Thursday, July 11, 2013

Catholic Health Association flouts bishops (again!) on contraception coverage

I'm not sure what's going on with the Catholic Health Association (a trade organization for putatively Catholic hospitals) recently giving it's stamp of approval to the Obama Administration's latest iteration of the mandate concerning contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs being included in health insurance coverage. It's odd that, after earning a public rebuke when the CHA parted company with the bishops over this very issue, that the group would do it again.

In any case, it's not helpful and it doesn't inspire confidence in the so-called "Catholic Health Association."

Some history might be in order here.

You might recall that as the Obamacare juggernaut ran into serious trouble when the bishops insisted that the legislation include very specific safeguards regarding abortion and conscience considerations. There was language the bishops backed that was included in the House version of the bill, but which was removed in the Senate. The bishops said "no deal" to the Senate offering--and the legislation stalled.

At that point, the administration cooked up an executive order, which the bishops, rightly, said was no good--because that's a far cry from being written into the law itself.

At this point, the CHA rode to rescue of the White House, and gave its blessing to the executive order "solution." Riding to the rescue of the White House was the head of the CHA worked hand-in-glove with the Obama Administration to defeat the bishops' efforts to get better provisions in the health care law regarding prolife and conscience. And then, Sister Carol Keehan could not have been more tickled when her efforts helping the Obama Administration defeat the bishops earned her a special pen, used to sign the law.

Sr Carol Keehan, President of the Catholic Hospital Association, with the pen
she received at the signing of the Health Care Act. From Catholic Online.
And then when the administration's first version of the mandate met with widespread criticism, the CHA, in almost-certain coordination with the White House, was all too ready to give it's blessing to the initial, hollow "compromise"--a stance it was forced to disown when the bishops did not react well to yet another attempt to undermine the teaching authority Christ himself gave to them.

So here we are. For whatever reason, Sister Keehan and the CHA have decided--in a showdown between the bishops and the Obama administration--to sidle up beside President Obama.

And, more importantly, the CHA is simply wrong. Wrong to buck the bishops; and wrong on the substance.

Basically, as I understand it, here's what the government is doing, in order to "accommodate" Catholic objections. The insurance that Catholic institutions, beyond a fairly narrow category, provide to employees, must include coverage for contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs. But, according to the government's account, the Catholic institution isn't paying for it--the insurance company is: the insurance company will have to recover its costs from something called "Federally Facilitated Exchange user fees." Wait--what's that? Here's an explanation. If I understood the info at the link, such user fees are basically what any and all insurance purchasers pay. Something like a tax.

Being skeptical of the government, I'm not convinced the problem of religious institutions paying for these services is really solved. But--for the sake of argument--let's say it is. That doesn't solve all the problems!

Let me give you an example.

I have friends who are alcoholics. While I have no issue with drinking (I like a drink myself), I would not want to have any part of my friend--or anyone else--having a drink when it's clearly harmful to him or her. So, if a friend of mine who is alcoholic wants to put him- or herself in harm's way, that's one thing. But if my friend--or anyone else--asked me to facilitate it, my answer is no. If I can't persuade my friend not to do something destructive, then at least, leave me out of it.

To continue to apply the analogy, what the government is doing is telling me, yes, Fox, you must facilitate bringing your friend, and a drink, together. Oh, but don't worry! The government will see to it that the drinks are paid for. But your job is to drive your friend to the bar--that's all!

How, you might ask, is the health-insurance mandate doing this?

By government edict, the health insurance package/program, offered to employees by the employer, is the vehicle by which an employee is offered, and may obtain, the morally objectionable services.

To use another analogy, imagine we were talking about, say, a commissary run by a hospital. Here comes the government, and says, we are going to send someone to stock your shelves with condoms and over-the-counter abortion drugs. But don't worry! We will bill someone else for them, not you.

The point is, that those of us who object to these "services" aren't simply objecting to paying for them; we consider them gravely immoral. Not just a little immoral, mind you, but you-can-go-to-hell-for-this immoral.

And that, obviously leads to the following necessary conclusions:

1) We are against anyone using them, and it is our duty to warn others against them. In the case of contraception and sterilization, we haven't done anything lately to seek laws regulating them--but we're not against that in principle. In the case of abortion, we do seek legislation to control and ultimately outlaw it.

2) Where we can't stop others from using these evil things, the least we ask is to have nothing to do with them. And this is where the government is intruding.

Again, to explain: we aren't against these things in the way Jews keep kosher: as far as I know, Jews don't consider non-Kosher foods something that are intrinsically evil and destructive to human happiness; and therefore, they don't object to non-Jews enjoying them.

No, we object to these things because we believe they are destructive to the full good of the human person. That is, they are evil by their nature.

Of course, not everyone believes this, we know that. Given our situation in this country--both religious pluralism and our mode of limited government--the Catholic Church has, for now, largely accepted the legality of contraception and sterilization, but not abortion. So, while that means other people are free to pursue contraception and sterilization, that doesn't mean we still don't think they are terrible things. We've just accepted the limits of what self-destructive things we can regulate through civil law.

So the point is, this so-called accommodation doesn't really address the key issue: cooperation with evil.

And that's why, aside from the CHA simply being wrong in claiming the so-called "accommodation" solves the problem faced by religious employers, the CHA is wrong in its attitude toward employers and business owners whose consciences are being trampled upon.

And what is the CHA's attitude toward these folks: Too bad for you--not our problem.

In this case, the bishops are doing the exactly right thing. Thus far, they've not only spoken up for Catholic institutions, they've spoken up for any religious institution that is being coerced--and, for that matter, they've repeatedly gone to bat for everyone else who's religious freedom is being violated.

That is simply doing what our Lord says in the Gospel we'll have this coming Sunday, when the scribe asked: "and who is my neighbor"--i.e., for whom I am responsible? And the Lord's answer, of course, is everyone.

Here the bishops have it exactly right, and the CHA is wrong: we don't just go to bat for our own rights, but everyones.

No comments: