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Saturday, October 1, 2016

Contraception And The Cost Of The Culture Wars

WASHINGTON — Politicized culture wars are debilitating because they almost always require partisans to denigrate the moral legitimacy of their opponents, and sometimes to deny their very humanity. It’s often not enough to defeat a foe. Satisfaction only comes from an adversary’s humiliation.

One other thing about culture wars: One side typically has absolutely no understanding of what the other is trying to say.

That is why the battle over whether religious institutions should be required to cover contraception under the new health care law was so painful — and why it was so hard to comprehend why President Obama, who has been a critic of culture wars for so long, did not try to defuse this explosive question from the beginning.

It’s also why he was right, finally, to reach a compromise that respected the legitimate concerns of each side. He should have done this at the outset, but far better late than never.

That so many liberal Catholics supported the church’s core claim surprised both Catholic conservatives and more secular liberals. There are lessons here, and that includes lessons for Obama.

Those of us who are liberal Catholics have remained in the church for reasons beyond tribal loyalties or a desire to honor the traditions of our parents and grandparents. At the heart of the love many of us have for the church — despite our frustrations over its abysmal handling of the sexual abuse scandal and its reluctance to grant women the rights they are due — is a profound respect for the fact on so many questions that count, Catholicism walks its talk and harnesses its faith to the good works the Gospel demands.

When it comes to lifting up the poor, healing the sick, assisting immigrants and refugees, educating the young (especially in inner cities), comforting orphaned and abandoned children, and organizing the needy to act in their own interest, the church has been there with resources and an astoundingly committed band of sisters, priests, brothers and lay people. Organizations such as Catholic Charities, the Catholic Health Association, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, and Catholic Relief Services make the words of Jesus come alive every day.

For liberals who sided with the church in this controversy, the most vexing problem with the original exemption on contraception is that it defined “religious” so narrowly that the reality that these organizations go out of their way to serve non-Catholics was held against them. Their Gospel-inspired work was defined as non-religious. This violated the very essence of Christian charity and the church’s social justice imperatives.

  • JamesA.Kulczyk

    What the Church fails to understand is that they are not buying contraception for their employees, they are purchasing Health Insurance. What type of services the employees decide to take advantage of is nobody’s business and, in fact, should be considered confidential information under HIPPA privacy law. The larger question is; what type of moral authority raises such a ruckus over contraception, even for non-members, but turns a blind eye to centuries of child sexual abuse and institutionalized cover-up? The whole lot of them are hypocrites.

  • BobbyB0909

    The author of this article claims that Obama has created a “culture war” by this health care bill. I attest that this is no more a culture war than the legalization of gay marriage. These dynamics only create a firestorm in the US because of the illogical and often dangerously skewed vision of a society by religious zealots.

    Is there any wonder why countries with the fewest number of religious “believers”–countries like Switzerland, Norway, The Netherlands, Finland, France, Japan, Denmark, Australia–never seem to suffer such “culture wars” over preposterous myths and nonsense? And it’s no surprise many of these nations are also viewed among the best countries in which to live, as well as the least violent.

    Religion does not belong in politics, and frankly, an “industry” that pays no taxes yet holds billions (if not trillions) of dollars in wealth and real estate should not have a voice in decisions which affect a society. Yet religious people always seem to have an opinion on how society should be run, despite their obvious lack of tax contribution to said society. They protest the expansion of gambling in states while benefiting from their own “charitable” bingo nights. They bemoan the crumbling family unit and rising divorce rates while protesting gay marriage. And the cover-up of years of sexual abuse by their own priests by the Catholic church is something that SHOULD have brought the entire institution to the ground.

    Now, right on the heels of their repeated attacks on gay marriage, they have found another “fight”…a health care reform bill which requires employers to provide health care which (GASP) includes the availability of free contraceptives! Contraceptives and sex education are the two most important vehicles for avoiding unwanted pregnancies (and, consequently, abortions), yet these narrow-minded individuals are only concerned that the use of birth control somehow infuriates their god!?! These dinosaurs seemingly will not be satisfied until they’ve reduced the United States to 15th century education levels. Every other industrialized nation on the planet has a single-payer, universal health care system…and I never remember hearing flack over such drivel as accessible birth control! Putting faith in abstinence obviously doesn’t work. It’s time the Catholic church either starts paying taxes on their real estate holdings like the rest of us or keeps its collective mouth shut about societal concerns.

