A Compromise I’d Take

Perhaps insurance provided by Catholic institutions could cover instruction in Natural Family Planning/Fertility Awareness?

This way the insurance companies get their savings on pregnancy, the administration gets to tell their constituency that everyone has access to family planning, and the Bishops get to teach the Catholic faith in word and deed.

Deal?


Brett Salkeld is a doctoral student in theology at Regis College in Toronto. He is a father of three (so far) and husband of one. He is the co-author of How Far Can We Go? A Catholic Guide to Sex and Dating.

About Brett Salked
  • http://eclecticmeanderings.blogspot.com/ Hank

    Good idea

    But your being logical!

    If the adminstration approched this issue logicaly, there woud be no be no objection,

  • http://roadgoeseveron.wordpress.com Henry Karlson

    Brett

    Is that on top of the rest of what the administration offered? If so, how does it change the morality of what people object to?

    • johnmcg

      Yes, Brett, please apologize immediately for responding to this compromise with anything but undiluted gratitude to the Administration for offering so much after what was their obviously innocent mistake of trampling on free exercise of religion.

      Look, I think the compromise is the best we can hope for in the current circumstances. But I certainly understand why some were hoping for more, and others are not quite ready to celebrate the Administration’s honoring of religous freedom.

    • brettsalkeld

      No. I was thinking instead.

      To me the change is that it doesn’t force Catholic institutions to provide insurance that covers artificial contraception. Am I missing something?

      • http://roadgoeseveron.wordpress.com Henry Karlson

        I’m not sure what you mean by instead? Instead of what? Instead of not buying insurance which pays for contraception?

      • brettsalkeld

        No, I meant instead of the deal announced yesterday. Instead of having our insurance plans cover artificial contraception (no matter who pays for them), the administration could say that the law is satisfied as long as Catholic packages provide coverage or some kind of family planning. It gives us an out that we can take completely in conscience.

        • http://roadgoeseveron.wordpress.com Henry Karlson

          Again, the problem is no matter what, the insurance companies will be funding these services to non-Catholics and that is what the fight is over. Yesterday, it was said Catholics don’t have to fund anything. That is now said not good enough because insurance companies would still be funding it just not for Catholics, and because of the nature of insurance, Catholics thus have some material cooperation with evil. Your solution would not deal with the criticism — it just adds more benefits for Catholics. I have no problem with those benefits and say good, do it. But that will not change one thing with the criticism with the HHS position after yesterday. The same objections would still apply.

      • brettsalkeld

        I don’t understand Henry. To me the heart of the problem was that Catholic institutions would have to provide insurance that covered artificial contraceptives. Under my compromise they wouldn’t have to. It looks really simple to me.

        What am I missing here?

        • http://roadgoeseveron.wordpress.com Henry Karlson

          You are missing that the HHS said that Catholic institutions _don’t_ have to provide insurance that provides contraceptives. Their policies won’t have them in it:

          “Under the new plan announced by Obama, religiously affiliated universities and hospitals will not be forced to offer contraception coverage to their employees.” http://www.cnn.com/2012/02/10/politics/contraception-controversy/index.html

          That’s the whole point.

      • M.Z.

        Your proposal wouldn’t be respecting the rights of employees to receive comprehensive health insurance inclusive of contraceptives.

        Your proposal also has the feature of allowing employers to determine medical treatments, something they are not qualified to do and something they should not be given the right to do.

        • brettsalkeld

          But neither I nor the Church believes that employees have such a right. When was “comprehensive health insurance inclusive of contraceptives” made into a right? And by whom? Furthermore, I don’t believe that contraceptives, used as such, are a medical treatment. Fertility is not an illness, nor does being fertile carry risks (as pregnancy and childbirth do).

      • brettsalkeld

        From what I can tell, we are not forced to PAY for the coverage, which I grant is an improvement. But from what I can see the policies will have contraceptives in them, payed for by the insurance companies. The policies we provide WILL provide contraceptives. Am I wrong on this?

        If I’m correct, my proposal fixes the problem. The policies we provide will not cover contraceptives, but will cover morally licit forms of family planning.

        If you want to continue, can we move to the bottom for space reasons? Thanks.

        • http://roadgoeseveron.wordpress.com Henry Karlson

          No, from what I see, Catholic institutions would not be offering policies which pay for contraceptives. There would be _side_ policies one could get outside of one’s workplace.

          • brettsalkeld

            Well, that depends on what is meant by “side policy.” If you can go out on the open market and buy your own coverage for this, be my guest. But if you get it because you are enrolled in our policy, that still strikes me as a problem, and that’s what the situation looks like to me.

      • CT Michael

        Self insured catholic institutions and small business owners of strong conviction are left out of this “solution” as are sterilizations and abortafacients as I understand it as of the moment.

      • Kurt

        CT,

        The Adminsitration has indicated it is looking for a means to extend the exemption to self-insured. Small business owners are not covered by the rule at all.

  • M.Z.

    Gynecologist consultations are already covered. I don’t see any reason consultations with a gynecologist about NFP wouldn’t be covered.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/voxnova/ Sofia Loves Wisdom

      MZ, most people don’t learn NFP at their gyno’s office. As a matter of fact, I am treated most insultingly when they learn that is my method of choice, regardless of the doc. You have to take an extra course somewhere to get that type of info.

      • M.Z.

        Understandable. We were hit up repeatedly for contraceptives after delivering our last child at a Catholic hospital. But that isn’t a federal government problem.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/voxnova/ Sofia Loves Wisdom

          True.

  • http://www.religiousleftlaw.com David Nickol

    No deal, because covering NFP only (which is, I can only assume, what you mean) will not bring the expected savings.

    NFP counseling and supplies should already be covered by any employer-provided insurance from Catholic organizations. If it is not, how much can they claim to care about the morality of family planning? Note the following:

    The medical coding system used by the government, insurance companies, medical clinics and health care providers now includes two codes specifically for natural family planning.

    Behind the push for the new codes was the American Academy of FertilityCare Professionals, a national organization that promotes the use of the Creighton Model FertilityCare System, which is used for natural family planning and women’s health and infertility issues while upholding Catholic teaching.

    Diane Daly, director of the Office of Natural Family Planning for the St. Louis Archdiocese and member of the academy, headed the committee that worked several years for the new codes.

    On Oct. 1, the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) published the following codes for natural family planning:

    V25.04: Counseling and instruction in natural family planning to avoid pregnancy;

    V26.41: Procreative counseling and advice using natural family planning.

    Now, it would make a great deal of sense to me for Catholic organizations to accept the proposed compromise and heavily promote NFP to their employees. This would seem to be a golden opportunity to those who want to promote NFP instead of just condemning contraception.

    • brettsalkeld

      Could you explain your first sentence a bit more?

      Also, if there are already codes for this, that makes my solution pretty easy to implement! I have to disagree about accepting the proposed compromise, however, for reasons I’ve elaborated on MM’s thread and above.

