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HHS Mandate: a tale of two cities?

February 17, 2012

Much ink has been spilled already on the HHS Mandate and the response of the US Bishops. However, there is an important theological aspect which I believe has not been given the attention it deserves.

For example, in MM’s recent post, he argues that “the principle here is supposed to be religious liberty, not an indirect funding of contraception by dealing with insurance companies” and asks why people are not making such a fuss over other instances of the state attacking religious liberty. In particular I would like to draw attention to what he said about distinction between state and federal encroachments on religious liberty:

 “Why has nobody complained about similar mandates at the state level? American constitutionalists can come up with some cock-and-bull federal vs. state distinction, but that doesn’t address the underlying moral issue. Think of Romney attacking Obama when he did the same thing in Massachusetts!”

First, I should point out I agree with the point he wants to make (although I’d make it differently): there ought to be an outcry against all attacks on religious liberty. The Church (all of us) has often been too close to silent on the other issues which MM mentions, and  he is of course right that the federal vs. state distinction “doesn’t address the underlying moral issue.” However, that distinction also points to another, in my opinion more fundamental, ecclesiological issue: the proper relation of church and state, specifically in the public square.

For St. Augustine and for nearly the entire Judeo-Christian tradition, the separation of church and state has been seen as a good thing. However, our understanding of the distinction has been warped in favor of the nation-state. William Cavanaugh explains it well:

“Liberalism is said to allow for a greater pluralism of ends: there are no longer two cities – the followers of Christ and the “world” – but one city with a diversity of individuals, each with the freedom to choose his or her own ends, whether to worship no god, one god, or twenty. But the longing for unity persists, along with the fear that diversity will produce conflict and tear the body politic apart. In the absence of a transcendent telos [i.e. the body of Christ], plurality is not simply a promise, but a threat, one that must be met by an even greater pull toward unity. But what could be the source of unity in a nation-state of diverse ends without a transcendent reference to participation in any single god? It can only be that the nation-state becomes an end in itself, a kind of transcendent reference needed to bind the many to each other” (Migrations of the Holy, 47).

Following the principles of the Enlightenment the nation-state sees itself as the source of unity. Any competing subsidiary sources of unity (most notably the communion of the Church and the communion of marriage) are unities which compete with the state to complicate public space. The nation-state needs complete allegiance to maintain unity. Thus it seeks to thrust the Church and marriage into the private sphere. It makes the claim that Church and state occupy two difference spaces, the public and the private, the sacred and the secular. It intends to strip the Church of its political implications. In doing so, the nation-state asserts itself as the catholica. The church ceases to have its own authority. She becomes merely one lobby among many beseeching the mighty nation-state to look upon her with favor.

In contrast, the Augustinian view sees the City of God and the city of man as dramatizations, enactments, of two plays on the same stage.

Cavanaugh again:

“In some Christian political imaginings, the one stage is the earthly city, the nation-state, on which the church is urged to play a supporting role. For Augustine, however, the stage is the world on which the one drama of salvation history is being enacted. The earthly city and the city of God are two intermingled performances, one a tragedy, the other a comedy. There are not two sets of props, no division of goods between spiritual and temporal, infinite and finite. Both cities are concerned with the same questions: What is the purpose of human life? How should human life be ordered to achieve that purpose? The difference is the city of God tells the story that we believe to be true, that God in Christ through the Spirit has saved us from the tragedy of inevitable violence…The church does not allow the earthly city to define one public space, but constantly redefines what is truly public. The church is not a separate institution enacting a wholly separate drama, but works with other actors to try to divert tragedy into the drama redemption.” (Migrations of the Holy, 64)

The former view to which he references is the view championed with some nuance and skill by John Courtney Murray, which seems to have been influential among the bishop’s conference. It seems to me this has been the standard way of operating for the Church in America for some time. We lobby and push for the state to do things our way, but we do not enact a separate performance. We do not often have the imagination needed to break from the hegemony of the nation-state. (Of course Dorothy Day is a prime counter example here).

I may be reaching, but I think (hope) the bishops might just have their collective finger on the pulse of this problem.  For example, in the letter of the ad-hoc committee to the rest of the bishops, the first point they list focuses not on conscience or contraception per se, but on the Obama administration’s insistence on defining what is religious and what isn’t:

 “The Administration has indicated it is retaining the narrow, four-pronged exemption for “religious employers” such as churches and houses of worship. There is a serious concern that the four-pronged exemption would become a precedent for other regulations. However, it will also offer a new policy covering “non-exempt” religious organizations such as charities and hospitals. Our concern remains strong that the government is creating its own definitions of who is “religious enough” for full protection.”

Furthermore I think this may have been particularly on the bishops’ radar in part due to Pope Benedict’s words, recently referenced by Sofia Loves Wisdom, during his Ad Limina visit.  (Note: contrary to the apparent perception of some of commenters on Sofia’s post, the pope’s comments were issued before the HHS mandate officially came out. He is not formally responding to it in his remarks to the bishops.) He said:

“The Church’s witness, then, is of its nature public: she seeks to convince by proposing rational arguments in the public square. The legitimate separation of Church and State cannot be taken to mean that the Church must be silent on certain issues, nor that the State may choose not to engage, or be engaged by, the voices of committed believers in determining the values which will shape the future of the nation.”

The public square does not merely belong to the nation-state, but is the cosmic stage on which the drama of salvation history is played out. The Church cannot allow this drama to be pushed off this public stage into some back room, which is precisely what limiting freedom of religion to freedom to worship intends to do: to strip the Church of her public witness.

