Monthly Archives: February 2012

Here is What a Pro-Life Democrat Looks Like

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Dan Lipinski (D.Ill) has always been fiercely pro-life, as was his father Bill Lipinski, a Democrat Congressman from Illinois for decades.  Lipinski voted against ObamaCare and he is not fooled by the President’s fake “compromise”.  Here is his statement on the “compromise”:

I am enormously disappointed by today’s announcement. All the facts indicate that the ‘new’ mandate is the same as the ‘old’ mandate. New words, same policy.
“Our understanding of the new policy is now limited to a Fact Sheet put out by the White House. This document says ‘Religious organizations will not have to provide contraceptive coverage or refer their employees to organizations that provide contraception.’ But the health care law says that all employers must provide health insurance for their employees or pay a penalty. And according to the White House these same insurance plans that employers must provide ‘will be required to provide contraception coverage to these women free of charge.’ So religious organizations have to provide health care coverage from insurance companies that are required to provide abortion drugs, sterilization, and contraception. What changed? This is the same policy.
“We need a rule that protects religious liberty by allowing employers to provide health insurance coverage that does not include abortion drugs and other services that violate their conscience and religious doctrine. Instead we got a so-called compromise that is no compromise at all and provides no options for those with profound religious and moral objections to providing these services. To say that the insurer and not the employer is required to provide the coverage is a fiction. There is no accommodation for religious liberty. The rule remains coercive and still violates the long-standing tradition of protection for conscience rights in federal law. Continue reading

What if the Obama “Compromise” Were Not a Transparent Fraud?

 

 

I think it is obvious to all, except for the invincibly ignorant, the terminally gullible or the cynically partisan, that the Obama “compromise” on the HHS Mandate is nothing of the sort, but a transparent fraud with the sole goal of eliminating a political problem for Obama in a presidential election year.  But what if it was not?  Leaving aside the fact that the “compromise” is morally unacceptable under Catholic teaching, here are some of the practical problems: Continue reading

The HHS Mandate: It Was Never About Healthcare

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Daffyd at the blog Big Lizards has a post which spells out what everyone should understand now:  ObamaCare in general, and the HHS Mandate in particular, was never about healthcare:

Never was it about health insurance for the poor and uninsured; it was always about the federal government seizing control not only of the health care of individuals but also nationalizing those state and local health programs already in place.  ObamaCare was, first and last, a power grab by the federal government at the expense of states, local governments, and individual Americans.

So please, let’s not imitate Captain Renault in Casablanca — shocked, shocked to discover that Barack Obama has violated our First-Amendment right to freedom of religion!  In fact, that specific mandate was at the heart of ObamaCare tyranny:  a frontal assault on the Catholic church in particular, which is so virulently hated by the gay-activist and feminist wings of the Left.

The only element of this policy that should shock anyone is the unbelievably hamfisted way that Obama decreed it:  A politically savvy politician would have patiently held off until after the election, giving himself two years to allow the furor to die down.

Instead, the president once again mistook unanimity among his left-liberal friends for a Progressivist “consensus” among the American people; he lives in a bubble of epistemic closure, talking only to true-blue believers on the left.  I formerly gave him the nickname “Lucky Lefty,” because (a) he is left handed, (b) he is left-leaning, and (c) he was extraordinarily lucky.  Well he’s still (a) and (b), but not so much (c) anymore, so I can no longer call him that.

Obama’s new nickname is “Bubble Boy,” honoring his world view. Continue reading

Food, Guns, and Contraception: A Random Followup to Some Random Thoughts on the HHS Rule

Instead of responding to comment on my previous post in the proper place, I decided to do a followup of sorts to clarify two issues and to expand on a few of the initial thoughts and their reactions.  As a starting point, I want to consider the following comment left by “Mary”:

What about an employer forcing their religious beliefs onto their employees? My daughter is a nurse and works at a catholic [sic] hospital. She is not Catholic and feels birth control should be a woman’s decision. The woman has the right to decide when she wants to start a family. She was surprised when she found out that birth control was not part of the insurance program. She has been buying it on her own, and it is not cheap. What about those who can not afford to purchase birth control? Viagra is covered under the insurance program, and that is health care? Don’t think so. I’m not surprised that the article and comments here are all by men. It is not your body and you should not make the decision for women who want to use birth control.