      • http://www.religiousleftlaw.com David Nickol

        Brett,

        I don’t think a significant number of people want to use NFP. Here are the percentages for what is in use right now:

        Pill. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28.0%
        Tubal sterilization . .. . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . .27.1%
        Male condom . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16.1%
        Vasectomy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9.9%
        IUD 2,100 . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5.5%
        Withdrawa . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..5.2%
        Three-month injectable (Depo-Provera) . . . . . . . . 3.2%
        Vaginal ring (NuvaRing) . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2.4%
        Periodic abstinence (calendar) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0.9%
        Periodic abstinence (natural family planning) . . . . 0.2%

        It is just unreasonable to imagine that you could convince enough people using “artificial” contraception to use NFP. If a woman doesn’t like the pill, she can ask her partner to use condoms, or she can try an IUD, or her husband can have a vasectomy, or she can get her tubes tied. Even assuming you could sell NFP so it would be as well-accepted as the pill, you’d still have 72% of people not using it.

        • brettsalkeld

          I never said anything about convincing people to use it.

      • http://www.religiousleftlaw.com David Nickol

        Bret,

        You said, “This way the insurance companies get their savings on pregnancy.” If the insurance companies offer only NFP as a method of birth control, and nobody uses it, then there is no savings from preventing unwanted pregnancies or pregnancies that are too closely spaced.

        • brettsalkeld

          Fair enough. Though it doesn’t cost them anything either.

    • http://gravatar.com/austin7487 Phillip

      You can bill for a V code but Medicare and Medicaid typical don’t reimburse for it. Fact of life. As a result private payers typicall don’t reimburse. Fact of life also.

      • http://www.religiousleftlaw.com David Nickol

        Phillip,

        But any employer buying health insurance coverage for its employees (or self-insuring) could add coverage of NFP to its policy, couldn’t it? And any employer could also provide NFP training and supplies to its employees. I have no idea what Catholic employers do now, but if they don’t provide coverage of NFP, why not?

  • M.Z.

    The mechanism seems to be – there are details to be worked out – that nonprofits would be allowed to contract health insurance policies that do not include contraceptive coverage. That event would trigger the insurance company to offer a no cost contractual contraceptive benefit directly with the enrollee. In McDonald’s parlance, the employer would offer you a coupon for a Big Mac, and McDonald’s would ask if you would like fries with that. It would basically amount to a regulatory expense for the insurance company.

    It should be noted that religious institutions that meet a certain test would be exempt from providing contraceptive coverage and their insurance carriers wouldn’t be compelled to offer a secondary benefit. My interpretation – with $5 that gets you a cup of coffee at Starbucks – is that parishes, diocesan offices, and primary and secondary schools would fall under this exemption. Universities and hospitals would not.

  • M.Z.

    But neither I nor the Church believes that employees have such a right [to birth control]. When was “comprehensive health insurance inclusive of contraceptives” made into a right? And by whom? Furthermore, I don’t believe that contraceptives, used as such, are a medical treatment. Fertility is not an illness, nor does being fertile carry risks (as pregnancy and childbirth do).

    That became a right when Obamacare was passed and another agency ruled that contraceptives were core services.

    Like everyone else, if you don’t believe these are legitimate treatments, you can make your argument to the relevant agencies or appeal to the democratic process. That is of course besides choosing not to use said treatments. What you don’t have the right to do is claim your right to conscience is being violated because others are availing themselves of their rights.

    That an employer is providing primary subsidy for a benefit is not sufficient basis for an employer having a right to make medical decisions. Non profits have been now exempted from offering explicit provision in order to assuage their “consciences”. Religious groups have been exempted on the basis they are free to manage their internal affairs.

    • brettsalkeld

      What you don’t have the right to do is claim your right to conscience is being violated because others are availing themselves of their rights.

      Well, you can if you’re in the process of “making your argument to the relevant agencies or appealing to the democratic process” regarding those “rights,” which is exactly what we should be doing.

    • M.Z.

      No you can’t. You aren’t resting your comments upon your conscience. You are resting your arguments upon what you believe is proper social order.

      • brettsalkeld

        I’m not sure I know what you’re saying. Of course I’m arguing for a proper social order – specifically, one which respects the right of conscience.

      • M.Z.

        Whose conscience is being violated and how is it being violated by allowing people who want contraceptives to have them funded by a secular corporation? Please speak precisely.

        • brettsalkeld

          A Catholic’s conscience is violated if a policy s/he, it (corporations) provides covers contraceptives.

      • M.Z.

        This is going no where. My apologies for wasting your time.

      • Kurt

        A Catholic’s conscience is violated if a policy s/he, it (corporations) provides covers contraceptives.

        In the case of a corporation, is each Catholic shareholder’s conscience violated?

        • brettsalkeld

          I meant things like universities and hospitals. I should have said “institutions.”

      • Kurt

        Brett, I am most confused. MZ asked “Whose conscience is being violated and how is it being violated by allowing people who want contraceptives to have them funded by a secular corporation? Please speak precisely.”

        You responded ” A Catholic’s conscience is violated if a policy [a university or hospital] provides covers contraceptives.

        So a Catholic on the Board of Directors of a college or who is a shareholder in a hospital has his conscience violated when the employing hospital or college offers its workers contraceptive coverage?

        • brettsalkeld

          Maybe. I had no intention of talking about that as I can;t possibly know. I meant “institution” qua “institution.” In other words, if a Catholic hospital is trying to be Catholic, it is a violation to force it to provide a policy that covers these things.

      • Kurt

        Brett,,

        Okay,so you are not addressing secular employers that include contraception in their policies but only Catholic parachurch employer who under the revised rule will be able to offer policies that say right on their front page that this policy offers no contraception.

        • brettsalkeld

          Well, I am not convinced that they could honestly say that the policy doesn’t include contraception. Everything I have seen seems to indicate that now every policy includes contraception, by law.

      • Kurt

        Well, I am not convinced that they could honestly say that the policy doesn’t include contraception. Everything I have seen seems to indicate that now every policy includes contraception, by law.

        The policies will state contraception is not included in this policy. At the discretion of the employer, it can say it on the front page of the policy in 42 point type, in red print with a Vatican flag on one side and an image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary on the other.

        • brettsalkeld

          Yes, it will state that. But so what? If you have the policy, you’re covered for contraception. If you don’t have the policy, you’re not. As far as I can make out, it’s really that simple.

    • Thales

      That became a right when Obamacare was passed and another agency ruled that contraceptives were core services.

      Hhmm, I’m wonder whether M.Z. is conceding that Obamacare is insufficient on the pro-life issue and on the conscience rights issue.

      • http://profiles.google.com/johnmcg JohnMcG

        Nah — more like that the only reason ACA is not a pro-life bonanza us that the USCCB was obstruction ist and walked away from the table. After all, usually Congress crafts legislation according to the bishops’ wishes.

  • http://turmarion.wordpress.com Turmarion

    Just for full disclosure:

    1. While I agree with the broad outlines of Church teaching here, I agree with the majority of the bishops with whom Pope Paul VI consulted in holding that not every marital act need be “open to life”; I thus don’t consider that for a married couple exercising prudential judgment, contraception is always wrong.

    2. On the other hand, I support the notion that religious institutions should not have to pay for things they feel morally objectionable as a result of government mandate.

