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Posted by on Jun 2, 2012 in Politics, Religion, Society | 9 comments

Seeing Through The Bishops’ Case Against Obama

Gary Gutting, a professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, parses the arguments Catholic Bishops make in opposition to the Obamacare requirement that health insurance cover birth control. His conclusion:

There may be a cogent case against the government’s position. But there is no slam-dunk appeal to outrageous violations of the First Amendment, such as genuine instances of persecution or a war on religion would provide. Rather, there are arguments based on complex (and contestable) legal considerations — for example, interpretations of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act — turning on the question of what sort of burden of proof the government has to show that its requirement is necessary to achieve its legitimate goal. The bishops may have a viable legal case against the Obama administration. But they have no case for a call to the barricades.

We cannot, of course, be certain about the bishops’ motives in overdramatizing what should be a routine disagreement. But their often demagogic reaction suggests political rather than religious concerns. There is, first, the internal politics of the Church, where the bishops find themselves, especially on matters of sexuality, increasingly isolated from most Church members; they seem desperate to rally at least a fervid core of supporters around their fading authority. But the timing of their outbursts also suggests a grasp for secular political power. It’s hard to think that the bishops — especially given their concerns for social welfare — would more than mildly prefer a Romney administration to an Obama administration. But, hoping to emulate the success of Protestant evangelicals, they may well want to establish their own credentials as significant players in American politics. We can only pray that American Catholics will see through any such effort.

The Catholic Bishops are planning a “Fortnight of Freedom” (June 21 to July 4) to protest the administration violation of their religious freedom. They expect it will be the most massive campaign of civil disobedience in this country since the Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s.

That may be hard to pull off. A survey in March found:

Catholics overall are generally more supportive than the general public of the contraception coverage requirements. Nearly two-thirds (65%) say that publicly held corporations should be held to this requirement. Roughly 6-in-10 report that religiously affiliated social service agencies, colleges, hospitals, and privately owned small businesses should be required to provide health care plans that cover contraception. Less than half (47%) say churches and other places of worship should be required to provide this coverage.

White Catholics make few distinctions between churches and other religiously affiliated employers. Less than half of white Catholics believe that churches (43%), religiously affiliated colleges (43%), social service agencies (44%), and hospitals (48%) should be required to include contraception coverage in their insurance plans. However, a majority of white Catholics believe that non-religiously affiliated employers, including privately owned small businesses (55%) and public corporations (61%), should be required to provide employees with contraception coverage.

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Copyright 2012 The Moderate Voice
  • The hierarchy of Roman church has been more about politics and political power than spirituality from the beginning. It was created to be the state religion of Rome and continued to the primary political power in Europe until the reformation. They no longer have any power in Europe and have seen their power decline in the US as they became out of touch with Catholics. This is little more than a power play by a bunch of conservative men.

  • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

    like the war on xmas, like the war against gays who for sure will carry off all the young, this ‘war’ against catholicism is bogus. In a world suffering from STDs that are lethal, the church’s idea of ‘no condom use’ is… actually I’d have to use words big enough and bad enough to shatter glass across the entire universe. Out of respect for the safety of all from flying glass, I wont.

  • bluebelle

    I have to say that I could never in a million years convert to Catholicism. The priorities coming out of the Vatican do not fit the real world. Forbidding contraception leads to overpopulation and starvation and impoverishes women all over the world who cannot plan their families in a responsible way. The idea that all life is sacred– even an embryo conflicts with their negligence, collusion and obstruction during the Holocaust when they could have made a huge difference in the lives of those persecuted by the Nazis. And I will never get the rationale for protecting, transferring and paying off pedophile priests.

    I realize that the Catholic church does a lot of good works globally, but many of these dire situations would not be as dire if it weren’t for their insistence on rigid adherence to outdated ideology.

  • merkin

    The ultimate freedom of religion is when individuals and the state are free from religion.

    Religion is irrational by definition and by choice.

  • cjjack

    Dr. E, thank you for bringing up the “War on Christmas,” as it affords me the opportunity to launch a bit of flying glass myself.

    Every year the “War on Christmas” is trotted out as if there were a never-ending campaign by “secular leftists” to undermine the “true meaning” of the holiday, but the truth is that the people fighting the hardest to undermine the “true meaning” of Christmas are the millions of Christians who line up outside the stores at midnight on “Black Friday” and festoon their houses with megawatt-sucking light displays that have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Jesus.

    Utterly unable (or perhaps unwilling) to get their own house in order, they blame it on “secular leftists” and dub it the “War on Christmas.”

    Yet the real problem isn’t the “secular leftists” at all, but rather the inability of the Christians themselves to keep the “holy” in the holiday.

    By the same token, the problem here isn’t the government dictating that Catholic-affiliated operations offer contraception, but that the Catholic Church cannot enforce their own doctrines without the help of the state.

    Every religion has it’s prohibitions, but is it really up to the state to help enforce them? I mean, I’ve got every right to set up a vending machine filled with ice cold Diet Coke across the street from a Mormon Temple, or a bar down the block from a mosque, but if patrons from those faiths wind up buying my wares, isn’t it a failing of the part of the religion rather than a “war” on their faith?

  • Dr E
    You are the reason the Catholic hierarchy is losing it’s power. I suspect deep down inside you realize the Bishop’s stand has little to do with spirituality and nearly everything to do with power. In 1968 I had to be drafted but if there is a war on the Catholic church I’ll be the first to sign up.

  • The_Ohioan

    The ultimate freedom of religion is when neither the state nor any citizen will choose to denigrate any other citizen’s choice to be religious; and vice versa.

  • zippee

    The CCB’s “case” is actually a Constitutional outrage. What the Bishops want is the right to discriminate, all while using taxpayer dollars.

  • Rcoutme

    The Catholic Church started around 33 A.D. under Peter as the first Pope. Their main objective was to spread the word. They included many acts of charity in their word-spreading. During its existence, the Catholic Church has not changed its Faith or Doctrine. This includes when Popes were assassinating people (they did not justify themselves by changing the rules on murder, for instance). This is relatively unprecedented in history.

    Having said all that, I believe that the Catholic Church should have to forego all public (meaning tax) moneys if they want to operate hospitals and universities w/o following government mandates. If they do, however, forego such largess, then and only then should they be free to ignore the contraception mandates.

    If it is a true matter of Faith (I will give the bishops the doubt) then they will forego the government subsidies as a matter of Faith. If it is political, they will fight tooth-and-nail to keep the subsidies while still trying to ignore the contraception mandate.

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