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Saturday, October 22, 2016

WASHINGTON — America’s Big Religious War ended on Friday. Or at least it ought to have.

A little more than a year ago, the Obama administration set off a bitter and unnecessary clash with the Roman Catholic Church over rules mandating broad contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The Department of Health and Human Services’ announcement of new regulations is a clear statement that President Obama never wanted this fight.

The decision ought to be taken by the nation’s Catholic bishops as a victory, because it is. Many in their ranks, including some of the country’s most prominent prelates, are inclined to do just that — even if the most conservative bishops seem to want to keep the battle raging.

But more importantly, the final HHS rules are the product of a genuine and heartfelt struggle over the meaning of religious liberty in a pluralistic society. The contraception dispute was difficult because legitimate claims and interests were in conflict.

The vast majority of Americans believe that health insurance should cover contraception. At the same time, the Catholic Church has a theological objection to contraception, even if most Catholics (including regular churchgoers) disagree with its position. The church insisted that its vast array of charitable, educational and medical institutions should be exempt from the contraception requirement.

The church made a mistake in arguing its case on the grounds of “religious liberty.” By inflating their legitimate desire for accommodation into a liberty claim, the bishops implied that the freedom not to pay for birth control rose to the same level, as say, the freedoms to worship or to preach the faith. This led to wild rhetorical excesses, including a comparison of Obama to Hitler and Stalin by one bishop, and an analogy between the president’s approach and the Soviet constitution by another.

But the church had good reason to object to the narrowness of the HHS’ original definition of what constituted a religious organization entitled to exemptions from the contraception requirement. If a religious organization did not have “the inculcation of religious values” as its purpose and did not primarily employ or serve those who shared the faith, it got no exclusion at all.

The problem is that the vast charitable work done by religious organizations to help millions, regardless of their faith, is manifestly inspired by religion. The church could not abide the implicit reduction of its role merely to private expressions of faith. Don’t most Americans devoutly wish that religious people will be moved by their beliefs to works of charity and justice?

The HHS rules announced Friday scrapped this offensive definition in favor of long-established language in the IRS code. In an interview, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius showed a becoming humility, and it would be nice if this encouraged the same among her critics. However defensible the original rules might have been, she said, “they really caused more anxiety and conflict than was appropriate.”

  • charleo1

    Call me dense. But I fail to see how allowing the woman who happens to work for a religious
    organization, the choice of using contraception, in any way abridges the Right of her female
    coworkers to abstain from their use. It seems Senator Roy Blount, of Missouri, kinda ripped the pretense off the objection, when he allowed as any boss that believed contraception was a sin,
    or maybe he just likes the looks of a pregnant employee, who can’t afford to quit her job with
    a new mouth to feed.

  • Sand_Cat

    The Catholic church’s rules governing matters of sex were crafted by a bunch of old, celibate men, many of them with severe pathologies related to the issue, for the express purpose of making sex as guilt-ridden and infrequent an occurrence as possible among all of the faithful, married or not.

    The “faith” of the bishops never prevented them from sitting by and saying and doing nothing while the Germans murdered 20 million plus (born) human beings, included many Catholics, nor did it prevent a deal with Mussolini to allow him the use of mustard gas against Abyssinians armed with matchlocks without more than pro-forma protest in order that the Vatican might become a “nation.” When Hitler died, the Senior Cardinal in Germany ordered requiem masses to be said for this unrepentant mass murderer and suicide, an act for which he was never disciplined, and the church knowingly and deliberately assisted some of the worst Nazi criminals to escape justice – as did the Red Cross and US intelligence agencies – because they were “anti-communist.”

    Their “faith” did not prevent them from protecting thousands of pedophiles and other abusers of “the most defenseless among us,” and enabling them to continue to victimize more and more children by transferring them to other dioceses without warning the lucky recipients, in many cases repeatedly, as well as themselves abusing and humiliating parents who came to them to report these monsters.

    Their “faith” does not prevent them from accepting large sums of money from the US government for “social services” and other activities, or from employing non-Catholics to carry out non-religious services.

    But their “faith” will not permit a man and woman married before their god by their church a moment of intimacy without the anxiety of a possible pregnancy they cannot afford, or which may even endanger the woman’s life. Their “faith” will not sanction the prevention of pregnancy for anyone, even if it will certainly reduce the rate of abortion, whose “victims” they ostentatiously mourn while posting wanted posters and encouraging the murder of doctors who try to cope with the pregnancies that inevitably result. And even if a couple wants children but the man has a low sperm count, the silliness they require for collection of sufficient semen to achieve pregnancy would be hysterically funny if it weren’t real, honest human beings who are its victims.

    And they of course employ lobbyists to try to assure that even those outside their church are unable to use birth control or rid themselves of abusive spouses, and to try to make us all pay taxes to support their centers of indoctrination, which they call schools. Truly, they become heroic defenders of “religious freedom” only when their own prerogatives are questioned, and that freedom is something only for them, and not for the rest of us, as shown by their actions in countries with governments more sympathetic to them.

    The Catholic Church’s charities and other agencies perform much good and many of their members and even of the hierarchy are good and honest people, but this is an outrage, and a manifestation of incredible arrogance, and the Obama administration may have been wise not to fight it for the sake of the divisiveness and the negative effect on the nation, but do not EVER suggest that this was the “right” thing to do, or that the church leaders were right to bring the protest. The hypocrisy of comparing Obama to Hitler when a man they may soon declare a “saint” (“a heroic manifestation of the grace of god,” is, I believe, one definition of the term) was a Nazi collaborator who abysmally failed the church’s greatest test of the last century.

    • Your anti Religion fixation is showing! THe setelment is a win win.

      • Sand_Cat

        I note that you do not dispute the claims made.

        • onedonewong

          Because its a childish rant with no basis in fact and just an UNinformed personal opinion

          • Sand_Cat

            You have some nerve talking about anyone else’s “childish rant.”

    • latebloomingrandma

      Wow! That captured many of my sentiments. I am a practicing Catholic who struggles with a lot of these issues. My allegiance is to the gospel message of Christ, even though I continue to have problems with the church as an “institution”, and as a liberal, I stay because I feel our voices are a necessary injection into the stodginess of this patriarchy .
      The church should take the “deal” and spend their energy on cleaning up their other mess.

      • onedonewong

        Its too late for them to remove Obama

    • onedonewong

      Typical rant from agnostic. The Catholic faith is and has been unchanged since it was founded by Jesus.
      As usual you and your fellow ghouls have no problem murdering 1,000,000 babies every year. You have no problem with drugs, trafficking in children for sex. No problem with debauchery animal sex necrophilia and debasement of the weaker.

      • “The Catholic faith is and has been unchanged since it was founded by Jesus.”

        Be very careful to not blaspheme. Jesus did not found the Catholic church. Their very practices of bowing down (genuflecting) to graven images (dead gods), even having images in the church is prohibited by God Himself. No prayer beads or prayers to saint this one and saint that one.

        Best to read His Word the Holy Bible to gain wisdom and understanding.

        • Sand_Cat

          Better to think and show compassion for others. The Bible contains some wisdom, as well as plenty of unhealthy sex and genocidal violence, most of the latter two commanded by the god whose word it supposedly is.

      • Sand_Cat

        Typical rant from an ignorant bigot. Your answer to list of charges based on real events and supported by evidence is to accuse me of trafficking in children for sex, bestiality and necrophilia.

        Is that the best you can do?