    3. On the other other hand, we live in a pluralistic society, and there should be limits on the ability of any religious organization to force its views on others. Religions that practice vegetarianism shouldn’t try to outlaw meat for those outside the fold of the religion in question.

    4. As a corollary of 3, it goes without saying that everybody supports, through their taxes (or even their own financial transactions) practices that violate his conscience. Pacifists fund wars, Jews fund farm subsidies that may go to pig farms, Jains fund subsidies to farms that raise animals for meat, and so on; a non-smoker’s 401-k might have shares in Philip Morris, the iPad I buy was made in China under questionable labor conditions, etc. To expect perfect moral purity short of the eschaton is unrealistic and unattainable. OK…

    M.Z.: What you don’t have the right to do is claim your right to conscience is being violated because others are availing themselves of their rights.

    From here, emphasis added:

    That was no consolation to Catholic leaders. The White House is “all talk, no action” on moving toward compromise, said Anthony Picarello, general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “There has been a lot of talk in the last couple days about compromise, but it sounds to us like a way to turn down the heat, to placate people without doing anything in particular,” Picarello said. “We’re not going to do anything until this is fixed.”
    That means removing the provision from the health care law altogether, he said, not simply changing it for Catholic employers and their insurers. He cited the problem that would create for “good Catholic business people who can’t in good conscience cooperate with this.”
    “If I quit this job and opened a Taco Bell, I’d be covered by the mandate,” Picarello said.

    It seems to me that Picarello, and by implication his employers, the USCCB, are, in fact, doing exactly what M.Z. says: claiming that their conscience rights are violated because others are availing themselves of their rights.

    I’d agree, as a matter of religious liberty, that a specifically religious organization should be exempted from certain areas as a matter of conscience (though that’s still a sticky wicket–what if a group thought medical treatment of any kind to be morally wrong? Should they be exempted from providing any insurance?). But it seems that a lot of the people attacking the compromise want contraception not to be mandated for any employers, whether they’re in a secular field or not. Such a setup would open the door for all employers to claim exemptions on all kinds of things, purportedly on religious grounds (though such a rationale might be–shock!–abused), and that’s a can of worms it seems to me we don’t want to open. IMO, if you open a Taco Bell, you’re in a secular business and don’t get to argue exemptions on the basis of your own personal faith. If aspects of the business violate your faith, well, better get a new line of work.

    It also seems, more narrowly, that the bishops want it so that no employee of any Catholic organization can get contraceptives at all unless they pay out of their own pocket.

    Thought experiment: The government creates a “contraceptive fund”, funded from tax revenues and administered by HHS, and sends every woman in the US a “Contraceptive Card”. This is sent to everyone of age whether she is on insurance bought by her employer or not, whether she even works or not. She may use it, toss it in the trash, or call the relevant agency and ask to be removed from the list if even getting the card violates her conscience. Any transactions that she makes with it are strictly confidential, so that her employer will be unaware of her use of it, so that there is no possibility of repercussions if said employer forbids contraception. To those against the previous HHS ruling and the current compromise, would that be OK? If not, then I submit that religious freedom is not the real issue.

    • brettsalkeld

      There’s a difference between forcing people not to have contraceptives and fighting for our right to not have to provide them.

      • http://turmarion.wordpress.com Turmarion

        But according to Picarello no one should be “forced” to provide insurance that includes contraception even if they’re running a secular, non-church-related business. As I said, I think allowing that would open a can of worms we’d never get closed; and it strikes me that it makes it sound like the bishops aren’t so much trying to get the mandate removed for Catholic organizations as embark on an incrementalist strategy to get contraceptive coverage banned altogether, in the long run.

        Or do you think a Catholic Taco Bell owner shouldn’t be affected by such a mandate?

        You yourself say, “But neither I nor the Church believes that employees have such a right [to receive comprehensive health insurance inclusive of contraceptives].” Now that’s not the same thing as saying, “The Church has a right not to fund insurance inclusive of contraceptives”; you seem to be saying that employees have no right to such coverage even if someone else provides it! Or am I misreading you?

        • brettsalkeld

          I suspect the issue here is that “right” is not a univocal term. So, I don’t believe that contraception is a right in the sense that it must be provided to everyone. On the other hand, people do have the right to use it, and therefore to acquire it somehow.

          The reason some people say the Church must provide policies that include contraceptive coverage is because access to them is a “right” in the first sense I mentioned. I deny that and therefore do not think that anyone’s rights are trampled when the Church refuses to provide policies that include them. They still have the right to use them and acquire them, but they do not have the right to acquire them via their employer’s insurance policy.

          I have the right to watch porn. That right is not denied me if my employer won’t let me do so on her computers. It means that if I want to watch porn, I need to get my own computer.

      • Kurt

        I have the right to watch porn. That right is not denied me if my employer won’t let me do so on her computers. It means that if I want to watch porn, I need to get my own computer.

        Yes. But if by some accident of history, people got their Netflix subscriptions almost exclusively through their employer, does the boss get to decide what films are too racy for his employees? What would the likely public response be to a boss that censored a film enjoyed by 98% of the public?

      • johnmcg

        I think those wanting to enjoy it would not choose to work for that employer.

      • Kurt

        I think those wanting to enjoy it would not choose to work for that employer.

        And if all the bosses banned a certain genre of film?

      • brettsalkeld

        It’s hard to imagine a society where all bosses morally oppose things that all employees do not morally oppose. Maybe an employee would start a business where her or his employees could watch porn? This just looks silly to me.

  • Anne

    “That [right to birth control] became a right when Obamacare was passed and another agency ruled that contraceptives were core services.”

    But don’t forget that over half the states had already passed various types of insurance mandates for such coverage. Requiring coverage with no co-pay came about when it was ruled to be a “preventative care” service for women, which then meant federal guidelines had to include it among preventative care requirements.

    As a footnote: I noted that the Massachusetts mandate actually carried a provision requiring churches and all religious organizations to cover contraceptive medications when these were prescribed for medical, not contraceptive, purposes. I’d long wondered how this was and/or would be handled, since a high percentage of women and girls who use contraceptive pills are using them for reasons other than birth control.

  • Anne

    As for Brett’s proposal, I don’t see the point. Under the revised mandate, church organizations don’t have to offer any kind of birth control coverage at all. (Churches and specifically church-run organizations never did.) So why would they now?

    The genius in this compromise is that individual employees for both church-run and church-affiliated organizations will now be able to deal directly with insurance companies to get the coverage they want when it comes to birth control. Since their religious employers aren’t involved, what they use is up to their consciences alone.

    Theoretically, insurance companies have to cover all types of birth control, including NFP, although since that’s normally handled in settings outside medical offices, I’m not sure how easy it is to convince an insurance company to cover the charges. I’d bet most NFP users have never even tried. Once the federal mandate goes into effect, somebody should.

    • brettsalkeld

      I’m not sure what it means to claim that the employers who provide the policy “aren’t involved.”

  • Anne

    “…most people don’t learn NFP at their gyno’s office. As a matter of fact, I am treated most insultingly when they learn that is my method of choice, regardless of the doc. You have to take an extra course somewhere to get that type of info.”

