Thomas More vs. Mary Dyer: The bishops don’t know what ‘religious liberty’ means

The U.S. Catholic bishops have decided to make Thomas More the central figure in their summer protests against the government guarantee of equal health insurance coverage for women.

Scott Paeth notes that this choice probably reveals more about the bishops’ agenda than they intended:

Thomas More died for the sake of his conscience. More also caused others to die for the sake of their consciences. He burned heretics at the stake and he pursued William Tyndale mercilessly (a fact that ought to give the Bishops’ Protestant allies some pause). Like the Bishops, what he wanted was not freedom of conscience regarding matters of religion, but for his own view of religious orthodoxy to prevail. And he was willing to make others suffer for the sake of that vision.

This is exactly why the bishops are full of it when they claim that they are fighting for “religious liberty” when they oppose equal health insurance coverage for women.

William Tyndale restricts the religious liberty of the good clergy of Brussels as part of his dastardly war on religion.

To fight for religious liberty, one has to understand what that means, and the bishops have made it clear that they simply do not. Like their patron saint, Thomas More, they think that religious liberty involves their liberty to impose their religion on others.

Their “Freedom Fortnight” campaign might be something I could believe or respect if they took for its symbol instead someone like, say, Mary Dyer.

But the “religious liberty” these bishops are fighting for is at the other end of that rope. They don’t care about or sympathize with Mary Dyer’s religious liberty. What they’re upset about is that, unlike the theocratic puritans of 17th-century New England, they are no longer free to do whatever it takes to restrain such uppity women.

Evangelical Republican activists like Richard Land are joining the bishops in their fight for this hangman’s version of religious liberty.

That’s a huge change. When I was growing up in American evangelicalism, William Tyndale was celebrated and revered as a champion of religious liberty. His English translation of the Bible provides the core of the scriptural and spiritual language still used by American evangelicals to this day. Due to that translation, and due to his support for Protestant theology, Tyndale was choked, impaled and burned at the stake in 1536.

But forget all that. For conservative evangelicals today, Tyndale must now be viewed as an enemy of religious liberty. As good partisans opposed to health care for women, those evangelicals are rallying with the U.S. Catholic bishops under the banner of the man who prosecuted Tyndale.

And then they have the chutzpah to say they’re doing so in the name of “religious liberty.”

Even the hangman, it seems, feels the need to achieve a sense of contrived innocence.

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  • Nathaniel

     At times like this, I am reduced to a single thought:

    To! Hell! With! The! Catholic! Church!

  • schismtracer

    You know how, when a particularly incompetent or deranged troll starts
    getting a serious, intellectual hammering from the community regulars, they sometimes start doubling down so hard that they become, not just parodies of whatever they were arguing, but parodies of themselves from earlier in the same thread?  That pathetic moment when everyone has written off the troll as a joke yet the troll continues under the delusion that they’re accomplishing something other than being a laughingstock? 

    I think the Catholic Church and evangelical movement are well past that point by now.

  • http://profiles.google.com/anoncollie Anon Collie

     Nathaniel, please realize that the Catholic church is not just the bishops,  nor is it solely the populace. One doesn’t necessarily represent the other. Instead we’re a slightly dysfunctional family that chooses to squabble over everything.

    Judge us not all equally.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    “Slightly” doesn’t cover how dysfunctional. It’s not like a case of minor doctrinal conflicts being made bigger than they look. It’s priests committing crimes and being protected and succoured by their bosses.

  • Nathaniel

     I have an uncle who is a narcissistic and selfish asshole who was caught stealing from his clients to pay for nice shoes and cocaine. He has stolen money from his mother, my grandmother. He has a son who he doesn’t even acknowledge, a son who has more decency on his worst, meanest day than my uncle has shown in his entire life.

    This man may be related to me, but he is not a part of my family, and likely never will be. My uncle, for all of his dickishness, still is a gentleman and a scholar in comparison to what the Catholic church during just his lifetime.

    What would it take for you to stop considering the Catholic church your family?

  • Tricksterson

    Do agree with you except I really think you should replace “slightly” with “very”, at least in terms of the current situation

  • http://twitter.com/happydog1960 Mark

     Give us something else to judge you by, then. Where are the reasonable Catholics saying, “No, this is not right!” Where are their voices? What we see and hear is the Pope and his Bishops, and they are the ones who are your superiors, quite literally, in the hierarchy of the church. They would tell you so, and they do. And they have assumed for themselves the right to speak for the Catholic Church, because *you gave them that right*, by investing and being a member of the Catholic Church.