        One of the Catholic faith’s biggest problems is that many things about it (or the hierarchy’s pronouncements, anyway), haven’t changed since the Dark Ages. I dispute whether the evidence supports the claim that the Catholic or any other modern church was founded by Yeshua, but Betta’s charges come from one obviously little wiser than you. One thing I definitely believe is that you can’t blame the failings of Christianity in general on the guy described in the first couple of books in the “New Testament,” if one can rely on the accuracy of any of it. The guy who couldn’t tolerate the arrogance and hypocrisy of the religious hierarchy of his day seems to me unlikely to be overly fond of its modern-day equivalent, but at least the Catholic church doesn’t completely ignore the things “Jesus” said one should do or not do in favor of an empty “faith” such as that professed by the fundamentalist Protestants. The latter have chosen to ignore the sole description by Yeshua himself (allegedly) of the day of judgment, when people are evaluated by what they did and didn’t do (and sex is mentioned in neither group), with no mention at all of what they “believed” or had “faith” in.

        If you are a Catholic, all I can say is that you are no credit to the church, which – for all its vanities – attempts to do much good and has many, many members who are thoughtful and generous and very unlike you in other ways as well. To be fair, the upper hierarchy’s indifference to, and inaction on, the murder of the Jews and others was not shared by many individuals of both Catholic and Protestant persuasion who did what they could to prevent the evil, often at great risk to themselves.

        • onedonewong

          hey your a Yid hardly a race that stands up for themselves

  • nobsartist

    Tax the churches. Why are they allowed to be tax free? Since they are all about “fair”, its time to make them pay their “fair” share.

    Since a few have chosen to violate the terms of “tax free status”, all should pay. Besides, the big churches really do nothing for the communities that they are located in.

    Give them a special rate like 90% or so.

    • Organized religion is big business, and they should be taxed accordingly. Along the same lines, their influence in our political system, which is identical to all other special interests, must come of an end. No wonder Christ threw the merchants out of the Temple!

    • I agree religious institutions as well as any other charitable tax excempt organization. But same as any business.

  • Covering the cost of contraceptives does not mean women are being forced to use them. I am a former Catholic, and I understand where the Catholic church is coming from, but they are wrong. If they want to preach against the evil use of contraceptives and abortion (a contradiction in terms as far as I am concerned) they should do it in Church during their sermons, communion, or when they talk to their parishioners. As far as what female employees working in Catholic institutions do in the privacy of their homes, that’s their business. No wonder so many Catholics ignore so many of the tenets of their church and, increasingly refrain from going to Mass or donating to Catholic causes.
    An intrusive organized religious organization is as bad as an intrusive government. Both must be rejected and ignored.

    • Mr. Vila, your comments are always excellent and rational. You are to be commended for that.
      Too many contridictions on all sides of this issue. All fail to justify their stance.
      The Church teaches that intercouse is only for porcreation, yet says it is OK for infertil couples to have intercourse.
      Pro-Life values life of the unborn but is in favor of preventing unborn life, contraception.
      Pro- abortionist who favor abortion in the first trimester only. Why are they not willing to kill the unborn ant any time until the baby is out of the womb?
      I am not favoring any of these positions, only doing soul searching and questioning.

    • onedonewong

      Ohhh thank you Pope Donny… the Church has been around for OVER 2000 years but you know the doctrine better than those who are in charge…what a pompous moron

      • Most Catholics understand their Church doctrine, liturgy and values. We start when we do our First Communion, when we are confirmed, when we marry in a Catholic Church and when we baptize our children. Being aware and understanding why the Church has taken the position it has on issues such as abortion and contraception does not mean I – or any other Catholic or former Catholic – knows more than those who try to enforce their beliefs on others.
        Your statement confirms why so many posters in this blog disregard your comments as those of a zealot or ideologue intent on disrupting debates to purse the donors that fund your organization have asked you to advance. I doubt you are going to go very far in this forum…

        • onedonewong

          In your case I would agree you don’t know more about anything. Based on your posts its obvious who your Mwssiah is and he lies in the WH.
          The reason for my posting here is to insure some sort of balance to a site full of con men. In my case I’m not looking for $$$ unlike you and your fellow socialists who think the taxpayers should have to fund everything you want

      • Sand_Cat

        And you clearly haven’t a clue about what is important, doctrine be damned. Yeshua quoted the two “great commandments” (neither of them was about sex, either) and said they encompassed the whole of the law and prophets. Neither of them mentions any doctrine, though the second one seems a pretty good guide, especially in the definitions of who is one’s “neighbor.”