Religious liberty in the US is a very important and worthy goal. Conscience rights for all are also important. But in order for the Church to fulfill her vocation, she must be willing and able to bear witness in the public square. If religious freedom is merely the freedom to “go to church” where you want, the Church is not free to be who she is. In preparation for this possibility, we, the Church, ought not only to be speaking out, offering reasoned arguments against this violation of religious liberty, but we also ought to be forming and expanding our Christian imaginations so that we are able to, upon our own authority, even if it is illegal, “promote spaces where the participation in the common good of God’s life can flourish” (Migrations of the Holy, 45).  This could take the form of something like Mark’s Econogenesis or Kathy Kelly’s Voices in the Wilderness.

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113 Comments
  1. johnmcg permalink
    February 17, 2012 11:32 am

    I think there is something to this — and the themes of President Obama’s State of the Union speech seem to emphasize this.

    President Obama seemed to be lamenting that we, as a citizenry, were not more like the unit of Navy Seals that took out Osama bin Laden. We don’t unite behind a single vision; we go our own ways.

    There are parts of this that are appealing — we should be a nation that “has each other’s back.” But at the same time, I don’t think the great moments in our history came from everybody falling in line behind the mainstream vision, but groups and individuals innovating and finding new ways of doing things.

    David Brooks touched on this a couple weeks ago — http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/07/opinion/brooks-flood-the-zone.html?_r=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss — it seems that President Obama either doesn’t appreciate, or has lost his appreciation for the value of genuine diversity.

    I don’t know that this is particular to President Obama — I think we all recognize that things would be a lot easier if all those darn people who disagree would shut up and get in line. But it’s not going to get us anywhere in the long run.

  2. February 17, 2012 11:44 am

    John,

    Thanks for your comment and for the link to the Brooks article. I think Brooks is right, although he is clearly approaching it from a less theological perspective than I.

    I also agree that this is not simply a President Obama thing. Cavanaugh would argue its the very nature of the nation-state to absorb subsidiary unities. The nation-state wants to be directly in contact with the individual. There should be no other mediating communions. Thus, the proliferations of individual rights language and the fall of talk about the common good.

    Pax

  3. Mark Gordon permalink
    February 17, 2012 11:46 am

    Welcome aboard, Josh! Patrick Deneen, writing at Front Porch Republic, makes the point that the fundamental problem with the HHS mandate is the totalizing ideology of liberalism, in both its classic and modern varieties; and that in the long run we aren’t going to win by relying on liberal arguments (liberty, individual conscience, rights). Money graph:

    I am disquieted by the way in which the issue has largely been framed – not only by the Left, but perhaps more by the Right. The Right has sought to defend “religious liberty” on the grounds that the HHS mandate would represent an abrogation of the First Amendment’s right to “free exercise” and that it would violate the “conscience” of religious adherents. By these appeals to the “rights” of religious organizations to hold certain religious beliefs – whatever those may be – and by an appeal to “conscience” informing that belief – no matter what it may hold – critics of the HHS policy have framed their response in the dominant privatistic language of liberalism. Their defense rests on the inscrutability and sanctity of private religious belief. It borrows strongly from sources of private religious devotion that lays no claim to public witness, in keeping with liberalism’s dominant mode of allowing acceptable religious practice so long as it remains outside the public square. The appeal to conscience, while lodged at the level of institutional belief, subjects itself easily to the same claim by adherents within that religious order who might similarly object to a religious mandate (e.g., the prohibition on artificial birth control) on grounds of “conscience” to aspects of that belief (think Martin Luther. Or Andrew Sullivan.). The public response of critics of the mandate essentially cede to liberalism most of the ground that they would need to mount a serious case against the individualizing, relativizing and subjective claims that lie at the heart of the mandate and, more broadly, liberalism itself.

    • Thales permalink
      February 17, 2012 1:44 pm

      I like the article and I think it’s a very important point that he’s making about liberalism. But I find the last paragraph very interesting: He basically concedes that the current “conscience” or “free exercise” argument is (perhaps) necessary because the alternative argument (i.e., the Church’s vision of humanity and of the world) would be even more quickly dismissed and mocked.

      Exhibit A of this is the way Santorum is being treated with regard to his stance on contraception: he’s being attacked for his reasonable and thoughtful articulation of the Church’s view of humanity and sexuality made years ago, and so today, he is now forced to retreat into the private “conscience” argument.

      So my question is, in our current world of media soundbytes, buzz phrases, and out-of-context “gotcha” statements, how is it possible to argue the Church’s vision to the secular world?

      • Thales permalink
        February 17, 2012 1:54 pm

        To restate my question more concretely: what is the best argument for the bishops and Santorum to make on this contraception issue?

      • Kurt permalink
        February 17, 2012 2:13 pm

        I think Rick Santorum did make the best argument for opposition to contraception. I don’t think his problem is that he made something short of the best argument against it. His problem is that even with the best argument, most Americans sincerely disagree with him.

      • February 17, 2012 5:16 pm

        It’s no surprise that most Americans disagree; very few people can be argued out of a position that they perceive as benefiting their sexual pleasure.

    • February 17, 2012 2:30 pm

      Mark Gordon,

      I confess I am not very knowledgeable in this area, but I do believe it’s clear that the liberalism Deneen is talking about is “classic liberalism,” not “Nancy Pelosi liberalism.” And he is blaming both liberals and conservatives—but especially conservatives—for buying into classic liberalism.

      But isn’t classic liberalism the founding philosophy of the United States of America? Aren’t the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution very much classically liberal documents? Isn’t Deneen in a very real way criticizing the kind of entity both liberals and conservatives take our country to be and are pleased and proud of?

