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February 07, 2012 3:30 PM Catholics, the Contraception Mandate, and Public Opinion

By Ed Kilgore

Sarah Posner nicely summed up the conventional wisdom on a particular red-hot subject yesterday:

First there was Michael Sean Winters, writing “J’Accuse!” in the National Catholic Reporter. “President Barack Obama,” Winters wrote, “lost my vote yesterday when he declined to expand the exceedingly narrow conscience exemptions proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services. The issue of conscience protections is so foundational, I do not see how I ever could, in good conscience, vote for this man again.”
Next up was E.J. Dionne, a good liberal Democrat (and Catholic), who used his Washington Post column to assail the President for how he “utterly botched the admittedly difficult question of how contraceptive services should be treated under the new health-care law.”
Mark Shields, also Catholic, opined on the PBS NewsHour: “The fallout is cataclysmic for the White House and for the president.”
Doug Kmiec, the former Reagan administration lawyer who backed Obama in 2008, now says he may not in 2012, over the contraception mandate, and that alone.

With all this Chicken Little talk flying around (at least, as Posner notes, among Catholic men), I looked with more than average interest today at two new polls testing the reactions of Americans, and particularly Catholics, on the issue. If the contraception mandate is going to turn the entire election against Obama, it is not apparent from the numbers.

Here’s the key finding from Public Policy Polling’s survey:

A solid 56 percent majority of voters support the decision to require health plans to cover prescription birth control with no additional out-of-pocket fees, while only 37 percent are opposed. It’s particularly noteworthy that pivotal independent voters support this benefit by a 55/36 margin; in fact, a majority of voters in every racial, age, and religious category that we track express support. In particular, a 53 percent majority of Catholic voters, who were oversampled as part of this poll, favor the benefit, including fully 62 percent of Catholics who identify themselves as independents.

The numbers barely budge when respondents are specifically asked about health coverage for employees at Catholic hospitals and universities, in a question framed to include the Bishops’ argument that their religious mission requires an exemption.

The Public Religion Research Institute also released a poll today that showed slightly weaker support for the mandate among Catholics if the question is framed as one of religious liberty, but not by a very big margin. According to PRRI, 58% of Catholics support a contraception mandate; the number drops to 52% if only registered voters are considered. When specifically asked about Catholic hospitals and universities, 52% of Catholics still support a mandate, and that number drops to 45% (with 52% opposed) among registered voters. PRRI did not provide crosstabs breaking out the numbers by partisan affiliation.

If you think these numbers look suspiciously like the general pro-Obama, anti-Obama breakdowns you see in every poll, you are thinking right. 2008 exit polls showed Obama winning Catholics by a 54-45 margin. It would be reasonable to assume that a sizable majority of the Catholics saying they have issues with the contraception mandate in the PPP and PRRI polls are inclined to vote against Obama in any event, particularly given the very noisy GOP effort to exploit the issue. And that’s certainly what the partisan breakdown in the PPP survey indicates.

Some might argue that the electoral impact of the dispute could intensify if Catholic leaders begin to threaten such dire consequences as a shutdown of hospitals and universities. Aside from the strong possibility that such threats might invite a pretty severe backlash from people who rely on these institutions—including the majority of Americans who believe the Bishops are simply wrong—there is the inconvenient fact that a number of states—including New York and California—already require contraception coverage in employee health plans with no exemption for religiously affiliated institutions. Why haven’t Catholic institutions in such states shut down already? When such data points begin to gain public attention, some of the screaming—such as Pittsburg Bishop David Zubik’s claim that “at no time in memory or history has there been such a governmental intrusion on freedom”—will begin to look a bit ridiculous. Another talking point you can expect to hear a lot is the common-sense observation that health insurance is a basic form of employee compensation, no different in nature than a wage. Certainly a sizable majority of women—Catholic and non-Catholic—of child-bearing age, and more than a few men, who work at Catholic hospitals and charities are willing to use their wages to purchase contraception. Somehow, that subsidy isn’t considered institutional suicide for the Catholic Church.

I suppose it’s possible the Bishops and their allies can so polarize the issue that Catholic voters could begin to feel the tug of loyalty, and side with their Church even though they disagree with it on the very topic in question. But it’s something of a stretch to believe large numbers of Catholics who are willing to defy the Bishops every day and commit a mortal sin—worthy of eternal damnation—by practicing contraception are going to let the same authorities instruct them how to vote in order to defend the very same “teaching.”

In any event, it appears the administration may be suing for peace by indicating a willingness to compromise on its policy. I don’t know what kind of compromise would succeed in placating the Bishops, who are clearly using the contraception fight as part of a broader effort to pretend their religious liberties are in danger.

But if the administration decides not to back down, there is little empirical evidence at present that it is thereby courting electoral disaster.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • RollaMo on February 07, 2012 3:44 PM:

    Catholic hospitals and systems are businesses, some of them multi-billion dollar businesses. My guess is that the majority of employees in any Catholic system are not in fact Catholic. If the community hospital across town covers contraception but my employer doesn't, it makes a difference in where I might want to work.

  • dalloway on February 07, 2012 3:47 PM:

    I find it strange indeed that a 2000 year-old male-dominated institution with a reputation for pedophilia has any credibility whatsoever on the issue of women's reproductive rights.

  • golack on February 07, 2012 3:52 PM:

    Most discussions of this make it sound like health coverage for the pill is the same as forcing women onto the pill. For Catholic-affiliated institutions, having birth control covered should not be a big deal. If those covered do not use contraception, then they won't be subsidizing birth control. IF the pill is prescribed for other health related reasons, like it is now, then everything is the same.

  • John B. on February 07, 2012 3:52 PM:

    Here's another reason why it's an odd argument that the bishops and others are making. A health plan's providing of coverage for contraceptives does not obligate the holder of the plan to purchase and use contraceptives--and it's the use of contraceptives that is the sin, according to church doctrine.

  • DAY on February 07, 2012 3:58 PM:

    Al of the previous commentators above have more brains in their typing pinkies than all of the bloviators on the intertubes!

    -The Catholic Church mandates that priests will hear your confession, and give you Communion.
    I don't think anyone is required to partake of either.

  • james on February 07, 2012 4:04 PM:

    @gotack and John B: (snark alert) But you don't understand! Merely allowing contraception to be covered will lead to people using it. If it's not covered and they have to pay for it out of their own pocket, they won't do it because . . . well, it's like allowing people to have sex before marriage. If the church changed its rules to allow people to have sex before marriage, they'll do it, unlike now because since we have these rules, it never, never, happens. NOW do you see? Whatever we say is reality is, indeed, reality.(end of snark)

  • Danp on February 07, 2012 4:05 PM:

    When I was young, the Catholic church taught that people are to resist temptation. It wasn't about sequestering women so that men wouldn't be tempted. Jesus said, "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:23-24. He didn't say that wealth was immoral, only that it creates a lot of temptation and opportunity. It was about self-control. Now the Church has become so politicized that you would think half the commandments started with "thou shalt make sure you neighbor doesn't..."

