Just so we’re clear, the Catholic Church is right: contraception is wrong. It does not reduce abortions; contraception increases abortions. It does not improve marriages by removing the risk of unwanted children, it destroys marriages. No, contraception isn’t really contraception all the time: when the Pill fails to prevent ovulation, it prevents implantation of the days-old child by reducing the uterine lining, around 25% of the time. Which means that women on the Pill, if we assume around a 1/3 chance of pregnancy (conception and successful implantation, the advice given in NFP that “if you haven’t gotten pregnant in three cycles, something might be wrong”), then women on the Pill, especially younger women, generally more fertile and sexually active, may be averaging an abortion a year. And when the Obama administration says “contraceptive services”, they include post-sex contraceptives, which are large doses of the usual chemicals, which will either prevent ovulation or abort a just-conceived child.
But the issue isn’t really contraception.
I suppose I should start farther back, with Obamacare itself. The pro-life movement was up in arms, crying that any government takeover of health care would end in taxpayer-funded abortions and contraception. “Oh, what a bunch of worrywarts!” scoffed most of the bishops and many members of Congress. In some cases, anti-Obamacare advocates were maligned as “anti-poor”. We were assured, “Mandatory abortion or contraceptive coverage? That’ll never happen!”
Well, your Eminences, welcome to the “never” your encouragement of Obamacare has created.
While I’m thrilled to hear that every single Catholic bishop in the U.S., along with a good many Protestant leaders, including people who suppported Obama, have issued statements against the contraception mandate, I’m a bit underwhelmed. Abortion and contraception have been rampant in this country for decades, and the bishops and priests have largely failed to fight them. It isn’t a moral triumph to finally acknowledge that you ignored people being killed or maimed after they’re dead. Better late than never, but better on time.
But back to the mandate. Contrary to our dying local paper, the problem isn’t that there wasn’t an exemption for houses of worship. Actual churches would be exempt from the mandate, since they employ and serve almost exclusively people of their own faith. The problem was that absolutely nobody and nothing else would be exempt.
Our local paper condescendingly allowed that if churches insisted on not paying for contraception for the women who worked in the parish office, fine. However, the editorial went on, when the churches do “secular work” like taking care of migrants, adoption placements, hospitals, schools, etc., then they weren’t really churches anymore, and, thus, had no right to ask that their religious beliefs be respected. They have to play by the secular laws when they do secular functions, “reasoned” the editors. (Which takes us back to the Obama administration’s preference for “freedom of worship” instead of “freedom of religion”. They aren’t the same thing.)
EWTN is suing the federal government, since they don’t qualify for an exemption, but they are adamantly opposed to contraception in general, and paying for it in particular. Since the Catholic TV network is not directly controlled by an order or a diocese (there were power struggles with the USCCB trying to claim it, so it went private some time ago, although many members of the board are clergy), it wouldn’t even qualify for consideration of an exemption. So, while they air programs explaining how contraception destroys marriages and is frequently abortifacient (and therefore murder), they would be required to participate in (i.e. pay for) an insurance program that offers free contraception to EWTN’s employees. In Catholic moral discussions, we describe this as levels of “cooperation with sin”. Just because you didn’t choose the evil, if you facilitated or encouraged it, you are still somewhat culpable.
I would note that EWTN has hit the nail on the head, when many bishops have missed a bit. The problem isn’t that Catholic Charities or your local Catholic school (or any of the Protestant organizations or ministries similarly tied to denominations that do not approve of contraception) shouldn’t be forced to pay for something they don’t believe is moral. Most bishops are clear that those types of organizations should not be forced to violate their moral principles in order to avoid massive, coercive government fines.
The problem is deeper. I (and you, by the way), as a normal citizen, would be required to buy health insurance from a company that is mandated to provide certain services that I believe to be deeply immoral. Today, it’s contraception and the early chemical abortifacients. What comes tomorrow?
If Obamacare and the latest mandate stand, Catholic social services will shut down across the country. Schools, hospitals, etc. The Obama administration already yanked a federal grant for human trafficking assistance, because the USCCB (US Council of Catholic Bishops) office wouldn’t provide abortions to the rape and prostitution victims it rescued (never mind their excellent record of service spanning decades). A number of local Catholic Charities adoption agencies (and, presumably, a number of other, smaller agencies with similar reservations but less publicity) have closed because they refused to call gay “marriage” a legitimate family arrangement and place children for adoption in such families. The religious agencies are forced to shut down as unprofessional or anti-regulation, and the government increasingly gets to hand out the goodies of social services.
The alternate allegiance to the church that helped you is shifted to the all-powerful government.
All of this goes to emphasize the brilliance of the foundation of both the Constitution and Catholic social teachings. In Church documents, we call it subsidiarity: the idea that issues should be dealt with at the lowest level possible, for reasons of efficiency, personal relationships, and proper power and responsibility allocation. The government was never meant to be the all-powerful, omnipresent force in everybody’s lives that it has become.
Archbishop Chaput, as always, clarifies the problem. It isn’t, he argues, that this mandate was ill-advised in an election year or poorly thought-out:
But it’s clear that such actions are developing into a pattern. Whether it was the administration’s early shift toward the anemic language of “freedom of worship” instead of the more historically grounded and robust concept of “freedom of religion” in key diplomatic discussions; or its troubling effort to regulate religious ministers recently rejected 9-0 by the Supreme Court in the Hosanna Tabor case; or the revocation of the U.S. bishops’ conference human-trafficking grant for refusing to refer rape victims to abortion clinics, it seems obvious that this administration is – to put it generously – tone deaf to people of faith.
I’m guardedly optimistic that the USCCB has decided to reconsider what else they’ve supported when they’ve embraced Democratic politicians for their social programs but ignored their other positions. If we’re only going to defend the rights of religiously affiliated organizations to have conscience protection, though, we’re missing the point again, and we’ll be discussing the next “surprising” anti-Christian piece of regulation shortly.