It seems to me that this misses the point I was initially trying to make, and I take responsibility for any lack of clarity in my presentation.  To make up for this, I want to consider Mary’s argument from two perspectives.  Both perspectives will consider Mary’s assertion that women have the right to use birth control.  First, I will temporarily grant Mary this assertion and re-present the argument that it still does not make it right to force Catholic hospitals, Catholic-owned businesses, or Catholic-run insurance companies to cover contraception.  Second, I will challenge Mary’s assertion by arguing that women don’t in fact have the “right” to oral contraceptives.

1.  What if Mary is Right?

What if we temporality lend credence to Mary’s statement that women have the right to use birth control?  At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I will direct you back to my initial analogy of gun ownership.  I firmly believe in the right to bear arms, but this in no way means that I believe the government should purchase a gun for me, still less does it mean that the government to force my employer to purchase a gun for me.  There is a difference between the right to posses and use something and the “right” to have it at no cost to ourselves.  This distinction has been lost in the national conversation.  Even if Mary is correct that women have the right to use oral contraceptives, it still leaves me wondering why the cost for this should come out of the employer’s pocket or the pocket’s of the insurance companies.

Allow me to illustrate this point with another analogy.  I think all of us can agree that the human person has the fundamental right to eat food.  Should our employers then be required to provide us with our weekly groceries?  Should they be required to give us vouchers with which we can obtain meals?  Correct me if I am wrong here, but I thought the point of employment was to provide labors with a fair and honest wage, and the wage earners then get to decide how to spend those wages.  Think here for a minute how you would feel if instead of providing you with a paycheck, your employer gave you vouchers for very specific kinds of food.  Is this not a restriction of freedom rather than its expansion?

Actually, when you see the contraceptive coverage in this light, I think you will come to see that having the employer/insurance company forced to cover it is actually the more inequitable scenario.  Allow me to explain.  First, understand that contraception itself is not “free.”  It is a product, and as such it has a cost associated with its production.  If an employer is forced into providing this coverage for all employees, the cost of the plan will be effected somehow.  I will leave it up to the actuaries to weigh in on how this cost works out, but the fact remains that the cost needs covered in some form or another.  Contrary to popular belief at the moment, money cannot be arbitrarily created out of thin air.  (This is a more complicated way of putting the age-old adage, “Nothing in life is free.”)  Now, once the employer has this cost added to the plan, his budget must take that into account somehow, which will translate eventually into wages in some form or another.

Why is this inequitable?  Because it effectively means that all employees will suffer the economic effects of some people choosing to use contraceptives.  Of course, I am not naive enough to think this is a dollar-for-dollar transaction.  Rather, the costs will be spread out through actuarial means.  Nevertheless, would not a more “fair” system be to not cover contraceptives, to pass on the savings in the form of wages and salaries, and to allow those women that choose to use oral contraceptives under Mary’s claimed “right” to do so?

This is precisely what happens with both food and guns.  The employer pays the employee, and the employee then decides what to spend his or her wages on: food, guns, or oral contraceptives.  I would think that the advocates of “choice” would prefer this system anyway, for in taking money in the form of wages and then making an active choice how to spend the money, is that not a more powerful statement than having an employer (by means of government coercion) tell you how you have to spend your wages?  Said differently, the problem with Mary’s “right to contraception” plan is that is actually takes away the right not to purchase contraception – it results in less choice, not more.  If the insurance plans are forced to cover it, all employees are forced to purchase it, although some will choose to leave their supply at the pharmacy counter.  In effect, Mary’s argument actually reduces choice and freedom.

Two other points are worth considering here.  First, Mary claims that contraception is expensive, and that is why insurance companies should provide it “for free.”  The problem with this is the illusion of “free.”  It is basic economics here, something that seems to be absent from the Obama administration’s manner of administrating.  As I pointed out above, the production of contraceptives costs money, and to think that this cost will not be passed on eventually to the employees is naive at best.  The insurance companies are not going to take this “bottom line” hit – their very bright actuaries will work to makes sure that the cost is covered in the premiums charged.  The employer won’t take the “bottom line” hit either.  They employee likes to think of wages and benefits in two separate categories, but to the employer they are both part of a compensation package, and they both cost money.  Whatever is added to the cost of medical insurance will necessarily be made up for in salaries.  Of course, it won’t be right away, but it will be reflected in future salary negotiations.  Anyone who has been a part of contract negotiations knows that it is never simply about salaries and wages.  The “bottom line” will eventually be covered by all employees.  Thus, Mary’s daughter will end up paying for the contraception anyway through lower-than-would-be salaries.  When insurance plans cover something like contraception, it does not “save” the employee money, it simply forces them to spend some of their money in a particular way.