    So why are you still a member of the Catholic Church, seeing as how they aren’t going to change, ever? How do you reconcile it to who you really are?

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    SIR ROBERT

    The other one is this. It’s from a slightly older source. It is this: you shall not side with the great against the powerless.

    These people should really learn.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    That’s generally a good baseline, but on occasion power can be right, and those with lesser power in the wrong. Was the Confederacy any more right after they were defeated, and Sherman marching to the sea? 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

     I wouldn’t consider anyone with a vast military to be “powerless”. The “great v. powerless” thing works better in cases like slavery, genocide, etc. where one side is trampling all over the other. The Union imposed some strict terms on the defeated Southern states but that didn’t last and it was never comparable to any extent to what the states did to slaves.

  • Cradicus

    The Confederacy might have been less powerful militarily than the Union, but individual Conferates certainly did seem pretty great/powerful over the, you know, human beings they owned.

  • Raegan

    “Less power” is not the same as “powerless.”

  • Christy K Robinson

    I linked this article to the Facebook profile for Mary Barrett Dyer (which I curate). https://www.facebook.com/mary.b.dyer1 

  • Julian M Elson

    It seems common to equate “victim of persecution” with “martyr for liberty” even where it’s inappropriate. It applies in cases relating to religious liberty or other forms of liberty. Socrates is another common example — the fact that he was tried and sentenced to death for politically dissident views causes him to be held up as a martyr for freedom of conscience, even though the actual content of his views was usually authoritarian, repressive, and hostile to that freedom for others.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

     That’s just it, though. The beauty/problem with freedom of conscience is that it applies to people who have authoritarian and repressive just as much as it does to genuine freedom-fighters. Socrates was a martyr not because his views were lovely but because he was persecuted and murdered simply for expressing unpopular views. You don’t need any other qualification; in fact, even having a qualification — that someone’s views have to meet a certain standard to qualify them for freedom of speech and freedom of thought is, by itself, repressive. I mean, who’s going to be in charge of judging whether or not someone’s views are so bad that they should be killed?

  • Julian M Elson

    I disagree. The fact that someone is unjustly persecuted does not make them a martyr. Their persecution is still unjust, of course, but I’d say they have to endorse the cause for which they’re an alleged martyr for them to be martyrs for that cause.

    For instance, Manichaeans who were persecuted by the Roman authorities for refusing to pay homage to the Imperial cult should not be counted as Christian martyrs, nor should Christians who were persecuted by the Roman authorities for refusing to pay homage to the Imperial cult be counted as Manichaean martyrs. Of course, persecuting people for refusing to pay homage to the Imperial cult is wrong regardless of whom it affects, but classifying all of them as, say, Christian martyrs wouldn’t be correct.

    So I’d say that, for instance, Thomas More and Socrates were not martyrs for liberty, victims of unjust persecution though they may have been.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Well, there are some practical limits on “free” speech.  The classic example being that yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater is likely have some legal sanctions leveled at the one doing the yelling for unnecessary endangerment of life.  Another common example being incitement to violence.  If one calls for violent acts against particular individuals or groups, one does not get to claim innocence if such violence is actually carried out.  Likewise, someone working for the government who is privy to classified information can be tried for treason for speaking openly of such information they were trusted to keep in confidence.  

    The connecting thread in all these though seems to be when that speech could provide clear danger to others, which seems a fair enough criteria for determining when speech goes “too far”.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    So I’d say that, for instance, Thomas More and Socrates were not
    martyrs for liberty, victims of unjust persecution though they may have
    been.

    That’s a good point. I was thinking of it from the perspective of the… um… matyrerer? (oppressor? etc.?) If I am the head of the religious police and I throw you in jail because you are a devout Christian, the fact that you would theoretically do the same to someone else doesn’t change things from your perspective. I do agree though that they wouldn’t qualify as martyrs if you used a less broad definition.

    The connecting thread in all these though seems to be when that
    speech could provide clear danger to others, which seems a fair enough
    criteria for determining when speech goes “too far”. 