  • This Guy on February 07, 2012 4:05 PM:

    Abortion in Italy became legal in May 1978, when Italian women were allowed to terminate a pregnancy on demand during the first 90 days. Although a proposal to repeal the law was considered in a 1981 national referendum, it was rejected by nearly 68% of voters; however, another referendum, this one aimed at eliminating the restrictions, was rejected by an even larger 88.4%.

  • TheZeitgeist on February 07, 2012 4:07 PM:

    [That will be all. Remember, I have your IP. You aren't anonymous to me. Something to keep in mind when you let your buttons get pushed instead of walking into the kitchen and making a cup of tea. Remember why we got moderators in 2006? You should, you were here then. But in case you have forgotten, a big factor was rampant handle hijacking. --mod]

  • mike reilly on February 07, 2012 4:09 PM:

    I find it ironic that all the pundits quotes were men.
    As a Catholic man, I don't think the Church has a whole lot of credibility on a lot of issues today. Especially their laughable doctrine on contraception.

  • Jimo on February 07, 2012 4:10 PM:

    I'm a bit behind on my reading in the forest of Vatican encyclicals, but I am unaware of a Catholic Transitive Property of Sin.

    Why would the Catholic Church be any more accommodating of sin in providing employment benefits to employees that include the means of accessing contraception or abortion than when it provides employment wages to employees that include these same means?

    If Maria Theresa O'Malley wants to take her wages as a file clerk at the Perpetual Heart Hospital of Faith and Healing and use them to procure an abortion for herself, how is the Church complicit in this sin? Ditto, health insurance?

    Sorry, but this sounds like the Catholic Church demanding collusion by the secular government in an agenda of controlling people's own choices regarding how to live their lives. Last I checked, if someone wants to identify as Catholic but still get an abortion, our law does not allow the Catholic Church to intervene politically or legally in that choice. And never has (to-date). This controversy isn't the government intruding into the realm of religion but religion intruding into the realm of the secular world. (As W-M notes: Catholic organizations already follow this policy in most states.)

    Besides, do we really want to get into some loosy-goosy argument about transitive morality and money? Last I checked, it was blasphemy to destroy God's creation in thermo-nuclear war, yet I and everyone else is required, by law and threat of prison, to fund such immoral weapons. Where's the Church on that question? Answer: Sinful silence.

  • Andy Olsen on February 07, 2012 4:12 PM:

    Not to mention this question has already been considered once by the Supreme Court based on a state rule and then the Supremes rejected another attempt to have it heard.

    http://www.digbysblog.blogspot.com/2012/02/borgia-catholics.html

    This is just more partisan politicking by the very Republican Catholic Bishops.

  • steve duncan on February 07, 2012 4:14 PM:

    I'm wondering, will a priest stray from Catholic doctrine regarding contraceptive devices when he's involved in buggery?

  • Sparko on February 07, 2012 4:15 PM:

    Zeitgeist. Get some help dude. Only an idiot or a psycho would argue that birth control is more expensive than an army of unwanted children. Most of whom would be the poor, huddled masses repubs tend to hate. I forget which trolls are satire-based and which are actually psychotic right wingers. So forgive my trespasses if ZG is a parody.

  • Herbal Infusion Bagger on February 07, 2012 4:16 PM:

    "And...YOUR bill!"

    The healthcare we're talking about is part of employee compensation, jackass.

    If your healthcare coverage doesn't belong to you.

    "Enjoy the Sunset of your freeloading ways until China doesn't loan us any more scratch"

    Simple quiz: The last president who balanced the budget was (a) Democratic or (b) Republican?

    You elephants love to cut programs to the middle class and poor in the name of deficit reduction, but when it comes to tax cuts for the rich or invading a middle eastern country, you whip out the Mastercard faster than a Valley Girl shopping on her daddy's plastic.

  • John on February 07, 2012 4:17 PM:

    Mike - the fact that everyone quoted is a man is the opposite of ironic. It more or less conforms to expectations.

  • estamm on February 07, 2012 4:21 PM:

    One way to get around this problem for the Obama administration is to allow Catholic businesses to not pay for contraception... IF they also pick up an additional XX dollars of the health insurance cost, thereby allowing women to use the savings to buy contraceptives for themselves.

  • K in VA on February 07, 2012 4:21 PM:

    Some 98% of Catholic women have used some method of contraception (other than calendar counting). They tune out the old farts in the pulpit to do so, and some uncertain percentage of them dare not even tell their husbands or partners. But they do control their own fertility, and they'd undoubtedly like not to have to pay out of pocket to do so.

    Unfortunately, they tend to be quiet about all this, at least until they vote.

  • navaro on February 07, 2012 4:24 PM:

    the thing i find most interesting about the poll numbers is that when you break them down for various religious groups, the only group that shows a majority opposed to healthcare plans that pay for contraception are evangelicals. are the bishops perhaps courting the evangelical community?

  • theAmericanist on February 07, 2012 4:27 PM:

    Ed asks: " ...a number of states—including New York and California—already require contraception coverage in employee health plans with no exemption for religiously affiliated institutions. Why haven’t Catholic institutions in such states shut down already?"

    Because the administration had not yet closed down the self-insurance option, which this proposal would do.

    Honest, you spent how long researching this?

  • Rich on February 07, 2012 4:27 PM:

    The Jewish hospital where I once worked in Hartford is now owned by a Catholic hospital. The world of sectarian health care is not what it once was. the vast majority of Catholics stopped listening to the Pope about birth control decades ago. I suspect EJ Dionne wrote about about because he's basically a Beltway whore. It was a metamorphosis that began when he began to sub for Mark Shields on the PBS News Hour. His opinions became more and more centrist and very quickly learned to play nice with paul Gigot. In the last election cycle, he couldn't say a bad word about John McCain even as St. John had become the most obvious of train wrecks. Shields has a longed service in whoredom and I'm not surprised.

  • michelle on February 07, 2012 4:32 PM:

    Catholic here.

    A mortal sin is grave. What's grave? I was taught that it's between a sinner and God. The apostle Paul made a list (contraception didn't make the cut). Jesus made no comment.

    In any event, I'm a lifelong Catholic and mass goer, and I've NEVER been told that contraception is a mortal sin. Like many others, I continue to believe it's not a sin at all.

    The church's teaching on this one is not well-grounded in scripture, particularly new testament. There is an old testament story about pulling out early (!) being worse than adultery. What a load of crap.

    No one claimed infallibility on this one, and I in perfectly good conscience dissent.


  • Anonymous on February 07, 2012 4:33 PM:

    If the fact that their institutions in 28 states already cover contraception doesn't signal political hypocracy here, I'll bet the bishops have not bothered to worry if the health care plans provide Viagra...

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on February 07, 2012 4:37 PM:

    When the "Church"-affiliated employers talk about not covering contraceptives, do they really mean "We don't want to pay for pills and abortions for hot-in-the-ass single women who legs are permanently parted"?

    That's the only rationalization they can dog whistle. Afterall, a lot of birth control methods are taken by older, married women who already have children and do not want to have more at present (or ever). Are they considering the family planning the working moms that they employ. Or maybe these religiously-affiliated institutions are offering bonuses, generous maternity leave, and free top-notch day care for the women that they employ... Some how I kind of doubt THAT being the case.

