The church’s flawed logic

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION - — Carter Eskew

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.


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.