        And not to get too picky, if you’re going to write religious insults, it should be “Pope Dommy,” but I guess you were too busy showing off your religious and political erudition to bother getting his name right.

        • onedonewong

          I got it right Dummy have fun at your Pork fest

  • Lovefacts

    Several things come to mind:
    1. The Church is actually at war with women in general and Catholic women in the specific. That’s why they can’t stop attacking the administration or the thought of paying for the medical coverage of birth control for even non Catholics.
    2. If the Catholic Church does not change, it will be suffering the same problem as the Republican Party–irrelevancy.
    3. The Church needs to understand that abortion and contraception aren’t the same thing. If you do the latter, there’s no need for the former.

    • Seems the discussion about coverage of birth control by Obama care is on the wrong issue.
      The morallity of the issue can be argued forever without ever reaching an agreement. If a lady has a medical condition treated by prescribing birth control by all means it should be covered.
      The question should be, if birth control is for the prevention sperm form reaching an egg is this a medical necessary or is it a life style choice? If it is a life style should it be covered?

  • Why anyone thinks we have to change laws to quiet the catholic church is beyond me. They do think they have the rigfht to dictate. Always have thought that. Too bad they can’t leave their women alone to decide things for themselves. Of course, we all know those women DO think for themselves, and very few want 12 children just because the church says they should. It’s all an aim to outnumber thinking people. Like the repugs in Michigan and elsewhere. Can’t win by facts, so have to cheat and deny people rights.

    • In the past cost of birth control has been bore by those who used it why now are all the free loaders now want the rest of us to pay for their pleasure?

      • johninPCFL

        If you pay for insurance, why does the “prescription coverage” not cover all prescriptions for women, when it does for men?

      • Sand_Cat

        Once again, the pleasure-hating “religious” ethic shows its face. Perhaps you should consider that neither abortion nor contraception would carry anywhere near the heft they do with the religious if they weren’t concerned with sex. How dare those people enjoy themselves in ways of which I disapprove!

        I guess the poor and disadvantaged should simply give up sex and marriage, since you and others obviously despise them for having what little pleasure sex might offer in what may be an otherwise bleak existence. And again, this “compromise” essentially assures that all of us will pay for those freeloading religious institutions who rake in billions tax-free, but let the rest of us provide medical coverage for their employees.

  • srgm

    The thing is, this whole brouhaha was not between the Obama Administration and the Catholic Church, it was/is a conflict between the Catholic Church and the United States of America’s SECULAR government. Nothing in the ACA stops anyone from the freedom of their conscience, it simply extends that freedom to every person. I’m pretty sure there won’t be anyone in black helicopters descending on the religious persons and forcibly shoving birth control pills down their throats. If you don’t want to take the pill, then DON’T, it’s up to you. Just like it should be up to ANYONE.

  • elw

    What is really a win for everyone will be twisted by pundits and zealots into a defeat for the President. Doing that will make it one more loss for them. What is clear from the change is that the President does listen and our democracy is still working. The rules that were reinstated have worked for decades and will make little difference for most people. Those who do not like the Catholic Church’s rules should not use their medical facilities or work for them. You will have plenty of competitors to choose from.

    • Wow! you make sense.

      • elw


    • Sand_Cat

      Really? These days it looks to me like a lot of people have to take any job they can get, and often two or three of them put together don’t pay enough to live on. One’s choices may be extremely limited.

      In some cases their medical facilities may be the only ones available, and some people’s only stability and community comes from belonging to a church. And just because the Catholic church is the center of discussion here, it is by no means the only abuser of women among the churches: although it is the largest, it is almost certainly not the worst, and it has many redeeming values that do not apply to its current competitors.