An analogy here is a local collect some years back that “gave” all entering Freshman an iPod.  On the surface, it seems like a “free and generous” gift.  However, the university is mindful of its finances, which means that the cost of this iPod is somehow or other figured into the cost of tuition.  Seen in this light, it is not a “free gift,” but rather forcing all entering Freshman to purchase an iPod.

Returning to the forced purchase of contraception, even from a women’s dignity perspective, I would think that most would find this reprehensible.  It is as if the government is saying, “We don’t trust that you will spend some of your money on contraception, so we are going to force you to spend it just to be sure.”  Once more, apply this to something like food.  It would be like your employer, under government coercion, withholding part of your wages and instead giving you food vouchers for specific items that the government deems “essential” to “healthy eating.”  (Actually, the more I think about it, the more fitting this analogy is.)  Wouldn’t it be better to have the money passed on in the form of wages to allow the individual the right to choose how to spend it?  Once you understand that you will be paying for the contraception in some form or another, does not the whole thing sound rather insulting?  In fact, I do something similar with my kids allowance: I give them a certain sum of money, and then I mandate that they put a portion of it in the Church basket on Sunday.  Why?  Because without the mandate, they won’t do it.  Why?  Because they are children.  When it comes to the forced purchase of contraception, the government is treating women as if they are children: they don’t trust that you will purchase contraception on your own, so they are going to make you purchase it.  (This is what they are doing with the health care mandate itself, by the way.)

The other more obvious problem is that this also forces women who chose not to use contraception to carry plans that cover it, thereby essentially purchasing it themselves (one the cost of the plan is passed to the employee in the form of not-as-high-as-they-would-be wages).  In this way, then, the whole issue is not about the right to obtain contraception, it is about the right not to purchase contraception.

Further, Mary brings up the idea of Viagra coverage.  There is an obvious difference, pointed out by one commenter, in that Viagra is correcting a bodily system that isn’t functioning as it should (and is thus much closer to actual “health care”), whereas birth control is doing nothing of the sort.  However, I will say that in this case I agree with Mary.  I also think that the government should not force insurance companies to cover Viagra, but that the employer should simply pay salaries and wages to its employees  and allow them to choose how to spend their money.  The difference here is that, to my knowledge, the government is not doing this in the case of Viagra.  In fact, it may help to clarify the outcry over the contraceptive mandate to imagine the vitriol reactions that would surface if the HHS mandate required the coverage of Viagra.

2.  But in the End, Mary is not Right.

All of the previous argument is null and void however, if Mary is not correct in her assertion that women have the natural “right” to use oral contraceptives.  In order to address this, we must first re-think the whole notion of “freedom” and “rights.”  The problem with our pluralistic society is that everything is couched in terms of “rights,” and further that this terms is never fully defined.  Even so, a discussion bases solely on rights, defined or undefined, could never actually be consistent, because “rights,” understood in simple unqualified terms, will necessarily lead to situations of “competing rights.”  In this case, we end up arguing over which has precedence: the “right” to religious liberty or the “right” to use oral contraceptives.  When we find ourselves at the inevitable impasse of unqualified and competing rights, the only thing left to decide a “winner” is pure power.  Whichever “party” finds itself in control will force its priority on the populus, and this is exactly what we see happening with the Obama administration.

The difficulty here is that freedom is not the random ability to choose between contraries.  Rather, it is the ability to choose the good.  Servais Pinkaers gives a great illustration of this in his book Sources of Christian Ethics by giving the example of a well-trained piano player.  An individual who has no respect for the “rules” of music and the instrument is “free” to bang randomly on the keys (a “freedom of indifference”), but a trained pianist who has been taught the “laws” and “nature” of the piano is able to create music, a freedom that is much more authentic (a “freedom for excellence”).

The moral life is not much different than the musical arts.  We are created with a purpose, a sort of definition of what it means to be “fully human”, what the Greeks called a telos.  We are “free” insofar as we act in a manner consistent with what it means to be human.  In a dilapidated view of freedom, we are of course able to act arbitrarily.  But such a view is not authentic freedomAuthentic freedom is found when we act according to our design, according to the natural law inscribed on our hearts.

Understanding the natural law is the only way to avoid the inevitable conflict of arbitrary and competing rights.  The only “right” we have is the right to act according to our design, to act in a way that is authentically human.  Religious liberty falls generally under this one “right” because we know that we need to freely pursue and accept God.  One can never be coerced into faith (even if the “faith” into which they are coerced is objectively “true”).