    Doctors in clinic situations have about 10 minutes allotted with each patient (15 officially). Anything that takes much longer than writing a prescription gets “jobbed out” to a nurse or someone else. NFP training can take quite awhile, especially if there are problems, and there normally are. Most NFP counselors schedule clients at an hour a shot.

    My experience is probably not standard: The women’s clinic I attended happened to be located inside a Catholic hospital, which referred those interested to an NFP center on their grounds. Since no birth control services were covered by insurance back then, that wasn’t an issue. But, fwiw, the charge was virtually non-existent. Counselors were paid under a grant from a Catholic teaching hospital in the Midwest that was doing an NFP study.

  • Anne

    “I’m not sure what it means to claim that the employers who provide the policy “aren’t involved.”

    They’re not involved in birth control coverage. Their premiums don’t cover it.

    • brettsalkeld

      But they provide the policy. I’m not sure how that’s not a rather major involvement.

      • Kurt

        The policy does not include birth control.

        • brettsalkeld

          Where does the birth control come from if not through the policy? Can you get it without a policy?

      • Kurt

        The employee does not get it through the policy her employer offers her. She gets it directly from the insurance company. (BTW, two months ago, my health insurance insurance company — not my employer — directly offered me 10% off a gym membership)

        • brettsalkeld

          Which insurance company?

      • Kurt

        Which insurance company gave me the 10% coupon? One of the three I can select from in which my employer offers to pay part of the costs for the policy.

        • brettsalkeld

          I’m sorry Kurt, but this looks like deliberate obfuscation to me.

      • Kurt

        Brett,

        That is pretty much what the Bishops’ response looks like to me. Except for the Bishop of Sioux City, who call for a violent response against contraception is crystal clear.

      • brettsalkeld

        I’m afraid I’ve lost track of the discussion here. Are you simply saying the Bishop’s response looks like deliberate obfuscation as a sort of tu quoque, or are you making a more specific point that I’m missing?

      • Kurt

        Yes, I think the bishops’ revised position looks like deliberate obfuscation. (other than the Bishop of Sioux City, whose call fopr violence I do not find an obfuscation). It certainly can’t be reconciled to theri past practice.

        • johnmcg

          ThinkProgress, hardly a source favorable to the bishops, thinks it’s doubtful Bp. Nickless was calling for literal violence, but rather “strong resistance.”

          He should have been more careful in his choice of words, but brandying this about as if Bp. Nickless was calling for us to take up arms does not do you credit.

          • Mark Gordon

            John, I agree with you about ThinkProgress, but Bishop Nickless is widely reported to have said “…we’ve got to stand up and violently oppose this.” He has to do more than be careful in his choice of words moving forward. He should retract that specific sentence and clarify that he means – as he no doubt does – civil, non-violent opposition. If someone should take his original quote at face value and commit an act of violence against a public official or building, Bishop Nickless is going to be answerable for that. When you consider the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords last year, it’s not that far-fetched a notion that some nut case could hear the voice of God in the bishop’s words.

          • johnmcg

            Yes, I agree.

            I don’t object to calling on Bp. Nickless to make amends for this mistake.

            I do object to this being brought up in every discussion of the mandate as if one bishop’s poor choice of words in one interview is sufficient to discredit the entire movement against the HHS mandate.

          • Mark Gordon

            Yep. I’m with you there, John. Well stated.

      • Kurt

        We have a videotape of the bishop calling for “violent opposition.” We have no retraction or correction on the diocesan website almost a week later. I take the bishop at his word. John, defending this bishop does you no credit.

      • johnmcg

        So take that up with Bp. Nickless, not everyone who objects to the HHS mandate.

      • Kurt

        I don’t object to calling on Bp. Nickless to make amends for this mistake

        How kind of you to permit others to do this.

        I do object to this being brought up in every discussion of the mandate as if one bishop’s [call for violent opposition] …is sufficient to discredit the entire movement against the HHS mandate.

        Along with the “Boy-only” lead panel at the congressional hearing and the Santorum campaign official who said if women want to use a pill to prevent pregnancy, they should hold an asprin between their legs. The opposition to contraception as a basic benefit is not only mistaken, but it has some ulgy proponents.

        • Bruce in Kansas

          Check your facts, Kurt. There were women testifying. And check out HuffPo if you think advocates for the mandate are somehow using a higher plane of discourse.

  • Anne

    “I’m not sure what it means to claim that the employers who provide the policy “aren’t involved.”<

    Or are we talking money-is-fungible theory? To me, that’s just voodoo bookkeeping. Real accountants know how to keep money in separate “buckets.” Believe me. I’ve worked for a non-profit…and one that nearly went under while millions of dollars languished in the bank because they’d been earmarked for specific purposes.

    • brettsalkeld

      Nope. As I’ve said elsewhere, if paying for contraceptives is actually cheaper than not, the “money is fungible” bit has no bearing whatsoever, even if true.

      I mean, quite straight-forwardly, that it sounds odd to say that the entity that provides the policy is somehow “not involved.”

  • Chris Sullivan

    Curiously, even if the employees pay for their contraceptives from their own pocket, the employers are still cooperating with evil by supplying the wages used to buy contraceptives. Of course that cooperation is very remote. But it’s also remote when providing insurance which covers contraceptives.

    It seems to me that the real conscience issue here is how much employers get to micro-manage the consciences of their employees.

    By all means cover NFP courses and materials, but surely the employee also has the right to contracept if their consciences so see fit. The Church teaches that everyone is obliged to follow what their conscience informs them is morally right, even against the Bishops and Pope.

    God Bless

    • brettsalkeld

      No one’s right to contracept if their conscience says so is in question here.

      • Kurt

        The Catholic Church says no one has a right to contracept.

      • brettsalkeld

        Kurt, you’re using the term “right” in a manifestly different sense than I.

  • Anne

    “I mean, quite straight-forwardly, that it sounds odd to say that the entity that provides the policy is somehow “not involved.”

    When they’ve been purposively excluded from having to provide contraception coverage, I don’t see why anyone would insist on believing they’re involved. They’re not providing it. Contraception is not an integral part of the plans they’re offering. The only reason their employees can get contraception coverage is because the federal government has provided an avenue for them, i.e., by going directly to the insurance companies that provide their plans. It might be clearer if you think of it as the federal government itself providing government paid-riders to whatever plans are already in place for those individuals who ask for them. The employers are completely out of the loop.

    • brettsalkeld

      But they provide the policies under which the contraception is covered. I really don’t know how the entity providing the policy can be understood as “completely out of the loop.” I do not see how imagining that the government is paying for riders changes anything at all. First of all, the government isn’t paying for riders, and second of all, if they were, they would be riders on policies that Church entities are providing. I don’t see how this solves the problem the Church has with providing insurance that includes contraceptives.

      And why should we have to do this at all? Why can’t we just have insurance policies without contraceptive coverage? Why does the government need to force us to do this? Are insurance policies that don’t cover contraceptives such a threat to the welfare of the nation? I can’t see one good reason for it. If I could, I would be more inclined to accept a compromise, but I can’t.

