“Shut Up, Old Man”

That’s what Scott Paeth wants to say to Catholic bishops who think that female contraceptives shouldn’t be covered by health insurance:

In all honesty, my first reaction to any attempt by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to make any kind of moral argument, least of all one involving sexuality, is to want to say “Shut up, old man.” And no Bishop who is honest about the negligence and criminal malfesence of the Catholic Church around the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of allegations of child molestation and rape around the world over the last half century should expect any other response.

How can any Bishop expect to excercise moral authority, particularly in the authoritarian “do it because I say so” manner that they use, given their record? Every single solitary Bishop should be on his hands and knees begging for forgiveness from both those they’ve directly harmed, and from every Christian, Catholic and non-Catholic, for the damage that they have done to the church. The Bishops, through their choices, erased 2,000 years of authority over the period of a few decades. And why? To protect their own institutional position while shielding absolute moral monsters from being held accountable for acts that were both criminal and detestable. There is no excuse. And it will probably take another 2,000 years for them to regain that authority. In the mean time, the only thing I want to hear from a Bishop is the phrase “I’m sorry.”

Scott also has some thought’s on Romney’s Mormonism and Santorum’s gag reflex here: Against the Stream: Back to Religion and the Public Square.

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  • Patrick S

    This whole moral equivalence silliness is an exercise in deliberately missing the point.

    And for those who think this is only about religious freedom, ask yourself: if the government can make insurance companies cover birth control, then why not cover bottled water, tomatoes and Chex mix? And just so we’re clear, the insurance companies don’t cover it, everyone who purchases insurance will pay for this “free” benefit.

    And remember the word President Obama used: he would “accommodate” the Catholic Church. Though no one knows what authority the president is using to do this, nor to my knowledge have we seen this “accommodation,” reflect on that word. The head of state will deign to “accommodate” someone. This is many of us object so strongly to ObamaCare: we don’t want the government to “accommodate,” we want the government to set the rules and implement them, regardless of which special interest curries favor with the government.

    • Carl

      Amen, Patrick. Spot on analysis. As unconstitutional and wrong as Obamacare is, it’s possibly even more creepy and worrisome to know that this President feels he has the power to modify and apply the law as he sees fit. I still have no idea how he is able to get away with it.

    • Birth control is hardly equivalent to water, tomatoes and Chex Mix. It is a medicine which some women actually take for medical reasons besides just being able to have all the sex they want without getting pregnant. I’ve known multiple women who take birth control despite being abstinent.
      The idea that we shouldn’t pay for birth control because you don’t want to pay for someone else’s “free” healthcare ignores the point that if someone is working and gets healthcare from their work they are paying into it just as much as you are – so that argument is bogus. You also seem to be missing the point that those in favor of offering birth control are arguing that it will actually lower overall healthcare, and employer costs.
      Furthermore – as far as I know the government does not make any employer pay for anyone’s healthcare. Companies choose to offer healthcare as a benefit to employees because it is in the self-interest of the employer.
      The real issue politicians etc. should be discussing is removing the connection between healthcare and employers.

      • Patrick S

        First off, solid agreement with you that the connection between healthcare and employers should be broken. It only exists because FDR perverted the employment market though wage freezes. Change here would go a long way to correcting our problems.

        Thank you for making my points for me: if this is truly about women’s health, than the government should pay for bottled water, tomatoes and Chex mix because all will help with women’s health and lower healthcare costs.

        For those who believe your line of argument I ask: why, all of a sudden, is birth control about women’s health and not about, you know, controlling birth? Also, if this is about lowering costs, help me understand why my car insurance doesn’t cover the costs to change my air filter, oil or windshield wipers? All would help me avoid a crash, which would lower costs. It is because it is ridiculous.

    • Larry Barber

      The benefit _is_ free. It costs insurance companies less to ensure a group if contraceptives are included in the coverage. Nobody has to pay for it, in fact it has to be paid for if contraceptive coverage is excluded.

      • Patrick S

        LARRY – In order for you to be right, the savings from contraceptives would have to be immediate – like an instant coupon for $1 off Kleenex. Instead, any savings – unknown today – would come to a future covered group. The cost of the pill is due today and must be paid for today and therefore is reflected in the cost of insurance. So whoever is buying is paying for the “free” pill.