  • StevenBrungard

    “When it comes to lifting up the poor, healing the sick, assisting immigrants and refugees, educating the young (especially in inner cities), comforting orphaned and abandoned children, and organizing the needy to act in their own interest, the church has been there with resources and an astoundingly committed band of sisters, priests, brothers and lay people. Organizations such as Catholic Charities, the Catholic Health Association, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, and Catholic Relief Services make the words of Jesus come alive every day.”

    These are all the venues where a religion business can get in front of people at the most vulnerable moments of life. Keep in mind that many of the workers are genuine in the care they feel and provide. I am pointing out the business interest in access to the most vulnerable, the most pained and confused and frightened and forlorn. Proselytizing is easier in these venues. Consider this issue of contraceptives with abortion. Imagine if all the clamor of religion businesses would succeed in eliminating abortion and contraception, how the birth rate would increase and how more children become exposed to the proselytizing by religion businesses. Think of the thousands of child care and K through 12 schools that are run by religion businesses. Think of the vulnerability and malleability of children. Child care facilities and K-12 schools are a good investment for religion businesses.

    Also a good investment is the 400 million dollars that religion businesses spend each year to lobby congress. The privileges they win from government yield a great return: government contracts, lax regulation, tax exemptions, privileges, perks and more amount to many times the 400 million invested.

    I remind all: I am not commenting about persons, I am discussing businesses.

  • Bruce_R

    It’s a complete mystery to me how the Catholic Church can be so strongly against abortion and at the same time opposed to contraception. Birth control prevents abortions far more effectively than any other method. If people stop using contraception the number of abortions would skyrocket and our poor already-overcrowded planet would be heading toward 15 billion in population. What explains this contradiction: be fruitful and multiply?

  • stsintl

    First, why not government offer the coverage through Medicaid, when a religious employer has moral objections to offering coverage of any specific health care item?

    Second, if Christian Sharia [codes] are allowed to supersede Civil Codes, then we are not far behind Pakistan where tribes [Talibaan] in the Northwest Frontier [near Afghanistan border] follow Islamic Sharia and claim exemptions from the Civil Laws of the country. Looks like US is beginning to look more and more like Pakistan.

  • Clark_Kent

    The problem with the religious right and the Catholic bishops is that they try to put a burden of guilt on everyone for being human. All life forms have some powerful kind of sex drive or they would not exist, and humans are no exception. However, uncontroled reproduction is harmful and leads to all kinds of misery. Among animals control is provided by mechanisms such as breeding seasons, food supply, and predators so that a balance is maintained. But do we as humans want to be controled by starvation and predators (wars)? We were not given a breeding season. We have permanent sex drives, and this contributes to close and loving families. Most animals do not have families. Females raise the young, and males drop around during mating season and leave after their job is done. Contraception is the ONLY moral way to provide human families with the number of children that they can support emotionally and financially. Certainly, no one wants more abortions. Most males are repulsed by the idea of abusing altar boys.

    E. J. Dionne rightfully points out that the Catholic church does a great amount of very valuable social work. Unlike the evangelical right, the Church has a genuine Christian concern for the poor, but overpopulation is the greatest cause of poverty. You can never eliminate poverty by breeding more and more poor people, and we as humans can either control our population, or nature will do it for us and the results will not be pretty.

  • freethinker

    I am in general agreement with the comments thus far posted. It is abundantly clear that over-population is that catastrophic event that we fear will erase mankind. It is the cause of our energy, food, pollution, housing, you name it, problems. And yet, it is clear that the President’s position, both initially and ‘revised’, violate the First Amendment. If fact, he does not even have the power to ‘revise’ the act. So, what to do? Rather than forcing a religion vs government fight, maybe the best tactic is for religious people, of all faiths, to understand the threat of over-population and force their religions to act accordingly.