Catholic bishops cry wolf on contraception

By Bill Press

Tribune Media Services

I love protests, and have taken part in many of them. My first was picketing in front of Safeway in San Francisco, urging shoppers to support California farm workers and boycott grapes.

But there are real protests and there are phony protests. And one of the phoniest we’ve ever seen is today’s protest by Catholic bishops against the Obama administration’s new rules on insurance coverage of contraception.

Judging from the cries of outrage coming from the Catholic hierarchy, you’d think President Obama had shut down Catholic churches, defrocked all priests, sent nuns back to Ireland, and dropped an atomic bomb on the Vatican. On every cable news or talk radio show, Obama’s accused of trampling on the First Amendment, declaring war on religion, destroying religious freedom and, of course, Catholic-bashing.

Nonsense. Here’s the truth. On January 20, the Health and Human Services Agency, under Secretary Kathleen Sibelius, issued a new rule that insurance policies, as part of their basic package, must offer contraceptive services with no deductible or co-pay. An exception was made for 335,000 churches, missions, or other places of worship where all employees were Catholic or members of any religion which opposed contraception as a matter of faith.

Note: The new ruling does not require Catholic hospitals or clinics to provide birth control pills or devices. It does not force Catholics to practice contraception. It does not interfere with anyone’s religion. It does not prevent priests and bishops from continuing their appalling medieval and widely ignored attempts to convince Catholics that contraception is sinful. It simply says that there can no longer be two kinds of health insurance policies: those that cover contraception and those that don’t. All women deserve access to the same health protection. It’s up to the individual woman to decide whether to practice contraception or not.

What makes this whole debate so appalling is that, in raising holy hell against Obama, Catholic bishops are being dishonest. They accuse the president of infringing on religious liberty. Yet they fail to acknowledge, for example, that not everybody who works in a Catholic hospital or university is a Catholic — and should not, therefore, be bound by narrow Catholic attitudes toward sex.

Listening to the bishops squeal, you’d also never know that, long before the Obama administration acted, 28 states — including Mitt Romney’s home state of Massachusetts and Newt Gingrich’s home state of Georgia — had already adopted regulations requiring contraception coverage without co-pay. Eight of those states, by the way, don’t even provide an opt-out provision for churches. And you’d certainly never know that many leading Catholic universities — including DePaul University, America’s largest Catholic university — include a prescription contraceptive benefit, as part of their basic health insurance for all employees.

Let’s face it. Here’s what’s really going on. Ever since Pope Paul VI condemned contraception in his 1968 encyclical letter entitled Humanae Vitae: On the Regulation of Birth, the Catholic Church has been fighting a losing battle. Today, even though the Church is officially against it, 98 percent of Catholic women who are sexually active say they practice some form of birth control, this according to a new report from the Guttmacher Institute. So now, by demanding government permission to deny contraception coverage in their own health plans, what Catholic bishops are really trying to do is get President Obama to deliver where they have failed. And that’s not his job. His priority is to protect women’s health, not to enforce some outdated, anachronistic and unrealistic policy of an out-of-touch, celibate Catholic hierarchy.

And that’s the real issue. Not Catholic teaching. Not religious freedom. But women’s health. Guttmacher found that 58 percent of women who use birth control do so, not just to prevent pregnancy, but for other important health reasons, like reducing the risk of ovarian cancer or treating uterine fibroid tumors and anemia.

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?

No, this is not a case of President Obama trying to interfere with religious freedom. This is a case of Catholic bishops trying to force their narrow views about sex on everybody else.

© 2012 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

13 Responses to Catholic bishops cry wolf on contraception

  1. Bill,
    This is really good. The Democrats that aren’t backing the President are politicians that Women can’t trust!!! What the Press, Media and Congress don’t get is that The Church is not the victim!!! The Congress and State Governments have been after Women’s Rights for a year and a half. I am a Catholic and I sure don’t want my Church running my Government!!