      I found the Deneen article fascinating because he is “thinking outside the box,” but the box, it seems to me, is America or “Americanism.” I now and then ask the question whether one can be a good Catholic and a good American, too. It seems to me if one must reject classical liberalism to be a good Catholic, then one must reject “Americanism.”

      • Mark Gordon permalink
        February 17, 2012 3:11 pm

        You are right, David. Classical liberalism is the founding philosophy of the United States of America, and yes, he is criticizing the kind of entity that both modern liberals and classical liberals (conservatives) are pleased and proud of. Right on all counts. I essentially made that point in my brief post, “A Fragment on “Liberty,”, and I’ve made it before when I’ve written that the Democratic and Republican Parties are two dead ends in the same blind alley. The blind alley is liberalism. Now, we can get down in the weeds on the transition from classical to modern liberalism, and the distinction between “negative liberty” and “positive liberty” that they embody, respectively, but both rest on the same foundation, which Pope Paul VI called “an erroneous affirmation of the autonomy of the individual in his activity, his motivation and the exercise of his liberty.”

        The proper Catholic response to both classical and modern liberalism ought to be: NO! If that means saying NO! to “Americanism,” so be it.

      • Chris permalink
        February 17, 2012 9:14 pm

        The proper Catholic response to both classical and modern liberalism ought to be: NO! If that means saying NO! to “Americanism,” so be it.

        But what if America’s response to that is NO! to Catholicism? I guess what I’m asking is, for members of a minority religion (which orthodox Catholicism surely is), what makes you think that a diminution in religious freedom would lead to a more congenial society for your beliefs?

        For example, regarding birth control, what if, having jettisoned quaint concepts like “autonomy of the individual”, society decides that having large families is too big a strain in the environment, so birth control is compulsory?

        (To be clear, I absolutely would oppose that. I’m just pointing out that protection of individual rights is absolutely in the interests of religious minorities, and clearly followers of humanae vitae are a tiny one.)

        • Mark Gordon permalink
          February 17, 2012 10:27 pm

          The truth isn’t a popularity contest, and it isn’t subject to majority vote.

      • Chris permalink
        February 18, 2012 11:27 am

        I agree. But if you go down the route of “error has no rights” and the state (and the people) doesn’t agree with you, you have a serious problem. Don’t then complain when, say, society decides that teaching that homosexuality is wrong is hate speech and is forbidden.

        • Mark Gordon permalink
          February 18, 2012 11:51 am

          Yes, we do have a serious problem. So what else is new? “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” (I Peter 4:12-14) I would suggest that one mark of the Church ought to be that she has a serious problem with the powers that be: “One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, and Up Shit’s Creek.”

          In an article titled “We Are Un-American: We Are Catholics,” the Servant of God Dorothy Day once wrote: “We are against war because it is contrary to the spirit of Jesus Christ, and the only important thing is that we abide in His spirit. It is more important than being American, more important than being respectable, more important than obedience to the State. It is the only thing that matters.

          Bourgeois respectability has always been the Church’s great temptation. It was true in the First Century. It’s true in the Twenty-First.

    • February 17, 2012 5:02 pm

      Thanks for the pointer to Deenan’s article. Ultimately, though, I think it falls short of providing any useful insight with regard to the HHS mandate. If I understood correctly Deenan said that the criticisms of the HHS mandate are misguided because they are rooted in liberalism and don’t adequately incorporate Catholic moral arguments against contraception. That raises the question of the proper role of government and the proper role in society of the Church.

      Obviously liberalism fails as a moral guide for society. It is not so clear that liberalism fails as a guide for government. Catholicism would be the ultimate guide for how individuals should live within society but it doesn’t follow that the best government would be a theocracy. The Church proclaims how we should live, calls us to moral perfection, but does not coerce.

      There certainly are weaknesses inherent to a limited government which allows liberal choices. People can make bad choices. Likewise there are weaknesses to having a government subordinate to the Church. The conundrum seems to be that a liberal society will weaken to the extent it disregards the Church, which liberalism allows, while the influence of the Church will be curtailed to the extent that liberalism in government is curtailed.

      If the appeal to religious liberty is inadequate as a protest against the HHS mandate does Deegan propose that it be criticized on the basis of Catholic moral teaching? Should we be arguing that the state criminalize contraception? If so then isn’t the Church obliged to excommunicate anyone in public disagreement with its teachings?

      • February 17, 2012 7:38 pm

        The critique that I am trying to make is more theo-political. The problem with “Americanism” for our purposes are twofold: 1) The elevation of the individual over and against communions. I can’t say it better than Paul VI (thanks Mark): “an erroneous affirmation of the autonomy of the individual in his activity, his motivation and the exercise of his liberty.” 2) The direct access of the nation-state to the individual, eliminating or privatizing subsidiary communions like marriage and church.

        Of course, neither of these has been executed to its fullest extent, but they form the basis of society. The nation-state will continue to simplify space so that it alone stands as the one catholic institution capable of bringing unity to a pluralistic society, and denying the church’s public and political nature. Likewise, the liberty of the individual will continue to given priority over the common good or any sense of community.

        Frankly I think we as Church in America have backed ourselves into a bit of a hole by over-accepting liberalism as allegedly accommodated to Catholicism in the thought of John Courtney Murray

      • Mark Gordon permalink
        February 18, 2012 11:55 am

        This is copied and pasted from a comment of mine above, but I think it is apropos here as well:

        I would suggest that one mark of the Church ought to be that she has a serious problem with the powers that be: “One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, and Up Shit’s Creek.”

