Contraception Compromise Sounds Sensible

The solution sounds quite simple – no Catholic organization will be forced to cover contraception in health insurance plans. Instead, the insurance company must transact directly with individuals who require such coverage, and provide it for free. It’s basically a rider. And the zero cost comes from the fact that it is actually cheaper for insurance companies to cover contraception than pregnancy (a whole other story…).

The fact that Sr. Carol Keehan is happy makes me happy too. Of course, I see some on the right are not placated. They claim that this is simply an accounting fudge. They seem to misunderstand how insurance works. The United States is dominated by a small number of large insurance companies. Money is fungible. Even if insurance companies are not providing contraception to your employees, they are providing it to most others – out of a general pot of money. And that pot all-too-often pays for abortion too, for that matter – something that people didn’t seem all that concerned about during the fights surrounding abortion coverage and the Affordable Care Act. It’s logically no different from paying a dedicated tax into a health fund that pays for healthcare for all – including contraception. Remember – the principle here is supposed to be religious liberty, not an indirect funding of contraception by dealing with insurance companies.

I realize of course, that Obama Derangement Syndrone comes in a particularly viral strain. I don’t expect these people to be placated. And I am still stunned by the sheer stupidity and blindness of the Obama administration – did they really not see such a backlash coming? No, I fear that they are trapped in a bubble. A bubble of secularism tinged by Protestantism, where religion is a clearly private matter with clearly defined boundaries. They simply do not understand the Catholic mission and the way this mission permeates the entire world.

I am also concerned by questions people are not asking:

  • Why has nobody complained about similar mandates at the state level? American constitutionalists can come up with some cock-and-bull federal vs. state distinction, but that doesn’t address the underlying moral issue. Think of Romney attacking Obama when he did the same thing in Massachusetts!
  • Why is nobody talking about the attacks on religious liberty in Alabama and other places by state governments that are seeking to criminalize core aspects of the Catholic mission when it comes to dealing with immigrants? Remember, most of the major Republican candidates support these state laws and oppose federal attempts to overturn them – does that mean they are anti-Catholic too?
  • And why is nobody calling for selective conscientious objection in the armed forces – the right to opt of or particular wars or particular military procedures? This too is regarded as a religious freedom issue in Catholic teaching.

We said all along that this was not about contraception, but religious freedom. We all agree on that – right and left. But in that case, why are we ignoring these other areas?


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  • Thales

    Nope, still unacceptable for these reasons:

    • Kurt

      Unacceptable for “Catholic Vote” and Robert George. Sounds great to me and most of the impacted Catholic organizations.

  • Kim

    I wonder why women’s health groups to argue more OTC access for contraception; instead of arguing over whether a government entity or religious entity should pay for it.
    If the goal is to decrease cost and increase access I can’t think of a better way. With that in mind, since it is legal to sell cancer causing products to adults, there is probably quite a few medications that could be sold over the counter that treat true ailments.

  • Sofia Loves Wisdom

    Yeah, I am not buying it. The USCCB has also rejected it. And I am no right winger. I say, look at it again. It is a shell game. I am so pissed at Obama over this. He has zero support from me.

    • Henry Karlson

      How is it a shell game? The compromise gives MORE leeway than what was offered to Catholics under state programs. Is it the best thing? No. But on the other hand, how many people complaining now have insurance from companies which already provide for contraceptives? Have they even looked? Will they be willing to deny themselves of insurance if their insurance already pays for it? If not, why are they making demands they won’t follow themselves? (And trust me, most companies already fund them). We must be careful in not making a shell game ourselves. The demands were X, the administration tries to give X, “No, we want Y!” The shifting demand is dangerous and makes it look like “We won’t accept anything you do.”

      In an ideal world, all Catholic moral principles WOULD be in place in the US. We don’t live in the ideal world. We must remember Catholic principles in dealing with the real world which include how we deal with remote material cooperation with evil. Keep pointing out the evil doesn’t deal with the whole of the Catholic debate, but if that is all that is discussed, then we have a real problem living because we can and will see other forms of evil we have given into by merely being a citizen of the US (our taxes go to fund unjust wars, unjust dealings with illegal immigrants, nuclear weapons, the death penalty, et. al). When only one thing is put in focus while the rest are only given secondary concerns with far less sharp rhetoric, one begins to wonder what it is all about.

      • BullPasture

        The “compromise” is no compromise at all and provides less leeway. Under the “compromise” it is not possible to offer health insurance without paying for contraceptive services. Mandating that insurers give it away for “free” simply means that the costs will be distributed across every policy holder. The “compromise” effectively removes even the exemption for the Church let alone Church based institutions.

        This was no good faith effort at respecting the freedom of religion. It is a bald exercise of force against religious freedom. The “compromise” is more evil than the original rule.

        • brettsalkeld

          I don’t like the new “compromise” either, but if it is true that providing contraceptives actually saves insurance providers money (and I have no reason yet to believe that it’s not), then the rest of your argument doesn’t follow. I think this is barking up the wrong tree. To me the problem is that Catholic insitutions do not have the right to offer insurance that does not include contraceptive coverage (no matter who pays for it). In my view, that’s the right we should be fighting for.

      • John Henry

        I don’t like the new “compromise” either, but if it is true that providing contraceptives actually saves insurance providers money (and I have no reason yet to believe that it’s not), then the rest of your argument doesn’t follow.

        Well, I think the argument still works because the costs are still being distributed. These services are not free; they are being financed by the premiums paid by Catholic institutions and their employees. The ‘cost savings’ (even assuming arguendo they exist) simply mean that instead of paying a higher premium to account for higher pregnancy risks, Catholic institutions are paying a lower premium that covers sterilization and contraception. I don’t see why they should be all that excited about that…they are still funding the services and the costs are being distributed across their employees.

  • John Henry

    And the zero cost comes from the fact that it is actually cheaper for insurance companies to cover contraception than pregnancy (a whole other story…).

    So are the costs for the drugs and procedures that were previously coming from premiums now coming out of insurance company profits? Is that the idea? Because otherwise I don’t see how the math works. It seems to me you haven’t really thought this through.

    • Morning’s Minion

      That’s a fair question to ask. I can think of a few ways this might work, but I haven’t seen the detail.

      • Kurt

        The private market, so all-holy to conservatives, sells insurance policies WITH contraception for 10% LESS than the same policy WITHOU contraception. I’m surprised the womens groups have not demanded a discount rather than no charge.

      • John Henry

        Thanks for the additional info, Kurt. Do you have a cite for that? I’m just curious – a 10% reduction is pretty substantial. I don’t think it affects the moral issue at all – the point is that Catholic institutions do not want to pay for these services, even if it makes their policies cheaper. But I am geekily interested in the rates.

      • SB

        If Kurt is telling the truth, then the whole rationale for a mandate vanishes entirely. All insurance companies would be advertising a way to save 10%, all employers would be taking advantage of it, and the only holdouts would be the conscientious objectors that any putative Catholic would want to protect.

  • Lizzy

    I am curious whether the Church would be deemed worthy of such beneficence if this were not an election year.

    • Henry Karlson

      I wonder if there would even be a stink about his if it were Bush who made these policies… I mean, he bragged about being the first president to federally fund ESCR and he STILL gets accolades as being the “best” pro-life president.

      • Frank M.

        According to the Wikipedia page on W’s governorship in Texas: During his tenure, Bush signed the execution warrants for more death row inmates than any other Governor in the history of Texas, averaging a death every nine days. Kinda puts the “damn” in “Best damn pro-life president,” doesn’t it?

      • Lizzy

        LOL Henry and Frank! How George Bush’s pro-life credentials relate to my question AT ALL is beyond me.

        I am not deciding whether or not to vote for president #43, I am deciding whether or not to vote for president #44.

        This is what I know about this situation and president #44:

        1. I know that in this, an election year, he tried to strong-arm my Church into doing something it really didn’t want to do.

        2. I know that in this, an election year, he is now backing off somewhat.

        3. I know that, should I elect him in November, he will have the power to govern without ever facing an election year again.

        My question is one that should give any serious Catholic pause.

  • John Henry

    Here’s the USCCB:

    We note that today’s proposal continues to involve needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions, and to threaten government coercion of religious people and groups to violate their most deeply held convictions. In a nation dedicated to religious liberty as its first and founding principle, we should not be limited to negotiating within these parameters. The only complete solution to this religious liberty problem is for HHS to rescind the mandate of these objectionable services.

    We will therefore continue—with no less vigor, no less sense of urgency—our efforts to correct this problem through the other two branches of government. For example, we renew our call on Congress to pass, and the Administration to sign, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act. And we renew our call to the Catholic faithful, and to all our fellow Americans, to join together in this effort to protect religious liberty and freedom of conscience for all.

  • M.Z.

    The good news is both sides should get to feel vindicated.
    When a Catholic group’s premiums come in higher than average, group A will be able to claim that they are sneaking contraception benefits into the cost. Group B will be able to claim that the added expenses of unplanned pregnancies are the cause of higher premiums. I call that a win-win, lol.