    I agree. My point is that it’s not really possible to decide that someone’s right of freedom of conscience should be contingent on how palatable or pleasant their views are. Sure, it works in theory, but who is actually going to make that decision? You write a “conscience code” that says certain views are protected while others will get you killed if anyone hears you express them; you might intend for that to be used to corral people like Fred Phelps and that piece of garbage who wanted to throw gay people into concentration camps, but you have no way of ensuring that, in the future, your conscience code isn’t used to suppress movements like Occupy Wall Street and abolish gay pride parades — and I guarantee you that there are people out there who really think that those things are not just misguided but evil and dangerous.

    That’s not saying that freedom of speech is or could ever be absolute. Obviously telling people to go out and commit murders can be prohibited, but you can’t really prohibit people from hating Jews or gay people or any other minority group without creating a system that, later on, could be used to prohibit views that you support once someone else comes into power.

     That’s why these things have to be as value-neutral as possible; we can all agree that incitements to terrorist violence are wrong regardless of the political motive of the terrorists. Once we start getting into evaluating the terrorists’ motives (“OK, blowing up that bus full of nuns is not so bad because you were protesting Catholic Church’s coverup of sex abuse, and that’s a respectable belief!”) it’s really hard to restrain yourself and focus on the actions.

      The use of contraception simply isn’t, in this context, a moral issue at all.  It’s a health care issue.

    The really screwed up thing is that, in America, health care tends to be run through your employer. That’s really the only reason this debate even exists. If we had a proper health care system, we could just bypass the Church (and all employers, actually). But we don’t have that system, and the contraception mandate (imposed on insurance companies, and NOT the Catholic Church, by the way!) is the next best fix.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    In any society I think there’s always going to be a tension regarding espousing unpopular viewpoints. I think those societies which handle it best usually draw the line such that just holding the viewpoint isn’t illegal, but if it motivates actions which harm other human beings, then it could be considered an aggravating factor in deciding whether or not to punish the one who did the harm.

  • http://twitter.com/Rhysdux Rhysdux

    Hold it, Fred. The punishment for heresy–whether the person in charge was a Catholic monarch or a Protestant one–was burning at the stake. And heresy was whatever was contrary to the beliefs of those in power at the time. This was quite normal. Almost everyone back then of any political importance believed their version of the correct religion was the only correct one and that a) others should be forced to accept the correct religion or b) if they wouldn’t accept it, they should die. Protestants as well as Catholics held this belief; quite as many Catholics were tortured and executed under Elizabeth I as Protestants were in the time of pre-break-with-Rome Henry VIII and Mary I.  Moreover, six people were executed for heresy while More was chancellor. SIX.  Thomas Hitton. Thomas Bilney. Richard Bayfield. John Tewkesbery.Thomas Dusgate. James Bainham. More was not personally responsible for their executions, any more than than a governor of a state is personally responsible for someone dying in the electric chair. I can only find a reference to More being instrumental in Tyndale’s trial and execution as a theory set forth in a modern evangelical biography of Tyndale by Brian Moynihan; the records of the time do not seem to support this. More did write a six-volume refutation of Tyndale’s beliefs, which he believed were treasonous and heretical…but that was pretty normal for the time. Henry VIII did the same thing with Martin Luther’s points. (This seems to have been what people did in those days instead of blogging.)As for Tyndale, Henry VIII initially liked Tyndale’s political ideas. What brought him down was his failure to approve of Henry’s divorce; Tyndale didn’t see that as religiously valid any more than More did. He was not executed because he was weak or powerless,  or because he was speaking a truth that those in power did not want to hear. He was betrayed by Henry Phillips to the king’s forces and Thomas Cromwell, the then-Chancellor, did not defend him or intercede for him zealously. (And, of course, Henry liked the idea of being head of the English Church but waffled on how committed he was theologically to Protestantism. It’s a really complicated issue, and not one that’s a simple matter of liberty vs. oppression.)  Tyndale would not have agreed with the bishops fighting the government; this is true. But I don’t think he would have supported anyone protesting the government’s actions, however restrictive, cruel or immoral those actions might be, whether the protest was violent or a mere sit-down strike. He would not have approved of protest marches, of referenda, of people signing petitions telling various politicians that they are wrong. Listen. Here’s a quote from the man.There is no power but of God (by power understand the authority of kings and princes). The powers that be, are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth power resisteth God: yea though he be Pope, bishop, monk or friar. They that resist shall receive unto themselves damnation.For God hath made the king in every realm judge over all, and over him there is no judge. He that judgeth the king judgeth God and he that layeth hands on the king layeth hand on God, and he that resisteth the king resisteth God and damneth God’s law and ordinance. If the subjects sin they must be brought to the king’s judgment. If the king sin he must be reserved unto the judgment, wrath, and vengeance of God. And as it is to resist the king, so is it to resist his officer which is set or sent to execute the king’s commandment.–William Tyndale, The Obedience of the Christian Man(The early Protestant reformers really leaned on that proto-absolutist theory because if the king
    is the representative of God on earth, then obviously, the Pope isn’t.)And More’s personal beliefs…whatever you think of the man, he was committed enough to his belief in Catholicism to willingly die for it. The government is not sentencing the current bishops to put their heads on a literal chopping block.  I’m sorry, but the analogy does not work.

