence, we will work like it all depends on us and pray like it all depends on God.

This morning in my regular segment on Teresa Tomeo’s “Catholic Connection”, we discussed the statement and the inevitable question arose of what to do. It’s great that the Bishops are unanimous on this issue. But we’ve seen a fair amount of Catholic leaders/intellectuals and organizations take exception. And the general Catholic public does not seem to be aware of the gravity of the matter. Many think this is just about contraception. On the contrary. As someone said to me, “The HHS Mandate has as much to do with contraception as the American Revolution had to do with tea.”

But most Catholics aren’t staying on top of the Bishops’ statements and actions apart from what they get through secular and activist sources, which continue to frame the debate in terms of contraception. Remember, in places like China forced abortion and sterilization make the issues of contraception practically mute. And it’s all because individual rights of conscience and religious liberty are not recognized.

Because we as a Church have been largely silent on the issue of contraception for more than 40 years, we need a major campaign to begin educating not only on the issue of contraception; but, more importantly, on the issues of religious freedom and individual conscience.

There are at least two somewhat readily available avenues to consider.

  1. The Bishops could instruct their priests to preach on the issues relating to the HHS Mandate, giving them examples of how to do this. Most of our parish priests are swamped with parish obligations. Even if their hearts are in the right place, they often lack the resources to address controversial matters in a constructive way. While the Bishops have all issued letters on the HHS Mandate, not all of them have required their priests to read it, preach on it, or put it in the bulletin. I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that the Bishops collectively could call for a series of Sundays in which every priest celebrating a public Mass in the diocese would be required to preach on this issue. Each Sunday could have a short reflection from the Bishops to be read at the beginning of the homily and then further explained by the homilist. Every parish across the country would have the same message, rather than the confusion of silence or even contradictory themes.
  2. Apparently every diocese has an Appeals office to raise funds for the annual diocesan appeal. It’s been my experience that those offices have good contact information for most active parishioners in the diocese. (My husband and I have been followed into two different dioceses and across the country by the Appeals office of one of our former dioceses.) These offices use letters, emails, and even robo calls from the Bishop to do their fundraising. Why not use the same structure which we already have in place to reach the faithful on this very important issue?

These are critical times. We can’t undo the past, but we can correct our direction. The focus can no longer be on our failures (which probably have a lot to do with where we’re at), but must be on the present and the future. Now, we as a Church, know all too well the perils of not teaching in a manner that is both convincing and compelling. So we are taking a stand.

George Weigel has a column commenting on yesterday’s statement in which he compares the HHS Mandate to the 1953 decree by the Polish government compelling the Catholic Church to become a subsidiary of the Polish state. They wanted the Church to stop being…the Church. He further makes the point, as does the Bishops’ statement, that the HHS Mandate is about limiting the Church’s ability to act as…a Church. He concludes:

In sum, the bishops have rebuffed calls for a tactical retreat; the analysts who have not grasped the sea-change in perspective of the bishops’ conference have been confounded; the Catholic Lite brigades have been challenged to think again about the gravity of the theological and constitutional issues involved in the mandate; and those who have supported the bishops thus far have been affirmed in their work.

There will be no compromise here, for there can be no compromise of first principles. Those who understand that will gather their energies and continue to defend both Catholic and American tradition.

As for moving forward, The New York Times offers the example of Fr. Roger Landry, a parish priest in Lowell, Massachusetts. (Fr. Landry was a classmate of mine at the Angelicum in Rome.) The article relates several anecdotes describing the effectiveness of Fr. Landry’s preaching and teaching, but I’ll leave you with my favorite:

Last spring, scenes of a movie called “Whaling City” were being shot in St. Anthony’s. During the filming, the priest noticed that the church’s rack of sexuality pamphlets was being depleted.

“I saw all the camera men and sound guys,” Father Landry said, “and in their back pockets, coming down the main aisle, one had one on pornography, the other had ‘Sex and Contraception’ hanging out of his pocket, the other one had ‘In Vitro Fertilization.’ ”

Father Landry aimed his cellphone camera at one of the men and “snapped a photo of his derriere,” he said. “Because it’s exactly what I’m trying to do.”

The response to the availability of information and education indicates that the harvest is indeed great. As a Church, we need to cast our nets out into the deep…

 

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Funny Math + Bad Bookkeeping = Bad Business

President Obama has offered a so-called compromise on the HHS Mandate. Instead of forcing Catholic institutions to pay for insurance that covers contraceptives, insurance providers will be forced to cover…

President Obama has offered a so-called compromise on the HHS Mandate. Instead of forcing Catholic institutions to pay for insurance that covers contraceptives, insurance providers will be forced to cover contraception. Yep, same situation, just a different way of keeping books on it. Hmmm, when Enron was exposed, we called it accounting fraud, among other things. Bernie Madoff’s investment practices were denounced as a Ponzi scheme. But when the funny math is proposed by the White House, we call it a compromise. Read more here.

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