The church’s flawed logic
To no one’s surprise, the Catholic bishops have rejected President Obama’s compromise on the contraception provision in the new health-care law. The president’s proposal would make access to contraception available to the employees of not just churches but also religious organizations, such as Catholic hospitals and charities, through separate insurance plans. Some private businesses, too, have expressed dismay that the president did not exempt them from the mandate to offer free contraception in health-care plans.
As others have noted, the president’s compromise, while attempting to be Solomonic in its crafting, was flawed. But the refusal of churches and businesses to comply with widely accepted social mores, as well as the law, is an attempt to impose their religious or secular beliefs on their employees. This intolerance is selective, and dangerous in its implications.
For example, the Catholic Church believes that homosexual feelings are okay but that homosexual sex is a sin. Despite this, the Catholic Church is currently the world’s largest provider of care to patients with HIV. But what if the church were to say that since AIDS is the result of sinful behavior, it will no longer treat its victims? Is that a stretch? Well, contraception is integral to women’s health, and by attempting to deny it, the church is endangering women.
In addition to the inconsistencies, there is the slippery slope inherent in the logic of the church’s opposition. What if Christian Scientists decided they wanted to go back to their original tenets and deny health care to employees of their institutions? Or say a church declared that its beliefs meant our defense budget is a sin, so its members should no longer be required to pay taxes? Or what if private businesses decided they didn’t want to hire or promote gays, Asians, whites or whomever else, just because they found some aspect of their behavior sinful?
Fortunately, the United States is not a theocracy. Individual conscience should always be respected. Certainly, the Catholic Church should freely preach whatever it likes and guide adherents to live by those rules. But we are also a nation of laws, and we should not apply them selectively.