    Finally, Fred, I wish that you would remember that the hierarchy is not the Catholic Church. The lay people are. I know a lot of Catholics who believe deeply in Catholic teachings but who aren’t pleased at all with what the hierarchy is doing. You make the distinction between the more odious evangelicals and evangelism; I wish that you would do that with other religions and their more loathsome representatives as well.

  • Trixie_Belden

    Finally, Fred, I wish that you would remember that the hierarchy is not the Catholic Church. The lay people are. I know a lot of Catholics who believe deeply in Catholic teachings but who aren’t pleased at all with what the hierarchy is doing.

    While I agree that “the hierarchy is not the Catholic church”  is the way it should be (and I guess Vatican II supports that interpretation), right now it’s pretty clear that the hierarchy itself does not agree and  they’re the ones with the money and the titles to the property (as well as the titles in front of their names), and their the ones that get to go on television and proclaim what the “Catholic Church” wants.

    It’s kind of interesting to speculate how this will all work out.  I have to say….to me, some sort of schism seems unavoidable.   On the one hand, you have a group of laity that see themselves as the body of the church, endowed with conscience and the right to follow that conscience; on the other hand you have a hierarchy that is completely opposed to the idea of the laity being equal members of the church.

    Also, while  I hope that the Catholics who aren’t at all pleased with the hierarchy are in the majority, there are, unfortunately, a number of Catholics who appear to glory in the authoritarianism that has been on display in the Vatican.  For example, I’ve read blog posts on liberal  Catholic websites discussing how awful it was that this particular priest refused communion to a woman at her mother’s funeral because she was a lesbian who was “out” and in a relationship with another woman, and someone can always be trusted to pop up and make a comment to the effect of “Father was right to refuse her !!!! Those are the rules!!!!” The lay ministers who stepped up afterward to give that woman communion were wrong!!!!!”

    My mother, in the later years of her life,  used to subscribe to a Catholic magazine called The St. Anthony Messenger.  It’s generally a cheerful, mild-mannered little publication, and even though I’m not at all religious, I liked to leaf though it now and again.  Every once an a while the magazine would publish an article ever so gently questioning – not angrily demanding change, mind you, just gently questioning – one or another practice in the church, such as not allowing women to be priests, and inevitably, as sure as night follows day, the next issue would have a flurry of letters to the editor that said things along the lines of “THERE MUST NEVER BE ANY WOMNE PRIESTST!!!! IT IS THE WILL OF GOD!!!!THE POPE HAS SAID SO!!!!!  YOU DO NOT QUESTION HIM!!!! HOW DARE YOU PUBLISH SUCH AN ARTICLE!!!!!  CANCEL MY SUBCRIPTION!!!!”  Heck, I remember just a few years ago a cover photo of a woman taking communion in her hand ruffled some feathers

    I can’t imagine how these conflicts will resolve.

     

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alan-Alexander/502988241 Alan Alexander

     The lay people are. I know a lot of Catholics who believe deeply in
    Catholic teachings but who aren’t pleased at all with what the hierarchy
    is doing. You make the distinction between the more odious evangelicals
    and evangelism; I wish that you would do that with other religions and
    their more loathsome representatives as well.