    Being one of the few here who has looked on the actuarial side, I can say that neither is reflective of insurance pricing. Pricing of group insurance is based on previous claims experience. The things that push the needle so to speak on that are claims experiences of participants over $25, a year. Having a large group of contraception claims isn’t going to push the needle. Whether it does so with pregnancies is already reflected in the claims experience. Where you see numbers for adding a contraception benefit have to do with the reinsurance market. Not all claims experience is contractually eligible for reinsurance. The is sometimes requested by the insurer and sometimes by the beneficiary. In the end, you aren’t going to get a satisfactory answer over whose dollar paid for what. It would be like going to Pepsi and asking them not to serve you Pepsi derived from Farmer X’s corn.

    With the smaller groups, you get into individual pricing and personal medical history. Small group insurance was going the way of the dodo. That it is still around is a testament to Congress and the legislatures trying to help small businesses. In the end, I think most any business under 100 employees is going to just pay the tax and let their employees purchase through the pools. I think the allure of offering one’s own health plan goes away for the folks who haven’t already found it too costly. The HSAs have just proven themselves unable to stabilize premiums for small businesses; they have just cost shifted more of the burden towards employees, particularly those with chronic illnesses.

    • Morning’s Minion

      Very good points. Thanks MZ, for actually doing the hard work and looking into the facts, instead of just relying on slogans.

  • Bruce in Kansas

    Legalistic and insulting. But let’s call it a win and get back to calling out Catholics who are Republicans as hypocrites. After all, what’s a little whiff of incence to the gods of hedonism when of course we don’t actually believe there’s any real authority to these teachings.

  • Morning’s Minion

    The USCCB claims that the plan is “stil unclear in its details” and that is right. When in doubt, the traditional approach is prudence. It would be to give the measure a cautious nof or approval, to at least welcome the fact that the administration is at trying to address your concerns, and to ask for more details.

    But I’m afraid that they might be making the exact same mistake as they did during the debate over abortion coverage in the individual insurance market – getting really bad advice from partisans. Instead of caution and prudence, they are being advised to take a maximalist position – no compromise, no victory until your enemy is completely vanquished. Remember the scandalous attacks on the community health associations that were conjured up by the National Right to Life Committee? Not exactly a proud moment.

    Just look around. I see that the ‘Becket Fund for Religious Liberty” actually makes the fungibility argument, not quite understanding the full extent of that argument in a world dominated by a few large insurance companies. And given that these same private companies frequently pay for abortions, what does that mean for fungibility? The answer is obvious, but stop short of going there.

    And I see Romney supporters like George and Glendon having the audicity to attack something their they own candidiate did in a far more egregious way (while covering abortion as well).

    These are not credible people.

    The bishops erred badly on the Affordable Care Act, and I don’t want them to do so again. On this issue, they have everybody behind them, including Sr. Keehan and the progressive Catholics. I cheered them on, even as I winced at the harsh and over-the-top rhetoric about attacks on the Church.

    I also get irked by their tendency to defer to the “American founders”. I really couldn’t care less how a bunch of 18th century Enlightment-era Protestants framed the issue. Why don’t they appeal to (say) Aquinas instead? Is it any wonder that they are getting more support from the fringe evangellicals (who don’t even have a problem with contraception) than Catholics on this? Is it any wonder that Catholic presidential candidate can blend so seamlessly into a culture more influenced by Jerry Falwell than John Paul II?

    I am afraid that the bishops risk playing into the hands of both the secular left who regards the Church as no different from the anti-inetllectual evangelical right, and the Republicans who suddenly jump on the religious liberty bandwagon, when most of them are supporting violations of religious liberty in some form or other.

    So let’s ask for clarification on exactly how this is supposed to work.

    And while we’re at it, does anybody want to answer the 3 questions I pose in the post? Everybody seems to be ingoring that, and yet these (in my view) are the most interesting questions.

  • brettsalkeld

    I don’t think the main issue is the fungibility of money, especially if insurance companies want to do this because it’s cheaper for them. The real issue seems to me that Catholic institutions are incapable of providing insurance policies that don’t cover things we find immoral. I don’t think this will cut it for the Bishops. Of course, there are others for whom nothing would cut it, but that’s another problem.

    • Henry Karlson

      Of course, Catholic institutions have long been providing funds to things they find immoral, and remote material cooperation with evil can be acceptable in the real world with proportionate reasons. The best thing is to argue for or against the proportionate reasons and not just focus on the evil itself. Otherwise, this kind of argument will just make it impossible for Catholics to live in the world if they want to be consistent.

      • brettsalkeld

        I agree that there are times when we have to live with compromise. I also agree that we’re often quite lax on other issues where we should be just as vigilant.

        On the other hand, I simply see no reason at all why the government needs to do this. Why on earth can’t they just let us be? It seems to me that the answer is because they are in bed with the abortion lobby. While this is better than what we had a week ago, I don’t see a reason to accept this “compromise.” What do we actually gain by caving in at this point? Complicity with evil that we can live with? No thanks.

        This shows that, when we stand together, we can make an impact. I’m loathe to see this decision, which only addresses one small part of the problem, re-divide the Catholic community along party lines after 1 week of cooperation.

        I’m with you Henry. We need to apply ourselves to other questions as well. But we won’t manage to do it while we remain Democrats and/or Republicans first and Catholics second. If the Bishops play their cards right, and if we don’t all just either take the first bone Obama throws our way (the left) or denounce any bone at all as useless (the right), we can have more impact on the other issues you and MM rightly highlight.

        • Bruce in Kansas

          Well said. Success here might very well unite Catholics behind some of these other issues.

        • Henry Karlson

          As I said, I don’t think there should be a policy supporting contraceptives. However, people looking at it with different moral and religious positions following the almighty dollar see, in their system, justification because of the same line of thought used in other preventive care. They see the long term effects is cheaper and that is their ultimate goal. That is, of course sad and wrong – there should be more than a monetary reason involved. However, in a secular system, one with a capitalistic ethic behind it, we should not be surprised.

          And here, again, is where I think my real issue is. It is fine to say (and should be said): there should be no contraceptive care. Make all the moral, economic, and religious arguments. But I think we need to make them within the proper perspective of the whole system as it is run now and not ignoring what already has been accepted (causing a contradiction between the two). Perhaps one can say “We are now calling attention to this problem again,” but again the rhetoric needs to connect with the fullness of Catholic moral principles (which deals with remote material cooperation with evil).

          As I pointed out, I don’t see the full discussion going on. I see “this is evil” without a full discussion of what that means (gravity of the evil involved, level of cooperation involved, etc). I see ignorance of everything already in place and making it look like the HHS is doing this out of the blue with no precedent. This makes it political rhetoric when it is all aimed at one person when it is not all about him if one looked to the wider picture. That makes it even more difficult to get engagement going on if the rest of the Catholic principles and the lay of the land is ignored (for then it does look as if the concern is political).

          So again, as I said: should there be contraceptives? I say no. I fully agree. But we must also understand living in pluralistic society where some people might even think there are religious reasons to say yes. Then what?

      • M.Z.

        On the other hand, I simply see no reason at all why the government needs to do this. Why on earth can’t they just let us be?
        I think this gives the mistaken impression that this legislation was made to pick on us. We really have no basis for believing that. The legislation was created because the health needs of Americans weren’t being adequately addressed under the existing system.

        What do we actually gain by caving in at this point? Complicity with evil that we can live with? No thanks.
        We gained what we sought, namely the ability ability for parachurch organizations to red line contraception benefits. Of course the employees are still going to get the benefit if they want it, but from secular institutions. To argue that employers should be able to exclude employees from the use of contraception or the secular compensation of contraception use is to alter the argument.

        This shows that, when we stand together, we can make an impact. I’m loathe to see this decision, which only addresses one small part of the problem, re-divide the Catholic community along party lines after 1 week of cooperation.
        I’m afraid it is a little worse than this. The USCCB were deemed to be such dishonest brokers that they weren’t party to the negotiations. During the health care legislation process, they did have a seat at the table. They maintained they saw abortion everywhere in the bill and still maintain it today. This decision was made to placate the Catholic left.

        If the Bishops play their cards right, and if we don’t all just either take the first bone Obama throws our way (the left) or denounce any bone at all as useless (the right), we can have more impact on the other issues you and MM rightly highlight.
        I think you are mistaken on the geography. The bishops didn’t bring this about. In fact the bishops had so poisoned the well that their legitimate interests were disregarded as unimportant by the Obama WH. The bishops have maintained a campaign of demagoguery on Obamacare for over a year. The WH has calculated that there are few swing voters left among white Catholics because of this. They miscalculated the reaction of the Catholic left. The bishops would be wise to accept peace. They would be wise to stop getting distracted by windmills and represent their interests.

      • Brandon

        But we must also understand living in pluralistic society where some people might even think there are religious reasons to say yes. Then what?

