If you've been reading the papers, you've read of the Obama administration telling the Bishops that they'll have to provide contraception as part of their insurance packages for employees. It's the law, and the Catholic Church is not exempt from the law.
Oh, the howls of religious freedom. Oh, the howls of unconstitutional. Oh, the howls of reproductive rights. However, on this issue, I believe that our President is legally on firm ground. If we go to the Constitution, we read:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Obama isn't singling out the Catholic Church, he's imposing the same law on everyone. Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, Baptist, they've all got to provide contraceptive insurance. Everybody does, even the Catholics.
If you read the left-side of the media, you'll see that the Bishops are out-of-touch with their members, have lost their moral and political clout, and ... well...
Yet in his refusal to cave completely to the religious liberty campaign, Obama has illustrated the reality that the bishops no longer speak for most U.S. Catholics -- the nation's largest religious denomination and a critical swing-voter group -- on a host of moral issues, according to polls.
Not on abortion or the death penalty (a majority of Catholics believe those should remain legal); on divorce or homosexuality (most say those are acceptable); on women being ordained as priests and priests getting married (ditto); or on masturbation and pre-marital sex (ditto again, Your Excellencies).
And especially not on contraception. Ever since Pope Paul VI reaffirmed the Church's senseless ban on birth control in 1968, few doctrines have been as vilified, ridiculed and outright ignored by Catholics – evidenced by a recent study showing that 98% of American Catholic women have used some form of contraception. It's hard to believe, as the bishops would have it, that those women simply succumbed to society's pressure to do the secular thing. They've decided, in keeping with their faith's precept of exercising personal conscience, that family planning is the moral and societally responsible thing to do -- for example, preventing unwanted pregnancies and therefore abortions. And it explains why a recent Public Religion Research Institute poll found most Catholics support the contraception coverage mandate even for Catholic-affiliated organizations. Presumably most endorse Friday's compromise.
So, even rank-and-file Catholics believe that the Bishops are wrong. The Bishops have lost the media battle over this issue, but that is where the media is making a huge mistake, and where the politicians are spending too much time looking at polls, and where the left-leaning among use are mistaken.
The Bishops don't care. They are the church. The Bishops believe that they are the direct descendants of the Apostles of Christ. This past week, the Archbishop of Chicago, Francis Cardinal George, sent out a missive
to his flock, reminding them that:
Theoretically, it is argued that there are Catholic voices that disagree with the teaching of the church and therefore with the bishops. There have always been those whose personal faith is not adequate to the faith of the church. Perhaps this is the time for everyone to re-read the Acts of the Apostles. Bishops are the successors of the apostles; they collectively receive the authority to teach and govern that Christ bestowed upon the apostles. Bishops don’t claim to speak for every baptized Catholic. Bishops speak, rather, for the Catholic and apostolic faith. Those who hold that faith gather with them; others go their own way. They are and should be free to do so, but they deceive themselves and others in calling their organizations Catholic.
The Bishops are the Church. They have moral and ecclesiastical authority, and they hold the purse-strings. Further, if the Bishops told the Catholic institutions to close, those institutions would be morally and legally bound to close the doors. What would that mean for the nation? The Catholic Church has 12.6 percent of the hospital capacity of the United States. 120,000 hospital beds would cease to exist. The Catholic church operates more than 7.500 primary and secondary schools in the US, educating more than 2.5 million students. Catholic Charities offers aid and assistance to over 1.5 million people annually, has emergency shelters and food kitchens. The bishops serve up their threat calmly and with authority.
If you haven’t already purchased the Archdiocesan Directory for 2012, I would suggest you get one as a souvenir. On page L-3, there is a complete list of Catholic hospitals and health care institutions in Cook and Lake counties. Each entry represents much sacrifice on the part of medical personnel, administrators and religious sponsors. Each name signifies the love of Christ to people of all classes and races and religions. Two Lents from now, unless something changes, that page will be blank.
It doesn't get much plainer than that. The Church believes it is right, regardless of the politics of an issue, regardless of the polls, regardless of society's changing mores. They speak with the authority of Christ, and if they decide that they can no longer have employees, they'll fire everyone and shut the doors.
President Obama has the right to enforce the law. No one is doubting that. The Catholic Bishops have the right to enforce their moral code. Don't ever think that they don't.