  • theAmericanist on February 07, 2012 4:48 PM:

    A couple basic points:

    First, Ed didn't explain that the poll he cited was sponsored by Planned Parenthood. That isn't to say it's a bad poll, just that candid folks show you when there might be a thumb on the scale.

    Second, it's not a Rule of 4 poll -- or at least, the firm didn't show the Rule of 4 results. So there is no way to determine intensity.

    Third, the question is clumsily phrased to get a result to please the sponsor: "Some people say that institutions such as Catholic hospitals and universities should be exempted from the requirement that health plans cover prescription birth control with no additional out of pocket costs, because contraception runs counter to Catholic teachings. Other people say that women of all faiths who are employed by Catholic hospitals and universities should have the same rights to contraceptive coverage as other women. Which view do you agree with -- Catholic hospitals and universities should be exempted from covering prescription birth control, or that women who are employed by Catholic hospitals and universities should have the same rights to contraceptive coverage as other women?"

    If you were serious about measuring the strength of opponents, you'd ask TWO questions -- one phrased to frame it Planned Parenthood's way (which this one does, with "women ... should have the same rights"), and another phrased to frame it the BISHOP's way, viz., "should the government require religious institutions to violate their beliefs?" Then with Rule of 4 results, you'd be able to see not just pro/con, but also intensity.

    Fourth, Ed seems to have buried the lede: the Adminstration is backpedalling as fast as it can: "“We certainly don’t want to abridge anyone’s religious freedoms, so we’re going to look for a way to move forward that both provides women with the preventative care that they need and respects the prerogatives of religious institutions,” Mr. Axelrod said."

    Face it, Ed: you misread this one. Why are you doubling down?

  • Peter C on February 07, 2012 4:50 PM:

    So, you’re a Catholic working as a professor in a Catholic university. How are your religious rights being violated by this policy? If you’re a nurse in a Catholic hospital, are you going to be asked to ‘administer’ the contraception that the government mandates your health plan reimburse but that your religion says is sacrilegious? Is it the pharmacist we have to protect? Is it the claims adjuster? Is it a sin just to touch a condom? Perhaps it is a sin to pay for a condom?

    So they have to pay for it because the government makes that a condition of being a ‘health insurance plan provider’. They can put ‘contraception is a sin!’ on the condom envelop or the pill case or the reimbursement check if they like. Or, they can get out of the BUSINESS of providing health INSURANCE. But, religions don’t get to opt of laws when they engage in BUSINESS. When they engage in RELIGION, they can tell Government to bug off.

    Businesses have to follow any number of federal and state regulations. Government shouldn’t have to pre-clear them with religious leaders on the chance that some church doctrine or other would be violated.

    The Pope doesn’t get to veto our laws! He can try to send me to hell after I’m dead all he wants.

  • R on February 07, 2012 4:51 PM:

    What's Catholic for chutzpah? "Damn nerve," perhaps? These people want to control their employees' perfectly legal private behavior. This goes way beyond telling a teacher what she can and cannot say to her students. What could be more outrageous? Well, maybe this:
    "The prospect of paying more big damage awards to victims of long-ago priest sexual abuse will put the state’s Roman Catholic diocese out of business and violate constitutional protections regarding religious freedom, the diocese is claiming in papers on file at U.S. District Court in Burlington." (see http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2012120204034 ).

  • wvmcl2 on February 07, 2012 4:53 PM:

    michelle said:

    "In any event, I'm a lifelong Catholic and mass goer, and I've NEVER been told that contraception is a mortal sin. Like many others, I continue to believe it's not a sin at all."

    Maybe you didn't go through the Catholic school system like I did. I was most certainly taught that use of contraception is a mortal sin. In fact, we were taught that every form of sexual release not specifically for the purpose of procreation is a mortal sin - this includes not only unmarried sex of any kind, but also masturbation and even sexual fantasies.

    This was in the 1960s, so things may have changed some, but I doubt it. The disconnect of a loving God supposedly condemning people to infinite torture simply for responding to their hormones is the main thing that caused me to break from the Church at age 16.

  • IDTT on February 07, 2012 4:55 PM:

    Can businesses affiliated with the Catholic Church discriminate against men and women who have been divorced?

  • Peter C on February 07, 2012 4:58 PM:

    "Hello, my name is John Thumb-on-the-scale. I work for Public Policy Polling. We're doing a poll for Planned Parenthood, and I'd like to ask you ..."

    REPUTABLE polling firms don't do this. Republican Push Pollers do, but reputable polling firms don't.

  • theAmericanist on February 07, 2012 5:08 PM:

    There's kind of a lot of confused misinformation in this thread -- kinda thing you might think someone paid for political commentary might want to clear up, more than accelerate.

    1) No, businesses "affiliated with the Catholic Church" are not allowed to discriminate against divorcees, any more than any other business is allowed to. (Not entirely sure how anti-divorcee discrimination would work, actually.) But I think a better example of whatever you thought your point was, is that Catholic schools can fire teachers who aren't married when they become pregnant, while public schools cannot. The SCOTUS has repeatedly held that religious institutions have very wide latitude to determine and follow their own doctrines and practices without interference from the government.

    2) I keep saying it, Ed is ever-so-gradually realizing its the truth but he's soooo reluctant to let the fantasy go: this is NOT about contraception. Nor is it about access to contraception. Even people who work for Catholic institutions can buy contraception anytime they want. The Church is not trying to get the government to arrest their employees if they get birth control pills. What this IS about, is simply that the US government has decided that religious institutions must PAY for contraception, and abortifacients, and sterilization -- which violates their character as religious institutions.

    3) So, no, the precise character of Catholic doctrine on the erotic doesn't matter here, nor does it matter that most American Catholics disregard that doctrine. (Which you guys are getting wrong in any case.) But SOMEBODY should clue you in that one reason the administration is backing away as fast as they can, is because every time you talk about this, you do it in anti-Catholic language that would have made the Know Nothings proud.

    4) And for the particular question that Peter C asked -- if you are an employee at a Catholic institution, this policy has nothing to do with YOUR rights. You can buy contraception if you want, or you can choose not to -- and you might or might not care about the Church's teachings, whatever you do. That has nothing to do with this policy -- because it is about whether the institution that employs you (and offers health insurance) can CONTINUE to employ you -- and remain Catholic. Maybe you want them to cease being Catholic -- but that's not up to you, and it is not a sound policy goal for the US government.

  • theAmericanist on February 07, 2012 5:12 PM:

    LOL -- Peter C, don't be such an obvious sucker. You're like the rube walking up to a three card monte game with money falling out of your pockets, telling that hot blonde you just met how smart you are.

    The Planned Parenthood poll was designed to produce... well, exactly the analysis that Ed gave it. It was NOT designed to assess the relative strength and intensity of support and opposition to this proposal. I noted the telltales -- first, the results were not presented as Rule of 4 (so there's no way to measure intensity), and second, the question was framed Planned Parenthood's way, rather than asked TWICE -- one way for this side, one way for that.

    What the polls that WERE designed to get better results showed, can be seen from Axelrod's graceful about-face.

  • Gummo on February 07, 2012 5:17 PM:

    If Catholic hospitals don't want to follow federal rules, they don't have to accept federal money.