        The usual way of handling such a problem is either (1) to minimize intervention so as to guarantee as much as possible that no dispute need arise; or (2) to set up intrinsically pluralistic institutions and procedures, so that everyone can participate according to conscience and no one has to participate against conscience, while enforcing nothing more than living and letting live. This doesn’t eliminate all disputes but it makes the disputes mostly about procedure and structure, while minimizing disputes over who is right about substance.

        I agree that there should be, for instance, more discussion of the principle of toleration. (Since we are dealing with a matter of law, I think remote material cooperation is only relevant here to the extent that the degree of remoteness might make something a candidate for toleration.) And if anyone wants to expand the protest to include other ways in which our governments, state and federal, violates freedom of conscience, that sounds good to me. But the pluralism of our society is not the source of the problem here; or, rather, it’s a problem in the other direction — we only live in a pluralistic society to the extent that everyone is allowed to go their own ways according to conscience and custom. This is not a question about how to live in a pluralistic society; this is a question about how to live when it becomes less pluralistic along one line of life.

        And I’m not sure that the worries are avoidable: under what possible conditions is there protest and discussion, on a national scale, of a political topic, where in that discussion everyone is deeply informed, all the discussions consistently go back to fundamental principles rather than self-interest, the rhetoric is not overheated, none of the important issues drop out, and no one tries to make it partisan? Certainly none that exist in the United States. These exact same problems would arise under every genuinely possible variation of events. The only way to handle it is, when something is incorrect, to correct it; when the discussion becomes too partisan, explicitly bring it back to less partisan ground; when the rhetoric becomes overheated, restate the same point in cooler terms; when something is left out, to mention it and keep mentioning it calmly until it is put back in; etc. It’s like a fission reactor: these worries are about the reaction, but the reaction happens automatically on this scale. The real worries should be about whether we are being adequate as dampening rods when critical thresholds come into sight.

        • Henry Karlson


          While we live in a pluralistic society, it is not anarchy without a center. There never has been the perfect freedom for everyone to follow through with their religious practices, their conscience as it has been developed, without legal restrictions (and thank God! Aztec human sacrifice would not be pretty!). The history of the US should show anyone that the modern libertine position is not the one the US stood by — nor can stand by there will be many instances of rival positions which the state can only follow/allow one. To make this merely a religious liberty issue is to ignore complexity of religious liberty. And what is more, I think it is proper to say, it is a cheat here. Because Catholics are saying (rightfully) it is wrong to use contraceptives, hence it is a universal moral position. When they can’t convince others of it in this society, the recourse is to say “It’s also our religious position. So you must enforce it if you want to support freedom of religion.” But again that is not how religious liberty works (ask those Protestants who support contraceptives).

      • Brandon

        Yes, but this is just to concede that the issue has nothing whatsoever to do with being in a pluralistic society.

        • Henry Karlson

          It has everything to do with a pluralistic society because these questions come up in pluralistic societies.

      • Brandon

        In the very limited sense that this is true, it is merely trivially true. They come up in every society, and don’t depend on any sort of pluralistic situation.

        We can divide up reliigious liberties into non-negotiable and negotiable religious liberties. Non-negotiable religious liberties simply don’t depend on the state of agreement or disagreement at all: if something is a violation of religious liberty in this sense in a society with different religious groups, it will be a violation of religious liberty even in a hypothetical society in which everyone is enthusiastic about it. These kinds of freedom, being inalienable, can’t be given away by agreement or lost by disagreement. Religious liberty in this sense simply doesn’t presuppose any pluralism at all, and the basic issues concerning them are universal; they would be just as important if we lived in a society where everyone were enthusiastic Catholics of exactly the same stripe. If religious liberties are not of this sort, then they do depend on agreement, but by that very fact they are negotiable, and people are free — in a genuinely pluralistic society are encouraged, since negotiation is how further freedoms are established in such a society — to negotiate for the widest range of freedoms they can get.

        Precisely the attraction most people have to pluralistic societies is that pluralistic societies operate on the norm of no-intervention-or-plural-options, to the extent that this is consistent with the preservation of the society itself. Thus there is no restriction on the negotiation of members of society as long as the format, procedures, and structures involved are consistent with the existence of the pluralistic society itself. Pluralism makes no judgments about content as long as procedures governed by pluralistic norms are followed. Pluralistic societies, considered precisely as such, do not require one to bend or compromise, as long as one is rigid or uncompromising in such a way that voluntary plurality is in practice maintained; they may incentivize compromise and moderation, but they do not require it as long as certain lines are not crossed. And likewise, since pluralism is indifferent to content, any group can try to persuade any other group that they are right, regardless of their position — again, as long as certain lines are not crossed. Expecting otherwise is not pluralism. And this is not a trivial issue. I have seen over and over again the false banner of ‘pluralistic society’ raised to shut down unpopular voices in discussion: Mormons must bend or trim their views to maintain a pluralistic society, or Muslims, or this or that Native American group. It is all incoherent nonsense in such cases (a society insofar as it is pluralistic needs such groups to speak up honestly and advocate whatever they think best in order to maintain itself), and although the group in this case is much less vulnerable, I don’t see anything that makes it less of an equivocation.

    • bpeters1

      Here’s where I’m at (which is, I think, similar to what Brett is saying):
      I think it’s an offensive overreach for the federal government to tell Catholic institutions that they must go out and purchase a product (i.e. a policy) which itself contains things (i.e. contraception, etc.) which they find morally objectionable.

      Now, on the other hand, I don’t think it’s a problem for Catholic institutions to purchase a product which does not itself contain things found morally objectionable from a company, even though that company may offer other products (i.e. other policies or even riders) which are deemed morally objectionable. In fact, this latter situation is where Catholic institutions are already (e.g. Notre Dame with Aetna). Also, in this case, keeping track of whose money goes where in the insurer’s pot seems to me to be excessively scrupulous concern about remote material cooperation (and, as MM and MZ have pointed out, impossible in practice).

      When Obama first announced the change yesterday, I was under the impression that Catholic institutions would continue to purchase policies which did not themselves include coverage for contraception, etc., and that the coverage of such services would be included in n separate (albeit cost-free) transaction, i.e. a sort of “rider,” between the individual employee and the insurer. This seems to approximate the second situation I’ve described, as the rider would constitute another separate “product” offered by the company with which the Catholic institution does business.

      However, the USCCB (with George, Glendon, etc.) specifically denies that such coverage is achieved through a separate “rider”, but rather claims that such coverage is instead included as a component of the policy purchased by the Catholic institution. If they’re right about this, I think they have a legitimate gripe. But that wasn”t the impression that I had after Obama’s presser yesterday.

      Can anyone clear up my confusion: Do to policies purchased by the Catholic institutions for their employees themselves cover contraception, etc., or is such coverage accomplished via “riders”?

      • BullPasture

        Even if there were a “free rider” it would amount to nothing more than a fraud. Contraceptives services must still be paid for. If you simply distribute the cost over all the policy holders you are forcing every policy holder to pay for the service. The only acceptable compromise is a policy for which the premiums exclude any cost for contraceptives.

        The argument that contraceptives save money is a non-starter. Unless the policy covers every conceivable medical procedure in full then each service must be looked at in isolation. Otherwise anyone can manipulate the numbers to achieve any result you want.

      • bpeters1

        I don’t think that insurance companies, or virtually any company, for that matter, keep strictly separate accounts (from which funds go in, and funds go out) for each and every product (e.g. policy) that they offer. If they don’t keep such hermetically sealed accounts, who knows where person X‘s dollars are going to end up. I find tracing dollars to be rather scrupulous.

        Like I said, Catholic organizations are already doing business with insurance companies that offer morally objectionable policies to other clients. The way in which the insurance company spends its dollars (wherever it got them) to fulfill claims on those objectionable policies is up to the insurance company.

        For the sake of argument, let’s presume that Obama’s fudging numbers and that contraception doesn’t “pay for itself” and the money “has to come from somewhere.” Now consider this analogy: I don’t think a most Jewish or Muslim customers, who have made a practice of eating at Subway, are going to be incredibly upset if Subway takes a hit by offering a “ham and bacon” footlong for $5 in month of September, but “pays” for their loss on that particular product with profits gained by, for instance, the “tuna” footlong purchased by the Muslim or Jew at its normal cost of $7.50. I don’t think Subway’s accounting practices and business decisions are weighing on kosher/halal consciences, here. What matters, in principle, is whether the product obtained in the exchange with that business is itself morally acceptable.

        How a company distributes its own funding for its products of various moral standing doesn’t both me so much. What bothers me is when someone who has a moral objection to one of those products itself is mandated by law to obtain that product.

      • M.Z.

        There are no pots. To have them would assume a symmetry of knowledge that would obviate the need for insurance. Your premiums don’t go into a sinking fund.

        Hearing the Creed this morning made me consider that perhaps the bishops think we need to avoid cooperation, both visible and invisible. The sad thing is that these same bishops would have no problem making an argument that my family being billed $400 so my children can receive the Sacraments isn’t simony. Just goes to show principles are for the rich and powerful.

  • A Sinner

    I thought the compromise sounded reasonable when I first read it, but then it was pointed out that the insurance companies will only be granting free contraception to people who ALREADY hold policies.

    So it’s like the church-affiliated institutions are being asked to buy, instead of insurance policies that cover contraception…insurance policies that “don’t cover it” (in the sense of services technically billed for) but which all come with it “for free.” And that does seem like sort of just an accounting trick (then again, so are “designated funds” for not covering abortion…money is money, it’s all one pot).

    I mean, if I give you a Starbuck’s gift-card for coffee, but do so knowing that Starbucks offers a free abortion with every purchase of coffee by gift-card holders…aren’t I essentially buying you a ticket that entitles you to a free abortion, even if “technically” that’s a “free bonus” that’s “added to” a gift-card “in itself” or “primarily” for coffee (allegedly)?

    If holding the policy creates an entitlement to receive contraception specifically, and the Church or Catholics are required to buy it…isn’t that still a problem. I think this is different than the case of wages in general, which create no particular entitlement to any particular thing (money lets you buy those goods that are available, yes, BUT there is no requirement for anyone to sell contraception specifically).

    • Kurt

      I mean, if I give you a Starbuck’s gift-card for coffee, but do so knowing that Starbucks offers a free abortion with every purchase of coffee by gift-card holders…aren’t I essentially buying you a ticket that entitles you to a free abortion, even if “technically” that’s a “free bonus” that’s “added to” a gift-card “in itself” or “primarily” for coffee (allegedly)?

      Why would it not be a better example to say it is coupon to an all you can eat prime rib buffet and the restuarant offers you “free” bread, potatoes and other cheaper fillers?

      • A Sinner

        Well, because bread, potatoes, and other cheaper fillers aren’t objectionable to me.

  • A Sinner

    “And why is nobody calling for selective conscientious objection in the armed forces – the right to opt of or particular wars or particular military procedures? This too is regarded as a religious freedom issue in Catholic teaching.”

    The USCCB may have said it was at some point, but this is hardly a decided magisterial point.

    In reality, the question of whether a specific war meets the criteria of Just War doctrine…is a prudential determination, and it is the State who has the competency, ultimately, to make it, and at that point the individual soldier or tax payer generally has to accept it.

    That’s not saying the State can’t be wrong. It can. I agree with the prudential judgment of the recent popes that, say, the Iraq War did not, in fact, meet the criteria of a just war. But, it’s like with annulment tribunals; they aren’t infallible, their judgments can be wrong, but nevertheless their judgment of nullity is enough to absolve the parties involved of personal responsibility even if they suspect maybe the tribunal got the judgment wrong, because it is the tribunal’s competence on the matter that is deferred to.

    Same thing with the State and whether a given war is just. The State can be wrong about whether the criteria are met. We can believe the State is probably wrong, and in a democracy vigorously argue this as part of our own participation in the State. But when the determination is ultimately made…taxpayers and soldiers have to defer to that in terms of rendering their duty of money or service, and we are absolved of further responsibility because it is not, at the end of the day, our competence to make the determination (just like in an annulment tribunal).

    A bailiff in a courtroom may personally think the jury was wrong in their determination of guilt based on what he heard of the case, but that doesn’t mean he can refuse to take the person off to prison at the end!

    • Henry Karlson

      So, A Sinner, what is the point of having just war debates? I mean, every leader will say their war is just. To say that the END of the debate is with the leader of the nation FAILS to appreciate the UNIVERSAL demands of just war criteria. If a war is not just and a soldier knows it is not just, and yet they go to war, they ARE cooperating with evil against their conscience. It would also mean no soldier under Hitler could have or should have objected. That is also absurd.

      His grace, Bishop Botean strikes to the heart of the false, unCatholic, idea that the end is with the leader and that one can’t object after the leader’s decision:

      But let’s take this to the current debate on health care. The argument that “the leader makes the decision” is true not just in just war BUT in ALL governmental policies. So if it is true with war, so it is true with health care, contraceptives, everything. Do you believe the leader is the end of it all?

      • A Sinner

        Please. The reason to have the political debate is the same reason why there should be a trial for criminals or a tribunal for annulments. It doesn’t mean they’re infallible, but there is still a process that renders a sort of procedural justice to these things.

        But, at the end of the day, if the jury does decide the criminal is guilty…the defense attorney isn’t allowed to flee with his client in a helicopter just because he believes the jury was wrong. He can appeal, but he has to cooperate with the process while it’s in place.

        Contraception, of course, is different because that is intrinsically evil rather than a question of the casuistic application of certain principles to a given case.

        There is a huge different between the pacifist who objects to war on principle, and a soldier or taxpayer who happens to personally believe that the government got the contingent facts wrong when it comes to evaluating a specific case in light of the general principles of just war.

        • Henry Karlson

          A Sinner

          If the person is innocent, even if declared guilty, many authors would say he has a right (some say a demand) to try to escape. And beyond that, even if guilty, that doesn’t mean all punishments given out would be justified and one can say injustice is done and supporting a system of injustice is not allowed. Again, the whole point is if you give conscience objection, then you follow through; you want it both ways and it doesn’t work. The Church is quite clear here.

      • A Sinner

        I’d like to see what Catholic authorities are saying we should help prisoners escape if we think they’re innocent.

  • Michael Denton

    I don’t have answers to the first two questions (other than there’s no political support on either side of the aisle) but I do to the first. The state level mandates are more powerful b/c they’re not subject to the higher level of scrutiny in the courts under RFRA. Here we have a national subject and has a weaker chance in the courts. I do think the state mandates need to fall, and this has given a perfect vehicle for taking them all down.

    That said, I don’t buy this “compromise” in the slightest. Yes, contraception is cheaper than pregnancy, but there’s a reason this mandate had to be enacted: contraception cost too much, and employers didn’t want to cover it. I hardly think that insurance companies who want to offer the maximum benefits at the lowest rates would have declined to cover contraception if it was basically free. They’ll need to paid for these services.

    And I don’t think the bishops are being unwise for being unwilling to compromise. With the ministerial exception fight in the rearview mirror and gay marriage expanding (with a fight over whether priests can decline to marry gay persons looming), the line needs to be drawn now and drawn firmly.

    • Morning’s Minion

      But why is the same ire not directed at the state level mandates. The moral issue is identical. But at least one bishop has said it is OK to obey the state level mandate.

      • JohnMcG

        Rape victims are not guilty of a sin against chastity.

        That doesn’t mean we tolerate future rapes or that this who work to prevent them are hypocritical opportunists.

  • Agellius

    I heard an another point raised, which is, what about an employer who is not specifically a religious organization, or affiliated with one? But who still believes contraception is immoral and therefore can’t purchase contraception coverage in good conscience? Is there a conscience exemption for him? If not, shouldn’t there be?

    • Kurt

      Because corporations are people too, my friend.

  • JL Liedl

    Chalk this up as a political victory for Obama. If you want a reason why, look no further than the title of this post. All it took on his part was a little posturing, a tip of the cap as it were, to have Catholic liberals immediately assume (perhaps desperately), with little-to-no serious analysis, that a “sensible” solution had been reached. The media will stop covering this, any national attention that has been stirred up will quickly die away, and, as MM has already begun to do, people will consider the Bishops greedy and unwilling to compromise (“they must be politically motivated!”) if they aren’t satisfied with the gracious “accommodation.” Well played, Barry. Well played.

  • Henry Karlson

    I hate to say it, but I do think there are a couple people who have taken power in the USCCB which is misdirecting the USCCB by offering incomplete analysis to promote political instead of religious goals. We saw this with the health care debate, we see it here now.

    Let me go through my full thoughts on the matter.

    First, should contraceptives, as contraceptives, be paid for by insurance companies? No. Now if someone needed the pill to regulate menstrual cycles, I think it is legitimate medicine and should be included.

    Second, before the bad HHS policy decision, what exactly was the lay of the land? Most people bought insurance with policies that already included contraceptives or from companies which do and still help pay for it that way.

    Third, in many states, the Church had already found themselves required to meet similar demands. The Church objected but, in the end, understood that its moral laws allowed such remote material cooperation so they didn’t go all out in civil disobedience (which it would do if it found the cooperation is too much, as we can be seen with the way the Church continues to support illegal immigrants).

    Fourth, there are SEVERAL questions which have been raised: 1) the evil of contraceptive use 2) religious liberty 3) funding something you don’t agree with morally. However, the other relevant question has not been asked, and without it being asked, makes it impossible to engage the issue properly and that is: proportionality and material cooperation with evil and how it applies here. To keep saying “this is wrong” is one thing, but that is not the whole of the question or the debate. Many people in the US, in the world, engage in a world where the system makes you complicit through remote material cooperation with things you thought wrong. This is where the way the Church has dealt with state mandates is important and the reason why people point them out: from what we already saw, the Church accepted (however much it didn’t want to) that such remote material cooperation with contraception via insurance is _possible_. As long as that is ignored, the whole discussion is distorted.

    Fifth: once again, we must not look at this as if the HHS/Obama administration is suggesting something new which has not been seen before at some level. The way it is being treated, however, is it is new, and it is all at the hands of Obama. This is where it looks like political partisanship. When it is all about Obama and not about the whole, about what has happened in the past, about saying “we won’t cooperate with Obama” while not telling Catholics to not cooperate with insurance companies which already do this. If it became across board and suggested that Catholics who already have such insurances should now object and it became a universal rejection of insurance policies, I would say the argument is stronger. When this is not going on, again, it makes it seem (and I think right) that some in the USCCB are purposefully choosing a battle against Obama while not really interested in the questions they raised. A tool for a fight, not an interest in religious liberty, contraception, etc.

    The bishops, I believe, are interested in the principles. However,. they are also letting the people at the USCCB guide the conversation. Hiding a major part of the conversation is a problem, and causing our bishops to look like tools. That is what I really object to!

    • Bruce in Kansas

      Valid points well put. I think many American Catholics are so happy to see so many bishops so visibly engaged in an issue so quickly, they rallied. Now is the time to discuss these things together as Catholics, after Mass, over lunch at work, over a beer after work.

  • Darwin


    Of course, I see some on the right are not placated.

    Yeah, a few on the right like the entire USCCB. Come on, MM, do you only like the opinions of the bishops when they happen to dovetail with yours? And why, at that point, should anyone ever listen to you when you charge them with disagreeing with the bishops on an issue?

    And as the bishops point out, this at a minimum still outlaws the self insurance policies that Catholic health care providers currently give their employees, and the student health plans administered by Catholic universities. It means that no Catholic organization could ever, in good conscience, offer health coverage as a service. How is that possibly a good thing?


    When a Catholic group’s premiums come in higher than average, group A will be able to claim that they are sneaking contraception benefits into the cost. Group B will be able to claim that the added expenses of unplanned pregnancies are the cause of higher premiums. I call that a win-win, lol.

    One hates to rain on the cynicism parade, but isn’t the entire point of this policy that all people on Catholic health plans will be offered just as much contraception and sterilization (and that it will be just as “free”) as those on secular plans? Thus, there will, by the administration’s rationale, be no disparity in the number of unplanned pregnancies and associated expenses because everyone will be pumped as full of birth control as they want to be at no cost. (Never mind that the whole “preventative care offered free reduces costs” thing was the rationale behind HMO care, which was an experiment that failed in nearly every case. Contrary to Planned Parenthood agitprop, it’s simple lack of compliance, not high costs, that tends to cause inconsistent contraception use.)


    I’m glad to see that one of the contributors here has the intellectual integrity to both listen to the bishops’ objections and see the administration shell game as the transparent farce that it is. (And just to show how tone deaf the administration is on this, when they emailed me in response to my signature of the online petition, they assured me that this “compromise” was great because, among other things, it was endorsed by Planned Parenthood and NARAL.)

    • Kurt

      people on Catholic health plans will be offered just as much contraception and sterilization (and that it will be just as “free”) as those on secular plans?

      Explain to me the right of these health care plans offered by private, commerical vendors that provide abortions and contraception have the right to the name “Catholic” for some of the policies they sell?

      • Darwin

        I was referring to the plans, offered to their employees, by Catholic organizations.

      • Kurt

        That is an improved way of describing them.

  • brettsalkeld

    In short, I do not dispute that compromise is sometimes necessary. I need convincing that this compromise is necessary.

    • Henry Karlson

      This compromise, however, removes further the connection with contraception and, again, it actually gives more leeway to those in states which had already required such insurance policies — doesn’t that make the compromise in some ways better for Catholics than what had been there before?

      • brettsalkeld

        Yes. It is slightly better. But that doesn’t convince me it’s worth taking. I don’t think the main issue has been addressed satisfactorily. Why are Catholic institutions not allowed to provide insurance that doesn’t provide contraception? What is the principle behind the denial of this possibility, and why should we go along with it?

        This is a clever work around and quite probably a brilliant political move, but at the end of the day religious freedom (the media already calls this a false concern, or a “phony crisis”) is weaker than before. I don’t like that precedent.

        • Henry Karlson

          Better but not worth taking the better? So we should actually have more Catholic cooperation with evil all the while complaining about cooperation with evil? What I find interesting here is this “it’s better but not good enough” idea. In other debates “It’s better but not good enough” was fine (look to the discussions of laws which would limit some abortion procedures; many people pointed out they were not good enough, but the point was incremental change can be for the good so we should take it).

          As for religious freedom being weaker than before, that is too simplistic as well. As I am pointing out to others, some people’s religious liberty is being weakened if there are no free contraceptives with free health care. Many liberal protestants, for religious reasons, support universal health care, and think that contraceptives are not just neutral, but are often morally necessary. This is also something constantly forgotten when bringing up religious liberty: it is not just our religious beliefs that are in the nation. And there will be times when religious paths conflict and only one can get what they want. Religious liberty is FAR more complex than “well, it’s our religious belief.”

          • Henry Karlson

            Just an example of where people think contraceptive is a moral necessity:



            It’s not that I believe it is, but we must understand how we deal with rival moral claims is not to take out of the fundamentalist playbook!

          • brettsalkeld

            You’re right that this is why some people think it’s necessary. I really doubt that having insurance cover birth control would have helped this situation. But by making that part of the discussion, you advance our thinking and our ability to deal with those with whom we disagree. Thank you.

          • Henry Karlson

            Also, Brett, out of curiosity, what is the status of contraceptives in Canadian health care? Is it included? If so, do you still use Canadian health care services?

          • brettsalkeld

            I think you could get them free if you demonstrated some financial need, though I don’t know. I’m reasonably sure that our public health care doesn’t cover them for everyone. I’m also reasonably sure that most of our additional insurance packages would cover them. I don’t think insurance companies or specific packages are forced to cover them, but I could be wrong.

            And yes, I use Canadian health care services. After Oscar was born Flan ended up in Women’s College Hospital with a uterine infection. I’m certain they do abortions there. I let them save my wife’s life.

            I’m not sure I see your point. I wasn’t arguing people shouldn’t get health care. I was saying that this compromise doesn’t address the key issue, even if it does address an important subsidiary issue. As such, we shouldn’t give up yet.

          • Henry Karlson

            My point is simple: if you use a health care system which gives them out, a system which you are paying into to use, then you are cooperating in the same way as it would be under the Obama plan (or actually more than the Obama plan).

          • Bruce in Kansas

            What about Catholic schools, hospitals and shelters that self insure, as many do?

      • johnmcg

        Why did the Obama Administration get to set the baseline, such that we must accept any concession from them as better than the alternative?

        If I steal $10 from you, and I return $5, that is better than nothing, but does not restore justice. And you would be quite right not to accept it.

        I’m of the opinion that this compromise is as good as could have been hoped for in the current environment, and that further changes are best pursued at a lower volume. But I certainly understand why some aren’t satisfied.

        Also, how are the religous rights of birth-control approving religions impacted? Aren’t they free to include birth control in their plans? Isn’t that still, in fact, the simplest course?

  • brettsalkeld

    This just in from Facebook:

    “Would they believe me if I told them I know a way of controlling births that already *is* free?”

    Professor Jeremy Wilkins

  • Morning’s Minion

    To Darwin:

    You are perfectly welcome to come her and debate the points. But you do not do so. Instead, you come as a represenatative from your own blog, which epitomizes everything that is wrong with the Catholic blogosphere. No sooner than you show up than I see a link to a nasty post about “Vichy Catholics” using the dualistic demonization that owes much to Falwell-style evangelical politics and Marxist political tactics and little to Catholic tradition. No parody site can outdo this!

    You claim we are dismissing the bishops. OK. I must at least credit you with some Romney-esqute chutzpah! On this issue, I don’t see the bishops using the language of total war. I see Dolan seeking clarifications. And that’s the right approach. The fact that the CHA approves is also a major plus for me – these are the people who understand the issues (both technical and moral) on the ground. Their credibility and integrity is beyond reproach (I understand that on your blog, they are enemies that must be vanquished).

    No, what worries me is that the bishops will get swayed by people like you and your blogging partners. That has already caused untoward damage to the reputation of the Catholic Church in the United States, which leaves Catholics throughout the rest of the world scratching their heads.

    Listen to the bishops? I respectfully suggest that you take that message home with you, and stop the ceaseless attacks on Catholic social teaching and the parading of a wicked American exceptionalism on your group blog. I’m talking about issues like the rights of workers, the unacceptability of economic liberalism, the glorification of war and weapons, the repudiation of the suprantional dimension, the deliberate rejection of solidarity, the mocking of environmental concerns, the fawning over the rights of big business and the profit motive..the list goes on.

    In other words, get back to me when you guys take Catholicism more seriously than Calvinism, American exceptionalism, individualism, and evangelical-style culture war posturing. Right now, you share the exact same framework of the secularists you despise – a belief in only the individual and the state, and the notion of privatized religion. You only differ in the reach of the social contract, nothing more.

    • Bruce in Kansas

      So you don’t welcome differing opinions here…?

    • John Henry

      I’d like to think this was a subtle self-aware parody, but I think that’s unlikely so I’ll just say, really? Is that lame tu quoque linking Darwin to every ideological bogeyman in the known universe your response? “How dare you point out that I’m openly undermining the bishops you fascist/Calvinist/individualist/militarist pig!”

  • SB

    And the zero cost comes from the fact that it is actually cheaper for insurance companies to cover contraception than pregnancy (a whole other story…).

    Where’s the actual evidence for this? For one thing, if it’s actually cheaper, why did anyone ever think a mandate was necessary at all? Just let insurance companies know that they’ve somehow missed a way to save money, and they’ll compete to offer cheaper plans, and employers will leap in, and the only ones not offering contraception will be those who have a moral objection.

    In addition, it’s not enough to compare the costs of contraception to the costs of pregnancy. At a minimum, one would have to know rates of usage apart from coverage, elasticities of demand, rates of substitution to other forms of contraception, rates of impregnation given substitution, and abortion rates. I see no evidence that any of the administration shills know anything about such issues.

  • SB

    Why has nobody complained about similar mandates at the state level?

    The fact that you are ignorant of such complaints doesn’t mean they didn’t occur. In fact, Catholic Charities was involved in two highly prominent lawsuits in California and New York challenging state-level mandates that lacked broad exemptions. Both lawsuits went to the states’ highest courts.

    • Morning’s Minion

      I’m not talking about lawsuits. I’m talking about coordinated denunciations from the pulpit and promises of noncompliance.

      • JohnMcG

        Is it possible the bishops realized their track record in opposing the state-level mandates, and realized they needed to do something different at the federal level to oppose it?

        Nah — they’re all Republicans who hate Obama, probably ly because he’s black.

        Thanks for pointing this out to us

  • digbydolben

    That has already caused untoward damage to the reputation of the Catholic Church in the United States, which leaves Catholics throughout the rest of the world scratching their heads.

    From outside the United State, I can tell all of you that MM is SO right about the impression that Darwin Catholic and his ilk make among the faithful of the World Church.

    a belief in only the individual and the state, and the notion of privatized religion.

    That is because Darwin Catholic and his ilk are, from the perspective of MOST of the world’s Catholics, actually PROTESTANTS–Protestant in religious culture, Protestant in devotional practice, and Protestant in spiritual temperament.

  • SB

    By the way, if you really think costs would go down, I take it you aren’t fond of the joke about economists who disbelieve that there could be a $20 bill lying on the ground in front of them. After all, you’re basically arguing that insurance company executives are leaving millions of $20 bills lying on the ground.

    • Kurt

      The weak point in that is that it is not an economic theory of what will happen in the future but the actual market experience of insurance companies. In Hawaii, it is a 10% differental.

  • Rodak

    @ Henry Karlson —

    “This is also something constantly forgotten when bringing up religious liberty: it is not just our religious beliefs that are in the nation.”

    The fact that you even need to point this out, and the fact that the whole discussion of the issue to entirely pointless without this fact in mind, is precisely indicative of the type of Catholic exclusionary thinking of which I have been complaining with regard to the question of the closed communion.
    If it is not possible to be a good Catholic in a secular and pluralistic society, then perhaps this is not the best society for Catholics to inhabit? I say this seriously. This nation was originally founded by Protestants. And the Calvinists (and other Protestants), against whom I continually hear some Catholics railing, founded it in order to be able to live according to their own beliefs.
    Maybe the Church should just get out of the hospital business? I’m sure that for-profit corporations will buy them out. Maybe Catholics should not be running colleges and universities if they necessarily need to be employing non-Catholic staff who will want to live according to their own religious beliefs (or lack thereof?) Or maybe they need to shrink to whatever size a fully-Catholic staff will be able to support?
    Nobody is asking Catholics to use birth control (although apparently they do so anyway.) Nobody is asking Catholics to have abortions. The idea that it’s fine and dandy to use medieval Scholastic verbal gymnastics such as “material cooperation with evil” to try to control–in very fundamental ways–the lives of non-Catholics, is just wrong. In this country, it’s wrong. And I’m not sure in what country it might be right. Can you think of one?

    • digbydolben

      Henry Karlson, I know several very good and faithful priests who believe exactly what you just enunciated regarding the appropriateness of the Church running hospitals and schools in the essentially Protestant American society. They believe that all that Catholic Church people should be doing is seeking to evangelize and “convert” what is essentially a heretical culture.

    • grega

      Thanks for this breeze of reality.
      I understand you are not a Catholic – In case you have not noticed we Catholics
      have a history of saying one thing and in reality practicing something far more practical.
      Do not be fooled by the official rhetoric – real Catholics are a rather practical lively bunch.
      One should not mistake the American Catholic Talibans as the norm – just like in
      most recent american conservative politics the current crop of holier than’s are just a little ripple. They hate what is going on around them here – they are not able to stop it and it drives them crazy. We all know that our homosexual brothers and sisters will be able to marry and that contraceptives are here to stay – they kind of know it too and they do not like it one bit. All very amusing really.

      • Bruce in Kansas

        After all, what real harm is there in a little whiff of incense to the state between practical lively people like ourselves…

      • digbydolben

        Sorry about calling you “Henry,” Rodak, and I strongly agree with Grega here. I think that these right-wing “cafeterial Catholics” like DarwinCatholic are going to have to swallow a big dose of reality when Obama gets overwhelmingly re-elected; they’re living in a dream-world, in which they think that corporate shills, aged white people and unlettered rednecks from the Bible Belt constitute the majority of America’s population. The majority are, sadly, consumerists first and “social conservatives” second, and they’re going to re-elect the populist Messiah who will give them the war that will “turn the economy around” and complete the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, so that Israeli malls remain safe for shoppers.

      • johnmcg

        Yes, the pain of one’s brothers and sisters in Christ is quite amusing. And who could argue with the fruit this new social order has produced?

  • johnmcg

    Why has nobody complained about…

    I’m assuming that because these are such issues of religious freedom effecting Catholics, that the VN contributors have been on top of them for some time, and there is a vast array of posts, outside the context of this particular debate, raising concerns. Would someone be so kind as to post some links to these posts?

    Also, I recall that there was much concern in the summer of 2009 about private insurance companies covering abortion, and I had offered to help you guys stop it, and never got a response. I’m wondering if one of the VN contributors could please provide an update on this effort, which many on the rights sadly had not joined, and received much criticism at VN for not doing so.

    It couldn’t be that the VN contributors don’t really care so much about these issues, either, but just see them as useful for using as clubs when their preferred side is violating principles, and they’d rather point out hypocrites on the other side than remain in the uncomfortable position of having to call out their own side.

    Ignoring these issues as bad. Using the people in the midst of them as bait in a hypocrisy hunt is worse.

  • johnmcg

    “Why has nobody complained about similar mandates at the state level?”

    You mean like this?

    • Morning’s Minion

      Faur enough, but where is the coordinated denunciation from the pulpits and promises of non-compliance?

    • Kurt

      I would note that is the diocese of Bishop Morlino, who when faced with paying more for contraception free insurance, decided saving a bucks was more important than not including contraceptives in the plan. A real profile in courage.

      • johnmcg

        You write this as if Bishop Morlino personally pocketed the savings.

        the extra money would have had to come from somwhere — either lower wages for employees, layoffs or reduced services.

        Unlike Planned Parenthood, Catholic groups don’t generally hold the recipients of their services hostage to public policy decisions in their favor, so I suppose Bp. Morlino determined that accepting this was preferable to cutting back services to the poor.

        I’m not certain he made the right choice, but I think it would be wrong to characterize it as greed, which you come pretty close to doing.

      • Kurt

        You write this as if Bishop Morlino personally pocketed the savings.

        Let me check to see if the Diocese is a ‘corporation sole.’

        the extra money would have had to come from somwhere…

        He could have asked the lay faithful to make up the difference. He didn’t.

        He did pay for speaking fees and transportation expenses so the people of Madison could be enlightened by topics urgent such as “Can a Catholic be a Liberal?”.

        A pastor of the Church of the Martyrs decided to save a buck rather than support a principle.

  • Morning’s Minion

    Just looking at the number of comments, and the number of hits this post has received – truly astounding. If only American Catholics could devote evern a quarter of this passion and energy to dealing with economic deprivation, the plight of the immigrant, and unjust economic structures, then this country would be a far better place.

    • M.Z.

      If it makes you feel better, EWTN/National Catholic Register are using this as an opportunity to shake the money tree. Just have to love profiteers of the faith.

  • Anne

    “I think it’s an offensive overreach for the federal government to tell Catholic institutions that they must go out and purchase a product (i.e. a policy) which itself contains things (i.e. contraception, etc.) which they find morally objectionable.”

    But they don’t have to do that. The federal mandate is on the insurance companies they already have….unless what the plan they have now is a self-insured plan set up specifically to avoid a state mandate. Those are the situations that need clarification….not because somebody’s trying to pull the wool over somebody else’s eyes, but because it’s just a convoluted situation…although possibly not as convoluted as some of the moral reasoning we’ve been getting from some anti-mandate absolutists. Good grief.

  • Agellius

    John McG writes, “Is it possible the bishops realized their track record in opposing the state-level mandates, and realized they needed to do something different at the federal level to oppose it? Nah — they’re all Republicans who hate Obama, probably because he’s black. Thanks for pointing this out to us.”

    ::chuckle:: : )

  • Bruce in Kansas

    This compromise does not retain the earlier exception for churches, so now even the insurance your local parish provides will cover free birth control pills, sterilization, and morning after pills. This just keeps getting worse!

    • Kurt

      No, it does retain the earlier exception.

      • Bruce in Kansas

        @Kurt: Not from the White House Fact Sheet: “Under the new policy to be announced today, women will have free preventive care that includes contraceptive services no matter where she works. The policy also ensures that if a woman works for religious employers with objections to providing contraceptive services as part of its health plan, the religious employer will not be required to provide contraception coverage, but her insurance company will be required to offer contraceptive care free of charge.”

        This pretty clearly seems to apply to every employer, so the earlier version, which exempted narrowly-defined religious employers, is moot. The compromise made the mandate more invasive in the life of the Church.

  • Thales

    I see I’m late to the party!

    There have been, in my opinion, a number of red herrings swimming in this comment thread, and I congratulate those commenters who have pointed them out. But I still want to take a shot at them also, so here’s my thoughts:

    1.The fact that the improved HHS rule might be morally permissible material cooperation with evil is not a valid argument for shutting up and not objecting to it. That’s a red herring. Whether something is morally permissible cooperation with evil is irrelevant to whether it’s an infringement on conscience and/or a just law. If there was a draconian law requiring every person to work 1 hour/week sweeping floors of an abortion clinic in order to get food, it would probably be morally permissible to follow the law in order to prevent one’s family from starving, but obviously it would be an unjust law and a violation of conscience.

    2.The fact that there are similar state mandates where bishops have gone along with the law is a red herring. First, the argument keeps getting made that the bishops/Church didn’t object to the state mandates — but I haven’t seen any evidence for that (the only instance put forward is Bishop Morlino, but he actually did object). But regardless, suppose that the bishops didn’t object to state mandates… so? This HHS rule is far more sweeping than the state mandates (both by covering the whole country and by the fact that the HHS rule is more punitive and more constraining on employers than any state mandate). Finally, and more importantly, consider the baselessness of the argument “well, you didn’t object last time to an unjust law or an infringement of conscience, so you can’t object now”, looking forward into the future — if the bishops were to shut up and not object this time to the HHS rule, what happens next time there is an incrementally more unjust law that is more infringing on conscience? Do they have to stay silent again? Suppose in the future a law or regulation gets passed requiring employers to cover abortions because the government says that abortions are necessary for health and the common good, do the bishops have to stay silent with this future cooperation with evil because they “lived with” the cooperation with evil of the current HHS rule? Or suppose that far in the future the government imposes the draconian rule I mention in #1 about requiring everyone to work in abortion clinics for bread — do the bishops have to stay silent about that morally permissible cooperation with evil because they “lived with” the morally permissible cooperation with evil instituted by the current HHS rule? In other words, you’re telling the bishops that they need to live with the HHS rule because they didn’t object to the state mandates… but tomorrow, aren’t you just going to say that the bishops have to live with even-more-unjust-because-insurance-has-to-cover-abortions-law-X because they didn’t object to the HHS rule?

    3.Even if there was no issue of religious freedom or conscience whatsoever, the HHS rule is still objectionable, and it’s not wrong to object to it. Suppose that the rule created a tax credit system for every person that covered contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients as necessary health services… there would be no conscience issue, but it would still be an unjust law because it would be a law that furthered the culture of death by expanding and solidifying the mistaken notion that these procedures were necessary for health and not grave moral evils. That’s still objectionable, and it’s not wrong to object to it. Consider if the government thought that severe torture was not immoral but necessary for the common good and instituted a rule authorizing it; there’s no issue of my conscience being infringed and my participation with the evil of torture is so extremely remote (ie, paying tax money that support my government’s torture) that there is no issue of immoral cooperation with evil, but it would be silly to say “you can’t object to the torture rule because you’ve got your religious freedom and your cooperation with evil is morally permissible.”

    4.The new HHS accommodation is not an “incremental change” that we should accept just like accepting incremental changes in abortion law. In abortion law, the status quo is “legal abortion without regulation X”, and the incremental change is to a better status (“legal abortion with regulation X); while here, the status quo is “employers don’t provide contraception insurance” and the new HHS accommodation is a step that worsens the status quo. (Johnmcg’s example about the $10 and $5 is a good one.) That’s not an argument to accept the new HHS accommodation.

    Keep up the good discussion!

    • Kurt

      The fact that the improved HHS rule might be morally permissible material cooperation with evil is not a valid argument for shutting up and not objecting to it

      true. The Church has won an accomodation for its greater concern — that parachurch organizations not be required to distribute contraception. That is an important tep forward for religious liberty.

      However, beyond an exemption so that parachurch groups themselves are exempt, Catholic teaching tells us that contracecption is always wrong and there is no right to use, sell, produce, or distribute contraceptives. The Bishops should be free to restate the totality of this teaching.

      Now it is a matter of prudential judgment if they wish to calmly state this and move on or they can launch a nationwide crusade (and I consider the term ‘crusade’ to be an honorable term) for the next nine months to make the continued availability and legalization of contraception the defining issue of national debate and discussion, even resulting on the upcoming national elections being a referendum on contraception. I fully leave that decision in their hands and have no intention of counseling them one way or the other.

  • SB

    On whether the supposed new policy is any different from the initial policy, here is Greg Mankiw of the Harvard economics department:

    Semantics at the Highest Level

    Consider these two policies:

    A. An employer is required to provide its employees health insurance that covers birth control.

    B. An employer is required to provide its employees health insurance. The health insurance company is required to cover birth control.

    I can understand someone endorsing both A and B, and I can understand someone rejecting both A and B. But I cannot understand someone rejecting A and embracing B, because they are effectively the same policy. Ultimately, all insurance costs are passed on to the purchaser, so I cannot see how policy B is different in any way from policy A, other than using slightly different words to describe it.

    Yet it seems that the White House yesterday switched from A to B, and that change is being viewed by some as a significant accommodation to those who objected to policy A. The whole thing leaves me scratching my head.

  • ochlophobist

    In my opinion this entire debate lacks one very important notice of the elephant in the room – Catholics have long been “paying for contraception” via major insurers, and even if they were to get the exemption they want they will still be doing so. Here is what I mean:

    Even if Dolan & Co. are eventually granted the exemption they want, and employees at Catholic hospitals do not get contraceptive coverage, the monies spent on their premiums by Catholic institutions will still go into the same pot, and some of that money will still be spent on contraceptives and sterilizations, just not on behalf of the employees at the Catholic hospital in question. To my knowledge the vast majority of Catholic hospital, charity, and school employees have coverage through major carriers in the industry, all of whom provide levels of contraception/sterilization coverage.

    Think of it this way – I had some friends in the War Resisters League back in the day who did not want any of their tax $$ spent on war. So they figured out the percentage of the U.S. govt’s expenditures spent on the military, and they then took that % and applied it to the amount of money they owed in taxes, reducing what they paid that much. So if govt spending on military was 25% in a given year, and this War Resister dude owed $2000 in taxes according to his 1040, he would only pay $1500 and he would send a note saying he refused to pay the other $500 because he refused to pay for the military spending portion of the budget. As a political display, that ain’t a bad thing to do (as long as you are willing to go to jail at some point, or pay a bunch of fines and back taxes later, though that would seem to defeat the purpose). But in terms of what one actually pays for, it is of course absurd. That $1500 goes into the federal revenue structures like any other money, and is divided up like any other source of revenue. The same is true with any money any Catholic institution gives to, say, Blue Cross / Blue Shield of NY. Regardless of whether their employees get contraception coverage, they are paying into health insurance revenue streams used (in part) to fund contraceptive and sterilization services.