    Be that as it may, the hierarchy is what sets the course for the Church, the hierarchy is what speaks for what the Church believes, the hierarchy is what sends representatives onto television and into Congressional committees to speak for the entire Church, and the hierarchy is what sets the lobbying agenda for the Church which is paid for by the laity’s financial support. From the perspective of non-Catholics, it is at best baffling and at worst offensive to hear people say “well, the laity is really the Church and the laity doesn’t agree with what the hierarchy is doing” when the laity is financing everything the hierarchy is doing. Which includes, by the way, lobbying against reform of statutes of limitations in sex abuse cases in order to protect priests who will be accused of child molestation in the future. I’m sure there were plenty of Catholics who thought it was unChristian to burn heretics at the stake, but they still went along with it. Right now, a lot of us non-Catholics are unimpressed with tepid expressions of reasonableness and support from members of the laity even while they help purchase wood for the bonfire.

  • Lori

    Finally, Fred, I wish that you would remember that the hierarchy is not the Catholic Church. The lay people are. I know a lot of Catholics who believe deeply in Catholic teachings but who aren’t pleased at all with what the hierarchy is doing. You make the distinction between the more odious evangelicals and evangelism; I wish that you would do that with
    other religions and their more loathsome representatives as well.  

    Fred (correctly) makes a distinction between the more odious evangelical blow-hards and Evangelicals who do not support them. He (also correctly) does speak against Evangelicals responsible for supporting hateful pastors.  I don’t think there’s much doubt about Fred’s opinion of the people who continue to attend Paster Charles “Put The Gays in Concentration Camps” Worley’s church and pay his salary.  The distinction that Fred makes is  between Evangelicals who do have some responsibility for the haters and those who do not. For example, a Baptist who isn’t a member of an SEC-affiliated church is not responsible for the SBC merely by virtue of being Baptist.

    It’s a bit different for Catholics. Because of the centralized power structure of the Catholic church all members who affiliate themselves with it and tithe to/through it are, to some degree, providing support for the hierarchy and it’s campaigns of hate, whether they agree with those campaigns or not.  Individual conscience isn’t the only thing at issue here. The heart of the problem with the Church hierarchy is a matter of raw power and that power comes primarily through deep pockets, and to a lesser extent from being able to claim to represent large numbers of people.

    Compare the things that Fred has written about the Catholic church to those that he’s written about the SBC. The actions of the Catholic hierarchy are objectively worse than those of the SBC, but other than that Fred treats them about the same. Both are nasty organizations that promote evil. Both need to change. Neither is showing any signs of doing so. At some point that will oblige non-hateful Catholics and Southern Baptists to make hard choices.

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

    I got into this absolutely peculiar discussion about this issue on the website of a British newspaper, The Catholic Herald.

    It was particularly ironic, I felt, since the NHS provides the option of contraception, free, to every woman in the UK. The Catholic Church in the UK does not campaign to have employees exempted from the NHS. They don’t even – as far as I’m aware – insist on providing private health insurance policies for their staff which do not cover contraception.

    It was actually quite hard to tell in the discussion that followed who was American and who was British, but there was clearly quite a lot of excitement about the religious liberty of Catholic organisations, as represented by the federal government supporting their right to deny contraception to female employees.

    The article is written by a woman.

  • Trixie_Belden

    Whoa…I tried reading that discussion.  I could only skim through it because after a while it got rather maddening to read so many commentators who were terribly, completely wrong and who were at the same time utterly confident they were right.  Good for you, EE, keeping up the fight

  • BrokenBell

    I’m kind of amazed by your ability to have the same conversation over and over again with dozens of people within the same thread, while responding to the occasional new argument as well. I’d have gotten tired and confused long before anyone even started to argue that it can’t be homophobia when god does it. 

  • christopher_young

    I blame Robert Bolt, myself. A Man for All Seasons is a wonderful play and made a wonderful movie, but the prettified and anachronistic version of the egregious More that it offers has so far taken over the popular imagination that the original early Tudor hatchet man has been completely lost to sight. 

  • Tricksterson

    If the art is good enough it usually trumps reality.  Just ask poor Richard III

  • AnonymousSam

    When a multi-billion dollar entity stands up and informs you, “Your opinions do not matter, ours do, and furthermore, we have the authority to chastise and punish you for your infractions, up to and including the ruining of your life and afterlife,” I’m pretty sure they’re the ones who represent the true face of that organization.

    Anyone else? Is just a customer.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Fred actually does distinguish between the Catholic Church and the Catholic hierarchy.  Fairly often.  And when he does he tends to place his ideas of what represents the Church on the laity side, sometimes to the point that people have felt the need to point out that the Catholic Church is not composed of Baptists and the hierarchy actually does play a role in defining what the Church is.