The question then is, does an individual have the “right” to use artificial contraception?  Does the use of contraception allow an individual to be more “fully human.”  From a Catholic perspective, the answer is clearly, “No.”  Now, it is not my intent here to defend the Church’s teaching on contraception – numerous arguments far better than what I could produce have been written about this already.  My point here is much simpler: we cannot approach this argument purely from some abstract and ill-defined notion of “freedom” and “rights”, but rather must conceive (pun fully intended) of “rights” and “freedom” under their proper telos of natural law.

I will give only one attempt at an argument against the “right” to oral contraceptives.  I mean this not as the only, and maybe not even as the best, but I do think is it the most important one to publicize: oral contraceptives are abortifacient.  It is in the very design of the pill that on the off chance (the measure of which is hotly debated) that fertilization occurs, the lining of the uterus is renders unstable so as to prevent implantation.  In this case, a newly created human person is destroyed – a life is ended.  Now, the fundamental “right”, if we are to speak in these terms, is the right to life.  Understanding the notion of “freedom for excellence,” the path towards fulfillment as a human person, or the ability to choose the good … none of this is possible without the possibility of living in the first place.  (Another “silver lining” to this tragic situation in which we find ourselves is the mere mentioning of this fact on national television by those members of the Episcopacy (un)fortunate enough to land an interview.  It is about time the terrible truth about abortifacients in oral contraceptives gets more press.)

This is not the best argument against the “right” to use oral contraceptives, because it is conceivable (there is nothing worse than the same pun twice in one article) that someday the pharmaceutical companies will develop an effective oral contraceptive that is not abortifacient.  Even then, seen in the light of Catholic teaching, there will still not be a “right” to use such medication to prevent pregnancy, the prevention of which drives a wedge in the very definition of marriage which by its nature is both unitive and procreative.  In doing so, contraception thereby does not allow a couple to strive towards their fulfillment as human persons in their marital vocation.  (For marriage, after all, is a vocation, and hence a “path to fulfillment.”)  Nevertheless, it the abortifacient argument is an effective argument here and now, because oral contraceptives here and now are abortifacient.

The HHS Mandate: Why the Cost Issue Is Irrelevant

One issue that mainstream and even some Catholic commentators seem to be bungling to my mind is the relevance of costs. According to the Obama Administration, under the new rule insurance companies will provide sterilization and contraception free to employees of Catholic institutions like hospitals and universities. Further, the Administration has claimed that insurance companies are happy to do this because the costs of contraceptives and sterilization are lower than the costs of pregnancy and all of the associated doctors visits. This certainly seems plausible. Pregnancy and the associated doctors visits cost a lot of money. I’ve heard it claimed that policies without contraceptives typically cost more than their counterparts that include them, and so it’s possible that the new policies will be even cheaper than the prior policies (absent all of the costs imposed by other new regulations, but that’s another story).

But this just brings into starker relief the fact that no compromise has been offered at all. Let’s assume for a moment that it is actually cheaper for an insurance company to offer sterilization and contraceptives without charge than to not offer them at all. In that case, Catholic hospitals and universities have historically been able to purchase plans at a higher cost that enables them to avoid providing coverage that violates their consciences. The original rule said that they could no longer purchase such plans, and most right thinking people recognized this as an infringement on religious liberty. The new rule says: “good news, you won’t have to pay more than you currently do!” Which, of course, is completely non responsive. Continue reading

Doubling Down

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The video above is a Democrat National Committee ad celebrating the fact that Obama is giving women “free” contraceptives and is doing so in a way which “respects” religious freedom, and those mean old Republicans want to take this away.  The Democrats are betting that the voters are both venal and stupid enough to allow them to reap a rich yield of votes in the fall on this issue.  My guess is that they are wrong.  A poll by Rasmussen found that 28% of Catholics support the government making rules that violate a church’s teachings while 68% oppose;  among the general public the numbers are 39-50, which I think is an accurate reflection of where the politics lie on this issue.  Here is Rasmussen’s commentary.

Every sports fan knows that close contests are often decided by mistakes rather than heroics. In this year’s Super Bowl, Tom Brady threw just one interception, but Eli Manning didn’t throw any. Manning’s team won.

What’s especially disheartening for fans are unforced errors. Right now, President Obama’s fans have reason to worry about a substantive unforced error that threatens his support among Catholic voters.

The Obama administration recently ruled that all insurance policies must offer contraceptive services with no co-payments required. In and of itself, that decision is neither positive nor negative. Forty-three percent of voters favor it, while 46 percent are opposed.

That mandate violates the beliefs of some churches. Normally, religious exemptions are granted in such cases, but not this time. Thirty-nine percent support the administration on this point, while 50 percent are opposed. Even worse for the White House, support for the ruling comes primarily from people who rarely attend church. That’s a group that voted strongly for Obama in 2008 and continues to support him today. In other words, no upside.

But, among Catholics, only 28 percent believe religious organizations should be required to implement rules that conflict with church doctrine. Sixty-five percent are opposed. This is true even though many Catholics disagree with church teachings on birth control.

The impact is stunning since 54 percent of Catholics voted for President Obama in 2008. Today, just 39 percent of Catholic voters approve of the way he’s doing his job.

Perhaps some strategists thought that Catholics would welcome government help in battling the church on birth control. But Catholics who disagree with the church deal with the situation in the privacy of their own bedroom. They don’t need federal help. In fact, it is hard to imagine any person of faith wanting the federal government to have any say in church doctrine and how Holy Scripture should be applied. Continue reading

The Urgently Relevant Pope Leo XIII

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By the patrons of liberalism, however, who make the State absolute and omnipotent, and proclaim that man should live altogether independently of God, the liberty of which We speak, which goes hand in hand with virtue and religion, is not admitted; and whatever is done for its preservation is accounted an injury and an offense against the State. Indeed, if what they say were really true, there would be no tyranny, no matter how monstrous, which we should not be bound to endure and submit to.

                                             Pope Leo XIII, Libertas

In his great encyclical Libertas (1888), examining the nature of liberty, Pope Leo XIII gives present day American Catholics much food for thought.   A few selections:

 

 

13. Moreover, the highest duty is to respect authority, and obediently to submit to just law; and by this the members of a community are effectually protected from the wrong-doing of evil men. Lawful power is from God, “and whosoever resisteth authority resisteth the ordinance of God’ ;(6) wherefore, obedience is greatly ennobled when subjected to an authority which is the most just and supreme of all. But where the power to command is wanting, or where a law is enacted contrary to reason, or to the eternal law, or to some ordinance of God, obedience is unlawful, lest, while obeying man, we become disobedient to God. Thus, an effectual barrier being opposed to tyranny, the authority in the State will not have all its own way, but the interests and rights of all will be safeguarded – the rights of individuals, of domestic society, and of all the members of the commonwealth; all being free to live according to law and right reason; and in this, as We have shown, true liberty really consists.

29. From all this may be understood the nature and character of that liberty which the followers of liberalism so eagerly advocate and proclaim. On the one hand, they demand for themselves and for the State a license which opens the way to every perversity of opinion; and on the other, they hamper the Church in divers ways, restricting her liberty within narrowest limits, although from her teaching not only is there nothing to be feared, but in every respect very much to be gained. Continue reading

The Nation is Worth Fighting For

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Lincoln, six feet one in his stocking feet,

The lank man, knotty and tough as a hickory rail,

Whose hands were always too big for white-kid gloves,

Whose wit was a coonskin sack of dry, tall tales,

Whose weathered face was homely as a plowed field–

Abraham Lincoln, who padded up and down

The sacred White House in nightshirt and carpet-slippers,

And yet could strike young hero-worshipping Hay

As dignified past any neat, balanced, fine

Plutarchan sentences carved in a Latin bronze;

The low clown out of the prairies, the ape-buffoon,

The small-town lawyer, the crude small-time politician,

State-character but comparative failure at forty

In spite of ambition enough for twenty Caesars,

Honesty rare as a man without self-pity,

Kindness as large and plain as a prairie wind,

And a self-confidence like an iron bar:

This Lincoln, President now by the grace of luck,

Disunion, politics, Douglas and a few speeches

Which make the monumental booming of Webster

Sound empty as the belly of a burst drum.

Stephen Vincent Benet

Today is the 203rd birthday of the Sixteenth President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.  The above video is an interesting and imaginative interview of Lincoln, if the film technology of the Thirties of the last century had been available in 1860.

Lately I have been reading a book on Lincoln with my autistic son.  I point at the words and he reads them aloud, an early morning ritual we have carried out for the last 14 years.  Young Lincoln’s struggles against the poverty of his early years, and his lack of more than one year in total of formal education, strikes a chord with me in regard to my son’s struggles against his autism.  One of the many reasons why I find Mr. Lincoln’s life endlessly fascinating is the theme throughout it of the most extraordinary possibilities in all of us, no matter the cards that Fate dealt to us initially.