    What that means to me is that if Catholics were really serious about not wanting to (help) fund any contraceptive or sterilization services, they would have long ago started their own health insurance companies (the Catholic “insurers” out there now are not what I am talking about – I mean actual large scale licensed carriers, like the ones that virtually all large Catholic employers use) – ones that didn’t cover pills and procedures Catholic bishops find questionable, and in states where this is illegal they would have protested and gone to court arguing that they must have such carriers to exercise religious freedom, but they have not done this. [There are some rather large scale religious run insurance companies – Lutheran Insurance is one example]. I have never heard any conservative Catholic pundit in the mainstream or Catholic media assert that this is the way to go (perhaps there are some?), and I have yet to hear one conservative Catholic voice assert that there is a moral problem with paying into a health insurance provider who covers “unnatural” and “gravely sinful” pills and procedures with the money Catholic institutions pay into it, even if not for the employees of those institutions. Yet these same conservative Catholics use rhetoric insisting that Catholics will be “forced to pay for contraceptives.” This should be, on its face, ridiculous. BC/BS of wherever is not going to charge substantially less money for the premiums which don’t cover contraceptives – indeed, usually you pay more, thus putting more into the revenue stream out of which contraception is paid for.

    In analogy form: St. Agnes Catholic Hospital has 1500 employees. They give pay BC / BS of their state 2 million a year to cover insurance premiums for their employees. The BC / BS of their state insures 1.5 million people, so St. Agnes hospital’s employees amount to 0.1% of all people covered by BC/BS in that state. So the 2 million they pay goes into the revenue stream for BC/BS, which pays for any medically indicated contraceptives and sterilizations for the other 99+% of the people they insure, out of money from a “pot” that the St. Agnes hospital money is a part of. Extend the analogy to all the Catholic institutions in that state. Say they all get BC/BS insurance. Say they constitute 4% of all the people BC/BS in that states insures. Now they are putting hundreds of millions into the BC/BS revenue stream, a revenue stream which potentially pays for contraception/sterilization of 96% of the people it insures. So there you have it – whether the Catholic hospital employees are covered for contraception or not, the Catholic institutions are INDIRECTLY paying for a portion of contraceptive and sterilization services. The only thing they do my disallowing their employees from getting contraception coverage is very slightly reducing the number of people the insurer will potentially provide contraception for. And this has been going on for a long time. Thus the “Catholics are being forced to pay” argument is moot. They are not directly paying for these services now or in the event HHS regs go through. They have been indirectly paying for contraception for as long as they have been doing business with major insurers, a business partnership conservative Catholics have, to my knowledge, never protested.

    Let’s pretend that Planned Parenthood had one major revenue stream out of which it paid for all the services it provides. Setting aside the differences between insurance and a direct payment for services, the current insurance situation would then be somewhat akin to Catholic organizations contracting with Planned Parenthood to provide pelvic exams only for their employees, but not abortions, and then saying that they aren’t paying for abortions. We know how well the pro-life movement would take that.

    What I can’t figure out is how many of these bishops and major pundits genuinely don’t understand this, and genuinely don’t understand the way health insurance works.

    • A Sinner

      I’m not sure any of the “arguments” about one pot or separate accounts or whether remote material cooperation is okay, etc etc…matter at all.

      The point is that people are being made to do things they don’t want to do for religious reasons.

      It doesn’t matter if their reasoning makes sense according to some standard either external or internal. What matters is that they say that this is against our religion, so you can’t make us do it. It’s not for any outside authority to judge whether such a thing really is against our religion (if that were the case, the outside authority could likewise say, “Contraception isn’t immoral, you’re wrong, period.”)

      We shouldn’t have to give ANY reason why we are against this policy on religious grounds, nor prove any sort of internal consistency. Heck, what if we were a religion based on an Oracle which condemned things potentially arbitrarily? That still wouldn’t effect our First Amendment rights.

      The right to refuse cooperation here comes from believing participation violates our religion, period. Not in evaluation the “arguments” for “why” it does so.

      • Kurt

        And if paying the minimum wage and hiring Blacks is against my religion?

      • ochlophobist

        I fear that as long as health insurance is provided primarily via employers in this country you are going to have public health issues confronting such libertarian pipe dreams. If Westboro Baptists were to start a hospital chain across America, employing a million people, and they determined that they will not pay to insure their employees for treatment for HIV/AIDS, it would be just for us to fight them. In my opinion, the best way to preserve religious liberties here is to move to a situation were employers and employee plans are not the means through which Americans get access to health care. If we cannot have a single payer system, how about a system in which each individual American family chose for themselves (from a untaxed portion of their income) a health insurance policy which works best, especially if there were for-profit, non-profit, and gov’t options to choose from, including religiously oriented options? But this would require a radical restructuring of health care in this country, away from the for-profit via employer dominated model we have, and this will not happen so long as lobbyists have the measure of influence that they do.

      • johnmcg

        . If Westboro Baptists were to start a hospital chain across America, employing a million people…

        Would a million people be willing to work for a hospital chain run by Westboro Baptists?

        This is one of my problems with the “violates individual’s rights” argument.

        I understand that people’s employment choice aren’t always entirely free, and that often the power in these relationships tilts toward employers.

        Still, it seems strange that there would be so many people willing to work for an organization whose values are so much in conflict with their own that they want the government to compel the employer to provide a benefit that the the employer claims is contrary to its values.

        I think it’s a pretty sad picture of the employer-employee relationship.

    • James Nightshade

      I’m not convinced by your argument. I’m no expert on insurance but I do understand the basics. Many large health insurance companies (such as Aetna) are for-profit corporations. They want to maximize the difference between their income and expenses. For the most part, their income is made of premiums paid by plan members or their employers. The bulk of the expenses are the payouts made to health care providers for covered services. The components of each plan are adjusted, within the scope of state and federal regulation, to maximize total profit.

      But the profits earned for each plan are independent of one another. Each plan is an almost completely separate stream of income and expenses. If a plan is persistently unprofitable, the insurance company will seek to discontinue it. If Aetna were to introduce a “Non-contraceptive Plan” and a Catholic hospital (call it St. Eligius) were to offer this plan to their employees, it would not make it any easier or harder for Aetna to offer contraceptive coverage in their other plans. If the other plans are profitable, Aetna would continue them. If their are unprofitable, Aetna would seek to discontinue them. The profitability of the other plans has nothing to do with whether St. Eligius is currently doing business with them or not. If I am mistaken, please explain why… I really would like to know.

      • ochlophobist

        It’s my understanding that the algorithmic models used to determine plan costs take into account both the potential profitability of the single contract, as well as well as the relationship of the additional risk assumed by the particular plan in relationship to the overall risk of all contracts.

        But in any event I know of no insurance company that pays health bills via bank accounts that are localized to single plans (i.e. they don’t pay for the hospital bills of the folks at my Catholic hospital out of the money paid to them just from the premium cash they get from my Catholic hospital – with an account keeping all of this accounts payable and accounts receivable for our account localized), even large plans such as the sort a large Catholic hospital would have. Thus a Catholic employer is sending money into a revenue stream out of which money is drawn to pay for contraceptives.

    • Bruce in Kansas

      Given these fiscal actions, is it not possible that the point is NOT moot, but has come to the point that the bishops felt they had to make a stand? The argument that “this has been going on for years so you can’t object now” rings hollow. Sometimes things come to a head and leaders need to put an end to the shenanigans.

      • ochlophobist

        Sure, and what is taking place now is an attempt to take it a step further than the provision of material aid, but to move into the realm of formal capitulation. From the point of view of Catholic moral theology surely this is much worse. I wish the rhetoric were more focused and more precise (as it would convince more people in the end), and I wish that bishops had acted with fire in the gut long ago. And in my dream world I long for the possibility that non-profit health insurers (including religiously oriented ones) would become common. But unfortunately I don’t see that or any good outcome coming from this, and part of that has to do with years of Catholics not having a more forthright Catholic identity.

  • BullPasture

    Henry Karlson said “some people’s religious liberty is being weakened if there are no free contraceptives with free health care.”

    I don’t understand this concept. How can someone’s religious liberty be weakened because someone else doesn’t give them something for free?

    • Rodak

      @ BullPasture —

      It isn’t really “free”–it’s “included.”

      • BullPasture

        @Rodak – I get that. I don’t get the inverse. How is someones liberty compromised if something isn’t given them for “free” or “included” in a general bill.

        • Bruce in Kansas

          This should not be a financial matter; it’s a moral matter. Financially, it costs less to euthanize than to care for the aged and seriously ill; it is cheaper to abort than adopt. And so on. If objections are about money instead of morality, all is lost.

          • BullPasture

            Bruce – I agree that it is a moral matter. I was responding to Henry Karlson’s claim that some people’s religious liberty is weakened if they aren’t provided with free contraceptives. It is a bizarre conception of liberty to say the least.

  • Bruce in Kansas

    Let’s take the specifics of contraceptives out of the picture for a moment. If the current situation is that 99% of Americans are using ANY product, how can we claim there is an availability problem, much less one requiring the government to take such a controversial step? If such a policy requirement for ANY product sounds sensible to you, it says a lot more about you and that product than it does about the policy requirement itself.

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