        Again, why should the pill be free and not water or aspirin or anything else that could theoretically make us more healthy?

        • Larry Barber

          I hope you never get a job as an actuary, you will suck at it. The savings from contraceptives are very short term, fewer pregnancies, fewer abortion. The savings from one unwanted pregnancy (which tend to be more troublesome than the planned variety) will buy a _lot_ of contraceptives.

          • Patrick S

            And you think an actuary could quantify those mystical hopes and dreams? You are showing how much you know about economics and actuarial science.

          • Larry Barber

            Oh course they can, its not even that difficult a calculation given the data any health insurance company would have on hand. I also suspect I know more about statistics than you do.

  • I like the “shut up old man” approach.
    I mean, it perfectly captures an appeal to the conscience without needlessly raising defenses. It avoids needlessly devolving the argument yet one more step downwards and it exemplifies both a very “Jesus” kind of approach while at the same time heeding Paul’s wisdom that we “Never speak harshly to an older man, but appeal to him respectfully as you would to your own father.”
    Well done!

  • CJ

    If past mistakes or being wrong in one area means we are forever wrong in every other area, NONE of us are qualified.

    The argument isn’t logical, nor is the rhetoric honorable.

    “They will know you are my disciples by the way you rip one another”?

    Still trying to figure out why progressives seem unwilling to be as tolerant as they insist others be?

  • Carl

    Oh CJ, you actually read the Bible as applicable to our lives? And where do you get off thinking that one needs logic to win an argument? 😎

  • I agree with the overall sentiment. The Roman Catholic church and conservative pundits need to lose the persecution rhetoric and righteous indignation, even though I believe they have the right to not provide birth control, or do anything else which violates their religious beliefs. However, they do need to approach this issue with quite a bit more humility. Yet, as Bob points out, this is not the way to go about telling the Roman Catholic church this.
    With that said, what really bothers me about this post is the cartoon. What is that cartoon’s real message? Here’s a woman with many wonderful children (granted they are young and a handful at present), but oh how much better her life would be if she just didn’t have all those kids and had managed to prevent their births if only she had access to free contraception. If only her freedoms weren’t constrained by all those brat kids who are making her life so miserable.
    I only have two kids and I don’t plan to have any more. I plan eventually on having a vasectomy (but my wife’s work would not cover it because she works for a Catholic hospital), but I don’t feel they must pay for something they believe is wrong. My wife does not use the pill because the possibility that it can cause fertilized eggs not to implant which we believe would be an abortion (and because it increases the risk of a stroke). She’d like to use it, but can’t in good conscience (that’s what her conscience dictated; she does not think all women who use the pill are evil). As a result our most recent son, who we did not plan to have at this time (though we planned to have a second later), did not come at a very convenient time. I lost my job and am at present starting my own business. Our daughter is two and right now is more of a hassle than our newborn (most likely because of the newborn). Still I would never wish he had not been born.

  • Scot Miller

    Of course, Scott Paeth is not concluding that the best response to the Catholic bishops is to say, “Shut up, old man.” As he said, that was his initial response, not his reasoned judgment. His more reasoned response addresses the question of the moral authority of the Catholic bishops, who have a long and shameful track record of utter moral failure when it comes to embracing and protecting pedophile priests. They cannot simply say, “Trust me on this, I’m a bishop,” when they have proven not to be trustworthy. Instead of moral arrogance, the bishops need to express their private religious beliefs with more humility.

    • Jonathan

      Is the argument, then, that because Catholic bishops have failed morally so badly, they therefore forfeit their constitutional rights to religious liberty? Or is it just that they have to claim that right with humility? “Please, Mr. Obama sir. Please give us religious liberty.” Then they could kiss his tasseled boot, he could kick them in the face, and they could back out of the oval office on their knees, making sure their heads never rise higher than his.

      • Larry Barber

        Nobody is interfering with their religious liberty. No one is forcing them to use birth control. The bishops are, however, imposing their religious views on their employees (many of whom aren’t even Catholic), when they refuse to provide comprehensive health insurance. Religious conviction does not place one above the law, if you think it does, then why can’t pacifists deduct the cost of our warfare state from their taxes?

    • Patrick S

      “Instead of moral arrogance, the bishops need to express their private religious beliefs with more humility.”

      Why? And in who’s judgement?

    • Frank

      By those standards no one has the right to express any moral positions or have any moral authority.

      While I am not a big fan of the Catholic church they are simply standing up for what they believe. Good for them!

  • I’m pretty surprised at the uniform tone in the comments today. Nathan, you don’t mention the empty refrigerator. If we had a priest at the door with a box of groceries instead of a bishop on the tv with a pronouncement, there could be grounds for a discussion about where babies come from and what to do about it. In the meanime, are you aware that starvation in childhood can stunt your whole life and make you a liability to your neighbors?

    • So because starvation can stunt your whole life it would be better for you to never be born? And God forbid you be a liability to your neighbors – it’s really too bad we can’t get rid of all these liabilities.

      I believe in birth control, but I (and my wife) find the cartoon offensive, because it’s not just saying women should access to birth control. It’s saying the world would be better if there were a lot of kids out there who didn’t exist.

      • I think the cartoon is saying that there are a lot of kids out there that aren’t adequately provided for. You and your wife are using birth control (you said) in order to control family size (consequentially) which allows you to maintain the quality of life you desire. If you personally value quality of life over family size personally, where do you get off being offended at the lady in the cartoon because she feels inadequate being responsible for seven lives (counting herself)? What about the “moral failing” connected with all those kids you didn’t have?

        • First, the main reason we plan to stop at two is because we have chosen that we would rather use the resources that we would have spent on more children on helping other children who are not biologically ours. Not because we don’t want our standard of living dragged down by more kids.

          Second, I’m not offended at the lady in the cartoon. I’m offended by the cartoonist’s implication that there are children out there who are an inconvenience to their parents and therefore the world would be a better place without them. Apparently we read the cartoon very differently. I feel that it is offensive to imply that the Catholic church is somehow burdening women with a multitude of unwanted children that ruin those women’s lives. My wife knows a woman, who her and her husband did not believe in birth control, and they had seventeen children. From what I know the woman didn’t really want to be pregnant that many times and was glad when she couldn’t get pregnant any more – however she loves all her kids and wouldn’t give any of them up, and at least some of her kids are choosing to also not practice birth control.

  • They are drafting bills that will require Catholic and other denominational hospitals to be required to open abortion clinics inside their medical systems.

    It is called forced conversion.

  • Scot Miller

    Jonathan– The Catholic bishops and Catholic employers have the religious freedom to believe whatever peculiar religious belief they want; they just can’t impose their peculiar religious belief on employees who don’t share that belief. I already explained what the Supreme Court decided about religious liberty in comments here and here, so I won’t bore you with the reasons neither the healthcare law nor paying for the contraceptives of employees violates anybody’s religious liberty. But I would also remind you of what the Supreme Court decided in 1878, when the law against polygamy was upheld over the religious liberty of the Mormons:

    Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief? To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and, in effect, to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself. Government could exist only in name under such circumstances. (Page 97-98 U. S. 167)
    The Catholic Bishops err when they treat their religious conviction as superior to the law of the land (i.e. the Health Care Affordability Act).

    Patrick S — Why? Christians claim to be followers of Christ, whose life demonstrated humility (see, e.g., Phil. 2: 1-8). I would assume that anyone who thinks he (sic) is speaking on behalf of Christ would want to be a bit more humble.

    And in who’s judgement? I can only assume the objection to contraception is a religious conviction, not a moral objection widely accepted and understood in our pluralistic society. The only way the position of the Catholic bishops make sense is if you buy into the Natural Law theory of Thomas Aquinas. Not only does the Natural Law Theory presuppose pre-scientific notions about final causes and natural dispositions and tendencies which are implausible, but a host of other criticisms can be raised against this theory. In a pluralistic society like ours, Natural Law Theory has no privileged position (in spite of the convictions of adherents to that theory). If they can convince other rational people who aren’t Catholic and don’t already buy into Catholic theology, then their argument will win the debate. But I’m afraid most rational people in our pluralistic society who benefit from contraception aren’t going to be convinced.

    • Patrick S

      So they should humbly ask Obama to please allow them to practice their religion as they see fit, not as he wants them to. And if he says no (maybe because he deemed them not to have asked humbly enough), I’m guessing they should turn the other cheek. Yikes.

      • Scot Miller

        Patrick, I’m not sure what you’re talking about. I get that you don’t like Obama, which is fine. Your comments seem to misunderstand the nature of religious liberty. The government isn’t forcing the Catholic church or anyone else to change their religious beliefs or practices. The government isn’t even forcing anyone to take birth control against their religious conviction. They are trying to balance the legitimate concern for religious liberty against justice and fairness for women covered by insurance policies. It is unfair for a woman who qualifies for her company-paid health insurance not to receive medicine because the employer has a religious objection to the medicine. (Hormonal contraceptives are necessary for some women who experience painful menstruation and who are prone to ovarian cysts.) The original objection of the Catholic bishops was that their paying for contraception would violate their religious conviction; the accommodation was that they don’t have to pay anything for contraception (i.e., their conscience will be clean), but their employees would have the freedom to acquire contraception or not.

        I’m just curious, do you think there is anything immoral about contraception? Is it unbiblical in some way?

        • Patrick S

          Fair question. But my point is this has nothing to do with contraception. Nothing. It has to do with liberty. Obama makes an “accommodation” no one has either seen or can identify from where the power resides to do so. To suggest insureds will receive a benefit (a pill) and somehow the Church doesn’t pay for it is simply not true. They pay for every benefit they receive – it is in the cost of the policy. Minnesotans will know about the 2% provider tax. No one believes this tax isn’t inherent in the prices we pay.

          In your other, always respectful comments, you make it clear your preference is for government, not the market, to handle health care insurance. Unfortunately, no one can name an example where a government-provided service is better, cheaper, more efficient, more innovative or in any way preferable to a private sector option.

          Why? Because when government does something, politics, not the best interests of anyone, becomes preeminent. How many exemptions to ObamaCare have been granted already, 1,000? 2,000? The Catholic Church is just one more “accommodation” based on politics, not the law.

          If ObamaCare is not ruled unconstitutional, there will be no limit to what government can do and the American experiment will be over. That should scare you.

          • Larry Barber

            What planet do you live on, Patrick? Practically every other industrialized country (on planet Earth, anyway) has better outcomes, on average, and spends far less than the US does.If you want examples: Canada, France, Germany, Britain, Netherlands, in a lot of ways Cuba does better than we do. Our health care system is a disgrace, and tying health care to employment is positively feudal, if you want to see a doctor, or use modern medicine, you must stay loyal to your liege.

          • Carl

            Wow Larry, you are beyond ignorant. Seriously, you think Britain and Cuba have better healthcare systems than we do? I have a lot of friends who have visited or lived in the UK who would laugh at you.

          • Larry Barber

            Yes, Carl, the British system is horrible, that’s why you see all the British agitating for a return to privately provided health care. Oh, wait, you don’t, I wonder why? I suspect your friends all had good private insurance in the US, try using the US system without good insurance, if you’re unemployed, for instance, and let me know how that works our for you. Also, show me one indicator of overall population health that the US does better on than Britain (average salaries of health insurance executives doesn’t count), it shouldn’t be hard if Britain’s system is that much worse than ours.

            I also didn’t say that the Cubans had better health care than the US, read what I wrote again, this time reading for comprehension. Given the constraints that they are working under, including a lack of resources, they do a good job of providing health care to their citizens.

          • Carl

            Nevermind, willful blindness has no cure.

    • Jonathan

      Thanks for your reply. It’s always a pleasure to dialogue with you.

      I certainly don’t mean to claim that religious folks ought to be able to do whatever they want, law-be-damned. And there’s no doubt that the federal government, at times, will have to make laws that offend people’s moral sensibilities. Larry makes a good point about pacifists and war above. But here is the key phrase, copied from one of your other comments.

      “The only decisions in which this Court has held that the First Amendment bars application of a neutral, generally applicable law to religiously motivated action are distinguished on the ground that they involved not the Free Exercise Clause alone, but that Clause in conjunction with other constitutional protections.”