      • elw

        To tell you the truth I just do not have the fire to burn that you do. So go fight with someone else.

        • Sand_Cat

          You’re right. I was a “little” fired-up.


  • quasm

    Mr. Dionne;

    You are missing a major point. Religious freedoms guaranteed by the constitution are individual rights. Anyone who, for religious convictions, does not support any program of government which compels them to violate those convictions cannot be required to do so. If a person does not believe abortion is moral, the government cannot force them to pay for it. The exception to this rule is when the rights of another person are violated by religious convictions such as forcing someone to accept baptism to own property etc. A right on my part cannot for an obligation on your part.

    Dik Thurston
    Colorado Springs

    • Cairndance

      So if we do not believe that WAR is legal, do we have the right to stop our taxes from being used for war?
      Why is it that this “RIGHT” only comes up when talking about contraception and / or abortion?

      • quasm


        You are confusing two different constitutional precepts. The right of the government to prosecute a war is spelled out in the Constitution in its role to protect the security of the nation and its citizens. There is no right to force others to pay for those activities you cite.

        Best Regards;

        • Sand_Cat

          No, it is you who are missing the point: the first amendment does not protect the right of “religious” human sacrifice and a variety of other things deemed contrary to the public good (some wrongly so, but there it is). And the religious themselves endanger their freedom when they use it to attempt to restrict the freedom of others, and rightly so. There is no right for the government to pay tax dollars to religious organizations for any reason; that’s also the Constitution, and yet almost all of our governments have done so in one form or the other, the last two administrations being among the worst offenders. It seems to me that accepting such money, and lobbying to get more, effectively nullifies or at least reduces the right of the religious organization to escape regulation. No one is saying they must change their dogma or worship or sacred texts: they are being asked to provide health insurance coverage for the large number of people who perform non-religious duties for them, many of whom do not belong to their faith. These organizations already have entirely too much power in our government, in my opinion, especially given the first amendment. The least they can do is provide health care to their employees, including a coverage likely to reduce the demand for their current greatest scourge: abortion.

          • quasm

            Dear Sand_Cat;

            The constitution reads in the first amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; …

            I see nothing in your reply that addresses this right. You are correct in your reference to human sacrifice, which I noted in my original statement.

            Best Regards;

  • nobsartist

    So, let me get this straight. I am forced to buy insurance from a for profit corporation and a group of people that believe in fairy tales gets to go tax free “for religious reasons”.

    What a fucked up country this has turned into.

  • sleeprn01

    No religious institution should be required to cover contraception expenses if they receive no federal monies. Once these institutions start receiving ANY federal monies they need to follow the letter of the law. In addition to that any of these institutions that engage in politicking should loose their tax free designation.

    I also believe the Bishops have a whole lot of other more important problems that they need to contend with; such as the conspiracy that goes all the way to the Vatican to cover up the child abuse that has been perpetrated by their priests.

  • onedonewong

    As usual old celibate failed to address business owners as their cases now have to wind thru the courts and in every in every jurisdiction they have won their lawsuit and the govt is now O for 12

  • There’s nothing wrong with using contraceptives. The problem is Obama is mandating that the coverage be provided for FREE! You guys REALLY need to open your eyes. NOTHING is free! Somebody has to pay for it and that usually means the taxpayer who just got hit with HIGHER taxes courtesy of the illegal alien in the white house.

    You DO know what higher taxes mean, right? It means that those who

  • I think Obama has bent over backwards to try to accommodate the Catholic Church. Since free contraception will be offered through an independent third part totally separate from church insurance, the hierarchy should not have any complaints now. It is a pity that some hard liner bishops still do. Many catholic women hired by religious institutions do not agree with the bishops and yet they are not even recognizing this, but seeking to impose their will on these progressive catholics. They should remember that God gave us free will and this should be up to the conscience of the individual, between her and God, as long as the bishops do not have to pay for it, then they are not complicit.

    A progressive Catholic woman