Sunday, July 13, 2014

More from Patricia Miller's Good Catholics: The Battle Over Abortion in the Catholic Church — U.S. Catholic Bishops and Extension of Conscience Rights to Corporate Persons

Another set of excerpts this morning from Patricia Miller's book Good Catholics: The Battle Over Abortion in the Catholic Church (Berkeley: Univ. of CA Press, 2014):

Dolan argued in a video made even before the administration released the final rule [on the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate], however, that the mandate was a violation of religious freedom because it would force Catholics "to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience" 253, (citing Laurie Goodstein, "Bishops Were Prepared for Battle over Birth Control Coverage," New York Times, Feb. 9, 2012).


It was a radical new way of viewing conscience rights—not as the right of an individual to decline to use or participate in a service, but as their right to deny that service to others based on their mere participation in an insurance pool in a commercial marketplace (253-4).


But with Catholic use of birth control nearly universal, Dolan needed to raise the stakes. He drew on years of efforts by the bishops to conflate abortion and contraception, to charge that the [ACA contraceptive] mandate would require Catholic insurers and employers to cover "abortion-inducing drugs" in a reference to EC [i.e., emergency contraceptives]. He made the charge even though the official journal of the CHA [i.e., Catholic Health Association] had published an article nearly two years earlier saying that Plan B, the most widely used emergency contraceptive, was not an abortifacient—even under the bishops' definition—because it worked to prevent fertilization, not implantation. The general medical community also was increasingly in agreement that postfertilization effects of EC, like those of oral contraceptives in general, were nonexistent (254).


But the bishops wouldn't back down [in the fight they chose to pick with the Obama administration over the Affordable Care Act]. Instead, they took their demands one step further, calling for a broad conscience clause that would allow any employer who had a moral objection to contraception to refuse to provide it. Increasingly it looked as if the fight wasn't about funding a reasonable compromise that would allow Catholic employers to distance themselves sufficiently from the provision of contraception to satisfy at least the letter of the widely ignored Catholic teaching on contraception. It was an attempt to block the federal enshrinement of contraception as a basic women's health care right (257).

And I ask again precisely how the toxic nonsense the bishops have confected as an expression of Catholic identity in their attack on a healthcare plan designed to bring more economically deprived citizens into the network of health insurance in the United States in any shape, form, or fashion serves Catholic values? How is the powerful tradition of putting faith and reason into dialogue with each other in classical Catholic moral theology served when the pastoral leaders of the American Catholic church lie boldly about contraceptives as abortifacients, and demand as a precondition of membership in the Catholic community that lay Catholics — the vast majority of whom use and defend the use of contraceptives — lie boldly along with them?

How are Catholic values served when the church is defined in a narrow countercultural (and eminently clerical) way that excludes from effective membership in the church the vast majority of Catholics who use and defend the use of contraceptives? How do we serve the church well when we permit people who prefer lies to truth, who prioritize zygotes over living and breathing fellow human beings, who have collapsed all of Catholic moral thinking into sperm and ova, to claim the definition of Catholicism in such an exclusive, unilateral, self-righteous way designed to exclude almost all fellow Catholics from their definition of Catholicism?

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