Higgins: I’m going to hell for this …Written by Tim Higgins | | firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the big stories of the last week is that the heads of more than 40 Catholic institutions are suing the federal government over requirements set forth by the Obama administration that as employers, they must provide birth control coverage to their employees in violation of Catholic doctrine.
Now the government’s first response is that it modified the mandate so that it’s not the church’s businesses that will have to cover the cost, but their insurers. Not only is this argument specious on its face, since insurance companies do not provide coverage that their clients don’t ultimately pay for (if they did, they’d go out of business); but many of the church’s efforts are in fact self-insured, which drops those payments back in their laps.
In order to keep this all in perspective, we should likewise remember before we continue that this is the same Catholic Church that in the ‘60s sought government intervention to end social injustice in this nation. Is not the providing of health care, in all its forms, therefore not something that those considered the radical clerics of their day sought? (And are they not of the same generation as those who as prelates are now suing the government to put a halt to some part of that which they once sought?)
Remember as well that no one forced the Catholic Church to become a business concern, which among other things, provides health care that it bills to the government. And while no one is saying that these Catholic-owned pursuits do not provide a valuable service to the community, there is nothing in the Constitution or in existing law that provides them with some form of special dispensation from following the same federal mandates that any other business must, regardless of whether they like them.
The argument then becomes that these health care mandates violate church teachings. Perhaps they do, but what right does the Catholic Church have to dictate federal law? It’s inconsequential how many Catholics may be using birth control already; the only thing of consequence is the influence any church’s doctrines may have on the laws all must follow. If these mandates violated Jewish law or Sharia law, would we even be having this discussion?
Taking this one step further, just because birth control services are being provided, it doesn’t mean that good Catholics need violate church doctrine by accepting them. Yes, that pesky old “free will” thing was bound to rear its ugly head in this discussion at some point. Are these truly the sheep entrusted to those with the bishop’s crozier, or are they merely “sheeple” who dare not be exposed to any form of sin, lest they succumb it its temptations? And what of those employees who work for a church-owned business and yet are not Catholic? Must they be forced to follow church doctrine regardless of their own beliefs?
Now for those of you not aware of it already, I was raised as a Catholic, provided with eight years of Catholic grammar school, three of four years in Catholic high school, and a year of Catholic college under the Jesuits. This is not therefore coming from a lack of understanding of Catholic doctrine, nor is it coming from some twisted angst or anger where the church is concerned.
Let me in fact be perfectly clear, I intensely dislike not only this federal mandate, but the very concept of the Patients Affordable Healthcare Act as government overreach. I say this not because they violate the religious principles of some citizens, but because they allow the federal government to impose what I believe to be an unconstitutional mandate on all of its citizens. I am likewise equally against the government providing free birth control to women or men (which it sometimes does already under other programs) in the same way and amount that I am against it providing Viagra to men under existing federal health care programs.
On top of abridging the limits of government set forth in the Constitution, I find this yet another “one-size-fits-all government program” that invariably fits no one and does equally wrong by everyone in the nation. If these were not reasons enough to forgo these wrongs on principle, let me add that using the government as the arbiter of their dispersal guarantees that it will cost far more than equivalent care would in the private sector.
Now having said all of this, there will invariably be those who condemn me for what they perceive to be a condemnation of the Catholic Church, though nothing could be further from the truth. I fear that the logic of my arguments will largely be cast aside however, since reason often takes a back seat when a belief system is at the wheel of a runaway vehicle. I therefore fully expect that many will shake their heads sadly upon reading this, concluding that there is little doubt that I will be going to hell for this.