Lincoln in a speech to the men of the 166th Ohio  as they were returning home, their enlistments completed, on August 22, 1864 touched upon this: Continue reading

Random Thoughts on the HHS Rule

So much has been written about the HHS rule and its “compromise” that I hardly think I have much to add to the conversation.  Nevertheless, there are a few points that I think have been missing form the debate, even in Catholic circles.  Allow me to take a brief moment to give a relatively disconnected trio of issues that just may help to spark some more conversation.

1. Religious Liberty is an Individual Freedom.

It seems to me that the focus of the national Catholic conversation has been on the Obama administration’s violation of the freedom of religion by forcing Catholic institutions such as hospitals and universities to provide employees with contraceptives and sterilizations, a practice that is in clear contradiction to the teachings of our faith.  While this is certainly deplorable and the most overt violation of the First Amendment, what has been relatively missing from the dialog is that religious liberty is not merely a liberty granted to religious organizations.  First and foremost, religious liberty is an individual liberty.  Each and every citizen of our nation is guaranteed under the Constitution the freedom to practice one’s religion both publicly and privately and to not be coerced into violating our consciences by acting in a way contradictory to the tenants of one’s faith.

Thus, the HHS rule is not simply a violation against specifically religious organizations.  It is also a violation of the religious liberty of the individual business owner, Catholic or otherwise.  As a Catholic, the owner of a private business cannot, under the Constitution, be compelled by the government to pay for “medical” services that violate his or her faith, including contraceptives and sterilizations.  This applies not only to those companies that have a religious mission, such as EWTN or the Knights of Columbus, but also to the owner of a chain of restaurants, a manufacturing form, or an publishing company.  Further, it also applies to the faithful Catholic owner of a medical insurance company.  Forcing the insurance company to provide coverage for these services despite religious beliefs, is a clear violation of the protection guaranteed under the First Amendment.

My fear is simple.  If the conversation focusses exclusively on those organizations for which Bishops have direct involvement, we may very well see further “compromise” between the Obama administration and the USCCB, but tens of thousands of other Catholic business owners will be lost in the shuffle.  In fact, I will go so far as to say that even if the HHS does a complete 180 on the current issue, i.e. incorporating Catholic hospitals and universities in the exemption clause without the bogus compromise that forces the insurance companies to cover the costs and services … even then, the fight is not over.  Because even then there will be thousands of businesses who are not included in the exemption clause because business activities have no specifically religious purpose.  Yet these owners too have the right to practice their religion, and hence should not and cannot be compelled to act in a way contrary to their faith.

That being said, there is admittedly a certain advantage in focussing on overtly Catholic organizations like hospitals and universities.  First, they are the most obvious cases of government intrusion in the religious sphere.  Second, they have high profile leaders, i.e. the episcopacy, that will be forced to take a stand.  Yet still, we should not for a minute think that the battle ends with these organizations.  Each and every one of us is entitled to religious liberty as an American citizen, and forcing a Catholic (or other religious) business owners to pay for plans that include contraception and sterilization is very much a violation of this liberty.  The problem is compounded, of course, if the business is a medical insurance company.

2.  There is a Silver Lining.

The felix culpa effect never ceases to amaze me.  God can bring good out of the most heinous evils, the case and point being the crucifixion.  The silver lining to the current HHS tragedy is the unified effort of the Catholic Episcopacy.  While the thought that the Obama administration feels that it can abuse its power in this manner terrifies me, the response by the Bishops has given me great cause for joy.  When the Bishop’s letter was read from the pulpit two weeks ago, the congregation applauded.  It is a powerful moment for the Church.

Our Church, after all, thrives on persecution.  It is precisely in the midst of being “kept down” that we can rise up against tyranny.  Such is the lesson of the Cross.  There is a quote from 2010 that has been circulating recently, in which Cardinal George of Chicago says, “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.”  Whether or not the Cardinal is prophetic remains to be seen, but such an “exaggeration” may not be so exaggerated after all.

In light of this, I would encourage those whose Bishop was one of the hundreds that wrote a letter and had it read to send a note of gratitude.  Yes, it was a coordinated effort, but it was the coordination that made it so powerful and effective.  While Friday’s “compromise” is manipulative and nothing really close to a compromise, it seems clear that even this minimal response would not have happened had it not been for the organized outcry.

3.  “Health Care” is Being Redefined.