    I don’t think it’s an accident that when he used the word “Catholic” here it was in the phrase “The U.S. Catholic bishops”.  He has definitely in the past spoken of that group as not representing the Church which, again, he seems to see represented almost exclusively by the laity.

  • Tonio

    Do any of you have a good refutation for the conscience argument that bishops are using? Put aside for a moment the fact that they’re merely claiming to speak for the Catholic hospitals and other institutions. They’re talking as if the feds are requiring insurance plans to cover the purchase of slaves. I’ve been saying that an individual’s or couple’s use of contraception shouldn’t be subject to others’ disapproval in the first place, whether or not we’re talking about employees, and that someone who opposes contraception use for himself or herself should take a neutral stance on its use by others. But that doesn’t seem sufficient to prove that the bishops are distorting the concept of the conscience.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Your conscience should not dictate my actions, is the best I’ve got. If the bishops don’t want to use contraception, the bishops shouldn’t be using contraception. That doesn’t make it any of their business whether heterosexually active people use contraception.

  • P J Evans

     Also, if the bishops don’t want to use contraception, they shouldn’t be engaging in sex. (Especially not when they’re supposed to be celibate!) They have no moral standing to argue against contraception, not any more, because they aren’t following their own religious rules. (Not that they’ve ever had any standing to talk about the practices of other churches; contrary to their own statements, they don’t control the religions of the world, or even of Europe.)

  • hapax

     

    Do any of you have a good refutation for the conscience argument that bishops are using?

    By even asking the question this way, you’re implicitly buying into the bishop’s argument.

    Health insurance coverage of contraception isn’t about “where life begins” or “the proper motivations for sexual activity” or any other philophical or ethical question.  It’s about being able to afford the medication necessary to regulate one’s own physiology.  Period.  It’s no different that health insurance coverage of my medication for migraines or fibromyalgia (both of which, not incidentally, have hormonal components.)

      The use of contraception simply isn’t, in this context, a moral issue at all.  It’s a health care issue. 

    The  only “conscience” argument that the bishops could conceivably make is that the Roman Catholic Church has a basic moral revulsion towards “caring for the sick.”  And that would be pretty tough to justify Scripturally (although I wouldn’t put it past them.)

  • Tonio

    Yes, contraception is another form of health care. I’m not sure how I’m buying into the bishops’ argument. My example of slavery is based on the principle that one can object to another’s behavior when others are harmed, and contraception use poses no harm to others. This is no different from the false claim by a few pharmacists that filling prescriptions for the Pill goes against their consciences – they wrongly see this as condoning non-procreative sex.

  • Tonio

    Another reason that controlling fertility is not a moral issue because even when the goal is sex for its own sake without procreation, there’s nothing objectively or universally immoral about that. If a person believes that he or she should only have procreative sex, that shouldn’t apply to anyone else outside the relationship.

  • BrokenBell

    It’s really problematic, but on a pragmatic level I wonder if it’s not worth trying to focus more on the medical and financial aspects of birth control – that menstruation is, for many people, a cripplingly painful experience, and that we shouldn’t punish anyone for not being able to afford treatment out of their own pocket – and questioning the idea of a “conscience” that allows someone to disregard the actual pain of many people just because they’re uncomfortable with the idea of the same medication being used to have sex. I think I remember the suggested conservative accommodation for that was requiring the individual to prove why they needed contraception to their employer, but the implications for doctor/patient confidentiality and invasion of privacy would hopefully be clear enough. Hopefully. 

    I’d also want to express skepticism and contempt towards the idea that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church has anything resembling a conscience, but that probably wouldn’t be super persuasive. Oh well. 

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Among the several problems with that approach is that if you tell a group of powerful men that, “menstruation is, for many people, a cripplingly painful experience,” they will calmly tell you that you are mistaken, and that any pain from menstruation is mild and a woman “should be able to handle it”. They will tell you this even if you *are* a woman who experiences cripplingly painful menstruation.

    Others will shrug and say “But you’ve got to have moral values. Can’t make an omelet without torturing a few women.

  • P J Evans

     Can I wish kidney stones on them for that?