        In an article titled “We Are Un-American: We Are Catholics,” the Servant of God Dorothy Day once wrote: “We are against war because it is contrary to the spirit of Jesus Christ, and the only important thing is that we abide in His spirit. It is more important than being American, more important than being respectable, more important than obedience to the State. It is the only thing that matters.”

        Bourgeois respectability has always been the Church’s great temptation. It was true in the First Century. It’s true in the Twenty-First.

      • Mark Gordon permalink
        February 18, 2012 1:22 pm

        The conundrum seems to be that a liberal society will weaken to the extent it disregards the Church, which liberalism allows, while the influence of the Church will be curtailed to the extent that liberalism in government is curtailed.

        Influence? The Church doesn’t propose to influence, as one voice among many. The Church proposes to teach, and what she proposes to teach is the truth, applicable to all people at all times. If you want “influence,” join Rotary International or the Chamber of Commerce.

        The real problem is that both liberalism (in both its forms) and Catholicism are totalizing world-views, fundamentally incompatible, which is why Deneen’s piece is so disconcerting. The bishops are making their case using the terminology and philosophical assumptions of the liberal order they’re appealing to. In the long run, they are bound to lose … if not the argument, then their flock! John Courtney Murray’s machinations may have bought us a few decades of relative peace, but they also bought us an enormous defection from the faith. That’s true on the political left and on the political right.

        What we may be rediscovering is that Catholicism, to be true to itself, should always stand in radical opposition to the spirit of the age and the philosophies that animate that spirit. We knew that once. Read the Fathers! We may be learning it again.

  4. February 17, 2012 11:55 am

    Thanks Mark!

    Yea, Deenan gets it! Thanks for the link.

  5. Charles permalink
    February 17, 2012 1:15 pm

    I’m in RCIA now and this is an issue that we have discussed, along with the issue of individual conscience in our meetings. My question to the commentariat is: what is a pluralist state to do when members of a religion demand exceptions from law based on their beliefs? In law school, we read Employment Division v. Smith (1990), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Employment_Division_v._Smith, a case where Native Americans received no exemption from the law prohibiting the use of peyote even though it was commonly used in their religious practices. Also of note is Reynolds v. US (1876), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reynolds_v._United_States, which is the case upholding the ban on polygamy even for Mormons who had a religious duty to engage in plural marriage.

    The big takeaway from Smith is that the 1st Amendment excludes all govt regulation of religious beliefs. Govt cannot prohibit an act only when engaged in for religious purpose. If prohibiting the exercise of religion is not the object of the govt action, but the incidental effect of a generally applicable and otherwise valid law, then the 1st Amendment has not been violated. We cannot allow someone to decide what laws to obey based on individual religious beliefs. This was the reasoning of Justice Scalia, a staunch Catholic and limited govt conservative. So, in a pluralist society, what would you expect the govt to do on the issue of the HHS mandate. Should we as Catholics expect an accommodation simply because we are large and powerful and Native Americans and Mormons simply have to endure because they are small in numbers and relatively weak?

  6. Kurt permalink
    February 17, 2012 1:18 pm

    The Obama Administration did not make up a new definition of religious organization nor declare hospitals and schools non-religious. It applied the same standard used in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Some of us (myself included) stated in regard to the first proposal that we simply don’t think that historic standard worked in this particular situation. That is different from pretending this is newly invented or attacking any law that uses that definition.

    • Thales permalink
      February 17, 2012 1:51 pm

      The Obama Administration did not make up a new definition of religious organization nor declare hospitals and schools non-religious. It applied the same standard used in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

      Even if that’s the case, so? The Obama administration is applying the definition in a way that restricts religious actors that has never been done before.

      • Kurt permalink
        February 17, 2012 2:20 pm

        The Obama administration is applying the definition in a way that restricts religious actors EXACTLY as has been done before. The Civil Rights Act exempts houses of worship, churches, etc but not church affiliated schools and hospitals that serve the general public.

        While I think the historic definition of who would be eligible for a religious exemption is flawed in this particuar case, it is a simple fact that this was the historic defintion of a religious exemption and not something newly invented.

      • Thales permalink
        February 17, 2012 2:24 pm

        My point is that the new regulation restricts religious actors in a way that has never been done before.

      • Kurt permalink
        February 17, 2012 2:43 pm

        Thales,

        So why do you (if you) think the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was just?

      • Thales permalink
        February 17, 2012 2:49 pm

        Kurt,
        I don’t know much about the Civil Rights Act. But I do know that, assuming the Act used the same flawed definition of “religious institution” that the Obama administration is using today, the Act didn’t restrict religious institutions the way the HHS rule does today, and thus the Act was not unjust the way the current HHS rule is unjust.

      • Kurt permalink
        February 17, 2012 3:21 pm

        I don’t think it is debatable that the religious exemption from the provisions of the Civil Rights Act goes to the same (and no further) organizations who had the exemption under the first draft of the HHS rule. So I assume when you say didn’t restrict in the same way, what you mean is that the CIvil Rights Act and the HHS rule have difference provisions, not that they cover different institutions. Am I correct?

      • Thales permalink
        February 17, 2012 3:58 pm

        Kurt,
        Am I correct?
        Yes, assuming you’re correct that the religious exemption is the same and covers the same institutions under both the Act and the HHS rule (as I said, I’m not too familiar with Civil Rights Act law). But who cares if the religious exemption goes to the same organizations under the Civil Rights Act as the HHS rule now? The Civil Rights Act dealt with discrimination and made demands on institutions which didn’t violate the religious freedom of non-exempt religious actor; the HHS rule doesn’t deal with discrimination and does make demands on institutions which violate the religious freedom of non-exempt religious actors.

      • Kurt permalink
        February 19, 2012 11:46 am

        I’m not too familiar with Civil Rights Act

        Almost 50 years from its enactment, we liberals had hoped that understanding and appreciation of the Civil Rights Act had moved beyond us to most of society. For me, it is a disppointment this has not happened.

        But who cares if the religious exemption goes to the same organizations under the Civil Rights Act as the HHS rule now?

        People who believe in honesty and integrity care when there are false assertions that Obama had introduced a new definition of an exempt religious institution.

        The Civil Rights Act dealt with discrimination and made demands on institutions which didn’t violate the religious freedom of non-exempt religious actor;

        It very much did. In 1964 you had a considerable number of Christian schools and hospitals that were segregated and claimed the mixing of races was contrary to their faith.

      • Thales permalink
        February 20, 2012 9:52 am

        Again, Kurt, I fail to see why it matters that the definition is the same as that of the Civil Rights Act. Pres. Obama is applying the definition to a completely new situation, to a completely new law — one where there is infringement on religious freedom.

      • Kurt permalink
        February 21, 2012 8:53 am

        Again, Thales, it is an issue when people falsely say the Administration has invented an entirely new definition of exempt religious organization. Yes, the definition is the same, the subject is different. But the infringement on religious freedom is the same. Christian schools and hospitals who believed in the separation of the races had their religious freedom infringed. Under the first draft of the HHS rule, Christian schools and hospitals that don’t believe in contraception had their religious freedom infringed.

        Now, you could just say that the issue for you is that you oppose contraception but you don’t oppose de-segregration. Fine, I would fully respect that. I also am not willing to honor a Christian academy’s religious freedom to be whites only but am willing to honor a Christian school’s right not to directly include contraception as part of its employee health care policy.

      • Thales permalink
        February 21, 2012 12:54 pm

        But the infringement on religious freedom is the same.

        I think we’re talking past each other, because you’re using “infringement on religious freedom” differently than I am. Consider this progression of “religious infringement”:
        1. Laws against murder infringe the freedom of religions who believe in human sacrifice.
        2. Title VII infringes the freedom of religions who believe in the separation of races.
        3. The HHS rule infringes the freedom of religions who believe in the immorality of contraception.
        4. A law requiring every home and business to hang a poster declaring “There is no God” infringes the freedom of religions who believe denying God is immoral.

        Now all 4 sets of laws could have the same “religious organization exemption,” and I suppose that you could say for all 4 that “the infringement on religious freedom is the same.” It’s a little weird to talk about it in that way, but I suppose that you could say so — but isn’t it more correct to say that there is a greater (and more unreasonable) infringement of religious freedom as the list progresses? In our civil society, there is always a balancing of religious liberty vs. the common good and the rights of others. So some religious accommodations are reasonable, and some aren’t; some governmental actions “infringe” religious beliefs in a reasonable manner, and some don’t. Obviously, I think #3 and #4 are unreasonable infringements (and #1 and #2 are reasonable), and the fact that there is a narrow “religious organization exemption” doesn’t really make that much difference.

        I keep on finding it curious that this whole debate has arisen only because the Obama administration decided to change the status quo in order to make insurance policies cover contraception: It’s not Catholic employers trying to take away something that’s been established for some time; it’s the Obama administration trying to dramatically change the status quo between Catholic employers and their Catholic and non-Catholic employees. For years and years up until today, have employees been in a gravely unjust state that violates their consciences because they can’t get free birth control from their bosses? That seems silly to me — there’s never been any noise or clamor for that recognition until today, which makes me question the integrity of the argument that Catholic employers are being unfair in objecting to the HHS rule.

      • Kurt permalink
        February 21, 2012 1:44 pm

        I think we’re talking past each other, because you’re using “infringement on religious freedom” differently than I am.

        Of course. You’re defining an infringement as things YOUR religion objects to, not something someone else’s religion objects to. I’m letting each religion speak for itself.

        Nor is the fact that the status quo is being changed relevant. De-segregation was a radical change in the status quo and I would a larger share of the public opposed desegregation in 1964 than oppose birth control today.

        But I think you finally hit it right when you say “So some religious accommodations are reasonable, and some aren’t.”

        So, we are now dealing with a social discussion of the nuanced issue of what is a reasonable religious accommodation. Clearly, our society has a variety of viewpoints on that. Everyone seems agreed that those organizations given a religious exemption in the Civil Rights Act should have it in this case. Some want to give every boss and corporation an exemption (the Blunt Amendment). In the middle, there are those who don’t see private commercial employers as proper for a religious exemption but want an accommodation for non-profit groups linked to a religious organization — with this element further divided between those who want a total exemption and those who are willing to accept an accommodation similar to what the Diocese of Honolulu agreed to some time ago.

      • Thales permalink
        February 22, 2012 11:54 am

        Nor is the fact that the status quo is being changed relevant.

        It’s relevant in how the debate is being framed. Sure, desegregation was a change in the status quo. But pretty much everyone acknowledges that the status quo was unjust — and thus, it was a good thing that it was changed. In today’s debate, is the status quo unjust? As I said, that sounds silly to me. If today’s debate is framed inaccurately as “the Church is trying to change the status quo by taking away my rights”, then yes, that sounds unjust — but that’s not an accurate description of what’s happening. The status quo is “no HHS mandate” and I see little evidence that this status quo is unjust.

        So, we are now dealing with a social discussion of the nuanced issue of what is a reasonable religious accommodation.

        Yes, I agree. But the debate shouldn’t be framed as “who should get a religious exemption” — that’s a very limited and narrow way of thinking of the debate. It should be framed as “the HHS mandate involves some imposition on the religious liberty AND consciences of employers — and the question is whether this imposition is appropriate under the circumstances.”

      • Kurt permalink
        February 22, 2012 1:31 pm

        But pretty much everyone acknowledges that the status quo was unjust — and thus, it was a good thing that it was changed.

        I think you really belittle the heroic efforts of many to win enactment of the Civil Rights Act. Everyone did not acknowledge that the status quo was unjust. People had fire houses turned on them by the police for marching for the Civil Rights Act. Maybe the names Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman don’t mean anything to you. I am sad that is the case for too many Americans and wish it were not different.

        Being in the majority does not make one right, but I think birth control might be less controversial today than de-segregation was in 1964. I am appreciative that other than one bishop in Iowa, there has been no call for violence to maintain the status quo, unlike the violence (much of it government sponsored or tolerated) used to maintain the status quo in 1964.

        Yes, I agree.

        I appreciate that. While I think we have wildly different appreciations of the Civil Rights Movement, we have been able to at least narrow our difference on the HHS rule (which is what I have hoped for).

        I agree the debate is not so much about who gets a religious exemption. All religious organizations will get some sort of exemption, though maybe not to their total satisfaction. But 99% of the employers covered by the Blunt Amendment will not be religious institutions in any sense. The question is does this wrongly make an imposition on the religious conscience of a boss in private, for-profit industry. I think if the discussion would continue from there we would all be better off.

    • February 22, 2012 10:05 am

      Kurt,

      I quoted your message of February 17, 2012 1:18 pm on Mirror of Justice and got this reply from Matt Bowman (of the Alliance Defense Fund):

      It is absurd to say that the Mandate’s definition of religious employer is the same as in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is more absurd to cite an anonymous blog commenter for the suggestion. It is thrice absurd to, as I expect will happen, demand that the person who challenges the anonymous blog commenter has the burden to prove the negative of his unfounded, uncited assertion. If you would like to offer the point for reasonable discussion, find an authoritative source for it, or go back to that blog and ask Kurt to document his claim and do so in a demonstrative way. But don’t hold your breath.

      I said I would ask you for some further comments.

      Thanks.

      • Kurt permalink
        February 22, 2012 2:08 pm

        I’m rather shocked that Matt, who I understand is a member of the Maryland Bar, is confused about this. But I do find many conservatives get angry rather than inquisitive when their lack of experience (I guess due to their forbearer’s opposition) to Civil Rights becomes an issue. I did appreciate the late Richard John Neuhaus, a conservative in the second half of his life but who was a strong leader in the Civil Rights Movement earlier. He always got it.

        I don’t want to tangle with Matt’s anger. There are two simple, sterile, legal questions: 1) Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, may a church, parish, congregation or temple discriminate on the basis of race? 2) May a religiously affiliated hospital or school (i.e. Holy Cross Hospital or Fordham University) discriminate on the basis of race?

        If Matt can’t answer a simple “yes” to the first and “no” to the second, I don’t think he is a very good lawyer.

      • February 22, 2012 4:23 pm

        Kurt,

        Did you mean “discriminate on the basis of religion” (not race)?

      • Kurt permalink
        February 22, 2012 8:34 pm

        No, the Civil Rights Act has an even more generous exemption when it comes to religious discrimination.

      • February 23, 2012 1:16 am

        Kurt,

        But Section 702 only exempts religious employers when it comes to religious discrimination, not discrimination based on race:

        EXEMPTION
        SEC. 702. This title shall not apply to an employer with respect to the employment of aliens outside any State, or to a religious corporation, association, or society with respect to the employment of individuals of a particular religion to perform work connected with the carrying on by such corporation, association, or society of its religious activities or to an educational institution with respect to the employment of individuals to perform work connected with the educational activities of such institution.

        Where is any exemption when it comes to racial discrimination, or any distinction between, say, a parish Catholic school and a Catholic university when it comes to discrimination based on race?

      • Kurt permalink
        February 23, 2012 8:43 am

        You have both. You have the ministerial exemption which the authors of the Civil Right Act undertstood was guaranteed in the establishment clause, which is why women cannot sue for sex discrimination against the Catholic Church or an African American to sue for race discrimination againt the LDS before they changed their policy/doctrine. Then you have a broader religious exemption that goes further to faith based parachurch organizations under certain conditions. If you want, although a little more complicated, that exemption as well supports the demarcation HHS originally drew. Parachurch groups that hire only their own co-religionists and minister to them (i.e. those using the exemption in Section 702) were also exempted from the contraception rule.

        Again, I supported a revision of the original HHS rule. But this rule did not “re-define” what is an exempt religious organization but used existing law. I believe it is reasonable to go beyond existing law.

        (If you want further legal complications, there also is the right for employers to hire those who support the mission of the employer, For religious employers, that gives them further freedom to hire those in line with their religious teachings).

      • Kurt permalink
        February 23, 2012 8:54 am

        And another point! :)

        The Republican proposal actively supported by the USCCB goes totally outside historic practice by giving private, for-profit, commerical employers the right to claim a religious exemption. Is is a radical deviation from civil rights law.

      • Thales permalink
        February 23, 2012 11:07 am

        The Republican proposal actively supported by the USCCB goes totally outside historic practice by giving private, for-profit, commerical employers the right to claim a religious exemption. Is is a radical deviation from civil rights law.