      • Kurt

        Your argument moves beyond the religious liberty issue to the general widsom of contraception. I applaud the Adminsitration’s accomodation for religious employers. In response to the call for secular employers who have an objection to contraception, I would be willing to consider it so long as the employer (and not an agent of the employer) agreed to meet individually with each worker and explain his moral objection to contraception in as much detail as the worker would desire. Futher the employer should publicly published a statement of its views.

      • brettsalkeld

        I think any employer who chooses not to provide something that an employee might expect should take the opportunity to explain her or his position. I’d be more careful about making a law that says “as much detail as the worker would desire.” Some people’s desires in such matters are literally insatiable. You can’t spend your whole life arguing ethics with an employee. I would think handing out and going over a well-written pamphlet should be sufficient.

      • Kurt

        This the boss should have to come out on the shop floor and stand in front of his female employees and take at least some questions, not just have his secretary pass out a memo while he sits behind the big desk in the corner suite.

        • brettsalkeld

          I think a good boss and a person of conscience would happily take questions. The boss should be the one handing out and explaining the pamphlet. But “to everyone’s satisfaction” seems a bar too high.

      • Kurt

        Okay. Maybe an employee should be limited to a respectful “Please, sir, I want some birth control.” before her boss responds “Are their not charity programs for women who want contraception? Are there workhouses for poor mothers?”

      • brettsalkeld

        This is getting bizarre. I don’t think there is any point legislating the kinds of conversations people need to have. But I do think that a good boss would explain her or himself to a concerned employee.

        In any case, being an employer should not obligate anyone to provide birth control if doing so offends their conscience.

        • Bruce in Kansas

          This is just awful. If there’s an argument for contraception that’s not ultimately based on selfishness, I haven’t seen it yet. Not to say there’s not one out there.

      • http://branemrys.blogspot.com Brandon

        Brett,

        Kurt wasn’t saying that conversations would be legislated; he was putting you in the category of Dickensian villains, since this was Scrooge’s response to requests for donations to the poor.

        • brettsalkeld

          Indeed. Because refusing to buy an employed person contraception is very much like refusing to buy an unemployed one a meal!

      • johnmcg

        This is getting bizarre. I don’t think there is any point legislating the kinds of conversations people need to have.

        Indeed — I don’t know which is more bizarre — that in the midst of what everyone agrees is an unprecedented media blitz by the Church defending the right of Catholic organizations to not provide contraceptives, that some people are raising concerns that employees be notified of this policy, or that the rest of us are wasting time and energy entertaining it.

        I am fairly confident that the current very public debate is sufficient notification that Catholic organizations are unlikely to provide a contraceptive benefit, unless they are under legal duress to do so.

  • Anne

    “It might be clearer if you think of it as the federal government itself providing government paid-riders to whatever plans are already in place for those individuals who ask for them. The employers are completely out of the loop.”

    To be more precise: They’re not even government-paid, the government is demanding insurance companies offer free riders to whatever plans are already in place, riders that are enacted only when individual employees requiest them.

    • brettsalkeld

      But it’s still via our policies. I’m not sure why that doesn’t strike you as a relevant factor.

      As a side note, I was under the impression the insurance company had to contact the employees and make them an offer, not vice versa. Is that incorrect?

  • Anne

    OR….to clarify:

    The government is mandating that insurance companies offer employees of religious organizations riders to their insurance plans that give 100% coverage for contraception (products, procedures, etc.), riders that will only be activated at the request of individual employees. They’re not part of the original policies, and when activiated exist in addition, not as part of those policies.

    • brettsalkeld

      Not as a part of those policies.

      So it’s completely separate from the policy you got from your Catholic employer? You could get this even from an insurance company that doesn’t carry your policy from work?

  • bpeters1

    Whispers posted a memo which Abp. Dolan and a few others sent out to the bishops. Within it are listed some key problems which emerged within their conversations with the Obama administratoin over the recent revision of the HHS mandate. Two, in particular, really bother me.
    (1) Apparently student health plans at Catholic universities aren’t covered in this “accomodation” (i.e., they’re treated just like any non-exempt secular institutions). Notre Dame, for instance, will be forced to provide insurance policies to enrolled students which explicitly list all the free Plan B and ella they want. Ugh.
    (2) Addressing that “side policy” discussion above – apparently the administration informed Dolan et al that there is no alternate policy, nor is there any rider – there is only the policy provided by the Catholic organization. The “concession” is that this one and only policy won’t explicitly list coverage of contraception, etc. But if contraception etc. is to be covered (and the mandate indeed requires that it be), such coverage has to occur under some contract between the employee and the insurer – and if there is no rider or additional policy in existence, only one such contract is left – the one provided by the Catholic organization.
    So, to return to the McDonalds analogy, it sounds to me like this is the case – I give you a coupon for a Big Mac. When you go to redeem it at McDonalds, they don’t ask if you’d like to order fries (even at no cost) – they inform you that your coupon actually includes fries, even though it doesn’t say so.

    • Kurt

      1, My understanding is that Notre Dame’s current policies are already in compliance with the now revised HHS mandate.

      2. Again, why would it not be a better anaology to say I give you a coupon for an all you can eat of prime rib buffet. The restaurant then offers you in addition and without charge bread, potatoes and other cheap fillers?

      • bpeters1

        1. ND’s student health policies? If they are, that’s great news. But I don’t see how they could be. Currently, those policies explicitly exclude contraceptives unless prescribed for reasons of medical necessity (see pp. 19, 31, 49 – http://www.aetnastudenthealth.com/schools/notredame/brochure1112.pdf). And, according to Dolan, “regarding student health plans offered by religious colleges and universities…It appears that such plans will be required to offer the objectionable coverage.”

        2. The analogy you offer here sounds closest to the following scenario (I’m reading the bread, potatoes, etc. as contraceptive coverage). Notre Dame provides a policy which doesn’t include coverage for contraception, etc. (apart from reasons of medical necessity). Aetna contacts each individual holding a policy and offers her “in addition and without charge” a policy rider which consists of coverage for contraceptives, etc. That individual opts into such a rider as part of a separate transaction which involves only the individual and Aetna. This is the way I had initially interpreted Obama’s description of the insurer “reaching out” to women in his Friday presser. And if this is the arrangement, I’m on board, no qualms (other than the reported exclusion of student health plans from this arrangement).

        However, apparently the administration gave Dolan the following impression: “We are told that this is not to be seen as a ‘rider'”. That is, there is no separate agreement between the insured and the insurer — and since contraceptive coverage has to be included under some contract, it would appear that the only possible one in existence would be that which is provided from the get-go by the religious organization. Without any additional agreement or rider, the situation doesn’t seem to match up with your analogy, which suggests another “offer” “in addition” to the prime rib.

      • Kurt

        pbeters,

        For ND, Aetna separately contracts enrollees and offers them contraceptive coverage.

        On the second point, I think you are getting it backwards by misunderstanding the insurance term ‘rider.’ The Administration is not calling it a rider because a rider is something that is part of the employer policy. In order to make clear the arrangement is between the insurance company and the individual and that the employer is not a party to the arrangement, it is not to be considered a rider.

        It seems to me your objections are resolved.

  • http://gravatar.com/jsbuck SB

    What’s funny is that the shills for this policy are claiming that 98% of even Catholic women use birth control at some point. If that’s true (which does seem a bit dubious), then this whole issue is completely frivolous, as access can hardly rise any higher than 98%.

    And if we’re going to be worried about access to an item that 98% of people manage to get, then we should start thinking about indoor plumbing (still lacked by 2% of Americans), adequate food, cell phones, etc.

    • johnmcg

      That is an interesting point, and I think speaks to MM’s lament about the immigrant, etc.

      It seems that the the Administration is spending its political capital to ensure that people have access to something that, according to their oft-cited statstic, 98% of those in the religion that must be compelled to provide it, admit they have used.

      Apparently, this is a higher priority for them than helping the poor, the immigrants, the workers, etc.

      That’s something to answer for.

  • v

    Brett,

    While I think this sounds good(leaving aside the question of Obamacare – which forces people to buy insurance), I think what will happen is that an employee will take this understanding to a court and say that one type of family planning is discriminatory…etc…etc… and contraception will be brought in by a more expansive understanding by a court. The only way for your solution to work would have to be that it would be so exclusively worded and then finally to end with something like: “and no other types of family planning”. In other words it would be so explicitly worded that Obama would be made to look weak and so politically costly so that strategically Obama could not do it. The bishops should continue to push for full exemption along religious freedom lines and not type-of-family planning lines.

    • brettsalkeld

      Thanks v, for addressing important issues pertaining to my question. I’d be interested to hear others thoughts on your points.

  • Dan

    ” the administration gets to tell their constituency that everyone has access to family planning”

    Are we completely sure that’s all they want? As I understand it, some types of contraceptives are used to treat other illnesses and symptoms. The desire to make them widely available may not be limited exclusively to a desire for unlimited access to family planning.

    How would this compromise address that point?

    • brettsalkeld

      As far as I know, the Bishops have no problem with medicine which double as contraceptives being covered for non-contraceptive reasons. As long as its not prescribed as birth control, there shouldn’t be a problem.

      In a totally different vein, I suspect you’re completely correct that this is not all the administration wants. All the stats seem to indicate that everyone already has access to family planning anyways. Heck, if 98% of Catholics are using it, who isn’t? But if we make this offer and they reject it, it will become much clearer what they’re angling at. I think that’s actually a major benefit of this proposal. I don’t expect the Obama administration will like it, but it’s public deliberation would help people see through the smoke and mirrors.

  • http://agellius.wordpress.com Agellius

    Turmarion writes, “[W]e live in a pluralistic society, and there should be limits on the ability of any religious organization to force its views on others.”

    This is admittedly a side issue. But this statement caught my eye so I thought I would respond.

    There “should” be limits? On what criteria is this “should” based?

    Based on the tenets of Catholic morality, I know that people should *not* use artificial contraception due to its grave immorality. I’m not aware of any moral tenet saying that people who want to do immoral things, have the right to do so.

    As to the tenets of modern representative democracy: You haven’t defined the term “force its values”, so I’m not sure precisely what you mean by that. If you mean that the laws of a nation should not reflect the views of any particular religion, I am not aware of any tenet of modern pluralistic democracy which prohibits such a thing.

    The tenets of democracy say that there shall be no official religion, but they say nothing about the criteria upon which people may choose to base their votes. If the majority of people voted to elect devout Catholics, and those devout Catholics voted to pass laws reflecting their moral values, that would be perfectly acceptable under the tenets of representative democracy. I submit that that’s precisely how it was intended to work.

    If you’re saying that devout Catholics who are elected to office should be forbidden to vote to pass laws reflecting their moral values, I submit that *that* would violate the tenets of representative democracy.

    • Kurt

      Agellius,

      I agree with you 100%. The teaching of the Church is that there is no right to contraception at all. No right for religious employers to provide it or secular employers. No right for drug stores to sell it, doctors to prescribe it, manufacturers to produce it, or individuals to use it. Those who hold this belief have every right to say contraception should be banned.

    • http://turmarion.wordpress.com turmarion

      The tenets of democracy say that there shall be no official religion, but they say nothing about the criteria upon which people may choose to base their votes. If the majority of people voted to elect devout Catholics, and those devout Catholics voted to pass laws reflecting their moral values, that would be perfectly acceptable under the tenets of representative democracy.

      Concrete example: in the early to mid 1800’s, devout Protestants voted to democratically to elect devout Protestants to most offices, including local school boards. Back in those days, the Bible and prayer were allowed in public schools, but since devout Protestants called the shots, it was the Protestant versions of the Bible and prayer that were allowed. Not only that, but Catholic Bible readings or prayers were expressly forbidden, even for Catholic students. For just a small bit of the history, see here. This is why the Catholic school system was set up in this country. Some states even tried to ban those, since the idea was that the children of Catholic immigrants, to be good Americans, should be encouraged to become good Protestants. See what I mean?

      By your rationale, if enough devout members of any faith elected enough devout coreligionists who passed laws “reflecting their moral values”, all kinds of intrusive laws could be passed: alcohol might be prohibited (oh, wait–that happened, and it was largely driven by mainly Protestant temperance leagues!), other faiths might be restricted, etc. In some parts of the country, this could result in restrictions hostile to Catholicism. I wouldn’t want anyone passing policies restrictive of my faith; likewise, I wouldn’t want to pass policies restrictive of anyone else’s, either. There are complexities, and gray areas, true; but this is what I was talking about.

      • http://agellius.wordpress.com agellius

        Turmarion writes, “…other faiths might be restricted, etc. … I wouldn’t want anyone passing policies restrictive of my faith; likewise, I wouldn’t want to pass policies restrictive of anyone else’s, either.”

        You seem to be confusing legislators legislating based on moral standards, with legislators restricting the religious practices of people of other religions. You can do one without doing the other. Contraception is not a religious practice.

      • http://turmarion.wordpress.com turmarion

        agellius: Contraception is not a religious practice.

        Neither is eating; but if a Muslim or Jewish legislator tried to ban pork for everyone on the basis of his moral standards, would that be OK? That it’s not a “religious practice” for the non-Muslim or non-Jew isn’t relevant.

        • http://agellius.wordpress.com agellius

          Turmarion writes, “… if a Muslim or Jewish legislator tried to ban pork for everyone on the basis of his moral standards, would that be OK? That it’s not a “religious practice” for the non-Muslim or non-Jew isn’t relevant.”

          Yes, I think it would be OK, in the sense that the tenets of democracy allow for it. There is no harm in not eating pork. If the majority of people find it morally offensive, why shouldn’t it be prohibited? Those who favored pork-eating would be free to lobby and argue against the law if they thought it was unjust. That’s how democracy works.

          It seems you are basing your position not on the tenets of democracy, but on the principle of freedom from religion: that people have the right not only to be atheists themselves, but to live in a society which is free from any and all requirements and strictures that have their basis in religion. In other words, the right to live in an atheistic society, no matter how large a majority of that society might be religious. I’m not aware of any such right.

          Why should the atheists have the right to an atheistic society, while the religious are deprived of any right to a religious society?

