Posts Tagged ‘hhs mandate’

I have an irrate commenter who is very good at verbosely rattling off President Obama’s talking points.  In short:

  • nobody is forcing religious employers to pay for contraceptives; the insurance companies will pay for them
  • it isn’t true that anybody is forcing anyone to buy contraceptives at all: you could just pay the fine/assessment/tax/whatever Obama is calling it this week
  • you people need to stop believing everything the bishops tell you

Hmmm.  I could make snarky comments about him, but I’ll just make a lazy post by copying my reply.

Ok, so here’s the HHS statement on its final ruling.  Yeah, that’s what I said it said, thanks.

You may note that it clearly states that all health insurance plans that do not qualify for an exemption must provide contraceptive services.  Even those who qualify for an examption and don’t provide contraceptives will probably be required, the statement says, to inform their employees about where to get contraceptives for free.

So, every Catholic school, hospital and charity will be required to provide contraception (because they don’t fit under the new, narrow definition of a “religious” entity).  Even parishes and convents that fit under the definition should be aware that HHS is already contemplating how to force them to promote contraception to their employees.  The so-called compromise only means that these institutions will be forced to buy insurance that, for “free”, provides contraceptives.  NEWS FLASH: when the hotel says the wi-fi and breakfast are “free”, they aren’t; you’re paying for it, they just add it to the room price.  When the insurance company says, “Sure, we provide contraceptives for free,” um, no, YOU’RE PAYING FOR THAT.

(And you’re happy that dioceses will be forced to buy insurance from someone else?  Why?  Adding the bureaucracy of an insurance company won’t make health insurance cheaper for the employees.  Is it because the government can bully the insurance companies more easily?  Or are you just anti-Catholic and want Catholics to please keep their unauthorized opinions to themselves, unless they’re standing in a church?)

And, holy crap!  how generous!, HHS has allowed that those institutions that do not fit under the definition but have objections can have an extra year to, as Cardinal Dolan put it, “Figure out how to violate our consciences,” as long as they prove that they even qualify for the extension.

The last time I checked, in this country, we do not generally give out rights only to those who can PAY THE FINES FOR THEM.  If you have to pay a fine for it, it ISN’T RELIGIOUS FREEDOM.  I am not interested in being a dhimmi in my own country, thank you very much.

Yes, I’m yelling.  Here’s my short version:

The federal government has a definition of what constituted a religious institution; this administration chose to use a definition that excludes most religious institutions.  Why?  Are they trying to drive religious institutions out of the public square?

If I pay for insurance that provides contraceptives, I am directly complicit in something I hold to be sinful, no matter how the accounting is done (this has nothing to do with paying taxes; that is a much more remote connection between my money and behavior I may hold to be immoral).  So, no, the latest “compromise” isn’t worth anything.

If I have to pay a fine to exercise my religious freedom, then my “right” has been reduced to a calculation of how much money the government can get out of me, money that the government will directly use to fund something I object strongly to.  And once I’m out of money, my right to religious freedom is gone.  Somehow, I seem to remember from high school government class that that is not how our Bill of Rights is supposed to work.  (But Obama was a Constitutional law prof; I’m sure he’ll tell us that, since he sees the Constitution as a living document, “bill” must be reinterpreted in the modern way, so it now means, “You get rights, and the government will send you a bill.”)

And if you think, “Well, I don’t care about contraception; I want it covered,” then please consider what else is legal that you or your church might object to funding: abortion, sex-change operations, and euthanasia.  If they force the Catholics to bow (and we are the largest single denomination in this country and our hospitals care for 1/6 of American patients), do you think they are going to stop here?


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“My country, right or wrong,” is a thing no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case.  It is like saying, “My mother, drunk or sober.”  — G.K. Chesterton


Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.  – First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution

As Christians aware of our history (and I’m not at all sure that most of us are), we have frequently had cause to love the countries we live in while fighting their current stupidities or evils.  If we are aware of the histories of official government persecution or blind eyes to persecution (for Catholics, this would include Elizabeth I’s police state, the invasion of Maryland while it was still a colony, and repeated instances of the destruction of Catholic institutions and murder of Catholics in the U.S.); we certainly have grounds to expect the future might hold problems in a similar vein, prompting a pre-emptive promise to love our country, in spite of its failings.

And so, we come to the current “desperate case”:

In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences. 

— Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York City

I am honestly horrified that the nation I have always loved has come to this hateful and radical step in religious intolerance.

– Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria

In spite of a “compromise” that still meant everyone would be paying for contraceptives and abortions (we’d just hide the accounting, and, no, really, this time we’ll put it into law, unlike that last promise we made to the pro-life Democrats who voted for the health care bill in the first place.  Really!), the HHS mandate is still a violation of religious liberty.

The Amish, who have religious objections to insurance, get an exemption from the plan.  They also, we learned while on vacation in the area around Lancaster, PA, get an exemption from Social Security taxes, since they don’t take the payouts, relying instead on their children and their own savings when they retire, which they don’t do very early.  (Gee, I’m not expecting to get a payout from Social Security, can I opt out of that tax and invest my own money, too?)

Catholics, however, do not get an exemption from the new health care law.  The only religious organizations exempt from paying for contraceptives they believe to be sinful are actual churches.  The definition specifies that the religious exemption is only for those organizations who employ and serve almost exclusively their co-religionists.  The school the church runs will have to pay for contraceptives.  The diocese that runs soup kitchens and counseling services will have to pay for contraceptives.  Heck, if your parish is considered a mission parish and is evangelizing a less-Catholic area and has a lot of non-Catholic participants at mass, you might not really be “religious” enough under the definition the Obama administration has chosen to use.  (Remember the howling about all the “the secretary shall define”, “the secretary shall decide”, etc. vagueness in the massive health care bill?  If it’s that huge, and still contains all this leeway, what are they hiding?  Well, here’s where it comes to bite us.  Just like the pro-lifers were saying all along.)

The lawsuits against the federal government are piling up.  Several major Protestant leaders have stepped up to support the Catholic Church (and I should note that Catholics aren’t the only church that has objections to contraception, although all the major Protestant denominations abandonned their bans on contraception by the mid-1900’s, starting with the Anglicans in 1930 at their regular Lambeth Conference).  There are multiple websites up to collect signatures against the government mandate, including StopHHS.

I seriously hope the U.S. government gets trounced in court… except that my tax dollars are being spent to attack my church and to defend this idiotic law.

And right now, while I love my country and am very proud of our troops, especially this Memorial Day weekend, I still feel about like some poor daughter having to haul her drunk mother home from the bar, yet again, to the jeers of the neighbors.  This is when you say, “My country, right or wrong,” and it makes your eyes sting with tears to think of how horribly, desperately astray my dear country has gone.

You grit your teeth, say it anyways, and pray that your mother and your country sober up and straighten out again, knowing that you’ll probably have to say it again under similar circumstances, even as you pray you don’t.

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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.

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