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Among the several problems with that approach is that if you tell a group of powerful men that, “menstruation is, for many people, a cripplingly painful experience,” they will calmly tell you that you are mistaken, and that any pain from menstruation is mild and a woman “should be able to handle it”. They will tell you this even if you *are* a woman who experiences cripplingly painful menstruation.

    Those men need to be taught empathy.  A quick knee to the crotch ought to give them a suitably approximate  sensation of what a menstruating woman is feeling with the sharp cramps.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

     Yeah, that’s another thing too. If someone really has a Rush Limbaugh-level of understanding of women’s health issues (seriously, they didn’t even understand how the birth control pill is taken!), they’re honestly not qualified to speak on it. It’s like putting someone who is unfamiliar with the theory of gravity in charge of NASA.

  • parvomagnus

    “And More’s personal beliefs…whatever you think of the man, he was
    committed enough to his belief in Catholicism to willingly die for it.
    The government is not sentencing the current bishops to put their heads
    on a literal chopping block.  I’m sorry, but the analogy does not work.”

    To my understanding, Fred’s criticizing that analogy.

  • Jeff Weskamp


    At some point that will oblige non-hateful Catholics and Southern Baptists to make hard choices.”  —  Lori

    Jimmy Carter made that hard choice a few years ago, when he publicly repudiated all ties to the Southern Baptist church because of its anti-gay and anti-woman policies, and also because it abandoned its original support of the separation of church and state.

  • Lori

     

    Jimmy Carter made that hard choice a few years ago, when he publicly
    repudiated all ties to the Southern Baptist church because of its
    anti-gay and anti-woman policies, and also because it abandoned its
    original support of the separation of church and state.  

    Yes he did and that impressed me as much or more than anything else he’s ever done. As US presidents go he wasn’t so great, but he’s really high on the list of best former presidents.

  • Mary Kaye

    Should a Jehovah’s Witness employer be able to say that insurance won’t pay for a medically essential transfusion for me?  For an organ transplant?

    Should a Mormon employer be able to say that insurance won’t pay for liver cirrhosis treatment for me?

    Should a Jewish employer be able to say that insurance won’t pay for pig-derived insulin for me?  (Actually this one is counterfactual, to the best of my understanding, in that Jews hold that violation of the ceremonial law is permissible and in fact mandatory if it will save a life.)

    Should an employer opposed, on grounds of conscience, to animal testing be able to say that insurance won’t pay for animal-tested medications for me?  Should a Jainish employer be able to insist that insurance won’t pay for anything animal-derived?

    Why on earth would anyone prefer to live in the system described by these examples?  It means that picking the wrong employer could kill you.  Literally, no hyperbole involved. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    Well, in a free market system, you’re free to shop around. If the main company in your industry in your town is run by people who oppose health care, develop a new talent. Or move to a new town. It’s easy to find a new job right now, right?

  • Mary Kaye

    Charity Brighton writes:

    :Well, in a free market system, you’re free to shop around. If the main
    company in your industry in your town is run by people who oppose health
    care, develop a new talent. Or move to a new town. It’s easy to find a
    new job right now, right?

    That is not an argument for religious exemptions, though; it’s an argument for no requirement for employers to provide any health insurance at all.  (Which I would support as long as government then stepped in to do it, but not until then.)

    If one acknowledges that employers have to provide health insurance at all, it’s hard to argue that they should be free to provide inadequate health insurance; and as someone who relies on a contraceptive for survival (I would bleed to death otherwise) I flatly reject any claim that contraceptive-free health insurance could possibly be “adequate”.  For that matter, even if I were “only” relying on it to provide family planning that would still not be adequate.  Family planning is a basic human right, a necessity for women to have full participation in society.  It is also a medical issue, as pregnancy and childbirth are huge medical risks, and having more children than you want substantially increases your risk of dying young.

    Short form:  give me single-payer, or shut up and pay the damned bills. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

     

    Short form:  give me single-payer, or shut up and pay the damned bills.

    Amen to that. We should have gotten a single-payer system, or at least a public option, but we couldn’t get that due to a mixture of cowardice, paranoia and extreme political dysfunction. This contraception mandate is the next best solution. The fact that, through the Blunt Amendment, the GOP attempted to not only negate the contraception mandate but bulldoze the very concept of medical care (seriously, read it; it allows any employer to deny any type of care based solely on an affirmation of religious belief, no questions asked. It would have been a step backward from the status quo even before the contraception mandate, since you couldn’t count on any health care treatment, even substandard, inadequate ones.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    The fact that, through the Blunt Amendment, the GOP attempted to not only negate the contraception mandate but bulldoze the very concept of medical care 

    Why, they must have been stoned off their asses when they came up with that amendment.  *Buh-bum-tish!*  

  • aunursa

    Should a Jehovah’s Witness employer be able to say that insurance won’t pay for a medically essential transfusion for me? For an organ transplant?
    Should a Mormon employer be able to say that insurance won’t pay for liver cirrhosis treatment for me?…

     
    I was unable to answer this question when it was posed to me a few months ago.  In the interim I have determined how I would answer it. Alas, my computer broke down last week, and so I my time online is very limited until my new laptop arrives in a few days.  So I intend to answer this question when this issue arises in a future thread.

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    Do any of you have a good refutation for the conscience argument that bishops are using?

    How about just good, old-fashioned patient confidentiality? 

    Unless there is danger to other people, no one has a right to any information on my medical care except other medical personnel.  And other medical personnel are only allowed this information if my physician needs input on my case or if the other medical personnel is also giving me medical care.

    It is none of my employer’s business what I am getting tested, treated, or medicated for, so long as I am not a danger to any other employees. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

     Yeah, but here’s the trick. Because these insurance policies are directly purchased by the employer, they can choose to buy insurance policies that don’t cover certain treatments. It’s not so much that your employer is going to follow you to your doctor’s office and tell you that you can’t have Medication X or Prescription Y, but they can buy an insurance policy that simply doesn’t cover Medication X and Prescription Y. They’re not violating patient confidentiality because they never actually attempt to find out whether or not you’re using each prescription.

    (This doesn’t make it okay, of course. If you’re receiving a certain benefit from your employer in exchange for service, for them to just unilaterally degrade it like that is clearly wrong. It would be like if a company tried to pay its employees in gift certificates that were only redeemable for certain products. The fact that health insurance is more or less exclusively obtained through your employer puts employers in an unusual position of power and responsibility and things like the Blunt Amendment essentially encourage employers to exploit this responsibility as part of some exaggerated display of piety.)

  • AnonymousSam

    What about that cute little law that went up awhile ago in Arizona that would let employers ask employees what they were using contraception or other medications for, and terminate their employment if they disagreed with them on a religious basis? HB2625.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    That’s another sleazy end run that works on the same principle. If that bill had been passed, it would have amended existing Arizonan law by permitting employers to question employees about what they are using their insurance benefits for and either approve or deny reimbursements for certain expenses (contraception) based on their — the employer’s, that is — religious beliefs. It doesn’t explicitly grant employers the right to fire employees who use contraception, but the thing about Arizona is that it is an “at-will” employment state (meaning that an employer can fire an employee at any time, for any or no reason, as long as they’re not violating any existing civil rights laws).

     The bill doesn’t say that you can fire a woman for buying the pill, but if she tries to use her company-provided health benefit for it,  you as the employer are given the opportunity to question her on it and approve/deny her request for coverage. And now that you have her affidavit saying that she’s using contraception, if you decided to fire her a couple of days later… well, legally, that’s your prerogative, and no one can even say for sure if you fired her because of the birth control thing or because her work was bad or because you didn’t like the way she did her hair one morning (all of which are perfectly legal).

  • http://twitter.com/Didaktylos Paul Hantusch

    As a Ricardian, I already know how much of an arsehole More is …

  • AnonymousSam

    So does this mean that the bishops object to laymen being able to read the Bible themselves, instead of relying upon a multilingual priesthood? It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest.

  • http://dumas1.livejournal.com/ Winter

    This discussion of health insurance and contraeption reminds me of the phrase “Cuius regio, eius religio,”  the idea that a ruler had the prerogative of dictating his subject’s religion. Raising employers to the level of petty kings and reducing employees to serfs and subjects seems to sum up the conservative view of labour relations far too well.

  • http://twitter.com/happydog1960 Mark

    My observation is: Why should anyone pay any attention to what a group of withered, sexless old eunuchs have to say about anything at all, leave alone sexuality, women’s bodies, and the right to health care? Why are these wretched dregs of a dying religion given any credence whatsoever, by anyone? Because they say they are God’s voice on earth? I’ve met homeless people who said the same thing. 


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