My final point has been mentioned by several others, but it warrants reiteration.  There is a not-so-subtle redefinition of “health care” in this whole debate.  There is a certain amount of irony that under the president’s health care bill and the accompanying HHS ruling, I will not be able to receive Tylenol or toothpaste for free, but women will be able to receive birth control and abortifacients for free.  Tylenol is a drug that actually tries to cure something that is “wrong” with the body, and toothpaste is authentically “preventative” in terms of dental health problems.  Yet birth control and abortifacients have little to do with the health of the body.  In fact, they are often used for reproductive systems that are otherwise heathy.  They are designed to take a perfectly healthy and well-functioning bodily system and stop it from functioning how it should.  Since when did fertility and pregnancy become a disease?  Since when is birth control more “preventative” than toothpaste and abortifacients more of a “cure” than Tylenol.

Whether we agree or disagree on the morality of birth control is not the relevant question here, nor is whether or not we agree or disagree on the “right” of a woman to take these drugs.  The Catholic Church has always been clear on this, but it seems to me that there is something else at issue here.  Even for those who condone the consumption of these drug, it is a rather large leap to insist that someone else pays for it.

Let me give an analogy.  I believe firmly in the right to bear arms.  However, I do not believe the the government should provide a gun to every citizen who wants one.  Moreover, I don’t believe that my business owner should be forced to provide each of its employees with a gun.  Yet this is precisely what is happening with the HHS rule.  Even if an individual thinks they should have the right to use oral contraceptives, how does that translate to insisting that the government forcing employers and insurance companies to pay for it?  The only answer is to misclassify the contraceptives as “health care.”

I have two clarifications before I sign off, mostly to ensure that I am not misunderstood.  First, I understand quite clearly that oral contraceptives are occasionally prescribed for reasons not having to do with birth control.  This is emphatically not what I am talking about, and such an issue requires a separate conversation.  For my own part, I am of the firm belief that non-contraceptive methods such as NaPro technology have had far more positive results at a cost that is a fraction of many of the contraceptive techniques in dealing with serious medical issues.  Yet again, this is another topic for another time, and is not my intent here.  However, the media has successfully and unfortunately recast the debate in this light, causing a decent amount of public confusion over the issue.  (In a way it reminds me of a person who believes in abortion on demand up until the cutting of the umbilical cord who insists of focussing the debate on the “hard” cases of rape and incest.  In the HHS debate we have people who believe that the government can force employers to cover contraceptive for every purpose but insist of focussing just on those cases where they are not being prescribed for contraceptive purposes.  It is both misleading and disingenuous.)

Second, I am in no way claiming that an individual does have the right to use contraceptives (for reasons of birth control), less so abortifacients.  For my own part, given the objective immorality of such acts, such a “right” would be in direct contradiction of the natural law in which we were created.  My point was only that even if one believes in the right to birth control, it still doesn’t mean that employers or insurance companies should be forced to provide it anymore than they should be forced to provide their employees with firearms.

The main point is simple: birth control is not health care because fertility is not a disease.

Vichy Catholics

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While most Catholics with at least two brain cells to rub together realize that the HHS Mandate “compromise” is a transparent fraud, the usual suspects among the Obama-uber-alles branch of Catholics in this country have been hailing it.

Richard Rich Doug Kmiec is back on board the Obama bus (and demonstrates again the truth of the Socrates adage that an unexamined life is a tragedy):

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Sister Carol Keehan, head of the Catholic Health Association, last seen getting a pen from Obama for her support in passing ObamaCare, loves the compromise.  She was actually supporting it before it was announced, indicating that the Obama administration slipped her advance knowledge.  The administration is aware of the tame Catholics they can rely on.

And, mirabile dictu!, Morning’s Minion at Vox Nova gives the “compromise” a thumbs up!

Streiff over at Red State sums up this phenomenon of Catholics who can always be counted upon to carry Obama’s water for him in any dispute with the Church: Continue reading

I’m On My Way to Canaan Land

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Something for the weekend.  A very powerful rendition of I’m On My Way to Canaan Land from the film Elmer Gantry (1961).

A rendition in a completely different style from Flatt and Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys: Continue reading

Santorum at CPAC 2012: Leads Romney by 15 Points Nationally in Latest Poll

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Rick Santorum’s speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference convention this week.  According to The Hill, the impact of the speech on the conservative audience was electric.  Go here to read the story.  Coming off his trifecta wins on Tuesday, Santorum is now neck and neck with Romney in national polls, and is beginning to see poll results where he outpolls Romney against Obama.  We may be witnessing one of the greatest comebacks in American political history.    Continue reading

The HHS “Accommodation”: Lie to Me

So the Obama Administration released a proposed compromise today on the recent contentious HHS rule and there was good news: The Administration is now saying that Catholic institutions will not need to pay for abortifacients, sterilization, and contraception for their employees. The bad news is that the good news is a lie.  Catholic institutions will still be paying for these things, but health insurance companies will be instructed to tell Catholic institutions that they are free.