      • http://turmarion.wordpress.com turmarion

        Essentially you’re saying that a majority vote could ban or compel actions on religious grounds regardless of the wishes of the minority; and that the minority has the choice of getting the votes to rescind the law in question, or just deal with it. By your rationale, a majority vote could ban pretty much anything as long as the majority find it “morally offensive”. What if the majority find a particular religion “morally offensive”–do they get to ban that, too? This would be “democracy” in the sense that Jonah Goldberg defined as “51% can vote to pee in the cornflakes of the other 49%”–a view which he rightly rejected.

        There’s a reason we have things like the Bill of Rights and why we’re a federal republic (read the Goldberg article for details regarding this latter). The idea is that yes, we have majority rule; but we also have mechanisms to prevent tyranny by the majority over minorities with beliefs or practices which the majority might “find offensive”.

        Also, I am not an atheist, nor did I say anything at all about atheism, nor am I promoting a “freedom from religion” ethos, so I have no idea what you’re talking about in that respect. All I’m saying is that people should be free from restrictions on their religious beliefs and practices, regardless of the views of the majority.

        In any case

        • http://agellius.wordpress.com agellius

          Turmarion:

          Getting back to the original statement of yours that I was responding to: You said, “[W]e live in a pluralistic society, and there should be limits on the ability of any religious organization to force its views on others”.

          I can agree with this statement in the sense that there should be limits on the ability of *anyone* to force his views on others — with this caveat, that I’m not totally sure what you mean by “forcing views” on people. A “view” really can’t be forced on someone.

          Presumably you mean policies based on one’s views. But that’s really just another way of saying, “There should be limits on what poliices may be imposed on people”, and I certainly agree with that as well — which is really what this whole comment thread has been about: the limits beyond which a policy should not be imposed.

          The real question underlying this, however, is what should be the basis for deciding which policies may be imposed on people, and which may not. I don’t believe that the fact that something is immoral according to a particular religion, disqualifies it as something that may be prohibited by law. Quite possibly it should be disqualified on other grounds, but the mere fact that it is based on a religious belief should not alone disqualify it. Disqualifying laws merely because they are based on religion, I think is anti-democratic.

  • http://gravatar.com/digbydolben digbydolben

    Because I believe this, I don’t want anything to do with the abortion issue; it’s because I believe that the profoundly evil people who are the majority of Americans now can’t be changed from THIS:
    “Women who abort are unable to love the children they carry; and many of them know very well what they are doing. The desire to end an inconvenient life is a form of hatred. In many cultures, from ancient Greece and Rome to modern China, infanticide has been accepted. Parents kill their newborn children or abandon them in places where they are exposed …to starvation and wild animals. Even in our liberal (but formerly Christian) culture, this still seems well-nigh incomprehensible. But infanticide is beginning to find its defenders among us — defenders who appeal to the logic of abortion, which says that nobody should be burdened with an unwanted child. They differ from most abortion supporters only in consistency: they don’t pretend that a human being isn’t being destroyed. Like abortion, infanticide has always occurred even when illegal. The law can never eliminate such evils entirely, for the simple reason that parents often hate and resent their children, as witness the phenomenon of child abuse. I know of one woman who wanted to get an abortion, was discouraged from doing so, and years later told the child: “I wish I’d aborted you.” Being self-centered leads inevitably to hating others who are obstacles to selfish desires. What is “natural” in fallen human nature easily descends to the diabolical. And our modern, post-Christian, liberal culture treats the self-centered life as normal, rejecting abortion laws as tyrannical impositions on what has been called “the imperial self.” Most of those who favor legal abortion now support even “partial-birth” abortion. To paraphrase Our Lord, greater hatred hath no parent than to kill the child. No false compassion should be allowed to create illusions about this terrifying fact of human nature.”

    Joe Sobran (R.I.P)

    Give it up, you crazy “socially conservative” Catholics: you live in the Castle of the Behemoth, of Mammon and the Antichrist. Emigrate!

    • Bruce in Kansas

      Even Catholics talk about children this way. We are comfortable with looking at human children as things we can decide whether or not we want to possess, since they are possessions which restrict our ability to pursue our other interests.
      Only if we see as true that every human life as a divine gift we can’t possess, only accept, can we see inescapably the magnificence of human sexuality and how contraception is in fact evil. I don’t think we are even discussing the topic of the dignity of human life, just women’s rights and insurance costs in pluralistic societies, and so forth.

  • Bruce in Kansas

    We are straining at gnats while swallowing the camel. The Church’s teaching (that artificial birth control is evil) is either true or it’s not.It’s widely agreed the vast majority of self-identifying “Catholics” use artificial birth control, rejecting the Church’s teaching by that action. That’s a gigantic problem, which the administration is quite publicly taking advantage of. Why aren’t’ Catholics discussing whether the Church’s teaching is true or not. If it is true, then it’s on like Donkey-Kong! If it’s not true, then why is it not? And what is the Church basing this on? Does the Church have authority to teach us these things or not? If no one ever explained this teaching to us, are we supposed to obey it anyway? If we disagree, do we have to read the catechism or an encyclical or go to Confession or something? Should we become Episcopalians to keep our integrity and not be hypocrites? What else can we disagree with, and even argue against in public policy? The inner mechanics of insurance coverage is weak soup compared to these huge problems which we seem to be so energetically ignoring.

    • johnmcg

      I would say that Catholics wishing to publicly dissent or act against the Church’s teaching have a responsibility to, at a minimum, read Humanae Vitae and reflect on it, and then if they think they have a superior vision of love and marriage, to assert it.

      I don’t see evidence of that in all “elephant in the room” combox posts. I see a lot of citing of public opinion, but not much engagement with the thinking behind the teaching.

      • Kurt

        John,

        Since this is a debate in the public square, would it not be even better if all of society (Catholic and non-Catholic) was engaged in a discussion about the permissibility of contraception?

        • Bruce in Kansas

          Let’s each pledge to give a reasoned explanation of the Church’s teaching to at least one non-Catholic this weekend. See how it goes. I’m in.

    • http://agellius.wordpress.com agellius

      Bruce:

      I hope the debate on this issue causes the points you raise to be better addressed by the bishops.

    • Rodak

      @ Bruce in Kansas —

      “That’s a gigantic problem, which the administration is quite publicly taking advantage of.”

      I would say, rather, that the administration is accommodating the facts on the ground. It has hardly worked to the administration’s advantage to do so. The administration, being a secular body, and working with secular law, has taken into account the reality of the situation. It is not the business of the administration to accommodate every religion’s doctrines. Imagine a regulation demanding that all restaurants adhere to Jewish dietary laws. The accommodation that has now been offered is the best that the Church should ask for.

      • brettsalkeld

        No one is insisting that all institutions offer insurance without contraception coverage. Only that institutions be permitted to do so if their consciences so dictate. This is NOT like saying all restaurants must adhere to Jewish dietary laws. It is like saying that any restaurants whose conscience so dictate should be allowed to adhere to Jewish dietary laws.

        It is simply a question of freedom. Freedoms can only be overridden for very good reasons. I can think of no single reason why Jews would need to serve pork in their restaurants. If you want pork, go to a different restaurant. Likewise, I can think of no single reason why Catholic institutions must provide policies that cover contraception. If you want contraceptives, buy them yourself. NO ONE is stopping you.

      • Bruce in Kansas

        I agree with your point about my comment that the administration is “taking advantage of” the problem of the majority of American Catholics rejecting Church teaching on contraception. It would be more precise to say the administration is providing a clear case on the consequences of this problem.

        However, the point about imagining if all restaurants were compelled by law to adhere to Jewish dietary rules is exactly the opposite of what is happening. The HHS is not mandating adherence to a specific religious teaching – it is mandating a violation of a specific religious teaching. In fact, Bishop Lori used the example in testifying to Congress: http://www.usccb.org/news/2012/12-030.cfm

      • Kurt

        No one is insisting that all institutions offer insurance without contraception coverage.

        The Church’s moral teachings certainly does insist on that.

      • Thales

        Kurt,
        Do you see a difference between the Church exhorting someone to not curse and a state imposing a law prohibiting anyone from cursing? The Church sees a difference; I see a difference. The first situation doesn’t mean the second situation.

      • Kurt

        Thales,

        Does the Church see a difference in this situation? The Church has promoted the illegalization of contraception. Do you have a definative statement that she in principle no longer does or is it just a matter of what is opportune? Do you personally support the right of any woman who wants it to use contraception?

      • Thales

        Kurt,

        Yes, the Church sees a difference in this situation. In this particular case of the HHS rule, the Church is not calling for the illegalization of contraception. She’s only calling for religious freedom. That’s it.

        Your other questions go to a huge topic that has many nuanced issues: namely, when is it appropriate to legislate in society and when is it inappropriate. If you haven’t, go read Aquinas’s Treatise on Law. That is needed as a background for a discussion on this topic. You’ll see that some moral evils should be legislated, and some shouldn’t; and the same for moral goods. So something can be immoral and yet be something that shouldn’t be prohibited, and this balancing can change depending on the society and the circumstances. I think that contraception is one of those immoralities that shouldn’t be prohibited by law and I suspect that most bishops would agree with me on that point; although no doubt in other circumstances and at other times, some bishops have called for its prohibition and there is nothing fundamentally wrong with that.

        Your last question (“Do you personally support the right of any woman who wants it to use contraception?”) betrays the fact that you aren’t approaching this topic with the proper distinctions, because the word “right” can be used equivocally and is being used to trap me in a “gotcha.” It’s a similar question to “Do you personally support the right of any person to curse, or the right to lie to one’s spouse?” In a way, no, I don’t, because no one has the right to do evil, whether it be cursing or lying to one’s spouse. On the other hand, yes, I’m in favor of not having laws that prohibit those actions.

  • Rodak

    @ Bruce in Kansas —

    Yes, it is the reverse. But it is the reverse also for non-Catholic women working at Catholic institutions whose insurance does not cover medical costs that they want. My point was exactly that the religious freedom gate swings both ways.

  • Rodak

    I wonder what would happen if the Catholic institutions in question here, having informed applicants up-front that birth control services would not be paid for by their employee health insurance plans, found that they could not then find enough women willing to home for them to meet their staffing needs?
    You all seem to assume that none of these women actually NEED this job at a Catholic institution, and if they don’t like the arrangements they can just go out and find another job at the snap of a finger. You also assume that any woman can easily afford to pay for these services out of pocket.
    Or mayber, you just don’t care about any of that? You’ve nailed them on a technicality, and by God (quite literally), you’re gonna make them pay–one way or the other. Love just dripping all over!

    • Thales

      I wonder what would happen if the Catholic institutions in question here, having informed applicants up-front that birth control services would not be paid for by their employee health insurance plans, found that they could not then find enough women willing to home for them to meet their staffing needs?

      Isn’t this just the status quo for many Catholic institutions? I don’t see any problems happening now.

    • johnmcg

      I wonder what would happen if the Catholic institutions in question here, having informed applicants up-front that birth control services would not be paid for by their employee health insurance plans, found that they could not then find enough women willing to home for them to meet their staffing needs?I wonder what would happen if the Catholic institutions in question here, having informed applicants up-front that birth control services would not be paid for by their employee health insurance plans, found that they could not then find enough women willing to home for them to meet their staffing needs?

      It seems that would be a perfectly legitimate way to protest the grievance and bring about change, if you think that is the result.

      Since the Church is having such a loud and public debate protesting their right not to provide contraceptive coverage, I don’t think it can be credibly camed that Church organizations are trying to sneak their lack of services past their employees. If it wasn’t public general knowledge before, it certainly is now.

      Yet there have not been mass walk-outs.

      Could it be that the problem is not that employees are unaware that contraceptives aren’t covered, but that they’re largely OK with it?

      You all seem to assume that none of these women actually NEED this job at a Catholic institution, and if they don’t like the arrangements they can just go out and find another job at the snap of a finger. You also assume that any woman can easily afford to pay for these services out of pocket.

      You seem to find the claim that 98% of Catholic women have used contraception credible. It seems it would be difficult to believe that, and also believe that contraception is so expensive that those wanting it require access to it.

      And I understand that sometimes the power in the employer/employee relationship tilts to the employer. Still, it seems to me that if an employee is putting his/her daily labor in for an orgainzation whose values are so antithetical to her own that the organization denies coverage for something the employee deems a basic human right, it seems that’s the problem, not that the employer isn’t forced to provide it.


      Or mayber, you just don’t care about any of that? You’ve nailed them on a technicality, and by God (quite literally), you’re gonna make them pay–one way or the other. Love just dripping all over!

      From the Church’s perspective, it is not “love” to provide people something we believe isn’t good for them.

  • Bruce in Kansas

    “You all seem to assume that none of these women actually NEED this job at a Catholic institution, and if they don’t like the arrangements they can just go out and find another job at the snap of a finger.” I haven’t read all of the bishops’ statements, but I haven’t heard of any mentioning firing women over this. To pose this issue as an accusation of not caring about women is disingenuous.

    “You also assume that any woman can easily afford to pay for these services out of pocket.” This is an assumption based on a fact prominently put forth by the administration – that 99% of women have used hormonal contraceptives. I don’t know if that alone guarantees how affordable that means they are, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a higher usage rate for any drug on the market, even without this mandate. It’s not too drastic to say hormonal contraceptives are affordable. Abortion pills and sterilizations are, of course, a different matter.

    • http://www.rrrrodak.blogspot.com Rodak

      @ Bruce in Kansas —

      Yes. But they get them free if they are poor, and via insurance if they, or a spouse, is working. That’s why there’s a controversy here, Bruce.

  • Thales

    A thought experiment for anyone who might think that the bishops’ objection is an infringement of the employee’s religious freedom:

    Suppose the Obama administration had never issued the original HHS rule, or even suppose that the ACA law had never been passed in the first place. Instead, suppose that we continued to have the current status quo which we’ve had for 100+ years, with some Catholic institutions sometimes not providing contraception coverage to their employees. In effect, rewind your mind back three years to a time before this debate. Do you think that an employee of a Catholic institution could legitimately make the argument that her conscience and religious freedom was being violated by her employer and so demand contraception coverage from her employer?