The Obama Administration made a huge political error in its recent decision to compel religious institutions to buy health insurance policies that cover things they believe are inherently sinful–like contraception, sterilization, and drugs that may act as abortifacients. Over the past two weekends thousands of priests read out a letter to their parishes promising that the Church “cannot-and will not comply with this unjust law.”
This is not a normal event for most Catholics.
And now look at the Drudge Report tonight:
Suddenly this is a Church, 70 million strong, that looks like it is spoiling for a fight.
But, you might ask, don’t most American Catholics disagree with their Church on this?
That’s true. Polls show that 95 per cent of Catholics use some form of contraception and 80 per cent believe that individuals should decide whether or not to use them without reference to the Church. And some of these peple couldn’t care less what the bishops think, and vote without thinking of their faith or Church.
But that’s not the whole story.
The Catholic Church is more than just a set of beliefs to which people give their intellectual ascent, it is a community that often resembles a querulous family. Just because you don’t agree with your stiff-necked uncle doesn’t mean you’re going to stand by and watch someone push him around.
In large part the reaction of Catholics who do not agree or don’t follow the Church’s deeply unfashionable teaching hasn’t been, “Oh, Obama’s right, the bishops are wrong.” The reaction has been, “I may not agree with the bishops, but why is Obama picking on my Church?”
It’s almost tribal.
Even liberal Catholics like E.J. Dionne and Michael Sean Winters who (to differing degrees) question the Church’s teaching on contraception and have been staunch Obama supporters in the past can’t condone the Administration’s decision.
And now suddenly the bishops are waking up. According to CBS News, the bishops may be contemplating an enormous March on Washington this summer.
And recently the Church has been receiving letters of support from the Conference of Orthodox Bishops in America and many evangelicals.
This really is shaping up for a major conflict. The regulation from the Department of Health and Human Services was issued as the final clarification after a long process of deliberation. It cannot just be walked back. And the Church has said simply that it will not comply with it, that to comply with it would be sinful. The Church cannot walk that back either.
And there are many Catholics in key swing states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida. Obama won the “Catholic vote” in 2008. Can he win re-election without winning it again?
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