Current Events

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Obama, the Catholic Church and Birth Control

I remember well my first rebellion against 16 years of Catholic education.  I discovered birth control.  Now the issue is back big time, but it’s hard to understand why.  If Catholic institutions had to provide health insurance plans that included contraception, I can’t see how the burden of conscience on the poor bishops and Rick Santorum would be any greater than my burden of conscience every time the state executes a prisoner.   As for the people covered by the health insurance, they don’t have to use birth control.  Health care plans would make it available to those that want it, but its use would be entirely voluntary.  Are the bishops afraid that they will have an even harder time forcing Catholics to use rhythm or abstinence?   

Logic has to enter in here somewhere.  I took a look at a few Christian Scientist sites and learned that even Mary Baker Eddy said one could get conventional care if he or she was in unbearable pain.   Apparently current policies permit church members to get conventional care but when they do they are expected to drop spiritual care.  Mixing the two is considered an aberration.  An exemption from the health care law was requested but not granted.  (The Amish do have an exemption on religious grounds, the same one that exempts them from Social Security and Medicare.  They could get the exemption because they do provide medical care for their group).  With the Christian Scientists, I was hoping to find a case analogous to the birth control issue for the Catholic Church, i.e., a requirement that Christian Scientist institutions provide health insurance to their employees, even though the Church is opposed in principle to conventional medical care.  The commentary seems to address only two issues: opting out completely and questions about whether health insurers could offer spiritual healing.  I think the answer on the first was “no,” except for clergy and “yes” regarding spiritual healing.

Then I thought about Quakers.  Shouldn’t they be exempt from the proportion of taxes that go for the military budget?  So back to the bishops.  If it’s wrong for a Catholic institution to make birth control devices available to its employees, can pension funds at Catholic institutions own stocks in corporations that manufacture or distribute birth control devices?  Wouldn’t those same limitations apply to individual Catholics?  So maybe it would be sinful for a Catholic to patronize Walgreens or Rite-Aid because that would be supporting institutions that distribute and profit from birth control devices.  I’m sure my former Jesuit masters would have an answer for that, but I don’t.

Why does this remind of the apocryphal old lady in Warsaw who sold condoms at her news kiosk but made sure she put a pinhole in each one.

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