    Very simple.

    Everything else is a smokescreen.

  • theAmericanist on February 07, 2012 5:21 PM:

    Gummo -- you realize that's the definitive anti-religious position, right? That it is SPECIFICALLY what the Founders rejected when they wrote the First Amendment?

  • Gummo on February 07, 2012 5:24 PM:

    So all you have to do is call yourself a religion and you get to make your own rules?

    Wrong.

  • theAmericanist on February 07, 2012 5:35 PM:

    No -- but the government can't simply tell a religion 'you get government benefits, so you have to change your doctrines'. 'You;re an employer, so you can't follow your religious rules.'

    (shaking head) More proof that civics education is sadly neglected.

    The two most intelligent things ever said about the subjects swirling around this discussion, were said by, respectively, a high school principal and a basketball coach.

    On the doctrine you guys were butchering above, I submit that John Thompson, Sr., the former basketball coach at Georgetown, said the single smartest thing ever said about sex in the entire history of our species. When Magic Johnson announced he was HIV+, some smartass reporter (not me) went up to Thompson and asked if he told his players to practice safe sex. I don't think the reporter realized what a wicked, fish hook question he'd asked, either. Thompson spent his whole career building his role as a father figure for his players, after all, so if he'd said something like 'what they do off the court is their business', it would have contradicted his purpose as a coach and a teacher. But if he'd said something like 'I tell him if they can't be good, be careful', he might have been personally fired by the Pope.

    Instead, Thompson just LOOMED over the reporter, and demanded: "You just tell me how anything as powerful as sex could ever possibly be safe."

    Top that.

    The other was said by the principal of that high school in Jena which got its 15 minutes over nooses tied to a tree on the grounds, and all of sudden CNN and Al Sharpton and God knows who were all over the place. The poor guy said, wearily: "If I've learned anything as a public school principal, it's this: Always Lower the Stakes."

    They both fit this situation -- the invaluable role that religious institutions play in American life, and the sage counsel that recognizes when you want to defuse a situation rather than escalate it.

    Which is what Axelrod is doing. Let him work.

  • SKM on February 07, 2012 5:46 PM:

    Thanks for pointing that out, that an unmarried pregnant woman working for a Catholic institution can lose her employment.

    I find this to be discriminatory against women. How can they fire a unmarried pregnant woman, yet, move around the priest(s) that are accused of child-sex abuse without warning to the church members?

    Not sure if it's true, but, I've heard that Mexico (the country) is performing abortions, something this country didn't used to do.

    I personally think that all of these religious institutions need to lose their tax-exempt status. They want to get involved in politics, yet, they don't want politicians telling them what to do. This is true, because they are using their members to vote for certain politicians and to vote for certain laws, they are taking money from people (donations/tithes/beneficiaries) and they want to tell the whole city/state/county/country how to live - well, what if I were a Monk, Pagan, Taoist or Muslim or a Witchdoctor - would I be able to dictate to the population at large? There seriously need to be separation of church and state, because otherwise, regardless if people say we have freedom of/from religion, there are always those that will protest against other religions.

  • Quaker in a Basement on February 07, 2012 5:53 PM:

    OK, here's a really simple question that no one seems to be asking:

    Do the health insurance plans offered today to employees of Catholic universities and hospitals exclude all coverage for contraceptives?

  • TheZeitgeist on February 07, 2012 5:55 PM:

    @SKM

    I agree with you about religions losing their special little tax-exempt status. Along with every other alleged 'non-profit' entity. Show me an organization that doesn't pay a check to somebody and I'll call it a non-profit. Otherwise, they're all profitable for SOMEBODY.

  • Doug on February 07, 2012 6:00 PM:

    Shorter tA...Wait a minute, there ISN'T any shorter tA! Oh well. Once again, he ignores facts and instead treats(?) us to yet another paean to his omnisciency.
    Sorry tA, but I'm going with the 28+ states where Catholic hospitals and organizations ALREADY provide HCI that includes contraceptives. I don't recall reading or hearing about massive protests by Catholics to force those State governments to change the law. Perhaps you can provide a link or two?
    As for any measuring of "intensity", I'd agree that the Bishops are "intensely" looking at some way to burnish their OWN tarnished images by pretending there's some sort of attack being carried out on "religious beliefs" by the administration.
    If I understand correctly, there's recently been something of a scandal involving many upper-level Catholic Church members. You know, the one where the crimes were hidden and the perpetrators shuffled from diocese to diocese? For decades. THAT scandal. You surely must have heard something about it. It's been in ALL the papers AND the network and cable news. On almost every continent.
    And all that hiding of crimes and their perpetrators was done at the instigation of Bishops and even higher authorities. Most likely, the very same Bishops now trumpeting so loudly about "religious freedom".
    Strange that...

  • Quaker in a Basement on February 07, 2012 6:07 PM:

    I'll add a second question to my first, with the admission that this one isn't as simple:

    When your employer hands you a paycheck, the money becomes yours to do with as you please. At what point does your insurance coverage become "yours" and not your employer's?

  • theAmericanist on February 07, 2012 6:09 PM:

    You're mixing apples and oranges and aardvarks, SKM, but you're making my point -- again: what motivates most of you guys on this (and other issues, but this one in particular) is a bias against religion itself. The orthodox rabbi who had a letter in today's NYT nailed it -- what you guys want is a startling change in the role of religion in American life, which is waaaay far from what most Americans want.

    I'm just saying -- we don't have to go there, and in fact, the White House agrees with me, wholeheartedly (to the surprise and shock of some of y'all who have been giving me grief).

    Just to clarify: the reason why a Catholic school can fire (for example) an unmarried teacher who becomes pregnant, is because as a single mom she is a walking contradiction of her duties as a Catholic schoolteacher. You're wrong to insist that this is the same as wanting to tell the whole country how to live -- it's been decades since the Roman Catholic Church, at least, was trying to get the public schools to fire teachers who became pregnant.

    But I can't resist -- there is a great case percolating along, which came out of Cincinnati, which highlights exactly the issues you raise -- but alas, is likely to obscure 'em again. (Which is another reason why those of you who confuse reflex with intellect are missing the good stuff.) An unmarried teacher at a Catholic school became pregnant, and was promptly fired. She complained. The school replied -- well, you signed a contract with a morals clause. She complained again, on equal protection grounds: you don't fire MEN who father children when they're not married. In other cases, that's been resolved as an evidence problem -- the Church essentially says, actually we DO fire men who father children out of wedlock, but they're hard to identify. Pregnant women are kinda easier to pick out of a crowd -- not much of a legal principle, but it's practical.

    Yet THIS Cincinnati case is different, because she was artificially inseminated. Now -- the actual Catholic doctrine is almost certainly NOT going to be part of the court case, which is too bad, because it gets right to the point. The idea of the doctrine, after all, is that in order for an erotic act to be legit, both the "unitive" and "procreative" functions must be present, or at least, those who do the deed must be "open" to the possibility of procreation BY the act. (When the civilian Birth Control Commission appointed by Pope John XXIII examined this issue, they were downright sensible -- which is doubtless why the future John Paul II dissented.) Obviously, for the Cincinnati teacher, what she did was ENTIRELY for the purpose of procreation -- she even managed to skip the sex part. (Cue the jokes about protecting Mary's monopoly.)