  2. I am not really sure what all of the fuss with the Bishops is about. If I were in their position I would simply cancel the insurance policy and not offer insurance as an employee benefit. Problem solved.

  3. Bill, once again you’re are showing that you just don’t get it. This issue has nothing to do with Catholics providing birth control and it has everything to do with our Constitutional rights slowly eroding away. Don’t you remember the poem, “First they came for the communists… Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out.” Rights aren’t taken away in one big sweep, they’re slowly eaten away so that it happens without people being aware of what’s going on until it’s too late.

  4. I actually agree with the decision to FORCE catholics to provide contraception, because it will cost obama probably between 1 and 3 percent of the votes!!

  5. I don’t understand how our Constitutional rights are being eroded away. Seems more like the bishops and ones upset about the resolution are the ones trying to take away our Constitutional rights.

  6. KW, you and all of your pals are gonna be pissed once you figure out how far behind you’ve been left.
    Who in their right mind even cares what the bishops think?

  7. Spoken like an “angry, un-American, Constitution hating communist”. You lefties are a sad pathetic bunch. Good thing there are so few of you.
    On the brighter side, great speech tonight from Sarah Palin!

  8. Right on Bill. I’ve often wondered why any “healthy” young male would want to join a religious order where sex is prohibited. Maybe that’s why they’re pre-occupied with sex. The Catholic Church had better catch up with the 21st century and figure out ways to attract people to their religion instead of driving them away. (This coming from an ex-Catholic).

  9. Aren’t some of this same Republican ilk that claim to be defending “religious freedom for Catholics” also the same ilk that have embraced anti-Muslim rhetoric, called for moratoriums of building mosques, been involved in “anti-sharia” referendums, claim that “most Muslim Americans are radicalized…and the like? What has been their positions on the religious freedom for Muslims in America?!

    Any Republican that have been involved in Islamophobia and proposed anti-Muslim policies has NO business speaking on religious freedom!!!!!!!

  10. In her autobiography, Sanger wrote that she had founded Planned Parenthood in 1916 “to stop the multiplication of the unfit.” This, she boasted, would be “the most important and greatest step towards race betterment.” While she oversaw the mass murder of black babies, Sanger cynically recruited minority activists to front for her death racket. She conspired with the eugenics financier and businessman Clarence Gamble to “hire three or four colored ministers, preferably with social-service backgrounds, and with engaging personalities” to sell their genocidal policies as community health and welfare services.

    Outright murder wouldn’t sell. But wrapping it under the egalitarian cloak of “women’s health” and adorning it with the moral authority of black churches would. Sanger and Gamble called their deadly campaign “The Negro Project.”

  11. I just saw your discussion on CSPAN. I am disappointed in your liberal responses. You are definitely more subtle than Rush who can be very pointed but in your own way you are on the opposite (liberal) side doing the same. It is very clear your position is to the left and you tend to unfairly call those who do not support Obama as haters and crazies. You are biased. I firmly believe that this county was built on the free enterprise system and not government control and subsidies. Also, the life,liberty and the pursuit of happiness are rights provided by our founders and not driven by big government and 29 Czars. If we do not change direction this country we will be in a major crisis within the next few years. Look at Europe today and Japan in the past. Thank you. No need for a reply.

  12. This is a case of Catholic bishops trying to force their narrow views about sex on everybody else.

    This is a case of Catholic bishops trying to force their narrow views about sex on everybody else.

    This is a case of Catholic bishops trying to force their narrow views about sex on everybody else.

    This is a case of Catholic bishops trying to force their narrow views about sex on everybody else.

  13. —-I don’t belive the HHS mandate infringes on “Religious Liberty”- at all. It’s a tax, and like any other tax it has to be paid. Like any other tax, the HHS mandate could be used for purposes that a given payee might not choose or even like. Nonetheless Paying taxes is an important citizenship duty. Religion is not an excuse for not paying taxes. There was a time when religion pushed people to fullfil this citizen obligation…..

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