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The Bishops v. Birth Control: It’s Not About the Money

11:45 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Birth control pills

Religion, birth control, and Obamacare — it’s not about the money.

In announcing its final rule concerning the Affordable Care Act’s guarantee of access to birth control without a co-pay for all American women—including the Catholics and non-Catholics who work in religiously sponsored schools, hospitals, and social service agencies—the Obama administration bent over backwards to accommodate the Church’s concerns. The goal was to spare Church fathers from the anguish of getting their pristine hands dirty by, as the Bishops charged, being forced to sell, buy or broker birth control coverage for women, including students. The final rule allows that either the insurance company used by the institution—or, if it is self-insured, its plan administrator—will have to pay, with reimbursement coming through a series of convoluted steps.

In a repeat of the Church battle over the Affordable Care Act, Sister Carol Keehan, head of the Catholic Health Association, last week publicly approved the administration’s final rule, issuing an explanation for the association’s members about how to implement it. Not so the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The week before, its head, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, released his statement expressing dissatisfaction with the compromise, saying that the bishops are subjecting it to further “analysis,” feel their “religious freedom” is still under threat, and plan to continue “defending our rights in Congress and in the courts.” Count on the 60+ lawsuits by Catholic diocese and universities around the country, joined by secular employers who also don’t like birth control and want to exclude it from their insurance policies, proceeding apace.

It is maddening that the Administration had to go to such extremes to placate the Church fathers, who dare to put “moral” and “money” as it applies to this deeply compromised institution in the same sentence. How pure, really, were the hands of the Church fathers who began decades ago to secretly spend millions of dollars in hush money to silence child victims of clergy rape and sodomy, and rid themselves of the evidence of their paternal crimes? Hush money that came from the faithful in the pews, who paid for all those ever-escalating insurance premiums, and from selling the churches and schools out from under those same working-class Catholics? The victims merited all the compensation they got and more, but the Church fathers literally stole that money from the Catholics they served and lied about it.

When the Bishops realized how much money they had to lose by even these secret settlements, hiding the goods from the victims became the next best strategy. So how pure, really, are the hands of Cardinal Dolan, the leading voice claiming the moral high ground in the battle to keep any of the church coffers from supporting birth control for women? Files just released by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee turned up a letter showing that when Dolan served as the Archbishop of that diocese, he secretly and successfully, and even as the Archdiocese was preparing to file for bankruptcy, petitioned the Vatican to bury nearly $57 million in a cemetery trust fund in order to protect those assets “from legal claim and liability,” aka, child abuse victim compensation. And this was on top of his paying off some priest child sex abusers $20,000 a piece to leave the priesthood, reportedly defended by Dolan in one case as “an act of charity,” so that, irony of ironies, the priest “could pay for health insurance.”

And how pure, really, are the hands of the Church fathers regarding money when we look at the shenanigans at the Vatican bank? Still laughably named the “Institute for the Works of Religion,” the Vatican Bank is literally drowning in mounting accusations of money laundering and mobster connections. Most recently, Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, an accountant for the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, which manages the Vatican’s property and investments (and a Vatican account-holder himself), was arrested and charged with conspiring to transfer some $26 million from Switzerland to Italy to dole out to his rich friends.

Given this sad financial state of affairs, how does paying for a health service like birth control for women become such a threat to Church fathers that they’ve made a major campaign out of it?

The bishops claim this mandate violates church teaching that artificial birth control is “intrinsically evil, “despite the fact that nearly 100 percent of Catholics don’t believe there is anything “intrinsically evil” about birth control and use it. The bishops claim birth control is the same as abortion; it isn’t. They claim to be protecting the institution’s “conscience,” thereby stepping all over Catholic Church teaching that defines conscience as “the most secret core and sanctuary” of a person, not an institution, and the Church not as the “men of God” but as “the people of God,” which would seem to include women. They claim the money at issue is “their” money, even though employees earn their health insurance as part of their compensation package, and many have to contribute to or pay the full amount of their health insurance premiums so this is at base a labor issue. And their claim that birth control is not a “health” service, in the face of current scientific knowledge and medical opinion, is tantamount to insisting that the sun revolves around the earth.

A hint of a far deeper motivator lies in a rarely regarded passage from Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI’s 1969 Encyclical letter, “On the Regulation of Birth,” which cemented the Church’s current intransigent opposition to birth control. The section on “Grave Consequences on Methods of Artificial Contraception” reads in part:

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Fearing God at the End of the World

1:49 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Photo of this Day
Written by Vyckie Garrison for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

“The remarkable thing about God is that when you fear God, you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.” ― Oswald Chambers

Even though I’m 99.9 percent sure that December 21, 2012 is not the Last Day, I’m having an End of the World party at my house.

To tell the truth, I am a little afraid – not that the world will end, but that life goes on and I have relatively little control over whatever the future might hold for me and my family.

As most readers at No Longer Quivering know, I no longer count myself among the God-fearing faithful. When I was a Believer, I honestly thought that I was fearless — not that there was nothing to be afraid of — to the contrary, as a Christian, I had all the usual anxiety of living in an uncertain modern-world-gone-mad compounded by the added terrors particular to Evangelical culture; namely, the World, the Flesh, and the Devil — all of which, I believed, were aligned against God and doggedly determined to steal, kill, and destroy my eternal soul, and my precious children’s souls too!

BUT … I regularly consoled myself with inspiring and comforting words from scripture such as, “Perfect love casts out fear,” “God has not given us a spirit of fear,” “When I am afraid, I will trust in You,” and my personal favorite from Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

So every night, I said my prayers, trusted God … and slept peacefully, believing myself and my children were safe and secure in God’s protective love.

And what about now? What consolation is there in unbelief when things go horribly wrong as they did last week in Newtown, Connecticut? When I read about the cold-blooded, execution-style mass murder of the Sandy Hook elementary school children and their teachers and would-be protectors, I confess that I wanted to pray.

I wanted to pray for the victims; I wanted justice and I wanted all those little kids to have their lives back! I wanted innocence and trust restored to the survivors, I wanted all of us to feel safe again. I wanted to pray for Adam Lanza; that he would have another chance and this time, make life-affirming, rather than deadly choices. I wanted to pray for this crazy world we live in; there are way too many wrong-headed, corrupt, and failing societal influences predisposing and even compelling mankind to act against our own best interests. I wanted The Big Guy to break His silence, come down here and put the world back together!

I wanted to pray for my own children; for their safety and their sanity. And I wanted to pray for myself … because as the mother of seven children, I feel vulnerable and afraid.
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The Morality of Choosing Abortion

11:14 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Ann Anderson Evans for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

The religious pundits have claimed the moral high ground, claiming that God and History have decreed it immoral to have an abortion.  This is a fiction (though I cannot claim that I know what God thinks, and don’t think they should either).

Supporters of abortion lose nothing if they accede that abortion belongs in some category of the concept of “killing.”  It is sad, feels cruel sometimes, and can upset some people for the rest of their lives.  It’s not a trivial action.

But we kill things all the time. A friend had twins in the ICU, and a few weeks into their treatment, with the twins hanging on for dear life, the insurance company send my friend a notice that coverage had been terminated.  That’s killing.  So is cutting off health care for the ill and vulnerable. So is war, and in a juxtaposition which would challenge any professor of logic, the Christian pundits who claim abortion is murder are often supporters of capital punishment and of our current wars, which are polishing off civilians, including babies, at a diminishing though appalling clip.

Buddhist monks often sweep the path in front of them as they walk, lest they kill any form of life, including insects. Our attitudes regarding the killing of other forms of life on our Earth are careless indeed.

Even deeply religious people are entitled to have their disagreements with current feelings about morality.  In the past, Catholic leaders did not consider embryos in the first semester to be “human.” St. Augustine called of the “unformed” embryos that “…the law of homicide would not apply, for …it could not be said that there was a living soul in that body.”  St. Albertus Magnus noted that a fresh abortion or miscarriage was “animated,” but was “not human.”  The Southern Baptist Convention changed its own position much more recently. In the seventies they voted to support abortion under certain circumstances, and in 2010 said that life begins at conception and God made life, therefore abortion is not permitted.

We are allowing the Christian Right to blanket us with their own interpretation of morality, which has changed over the years, and in any case should apply only to their own believers.

But even deeper than that, an individual may feel that abortion is immoral because it is a form of killing, but may feel even deeper that it is immoral and irresponsible to bring into the world a child she cannot care for. That this is the case is evident in the number of women of every faith that have abortions.

We have morals, and we have responsibilities. The choice not to bear a child can be a deeply moral one.