Tuesday, September 13, 2011

U.S. Catholic Bishops Continue Attack on DHHS Contraceptive Proposal

And speaking of less than enlightened boys' clubs (I'm piggybacking here on what I just posted about Ruth Rosen and Bill Keller): the U.S. Catholic bishops are ratcheting up their attack on the proposal (and see also here) of the federal Department of Health and Human Services to require employers to make contraception accessible to insured women at no additional cost to the insured.  As Nancy Frazier O'Brien of Catholic News Service reports, the U.S. Catholic bishops are inviting critical comments about this proposal to be sent to the federal government through a weblink provided by the USCCB.

At Religion Dispatches, Sarah Morice-Brubaker dissects the USCCB response to the DHHS proposal from the standpoint of its implications for the care provided to patients by Catholic hospitals in the U.S.  As she notes, Catholic health care institutions constitute 20% of the hospitals in the U.S., a fifth of all hospitals in the U.S.  And 50% of their funding comes from the government.  

Morice-Brubaker wonders about the ethical consequences of permitting faith-based health care providers that receive substantial government funding to flaunt government regulations in an area like provision of contraceptives.  If, as some Catholics have proposed, the onus is on patients to choose a hospital that gives the patient what he/she wants, what are we to do with the fact, she asks, that many health care plans mandate that those they insure choose a particular hospital?  

And doesn't the willingness to accept large amounts of taxpayer dollars significantly undercut the argument of the bishops and their apologists that Catholic health care providers are being ghettoized insofar as they refuse to follow federal guidelines in areas like provision of contraceptive services?  And what is one to make of the bishops' insistence on drawing a line in the sand about the DHHS proposal, when an overwhelming majority of married Catholic couples in the U.S. endorse contraceptive use?

These are good questions, and they won't vanish simply because Catholic officials continue to holler about religious liberty and conscience.  The leaders of the Catholic church have long since forfeited any claims to significant moral credibility in these areas, through their persistent refusal to entertain open, honest, respectful conversation with the laity about issues of sexual morality.

And, most recently and spectacularly, by their shameful handling of the clerical sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic church . . . . .

No comments: