Debate over contraception mandate continues
Last week President Obama announced a revised health insurance policy that would allow employees of Catholic and other religious organizations access to free preventive care, including birth control, through their insurance companies. His original plan would have required all Catholic institutions to offer health insurance that includes free contraception. (The use of artificial contraceptives is deemed immoral by the Church.)
Despite Obama’s changes to the policy, Catholic leaders in Illinois and elsewhere are still concerned. The government mandate may override an exemption in state law that allows Catholic employers to offer insurance that does not cover contraceptives, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Prior to the president’s compromise, Cardinal Francis George called the policy a “severe assault on religious liberty” and wrote in a letter “we cannot — we will not — comply with this unjust law.”
Following the changes to the plan, the Rev. Father William Grogan, Vicar for Healthcare at the Chicago Archdiocese, told WBEZ that the archdiocese stands by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has announced it will continue to pursue “with no less vigor, no less sense of urgency” a demand that the government rescind the mandate “to protect religious liberty and freedom of conscience for all,” according to The Washington Post.
To see Obama’s announcement on video, as well as a discussion on the matter with Robert Gilligan, of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, and Colleen Connell, of the American Civil Liberties Union in Illinois, click here.
The Catholic New World, the official newspaper for the Archdiocese of Chicago, has responded to a “set of false and misleading claims” regarding the mandate posted by the White House. The newspaper’s response can be seen here and here. The White House fact sheet can be seen here.
Others who have weighed in on the controversy:
Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times: “The basic principle of American life is that we try to respect religious beliefs, and accommodate them where we can. But we ban polygamy, for example, even for the pious. Your freedom to believe does not always give you a freedom to act.” [More]
John Kass, Chicago Tribune: “Obama has sent the spinners and town criers galloping out of the White House to say, incorrectly, that this debate is only about contraception. It is not. It was always about federal power trampling religious freedom, and now the White House is panicking.” [More]
Bryan Cones, U.S. Catholic: “The fact remains that half of pregnancies in this country are unplanned, and half of those end in abortion. The emotional, psychological, economic, and moral costs of these pregnancies (and abortions) fall most heavily on the women affected, and I think it incumbent upon Christians to consider these women and their children–born and unborn–as we examine this moral issue.” [More]
Phyllis Zagano, National Catholic Reporter: “But not supporting the defense of religious freedom against a government bent on eroding it seems a foolish choice for any religious group, especially the largest single denomination in the United States and in the world.” [More]
Mary Schmich, Chicago Tribune: “At an equally basic level, this is a dispute about respect and power. It’s about the Catholic hierarchy’s sense that its power over American culture is waning, and about a sense shared by many ordinary Catholics that their religion is disrespected.” [More]
Bill Press, Tribune Media Services: “As a former Catholic seminarian, what I don’t understand is the bishops’ obsession with sex. Yes, the Church is (wrongly) against contraception. But the Church is also against the death penalty. Why don’t the bishops raise a stink about that? And the Church was opposed to the Iraq war. Why didn’t they condemn George W. Bush for bombing a country that did not attack us first? Why do they only get their episcopal panties in a twist when it comes to sex?” [More]
National Catholic Reporter editorial: “It is time for the Obama administration to admit it overstepped a boundary when it issued a mandate requiring coverage for contraceptives under its health care reform measures with only a narrow exception granted for religious institutions. At stake primarily is the moral issue tied up with the right of religious groups to refrain from acts they deem morally questionable.” [More]
Carol Marin, Chicago Sun-Times: “Catholic institutions, on the one hand, willingly accept government grants and contracts that are funded by taxpayers who, in many cases, are neither Catholic nor accepting of the church’s mission. But government also relies on the church — and other religious denominations — to do what it can’t or won’t do: care for the most vulnerable among us.” [More]
E.J. Dionne Jr., The Washington Post: “At the heart of the love many of us have for the church — despite our frustrations over its abysmal handling of the pedophilia 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.” [More]
David Lazarus, The Los Angeles Times: “If we didn’t have an employer-based healthcare system — if, for example, this country extended Medicare coverage to everyone — the question of birth control wouldn’t be an issue. Catholic institutions could remain aloof over the matter and their female workers could decide on their own whether to use contraceptives.” [More]
Dennis Byrne, Chicago Tribune: “It’s all campaign rhetoric, and Catholics who fell for it by giving him a majority of their votes in 2008 have cause for regret and anger.” [More]
Stephen Markley, RedEye: “What if an Islamic-affiliated hospital wanted to enforce some Sharia code that did not allow women to be treated by a male doctor? Or the hospital wouldn’t treat men who didn’t have beards? Or it wouldn’t allow organ transplants for unmarried non-virgin women?” [More]
Paul Moses, CNN: “Like the Chicago politicians he encountered as a young man, Obama knows that a church’s grassroots campaign is only as effective as it is unified.” [More]