Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Say, Bishops, about that plank in your collective eye . . .

I continue to be cynically annoyed by the antics of the US Catholic Bishops in response to the requirements imposed on them and the Catholic faithful by Obamacare (about which I've written before in some detail).  Here are the latest developments.

Having organized 43 plaintiffs — including the archdioceses of New York and Washington and the University of Notre Dame — to file 12 different lawsuits against the Obama administration last Monday alleging the administration is violating the religious freedom of Catholics, the Catholic bishops of the United States are now preparing Catholics for what may be the most massive campaign of civil disobedience in this country since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and early 1960s.

“Some unjust laws impose such injustices on individuals and organizations that disobeying the laws may be justified,” the bishops state in a document developed to be inserted into church bulletins in Catholic parishes around the country in June.

“Every effort must be made to repeal them,” the bishops say in the document, which is already posted on the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “When fundamental human goods, such as the right of conscience, are at stake, we may need to witness to the truth by resisting the law and incurring its penalties.”

The bulletin insert reminds Catholic parishioners that the bishops have called for “A Fortnight of Freedom”—which they have described as “a special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action”—to take place from June 21 to July 4.

. . .

The sterilization-contraception-abortifacient mandate is set to go into effect for most health-care plans on Aug. 1, about four weeks after the bishops' "Fortnight of Freedom."

In campaign speeches delivered this week after the Catholic dioceses and organizations filed their 12 lawsuits, both President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama indicated that the administration intends to move forward and enforce the mandate.

. . .

The bishops have argued that elements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—AKA Obamacare—including the so-called “preventive services” mandate, would force faithful Catholics to act against their consciences and the teachings of their church. The mandate requires that virtually all health-care plans in the United States cover, without any fees or co-pay, sterilizations and all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives, including those that cause abortions.

The bishops also object to the manner in which Obamacare deals with abortion generally. In April, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a background paper explaining how Obamacare not only would use tax dollars to fund abortions but would also force Americans to pay for abortions with the premiums they would pay to purchase health insurance—which under Obamacare they are mandated to do. The backgrounder was titled, “The New Federal Regulation on Coerced Abortion Payments.”

Additionally, the bishops object to the so-called “religious” exemption to the mandate that requires all health-care plans cover sterilizations, contraceptives and abortifacients. That exemption only applies to “religious” organizations that are primarily focused on inculcating religious tenets and that serve and employ primarily members of their own denomination. This “religious” exemption would not extend to Catholic schools, universities, hospitals, and charitable organizations — and, the bishops argue, it violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by empowering federal bureaucrats to determine which religious institutions are truly “religious” and which ones are not.

In their bulletin insert, the bishops unequivocally state that the administration’s sterilization-contraception-abortifacient mandate would force people to act against their consciences.

“This is a matter of whether religious people and institutions may be forced by the government to provide such coverage even when it violates our consciences,” say the bishops.

“What we ask is nothing more than the right to follow our consciences as we live out our teaching,” they say.

There's more at the link.

It sounds wonderfully high-toned and moral, doesn't it?  Unfortunately, the reality doesn't measure up to the rhetoric.  To name just a few examples:

1.  Notre Dame University, one of the plaintiffs, is notorious for inviting speakers with pro-choice views (i.e. in direct opposition to the teachings of the Catholic Church) to its campus.  (Numerous Catholic institutions have been criticized on similar grounds.)  In particular, Notre Dame invited President Obama to be its 2009 commencement speaker (and awarded him an honorary degree in the process).  Last month 50 faculty members signed a petition criticizing the Bishop of Peoria for speaking out against Obamacare's mandates that fly in the face of Catholic teaching, and called for him to be removed from the University's board of fellows.  Interesting, isn't it, to have a nominally Catholic, but visibly heterodox institution file suit in support of the Church's teaching?  Interesting, too, that Catholic Bishops, both individually and collectively, have consistently failed to stop such heterodox behavior or hold administrators accountable for it.  Dare I say 'hypocrisy'?

2.  Catholic support for liberal/progressive policies, both by the hierarchy and by those in the pews, is well documented.  Daily Kos summarized the position back in 2009.  There are, indeed, faithful Catholics who believe what the magisterium teaches;  but they're in a relatively small minority.  I should know.  I was among them.

3.  As I've documented before, the Catholic Health Association of the USA (CHAUSA) has, on the front page of its Web site, the following section:

I obtained that screen-capture less than five minutes before writing these words.  In other words, the official organization representing Catholic hospitals and medical professionals - an organization at least nominally responsible to the US Catholic Bishops for the faith/moral content of its policies - is, right now, directly and immediately working against the efforts of those same Bishops, by promoting Obamacare at the same time that the 'official' Church is opposing at least some of its provisions, and calling for civil disobedience to overturn them.  Do you see or hear the Bishops calling CHAUSA to account for this, and insisting that if it continues to defy Catholic teaching, it must cease to call itself a Catholic organization?  No?  That's odd.  Neither do I . . .

I could go on with more examples, but why bother?  I'm sorry, but hypocrisy like this makes me sick to my stomach.  I have no problem accepting that Obamacare is an abomination on political, social and moral grounds, and that many of its provisions directly contradict Catholic teaching.  Nevertheless, the Bishops need to get Biblical with themselves before they get legalistic with the Administration.  Specifically, I recommend that the Bishops read (and re-read) the Gospel according to Matthew, Chapter 7, verses 3-5:

And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye?  Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

How about it, Bishops?  Your protests - and litigation - against Obamacare are going to ring pretty hollow unless and until you put your own house in order.



B said...

And one has to wonder why these particular "treatments" are mandated with no co-pay, unlike most of the other treatments mandated by Obamacare.

This should be an interesting, if slow, fight

Jerry said...

Gee, I wonder if the left hand knows what the right hand is doing?

Roy said...

Well, what would you have them do, exactly.

Yeah, the bishops were hypocrites for not opposing ObamaCare from the outset. But that horse is well and truly out of the barn. So should they just roll over and ignore it all?

Personally, I'm glad they are finally starting to see the light, and flawed as they can be, I am glad to have them as allies in the fight.

Peter said...

@Roy: No, they shouldn't "roll over and ignore it all" - but they should simultaneously/concurrently put their own house in order. I find it singularly unconvincing that they're willing to sue the Administration whilst failing (or should that be wilfully refusing?) to deal with their own internal problems relating to the same issue. That's nothing more or less than a living definition of hypocrisy. We have enough hypocrites in the world without having to add our Bishops to their number.