    But arguably (as she points out), the Cincinnati teacher did NOT do any of the bad stuff which the Church is seeking to ban -- and (just as arguably) the anonymous donor who (to stretch the point) fathered the child was clearly, um, open to the procreative. She says, either she didn't violate the contract, OR it's sexist and therefore invalid. Too bad it isn't a canon law case.

    Still the evidence issue -- how on earth would a Catholic school know if one of their teachers was a donor? -- doesn't get to the moral issue, but -- alas! -- will almost certainly result in her suit being thrown out soon.

  • theAmericanist on February 07, 2012 6:14 PM:

    LOL -- Doug, you missed the part where I pointed out that in all the 29 states that have a rule like this, religious employers have self-insured. So the issue was moot from the start, and never got to this level.

    You may also have missed where I noted the administration is backpedaling as fast as it can.

    Try to keep up.

  • TheZeitgeist on February 07, 2012 6:19 PM:

    @theAmericanist

    Your posts are interesting to read.

  • Fess on February 07, 2012 6:25 PM:

    I think the difference between a Catholic church/school is being confused with a Catholic business. The purpose of a church is to preach whatever it is that they believe and all the participants come together to celebrate those beliefs. A church school does pretty much the same thing while teaching the 3R's. When a church operates a business, the playing field changes. Not all the participants are there primarily to celebrate that church's beliefs.

    Catholic hospitals treat whoever shows up. My son had surgery in a Catholic hospital because that's where his surgeon did surgery. I'm pretty sure the surgeons at that hospital aren't required to be practicing Catholics, nor do they gather there to celebrate their faith. This particular surgeon "gathered there" to do thoracic surgery. My son as a patient wasn't there to celebrate his faith either, nor did anyone come by post-op to give religious instruction or share prayer or whatever.

    Similarly, the LDS church is building a huge shopping center across the street from their big temple in Salt Lake City. The purpose of the shopping center isn't to celebrate their faith, or in this case, make converts. The purpose is to make money, just the same as the K-Mart down the street.

    When one works for the faith-celebrating part of a church, one is assumed to be a True Believer. Even if a "sinful" item was offered as part of an insurance package, these TBs would likely pass it by. If offered, it wouldn't be "the near occasion of sin" for these folks because their shared beliefs with the church would steer their course away.

    When we are talking about a hospital or a shopping mall, we have a different kind of employee. Some may indeed be TBs, but that isn't the first requirement of the job. The first requirement is that you be able to make correct change or be a licensed hair stylist or be an RN or respiratory therapist or mop wielder. For the church operating this sort of a business to deny parts of a legally required health care package because their faith finds it "sinful" is more like imposing their beliefs on otherwise independent employees than it is interfering with the business owners' religious rights. As has been pointed out, employees may give family planning a pass (in which case the employer is going to have a large turnover of available personnel in the baby years of life) or they can choose to make use of it. Why should the business owner have the right to make that choice for his employees who are not there primarily to celebrate his faith? If the owner of the local Dairy Queen is Catholic why shouldn't he also not be required to cover family planning? Where is the line? At what point does Religious Freedom turn into Religious Tyranny?

  • theAmericanist on February 07, 2012 6:38 PM:

    Quaker asks:

    1) "Do the health insurance plans offered today to employees of Catholic universities and hospitals exclude all coverage for contraceptives?"

    Yes -- as long as you're using "Catholic" the way the Church does. They're not at a Disney-level of defending the brand.

    One thing that I find throws people who don't know the culture, is that the Roman Catholic Church really IS both very old, and entirely authoritarian. That means there are institutions that seem like they are "Catholic", but aren't -- there are a few dozen colleges that were once Catholic, run by nuns and so on, but which wound up independent-yet-affiliated for various reasons (often falling between those that are run by orders of priests or nuns, and those which are run by dioceses). I haven't done a study, but some of them pay for contraception (in fact, some of 'em had a role in the civilian Birth Control Commission I keep mentioning. The guy who invented the Pill was a Catholic, yanno -- left the Church when they chose to go a different way.)

    Then you have organizations like Dignity, which used to be an explicitly Catholic health care provider -- and is now independent-ish. But yeah -- the 1/6th or so of the American public that goes to Catholic hospitals really does go to CATHOLIC hospitals.

    2) "When your employer hands you a paycheck, the money becomes yours to do with as you please. At what point does your insurance coverage become "yours" and not your employer's?"

    It's not the same.

    When your employer gives you the check, you can do whatever you want with it, cuz it's YOUR money. When your employer pays for a health insurance plan, it's THEIR money. As an employee, you just have an agreement that you get to spend it, and they count it as part of your pay "and benefits" when they are fighting against giving you a raise. That's why there are good plans and bad plans, high deductibles and, um, higher deductibles - as a rule, you want the plan the CEO and the Board gets: use the Congressional plan as a benchmark.

    But all it does is confuse this issue, to say: well, Jane works for a Catholic charity and she wants to have her tubes tied. Isn't it HER health care plan?

    No, it's not. It's the EMPLOYER's plan. If she wants a different health care plan, she can find a different employer. She's CHOSEN to work for a Catholic charity, which means she's accepted (sorta like the teacher at a Catholic school) a particular kind of employer -- one that, among other things, can't have a health care plan that will pay for her getting her tubes tied. (One thing that I expect was devastating when the White House confronted the mess HHS had made, was the realization that the people this was ostensibly helping -- the employees of Catholic institutions -- were going to be the ones leading the charge against it.)

    That's pretty much where Axelrod is going on this -- remember, until the Administration stepped in it, this was a negotiation between folks whose support was essential to getting the ACA passed, and HHS. I dunno who decided this was a fight worth having, but it wasn't folks with Axelrod's political sense: he knows damned well that double-crossing people who went out on a limb for you, on the very issue that you'd assured them you had their backs on, is a VERY dumb idea.

    They'll find some way to finesse this, but make no mistake: the White House lost this, as bad as Komen -- just less visibly.

  • theAmericanist on February 07, 2012 6:48 PM:

    Ohbyallthingsgodly: Ed, you see what your shitty reporting has done?

    Fess writes: "f the owner of the local Dairy Queen is Catholic why shouldn't he also not be required to cover family planning?"

    He IS. (Or rather, Dairy Queen will be. He's just a franchisee.)

    That has nothing to do with it.

    A Catholic who happens to own a business has to obey the law, just like anybody else. He has to pay minimum wage, too. Sheesh.

    When the Mormon church owns a business, like a shopping mall, they almost certainly do not do health care for the shops that rent space. So you're sorta confused about your example.

    But if the LDS actually owns the real estate business, and has LDS employees -- people who work directly for the Church as real estate manaagers -- yeah, they have a First Amendment right to require as a condition of employment that those folks follow LDS doctrine: INCLUDING a health care plan that won't pay for contraception.

    Which is what's at issue here -- not whether some Catholic or Mormon or Orthodox Jew who owns a paint store can refuse to obey the law, but whether the law requires a religious institution as an employer to violate its doctrines.

    Put it this way: there are a couple thousand Catholic Charities outfits running soup kitchens in America, staffed by employees of the Catholic church. The HHS plan would require them to either 1) violate Catholic doctrine, 2) serve ONLY Catholics, or 3) close.

    No wonder the White House is backing off. The wonder is why you guys didn't get a more clear picture of what this was about right away.

  • Jamie on February 07, 2012 6:49 PM:

    I'm curious does the Catholic Church health insurance cover Viagra?

  • kitsune on February 07, 2012 6:51 PM:

    No one cares. No one.

    It's a non-issue. And it's obvious that no one cares because the only people commenting against it, as though it matters, are white male Catholics. They're Catholics who care so much about what the Pope thinks that they've also agreed to not support any candidates for office who support the death penalty.

    Oh wait they haven't? They're just selectively outraged again? That must be because no one really cares.

    Obama will be re-elected based on the economy, the craziness of the Republican base, and the poor out-of-touch multi-millionaire Mormon they've chosen to run against him.

  • Jamie on February 07, 2012 6:56 PM:

    for all the sturm and Drang you'd think Obama was trying to make the Catholics pay for abortions

  • chopin on February 07, 2012 7:00 PM:

    Ed, thanks for your "shitty reporting" and the interesting discussion it has spawned. theAmericanist, thanks for your contribution. It is appreciated.

  • Quaker in a Basement on February 07, 2012 7:03 PM:

    When your employer pays for a health insurance plan, it's THEIR money. As an employee, you just have an agreement that you get to spend it, and they count it as part of your pay "and benefits" when they are fighting against giving you a raise.

    In your world, then, the medical coverage I receive is never actually mine. It belongs to my employer entirely by virtue of their contribution to the premium. Is that right?

    So what is to prevent an employer from compiling whole long lists of conscientious objections? Perhaps one doesn't want to cover antibiotics; another opposes blood transfusions; a third wants to be excused from participating in psychiatric treatment; yet another believes broken legs are God's judgment.

    All of these are, of course, absurdities--deliberately so. The point is that once you introduce uncertainty into the meaning of "basic medical coverage," an expanding universe of exceptions must follow. Conservatives will be quite familiar with this argument--it's the same one they employ whenever they argue against health-of-the-mother exceptions to proposed abortion restrictions.

  • navarro on February 07, 2012 7:08 PM:

    @theamericanist--at the risk of feeding a troll, i fail to see how providing healthcare plans that allow employees to have the cost of their contraception covered just like any of their other health needs represents a violation of catholic doctrine, especially as many of those employees aren't even catholics. the fact that a person's insurance covers contraception in no way forces them to buy contraception. to my mind it's you who are comparing apples to diesel motors.

  • schtick on February 07, 2012 7:19 PM:

    This shouldn't even be discussed. Separation of church and state. End of story.

  • anniecat45 on February 07, 2012 7:24 PM:

    Every single person who e-mailed, tweeted or donated last week in support of Planned Parenthood should e-mail the White House to tell them we support the original policy.

  • Dabodius on February 07, 2012 7:26 PM:

    Note that Michael Sean Winters is not turning Republican or planning to vote for Romney; he just can't bring himself to vote to re-elect the president.

  • cmdicely on February 07, 2012 7:32 PM:

    Quaker asks:

    1) "Do the health insurance plans offered today to employees of Catholic universities and hospitals exclude all coverage for contraceptives?"

    Yes

    In some cases, others no, because in several states in which Catholic hospitals and universities exist there are existing mandated-coverage provisions for employer health plans (and sometimes not limited to just employer-provided plans) similar to those in the HHS mandate, with either no conscience exemption at all or one similar to that in the HHS plan.

    (For a decent starting point, see http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/health/insurance-coverage-for-contraception-state-laws.aspx.

    "When your employer hands you a paycheck, the money becomes yours to do with as you please. At what point does your insurance coverage become "yours" and not your employer's?"

    It's not the same.

    When your employer gives you the check, you can do whatever you want with it, cuz it's YOUR money. When your employer pays for a health insurance plan, it's THEIR money.

    No, its not. As with your paycheck, it stopped being their money when they paid it to someone else. It's a health insurance company's money.

    Put it this way: there are a couple thousand Catholic Charities outfits running soup kitchens in America, staffed by employees of the Catholic church. The HHS plan would require them to either 1) violate Catholic doctrine, 2) serve ONLY Catholics, or 3) close.

    This is demonstrably false, as Catholic Charities (and similar Catholic organizations) already operate in states with similar mandates to the HHS mandate, that have narrower conscience exemptions than those in the recent HHS mandate (or none at all), and the same Bishops have not decided that those state mandates conflict with doctrine in such a manner that the affected Catholic organizations cannot continue to operate.

  • Joe Friday on February 07, 2012 7:33 PM:

    theAmericanist,

    "She's CHOSEN to work for a Catholic charity, which means she's accepted (sorta like the teacher at a Catholic school) a particular kind of employer"

    No, the church CHOSE to enter the private-sector by becoming an insurance provider.

    If a church CHOSE to open a hotel, they could not refuse to rent rooms to (pick a group: African Americans, Jews, Asians, etc.), as it would be unconstitutional discrimination, and they could not rely on their religious beliefs for an exception.

    The church proper retains its exemption. They can hold a religious belief against that group, but could not discriminate against them where they have entered the private-sector.


    "When your employer gives you the check, you can do whatever you want with it, cuz it's YOUR money. When your employer pays for a health insurance plan, it's THEIR money."

    Only as long as they conform to the laws and regulations governing insurance providers.


    "remember, until the Administration stepped in it, this was a negotiation between folks whose support was essential to getting the ACA passed, and HHS."

    Nah.

    The laws and regulations governing this issue were enacted more than a decade ago.

  • Quaker in a Basement on February 07, 2012 7:46 PM:

    Seems like none of this would be a problem if we weren't saddled with our ridiculous system of providing health coverage through employers.

  • theAmericanist on February 07, 2012 7:49 PM:

    LOL -- let's take 'em one at a time, in reverse order:

    1) Dice demonstrates once again his marvelous failure to grasp even the most obvious facts: he argues that Catholic Charities outfits in states with similar contraception mandates continue to operate... without noticing that they self-insure, so the issue is moot. The HHS policy would have barred self-insuring.

    You actually get paid to represent people in court? God help 'em.

    2) Navarros is confused: "i fail to see how providing healthcare plans that allow employees to have the cost of their contraception covered just like any of their other health needs represents a violation of catholic doctrine..."

    The right word isn't "allowed". It's "required".

    3) Quaker is even more confused: "the medical coverage I receive is never actually mine. It belongs to my employer entirely by virtue of their contribution to the premium."

    Not exactly. Lots of employers offer their workers a choice of plans, which of course employers will often drop or add at will. You have your choice of which plan (if there is more than one), but which plans and what they offer are generally the employers' choice, not yours. It's part of the whole pay and benefits calculation that people make -- lots of folks will take jobs that pay less to get health benefits, for example.

    In that sense, it's the EMPLOYER who buys the health insurance, and you get it as part of your employment -- the benefits part of pay and benefits. So yeah, much as you guys are trying to weasel around it (at least you're finally confronting the issue, now that it's over and you lost), it's still a simple matter of the US government deciding to force religious institutions to either: violate their doctrine, serve only those of their faith, or close.

    Your idea, Quaker, that religious institutions could start making up all kinds of exceptions -- why not object to antibiotics? Eye surgery? -- etc, is generally a sign that someone is arguing a case that they;ve lost. Since I quoted Dunne's Mr. Dooley earlier (which went right over somebody;s head, I forget who), I'll quote him again, without the dialect: a fanatic is someone who is certain that God would agree with him, if only He had all the facts.

    Still, Navarros has sorta inadvertently stumbled on the Way Out here -- like I've said all along, this was a PRACTICAL problem that never needed to become a politically damaging matter of principle. Now the old Reagan Democrats/white ethnics who were decisive in, what, 8 Presidential campaigns? have been offended, while backing down (as the White House has done) will once again miff the Left.

    But the practical solution was always obvious -- it just depended on that thing you guys can never, EVER do: respect the faith you don't share.

    All they gotta do is re-write the rule so that religious institutions WILL have an exemption for contraception in their health care -- and the insurers who cover employees at conscience-exempted institutions will be required to provide it directly at low cost. That way, Quaker, it will be THEIR health care, and not a government-dictated violation of the First Amendment.

    Done. ("Always lower the stakes.")

  • Quaker in a Basement on February 07, 2012 7:56 PM:

    When your employer pays for a health insurance plan, it's THEIR money.

    Now this is really interesting.

    Suppose my employer and I share the cost of the premium--does my employer's decision outweigh mine? Does your answer change depending on which one of us pays the majority of the premium? Or does even one penny of employer contribution give my employer the right to make coverage decisions?

    My own employer offers two different plans--a traditional, expensive full coverage plan and a less expensive HSA-based plan. The employer shells out more dollars for the expensive plan, but not the majority of the premium; the employer pays for most of the less expensive plan, but pays less money for it. Is coverage still purchased with THEIR money in all these cases, giving them the right to decide what will or won't be covered?

  • Quaker in a Basement on February 07, 2012 8:04 PM:

    Your idea, Quaker, that religious institutions could start making up all kinds of exceptions -- why not object to antibiotics? Eye surgery? -- etc, is generally a sign that someone is arguing a case that they;ve lost.

    If it's such a losing argument, it should be no trouble at all for you to set your well-thumbed copy of Mr. Bartlett aside and refute it. Otherwise, this "losing" argument stands unchallenged.

    As it stands, I have a somewhat significant interest in preserving objections of conscience, not just for institutional religions, but for anyone at all. (If you need a little help with the history of Quakers, just ask. I'll be happy to direct you to Mr. Google.)

    You have made no case whatever that my employer deserves a say in my medical decisions other than to say it's their...pardon...THEIR money. I refer you to my followup question, upthread.

  • exlibra on February 07, 2012 8:08 PM:

    Americanist (the? aren't you overrating yourself just a tad?). Ed built his post around *two* polls. The other one -- conducted (and sponsored?) by The Public Religion Research Institute -- has similar results to the PPP-conducted one (and sponsored by the Planned Parenthood). Care to LOL on that one, too?

  • Quaker in a Basement on February 07, 2012 8:09 PM:

    While we're at it, let's flip the situation on its head:

    An employer offers a health insurance plan that includes coverage for contraception. An observant Catholic employee does not wish to see the fruits of his labors used to fund insurance that violates his personal moral worldview.

    Does this employee have a legitimate complaint?

  • TCinLA on February 07, 2012 8:25 PM:

    Jesus said, "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:23-24.

    It's truly amazing, the number of people who get this one wrong, as to what is being said.

    Back when Jesus said this, cities had walls and gates, and the gates were closed at night. If a caravan arrived after the gatecloseing, they could still enter. There was a small door in the gate, called "the eye of the needle." An unburdened camel could indeed "go through the eye of the needle" walking on its knees, as camels can. So, if the camel would put down its baggage it could indeed enter. And that is why "it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of god." Because he won't set aside his "baggage."

    Makes a big difference when you get it right. It's not preaching against wealth, it's preaching against the harm of wealth.

    But then, the Catholic Church has been doing its duty ever since it climbed into bed with Constantine to cosset the rich and afflict the poor with their upside-down "theology."

  • Macaraca on February 07, 2012 8:41 PM:

    The problem is that health insurance is generally provided by employers, as Quaker pointed out. With a single-payer system, it would not be the same kind of issue. I'm guessing that the cleaning ladies and security guards at the Vatican get their health coverage from the Italian state, regardless of what the Vatican fathers think about it.

  • Texas Aggie on February 07, 2012 8:51 PM:

    Only a few people have brought up the aspect of this situation that seems to me to be most important, namely, who it is who is guilty of assaulting someone's religion.

    The Bishops are weeping and wailing about how their religious rights are being infringed upon. They have absolutely no problem, however, with imposing their own religion on those who don't subscribe to it. They are willing to force nonCatholics and non practicing Catholics to adhere to the tenets of the faith of the Bishops, not their own religion. To argue that they could buy birth control with their own money is as discriminatory as it gets.

  • AMS on February 07, 2012 9:09 PM:

    The commenters above who think this is no big deal because 98% of Catholics use birth control are underestimating the impact of the issue. It's dangerous for Obama because it can be slotted so neatly into one of the GOP frames about the President: that he's hostile to religion, Christianity in particular, and Catholicism specifically. It plays into the right wing-created doubts about the sincerity of his personal religious beliefs. This resonates not only with Catholics but with evangelicals and could be a powerful motivator to get them to the polls, even with a lukewarm GOP candidate like Romney on the ticket.

    This flap is a weird mirror image of last week's Komen/Planned Parenthood kerfuffle. In both cases, I think the promulgators of the policies did not expect the ensuing firestorm. Komen had to scramble to salvage what it could from the mess. I don't think Obama will be as badly hurt in the long run but I do think it would be wise to go back to the table and negotiate some sort of compromise with the church leadership. I hate the idea on principle but he needs to get this issue off the front page, and fast. Things are going quite well for him lately and he doesn't need this right now.

  • Joe Friday on February 07, 2012 10:32 PM:

    theAmericanist,

    "it's the EMPLOYER who buys the health insurance, and you get it as part of your employment -- the benefits part of pay and benefits."

    And if an employer becomes an insurance provider, they are governed by the laws and rules of insurance providers.


    "it's still a simple matter of the US government deciding to force religious institutions to either: violate their doctrine, serve only those of their faith, or close."

    Wrong.

    The government isn't forcing anyone to enter the marketplace as an insurance provider.

  • JR on February 07, 2012 10:44 PM:

    Kathleen Parker's now jumping on the "religious freedom" bandwagon. http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/obama-runs-roughshod-over-religious-freedom/2012/02/07/gIQA91RUxQ_story.html?wprss=rss_linkset

    As a woman, may I say that I'm sick and tired of this BS. Why should freedom of religion take precedence over women's access to affordable/insured contraception? Maddening, to say the least...

    This is also not unrelated to the Komen mess. Awake the masses of women voters at your peril...

  • navarro on February 07, 2012 11:11 PM:

    theamericanist is either very confused or a disputatious troll. the employees are allowed to purchase contraceptives and have those purchases covered by health insurance but the employees are not required to purchase them.

    i would also say that whatever theamericanist might have "inadvertently stumbled on" it wasn't provoked by my post which has zero to do with anything that followed the quoted words.

    to put that another way, i respectfully decline the opportunity to continue to participate in your hallucinations.

  • jlt on February 08, 2012 10:24 AM:

  • Jon on February 08, 2012 10:35 AM:

    I'm surprised that no one has raised the most relevant facts regarding contraception and the REAL elephant in the room - world population. In a scant 30 years, current estimates place the world population at 10 billion - 3 billion more than our current population of 7 billion. That's an increase of more than 40%.

    And yet here we're having this quaint debate about the poor Catholics who want to say that contraception is a sin. The celibate men running the Catholic church want to make some case against limiting births in this small world. We have other fools like Santorum and the other born again idiots arguing against the facts of climate change because, after all, Jesus is coming back soon and will render such concerns about climate irrelevant.

    This formula may prove the quickest recipe of the demise of all these dumb ideas and the snake oil sales men who attempt to sell them. I for one don't care what a bunch of catholic pedophile enablers or born again lunatics say about either birth control or climate change or any other subject. If these people's ideas aren't sent to the intellectual rubbish heap REAL SOON, our planet and our children will certainly curse our blindness.

    And our sisters should be rising up about this issue. Not only do these silly ideas erode THEIR freedoms, it places them back in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant, bearers of too many more children who will pollute our planet yet faster. The liberation movement freed women from more than just being child bearing vessels for men. It also freed them to make intelligent choices on their roles on this planet. Men and women should be choosing to have fewer children for the sake of the survival of the human race and our place on this limited earth. Contraception is the only meaningful way to make that choice. If religion stands in the way of such choices, it needs to go away. Now.

  • Anonymous on February 08, 2012 10:35 AM:


    @theAmericanist

    "..again: what motivates most of you guys on this (and other issues, but this one in particular) is a bias against religion itself."

    Perhaps a few. But this is false framing. I think what you label a "bias against" is, in reality, a belief that religion should enjoy no special position - particularly in shaping public policy.
    I have no axe to grind with religion (and I could - having spent the first two decades of my life as a minister's son). But when religion seeks to assert a special position or claims special privileges/exemptions, that's where I am more than happy to push back.
    It's not "bias against" - it's questioning the assertion that they should enjoy special exceptions/exemptions just because they are religiously affiliated. And that this assertion of privilege should override a public policy deemed to be for the common good.
    I don't think the assertion is legitimate. But please, stop claiming to see "bias against" when others question the assertion.

  • emjayay on February 08, 2012 10:49 AM:

    If I work for the Watchtower, do I have to pay for my own blood transfusions?

  • emjayay on February 08, 2012 10:51 AM:

    Once ACA gets going, could the Catholic institutions just pay for the individual employee's indidividual plan gotten on the exchange? Would that legalistically keep their hands clean?

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on February 08, 2012 10:57 AM:

    TCinLA said: So, if the camel would put down its baggage it could indeed enter. And that is why "it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of god." Because he won't set aside his "baggage." ... It's not preaching against wealth, it's preaching against the harm of wealth.

    Wow!!! I didn't know that. (No one I ever went to church with explained it to me.) That was really beautiful. Religion properly explained can be such a wonderful thing. That brightened my day. Now if hacks could stop interpreting the Bible for the worst the world would be a better place.

  • Werewolf on February 08, 2012 11:13 AM:

    @emjayay:
    I don't see why that wouldn't work. After all, the Inquisition (which was headed by Cardinal Ratzinger before he became Pope Benedict) would hand convicted "heretics" and "witches" over to the "Secular Arm" for execution of sentence. That way, the Holy Fathers weren't guilty of shedding blood.

  • Jon on February 08, 2012 11:27 AM:

    The whole thing about the "eye of the needle" referring to a small gate that camels kneel to get through is not true. The authoritative "Theological Dictionary of the New Testament" makes this comment: "As later in Mt. 23:14, the camel is here taken to the the largest animal on Palestinian soil. The Talmud reproduces a proverbial saying about an elephant going through the eye of a needle....Jesus is using a typical oriental image to emphasize the impossibility of something by way of a violent contrast: 'Entry into the kingdom of God is completely impossible for the rich.'...This rule of the kingdom corresponds to the first beatitude...though it is bounded by the miraculous action of God himself....There is no reference either to a hawser (a large rope) or to a narrow gate in the city walls..." Vol. III, pp. 593-4.

    The point is hyperbolic, and does not refer to some small gate you alluded to. Why would an ancient city build a gate that a camel had to kneel to get through? It would be not unlike a modern city building a bridge that required lo-rider shocks that were deflated to get under, or that required a truck to deflate its tires to just slide under. Nope.

  • Anonymous on February 08, 2012 12:55 PM:

    Contraceptive pills are also prescribed for OTHER reasons than to prevent pregnancies, including to help regulate erratic periods, to help stop breakthrough bleeding (between periods), to control the many effects of hormonal swings in women especially during puberty or peri-menopause, --just a few I happen to know about through many friends' experiences. All very legitimate reasons. There could well be other good reasons I don't know about. So would women with these problems, if working for a Catholic institution, NOT have access to treatment by contraceptives for these problems??? Since you never know what life's going to throw at you next, I would not want to have such limited health care. To say I could just go to another doctor and pay for it myself is simplistic. The diagnosis could take months, many tests, trials of different medications or procedures and cost a LOT of money that many women simply do not have or would rather spend on their children's health than their own.

    And by the way, while the Bishops complain that they would have to pay for contraceptives, which are counter to their beliefs -- I have to pay (via taxes) to make up for the tax breaks their churches get to promote their beliefs some of which I am very strongly against!! If they get tax breaks for being a church, and they choose to be an employer with non-church employees and have to over healthcare, then they should have to provide the full array afforded under federal law.

    We NEED health care accessible to all, regardless of whether or where they work; then the religious groups don't have to pay for things, and people can choose what they will use according to their beliefs, religious or otherwise.

  • Janet Ellingson on February 08, 2012 2:05 PM:

    How has the Catholic Church responded in those states that already require birth controll to be covered in health insurance policies? According to the White House, there are 26 states with such mandates. Massachusettes is one of them. I haven't heard a peep from the Catholic Church until now. Why?

  • Pseudonym on February 09, 2012 9:26 PM:

    theAmericanist: "All they gotta do is re-write the rule so that religious institutions WILL have an exemption for contraception in their health care -- and the insurers who cover employees at conscience-exempted institutions will be required to provide it directly at low cost." How does this work when the religious institutions self-insure? Or would they have to stop self-insuring? Also, how is it acceptable when the insurers are required to provide contraception directly to employees at low cost rather than no cost?

    The Catholic Church appears to consider it sinful and an impingement on conscience to have or to pay for health care coverage that includes contraception, whether or not that coverage is ever used. How does that work for countries with nationalized or single-payer health care systems that cover contraception?