Posted by Christopher Johnson | Monday, February 27th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 22 Comments
You Roman Catholic bishops have had your fun and put on your little temper tantrum, the editors of
The REAL Magisterium Wannabe Episcopalian Weekly America write. But the adults are here now so why don’t you all just look liturgically impressive, babble a little Latin and keep your stupid opinions to yourselves. We’ll take it from here:
For a brief moment, Catholics on all sides were united in defense of the freedom of the Catholic Church to define for itself what it means to be Catholic in the United States. They came together to defend the church’s institutions from morally objectionable, potentially crippling burdens imposed by the Obama administration under the Affordable Care Act. Catholic journalists, like E. J. Dionne and Mark Shields, and politicians, like Tim Kaine and Robert P. Casey Jr., joined the U.S. bishops in demanding that the administration grant a broad exemption for religiously affiliated institutions from paying health care premiums for contraceptive services. Then, on Feb. 10, President Obama announced a compromise solution by which religious institutions would be exempt from paying the objectionable premiums but women would not be denied contraceptive coverage. A confrontation that should never have happened was over. But not for long.
Every single time we let the hierarchy think it’s in charge, the idiots completely screw things up. Every. Single. Time.
After a nod to the White House’s retreat as “a first step in the right direction,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops rejected the president’s “accommodation” as insufficient. Their statement presented a bill of indictments on the fine points of public policy: It opposed any mandate for contraceptive coverage, expanded the list of claimants for exemption to include self-insured employers and for-profit business owners and contested the administration’s assertion that under the new exemption religious employers would not pay for contraception. Some of these points, particularly the needs of self-insured institutions like universities, have merit and should find some remedy. Others, with wonkish precision, seem to press the religious liberty campaign too far.
“Some of these points…have merit and should find some remedy?” From where? From the same people who wrote the initial rule and the transparently fraudulent “compromise?” I can’t for the life of me understand why the bishops might be reluctant to take that offer. Foxes, hen houses and all that.
And it’s difficult for me to see how the objections of the bishops constitute “press[ing] the religious liberty campaign too far” since forcing Church ministries to facilitate the acquisition of free contraceptives by any employee who wants them is the only option left on the table. The idea of not being forced to provide free birth control at all seems no longer to be possible.
The bishops have been most effective in influencing public policy when they have acted as pastors, trying to build consensus in church and society, as they did in their pastorals on nuclear war and the economy. The American public is uncomfortable with an overt exercise of political muscle by the hierarchy. Catholics, too, have proved more responsive to pastoral approaches. They expect church leaders to appeal to Gospel values, conscience and right reason. They hope bishops will accept honorable accommodations and, even when provoked, not stir up hostility. In the continuing dialogue with government, a conciliatory style that keeps Catholics united and cools the national distemper would benefit the whole church.
I think you all know what’s going on there. It’s the age-old story. As long as the bishops are commenting on
the issues that are important to the America editorial staff the right issues, we’re behind them 100%. But once they move on to those…other issues(you know the ones America means), they are exercising “political muscle” and contributing to the “national distemper.”
On issues like nuclear war and the economy, the bishops should certainly take no prisoners and accept no compromises. But on those relatively trivial issues that the laity constantly insists on whining about, Roman Catholic bishops need to “accept honorable accomodations,” they need to “not stir up hostility,” and, most importantly, they need to be “conciliatory.”
After all, we have the example constantly before us of the Author and Finisher of our faith Who was always willing to accept honorable accomodations, Who never stirred up hostility and Whose first name was Conciliatory. Actually, we don’t have that at all. What the heck was I thinking?
The campaign also risks ignoring two fundamental principles of Catholic political theology. Official Catholic rights theory proposes that people should be willing to adjust their rights claims to one another. It also assigns to government the responsibility to coordinate contending rights and interests for the sake of the common good. The campaign fails to acknowledge that in the present instance, claims of religious liberty may collide with the right to health care, or that the religious rights of other denominations are in tension with those of Catholics. But as Pope Benedict XVI wrote in “Deus Caritas Est,” the church does not seek to “impose on those who do not share the faith ways of thinking and modes of conduct proper to the faith.” Furthermore, the campaign fails to admit that the administration’s Feb. 10 solution, though it can be improved, fundamentally did what Catholic social teaching expects government to do—coordinate contending rights for the good of all.
Um…nuh-uh. I have no idea what “Catholic rights theory” really consists of but I seriously doubt that “adjust[ing] their rights claims to one another” obligates Catholics to commit sins themselves or acquiesce in their commission.
As for the “contending rights” that America believes were coordinated by the Administration’s “compromise,” we have the long-established Constitutional right of Christian churches to order their own affairs versus the newly-created “right” to free birth control pills, a “right” which remains in place by means of an accounting trick.
Once again, there is no possibility of the Catholic Church not being forced to provide free birth control at all; the default position is the liberal one. And that is not coordination of contending rights at all; it is soft tyranny.
By stretching the religious liberty strategy to cover the fine points of health care coverage, the campaign devalues the coinage of religious liberty. The fight the bishop’s conference won against the initial mandate was indeed a fight for religious liberty and for that reason won widespread support. The latest phase of the campaign, however, seems intended to bar health care funding for contraception. Catholics legitimately oppose such a policy on moral grounds. But that opposition entails a difference over policy, not an infringement of religious liberty. It does a disservice to the victims of religious persecution everywhere to inflate policy differences into a struggle over religious freedom. Such exaggerated protests likewise show disrespect for the freedom Catholics have enjoyed in the United States, which is a model for the world—and for the church.
What are you mackeral snappers complaining about? It’s not like anyone’s burning down your churches or anything. And you don’t have to pay for anyone’s abortion so chill out.
But here’s the problem. A government that thinks it has the right to determine what are or are not Christian ministries is a government that can(and probably one day will) not only order Christian hospitals to provide free birth control but also order Christian hospitals and churches to provide free abortions for any staff member who wants one.
Were that to happen, what would America say? That the bishops shouldn’t be so “wonkish” because this is yet anothern policy difference that doesn’t rise to the level of religious persecution? That the bishops shouldn’t “provoke hostility” and need to take the lead toward cooling the “national distemper” over the fact that the Church is now being forced to participate in one of the greatest evils it is possible to conceive simply because somebody claims a right to access to it?
And does America seriously believe that Catholic episcopal protests over Administration health policy “show disrespect for the freedom Catholics have enjoyed in the United States?” How does exercising one’s Constitutional rights show disrespect for freedom?
America seems to be saying that the bishops may provoke a political, legal and cultural backlash and, given Administration hostility to the Church, they may well be right. But I think something else is in play here. This journal also seems to implicitly suggest that if this country’s Roman Catholic bishops continue to raise too much of a fuss, such a backlash ought to happen.