It’s possible that this will provide the Administration with enough cover to defuse the issue; it is clever in its own way. “Obama Administration requires Church to pay for abortifacients” is a straight forward story that even a reporter can understand. “Obama Administration uses accounting gimmick to force Church to pay for abortifacients, while assuring them they are free” is harder to explain. A little misdirection can go a long way with a sympathetic press. But, for Catholics, I think the takeaway is clear enough: this is no compromise at all. The Obama Administration has decided to double down on the mandate, and Catholics can no longer expect him to deal in good faith with Catholic institutions and their leaders.

Update: This post is probably superfluous here, but I’ll leave it up. See also Paul and Tito’s earlier takes.

Other Reactions on the HHS Mandate and the “Compromise”

I don’t have much to add to what’s already been said on the subject other than to express my wonder at who President Obama thinks he is fooling.  Granted I’ve already encountered vacuous leftists using the “but they don’t have to pay for it” talking point, but these are the types of people content to loyally follow Obama over the cliff anyway.

I just wanted to use this space to highlight a few other blogs that have written copiously about this subject.  Ron Kozar thinks this has been something of a missed opportunity for Catholics.

One point, which cries out to be made but isn’t being made, is how stupid it is to buy insurance for something as inexpensive as contraception, even if one has no moral objection to it.

It’s like requiring your auto insurer to cover an oil change, with no deductible.  Thus, rather than simply collecting the money from the consumer, the oil-change mechanic would have to employ a clerk to “process” your insurance and await an eventual check from your auto insurer.  This kind of nonsense – mandating coverage for routine, inexpensive procedures, and relieving the consumer of the need to pay – is one of the larger reasons why the healthcare and health-insurance systems are so utterly out of control.

Another point that cries out to be made but isn’t being made is that the government shouldn’t be dictating the terms of health-insurance benefits to employers in the first place, regardless of the employer’s religion.  The debate is being framed as a question about which package of coverages the federal government should mandate, rather than about whether the feds, or any government, should be dictating any terms at all.

Meanwhile, Jay Anderson has been on fire lately.  He has several blogposts this week worth reading, so just read his blog. Needless to say, I agree that it is time to disinvite certain so-called Catholics to the supper feast of the lamb.

Finally, if you’re not reading Jeff Goldstein’s blog Protein Wisdom, you should be.  Jeff is a Jewish, Santorum supporting, libertarian-conservative, and he’s done just as good a job of getting at why Obama’s actions are so tyrannical as anyone else.  Here’s his take on the compromise.

The problem is, rules or laws that provide exemptions to specific identity groups are ripe for corruption — and there’s no more reason that the federal government should be able to direct insurance companies to provide free contraception that it should the Catholic church. And by making the accomodation a waiver or derivation, Obama is still asserting his own Executive authority to tell private companies how they must spend.

Catholics shouldn’t have to go on bended knee before the State and beg for a conscience exemption for providing the kind of coverage it wishes to provide. And the State should not have the arbitrary power to pick and choose who must follow laws, who gets waivers and exemptions, and so on.

Obama’s “accommodation” is meant solely to hide his underlying power grab: namely, the unstated authority of the State to set these kind of dictatorial demands on private industry, and by extension, on individuals.

Obama’s Latest Fig Leaf is Not Acceptable

Update III:  The USCCB Pro-Life Director Richard Doerflinger and Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey agree with me that this “accommodation” or “compromise” is unacceptable.  Sadly Sr. Keehan of the the Catholic Health Associate found this “satisfactory”.  It looks like Obama will be happy that Sr. Keehan is on board.  Of course, Planned Parenthood and Sr. Keehan agree.

Update II:  Rumor confirmed.  Insurance, that Religious Institutions pay into, will provide contraception, ie, it is still a violation of the First Amendment.

Update I: Rumor is that “Hawaii” compromise will be offered, but the bishops have already rejected this.  So basically it’s a poor attempt at stalling and not really offering a solution.

The buzz this morning is that Obama is “caving in” to the pressure and will announce a “compromise” today at 12:15pm Eastern.

The news reports are saying that Religious Organizations won’t have to offer birth control, only the insurance companies that these Religious Organizations provide will offer birth control.

Yeah, that’s the compromise.

If these reports are true, this is dead on arrival.  Changing the meaning of the words won’t do it.

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