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Do you find this sudden rush of stories about Obama being in open conflict with the Catholic Church confusing? We’ve done a simple Q&A to help clear things up.
So what happened?
A little over two weeks ago, the Department of Health and Human Services said that the new health-care reforms from Obama would require religious employers–like hospitals, schools, etc.–to include contraception, sterilization, and drugs that many Catholics believe cause early abortions, in their employee health insurance plans.
And, what’s the problem?
Well, Catholics consider paying for those things sinful. So they are flaming mad at Obama. And Catholic priests have been reading a letter to almost all Catholics at church promising that the Church “cannot–and will not–obey this unjust law.” This is pretty much unprecedented.
It seems like there is some subtext to this, right?
You betcha. Many of the bishops supported Obama’s health-care reform effort precisely because they believed they had assurances this wouldn’t happen. Update 4:59 The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops did eventually turn against the bill as written.
Why is this a big deal though? This is a minority issue, no?
Well not exactly. The Church has built or maintains about 625 non-profit hospitals in the United States right now. 1 in 8 hospital visits in America are to Catholic hospitals. It’s the largest non-profit sector of the health-care industry by a long shot.
Whoa that’s a lot.
Yeah–and then there are the schools. About 65,000 professors work at over 230 Catholic universities and colleges in America. And then there are secondary schools, etc. And charity organisations.
AP/FlickrUser Catholic Church (England and Wales)-Creative Commons
But aren’t hospitals and schools really secular enterprises? So when Jesus said heal the sick and feed the poor it had nothing to do with religion? Not sure that is going to fly. But that brings up the point that the Obama administration seems to be saying; that anything a religious person does outside of a Church or with someone who isn’t part of their religion is somehow not-religious. In fact, it can’t help but make that judgment.
But isn’t the Church just a criminal enterprise of child-molesting freaks! I can’t wait until the day it dies. It is based on fairy-tales!
We’ve been seeing a lot of comments like this. And well, it seems unlikely that the Church of approximately 70 million people here and a billion worldwide is going to go away tomorrow. Also, a lot of people of all faiths wouldn’t have non-profit hospitals. Is this how you talk to people you meet?
All right, it’s not going away, but the Church’s teaching against contraception is really stupid. They’re just against contraception because they hate women and their bodies.
You don’t take away people’s rights because you disagree with them.
And, as for their rationale, it was re-explained in the 1960s in a document called Humane Vitae. Basically, the idea is that love, sex, marriage, and procreation all go together. Lots of Catholics do actually try to follow this, and use methods like NFP to regulate their fertility.
I read that 98 per cent of Catholics have used artificial contraception anyway.
Yeah. That seems to be mostly true.
So they are on Obama’s side. He’s got this.
Not necessarily. What percentage of Catholics commit sins like lying or gossip? Writers like E.J. Dionne and Michael Sean Winters both question the Church’s teaching on this, but they are against Obama on this. They may disagree with the Church but they don’t like seeing it being pushed around by the government. That represents the attitude of a lot of Catholics.
Isn’t this a case of conflicting rights?
Yes, basically. Proponents of the regulation say that women of all faiths have a right to health-care and the way we provide health-care in this country is through employer-based health insurance. If contraception and sterilization and all these other things are health-care, then employers have to provide it. To them this is a simple uncontroversial idea, hindered only by the dogmas of a medieval Church.
All right, who’s going to cave?
Hard to say. If a Republican is elected in November, the regulation is going away anyway.
Sometimes in history the Church has caved to governments on matters of principle. And Obama’s re-election looks probable. But, look, there are big pockets of Catholic voters in Nevada, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and other swing states. If the Church makes a big deal, there might be good reason for Obama to cave.
And, the Church has survived Nero’s persecution, and Napoleon’s kidnapping of the pope. So, yeah, it can probably outmaneuver some regulations from the Department of Health and Human Services.
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