      War is a power granted to the federal government by the constitution. Forcing people to buy products is not. Therefore, the law is already federal overreach, and I hope you won’t think I’m being melodramatic to say it is tyrannical. When that tyranny starts forcing people to buy things against their religious conscience, it becomes a violation of religious liberty as well.

      I suppose I’m saying that this healthcare deal is wrong either way, it just becomes more egregious when it starts assaulting religious liberty as well as regular ol’ liberty.

      • Scot Miller

        My hunch is that the healthcare law will be held to be Constitutional by the Supreme Court (I think it’s Roberts who is boxed-in by his previous decisions). Then again, I don’t even qualify as an amateur Supreme Court watcher.

        As someone who works with insurance companies, I would have preferred a single payer: Medicare for all, or something like that. Healthcare shouldn’t be controlled by the free market. Insurance companies are in the business to make money, and without government regulation, insurance companies could be described as tyrannical, too.

        • Jonathan

          I think, Scot, that your hunch is correct, though my qualifications are even less than yours.

          And I agree that insurance companies, or companies of any sort, can become oppressive. It’s certainly a possibility. I just don’t think the solution is to hand all the power and money to an institution that always becomes oppressive. It’s just what governments tend to do. People always want more power, and governments are the easiest way to get it. That’s why hard limits on that power, like the constitution was thought to be, are so important.

          But, on the other hand, Jesus is king, and his government will have no end. When it comes down to it, I put my hopes in that citizenship and not any other.

        • Carl

          “insurance companies could be described as tyrannical, too.”

          And governments can’t be???

          • Scot Miller

            Carl, do you understand what the word “too” means?

            (All I can do is shake my head and sigh….)

          • Jonathan

            (I think he interpreted the ‘too’ as in: “in addition to making money.” That is, “Insurance companies want to make money, and can be tyrannical too.” I think he missed that you were responded to my post about government tyranny.)

  • Patrick S

    I couldn’t reply directly to Larry (maybe I should take the hint…). The countries you listed do not have better care or access and their care isn’t cheaper, its just paid for differently. None of those other places have the US Constitution as their basis for government, either.

    The reason for employer-based health care is the perversion of the market due to FDR’s wage freeze. Government acted, perverted the market and we have a crappy outcome. Couldn’t agree more that it is an awful option, but that is exactly what you get with government: arbitrary decisions based on the whims of the sovereign. That’s what some folks were tired of a couple hundred years ago.

    • Larry Barber

      Patrick, you’re entitled to your own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts. By any objective measure (life expectancy, infant mortality, or just about any other measure you would care to name) all the other members of the OECD have better outcomes than we do, and they do so while spending considerably less, as measured by percentage of GDP spent on health care. Among the 14 members of the OECD we have the highest infant mortality, the highest rate of obesity, the highest percentage of people going without health care and the shortest life expectancy at birth.(From James Gustav Speth: http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/6681). The idea that the US has the best health care is ideology masquerading as fact. It just simply isn’t true. Period.

      • Patrick S

        …so let’s forget about the Constitution.

        • JPL

          Sure, because after all, if the Constitution says so, then people should just damn well die and shut up about it. After all, even once it’s proven that other approaches work better, we have to stick with our shitty one since we’ve got the Constitution to deal with.

          I find it endlessly entertaining that the absolutely dogmatic loyalty shown by Constitutional purists would have sickened the Founding Fathers, freethinkers all and people who believed that when a system didn’t work (British rule, monarchy, et. al.) you frakking CHANGED IT!

          If they’d all say around whining about “but British law says” we wouldn’t be here now.

          The Constitution wasn’t handed down on Sinai. Nor are the numerous interpretations of it, many of which really have no problem with Obamacare at all.

  • I would like to point out that many of the countries which are being cited as having better healthcare than the U.S. do not have single payer Medicare style healthcare. Countries such as France still have a private healthcare providers and insurance companies. And in the U.K. people still have the option to go to private health care providers. My point is that a single payer system is not the only (nor do I think the best) option. Consumers should have choice, but that doesn’t mean the government can’t be involved.

  • Also, the point is not that Bishops need to be more humble when they talk to Obama. They need to be more humble when they get on T.V. and argue their case before the American people, or else nobody is going to listen to them.