        Heh. You make it sound like this is a bad thing, a radical thing never been done before. But respecting private conscience is often a good thing in our society, and is not a new concept. Consider this recent case with private pharmacists objecting to distributing Plan B:
        http://volokh.com/2012/02/22/religious-objectors-have-constitutional-right-to-exemption-from-plan-b-pharmacy-mandate/

      • February 23, 2012 1:39 pm

        Kurt,

        Matt Bowman points out that World Vision has been ruled to be exempt according to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 but does not qualify for a religious exemption under the original mandate.

      • Kurt permalink
        February 23, 2012 6:05 pm

        A few short months ago World Vision won its Court case, in essence finding that the organization was equivalent to a church. They have not been told they do not qualify for an exemption under the HHS rule. I think World Vision was pushing it to the edge in their employment discrimination case. The argument that they would be subject to the HHS mandate is the argument of the losing side in their Court case.

      • Thales permalink
        February 24, 2012 10:45 am

        Kurt,

        Your comments made me look at Title VII law a little more closely. It’s been amended several times since it was first created, and there are additional exemptions under Title VII, for religious organizations and religious schools that go far beyond the exemption you first pointed to (and far beyond the defined religious exemption in the HHS rule). Look at 42 USC § 2000e-1(a) and § 2000e-2(e)(2). It’s well-established in law that organizations that engage in some secular activities can still qualify for these exemptions. That’s not the case for the HHS rule.

      • Kurt permalink
        February 26, 2012 9:16 pm

        It’s well-established in law that organizations that engage in some secular activities can still qualify for these exemptions. That’s not the case for the HHS rule.

        It is the case for the HHS rule. The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception has a cafeteria and a gift shop. It will still have an exemption. A qualifed organization such as a church that engages in some non-exempt activities does not lose its exemption.

      • Thales permalink
        February 27, 2012 9:52 am

        Kurt,
        I don’t know where you’re getting your faulty information. Look at my law cites. Some organizations, like schools, have special exemptions under Title VII, that aren’t available under the HHS rule.

      • Kurt permalink
        February 29, 2012 9:33 pm

        Your confusing any church affiliated school with an exempt religious educational institution in that chapter. Exempt are what have been deemed to be “Pervasively sectarian institutions.” Seminaries, yeshivas, etc. have qualified. Georgetown University has not. In a close call, Bob Jones University was deemed not to be a religious educational institution under Chapter 42. This matches up with the HHS rule.

  7. Thales permalink
    February 17, 2012 1:27 pm

    What’s worrying me is the growing narrative that (1) religious institutions serving society (charities, orphanages, schools, hospitals, etc.) should close if they disagree with a governmental policy because they receive government benefits or are related to the government in some way, or simply because their mission is contrary to what the government thinks is an important societal need; and (2) that society is better off with these religious institutions closed.

    We saw this argument when the Catholic adoption agencies were forced to close in several states, we’re hearing this argument now with the contraception mandate, and I foresee this argument being made if/when the government determines that all hospitals need to provide contraception and abortion services because that is an important part of women’s health.

    • Drew permalink
      February 23, 2012 4:11 pm

      excuse me if this has been covered here before (i am new to this blog.) but why does the Church think it should get government money if it (the Church) is doing things that go against government policy? i am referring to #1 above. I fully understand that the Church does not want its charities to distribute contraception, but are we really to believe that the government’s withholding of contributions to an institution that does things against government policy is an attack on religion? Any answers here would be appreciated. This has been confusing me for some time.

      • Thales permalink
        February 24, 2012 9:51 am

        Drew,

        First, remember that this HHS rule applies to everyone, regardless of whether government money is given or not. So it’s not a case where institutions could just opt out of government money, and thus, opt out of the government contraception regulation. Everyone has to follow the rule.

        But you bring up a good question which does apply in the case of Catholic adoption agencies, for example. Megan McCardle has a good response to your question:
        http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/01/should-the-church-have-to-dispense-birth-control/252321/

        I think society is much better off having religious institutions caring for the poor, etc. Generally, they do a much better job at it then government institutions. So I think it’s in society’s best interest to make reasonable accommodations, so as to let religious institutions continue operating.

      • Drew permalink
        February 24, 2012 1:15 pm

        Thales, much thanks for the reply. Megan makes a good point in the article you linked, and the more i look into this issue the more of a pickle it becomes for me. it seems like a case where the right thing to do is to separate Church and state completely so as to avoid forcing taxpayers to pay for a system that does not offer full health services. But also a case where the right thing to do would then be ridiculous (i too believe religious charities are far more efficient at distributing aid and we are lucky to have them doing it) and the end more than justifies the means. to my surprise, i find myself siding with the Church on this one. Again, many thanks for the reply

  8. Kurt permalink
    February 17, 2012 2:44 pm

    (1) religious institutions serving society (charities, orphanages, schools, hospitals, etc.) should close if they disagree with a governmental policy because they receive government benefits or are related to the government in some way, or simply because their mission is contrary to what the government thinks is an important societal need;

    Again, this policy goes back to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

  9. ctd permalink
    February 17, 2012 4:41 pm

    Perhaps this is not the place to bring it up, but since it was repeated, I am still taken aback by MM’s claim that nobody complained about similar mandates at the state level. They did, time and time again. The nature of state news coverage being what it is, however, means that you are not likely to hear or read about it unless you live in that state. The USCCB does not comment on state legislation. Moreover, with the exception of just three states, religious organizations were exempt so there was less need for an outcry.

    Check the state Catholic conferences. They have been fighting these mandates for years.

  10. February 17, 2012 5:42 pm

    Great to see your writings, Josh. Very thoughtful, as always. Props for mentioning Dorothy Day.

  11. February 18, 2012 8:55 am

    @ Everybody —

    It occurs to me that this poem, “The Rainy Forests of Northern California” by Jack Gilbert, makes a cogent comment on this whole controversy:

    The fellow came back to rape her again last night,
    but this time her former husband was there.
    Why did you rape her, you son of a bitch? he said.
    I didn’t, he answered, she let me.
    Sure, because you hit her, that why she let you.
    And it dwindled away into definitions.

  12. Ronald King permalink
    February 18, 2012 12:04 pm

    I am confused. I do not know anything about classical liberalism nor philosophy but I do know about human behavior and the innate instinct to bond in a safe environment to a safe object. Through validating this individual’s need for safety in order to thrive as a human being the individual then develops a rewarding attachment to another human being as the first step in becoming a member of a community which is the foundation for the development of an open and vulnerable identity which begins to incorporate the inclusion of others into the community who exhibit a similar openness and vulnerability. What is it that contaminates this process is complex but it essentially develops through the socialization of the individual into the accepted and primitive environment of competition for power, status and wealth. This in turn results in stopping the individual from developing the quality of empathy which is so critical for developing a community based on mutual respect and cooperation. Lost in all of this is the female. Who is she? What does she want?
    It seems that the secular side in this situation is attempting to protect women from the potential harm that males have historically inflicted on them. The Catholic bishops seem to be saying that they are being attacked for, and inhibited from expressing their beliefs about how to protect women. Women are the central issue here. What is it that women want?
    Everything has always been men directing women.

    • Bruce in Kansas permalink
      February 18, 2012 8:56 pm

      Very good point. I’m not a woman, so I can’t say. I would hope women would want men to commit to a lifelong loving relationship before sexual intercourse. But there is evidence many women want the same “benefit” of sex without consequences like a man. In the US, women alone have the legal power to perpetuate the species. If every woman decided to contracept indefinitely and abort every pregnancy, there is nothing in US law that any man can resort to. Practically impossible, but theoretically true as our laws are written. I know men who have discovered this legal powerlessness.

    • Kimberley permalink
      February 19, 2012 8:47 am

      Ronald,

      Contraception isn’t helping women. It’s the enslaving of women, It’s keeping women not as partners in marriage but as sex toys at the beck and call of a misogynist society.There is no freedom in contraception. It’s enslavement. It enslaves women to men. It enslaves men and women to not fulfilling the true purpose of marriage. It enslaves men and women to sin. Abortion, contraception and gay marriage all hurt women by eroding the true purpose of marriage.

      • Ronald King permalink
        February 19, 2012 11:26 am

        Kimberly, The enslavement of women is historical and starts with the story of Eden. If you read the story closely the man initially names the woman as woman. It is not until he has gained some sort of knowledge about her that he names her Eve which is associated with the word living. However, in the story she is destined to spend the rest of her life with a man who had betrayed her and blamed her for his problems. Marriage has been eroded from the beginning and women have been attempting to free themselves from the control of men and the violent world they have created since then. The true purpose of marriage is to learn to love first. It is from women that men can learn to love and develop empathy which is the outcome of love. It is the suffering and violence in the world that has eroded the true purpose of marriage. It is that suffering and violence that enslaves women to men in an unhealthy primitive reaction to seek a savior to protect them from the violence and the unhealthy reaction to define themselves through the attachment to these unhealthy men who appear to be protective which cements that enslavement. This begins with their attachment style with their fathers. Abortion and contraception(outside of medical necessity) are the result of a desire to be safe whether conscious or unconscious. Gay marriage does nothing to erode the “true” purpose of marriage. I won’t get into that now except to say that heterosexual males erode the true purpose of marriage.

      • Mark Gordon permalink
        February 19, 2012 3:20 pm

        I love it. Ronald, a man, undertakes to instruct Kimberly, a woman, on feminine psychology, all while making the point that men dominate women.

        • Ronald King permalink
          February 19, 2012 4:57 pm

          That’s irony for ya. Actually women taught me for 30 years.

      • February 19, 2012 7:41 pm

        @ Kimberly —

        “There is no freedom in contraception. It’s enslavement. It enslaves women to men. It enslaves men and women to not fulfilling the true purpose of marriage.”

        This assumes that only the men actually want the sex and the women grin and bear it out of a sense of obligation and duty. That has not been my experience of women. Both men and women may be trapped in sin made possible by by contraceptives, but one sex is no more enslaved by it than the other.

  13. Anne permalink
    February 18, 2012 9:42 pm

    <<The Catholic bishops seem to be saying that they are being attacked for, and inhibited from expressing their beliefs about how to protect women. Women are the central issue here. <<

    Really? I know it seems to me like the bishops keep changing the subject, but I didn't realize they'd come to this.;-) If so, tell them many women need help paying for these pills that keep their endometriosis, ovarian cysts, fibroid tumors and migraines at bay, not to mention ovarian and endometrial cancer recurrences. These are what women under doctors' care think of when they hear the bishops say it's a religious right of employers not to have to pay for this kind of coverage. But I doubt women's health needs really figure into the "religious liberty" campaign.

    Is that why the state of Massachusetts actually had to force the diosceses to cover contraceptives used for true "preventive care" reasons?

    But perhaps we digress, I doubt any of this is due to classical liberalism.

  14. Anne permalink
    February 19, 2012 5:02 am

    I apologize for the above digression from the topic at hand; it was just too great a temptation not to take that opening to reassert the actual problem the state was trying to address when it offended the church, as well as what many of those directly affected think when they hear the complaints about an offense to religious liberty.

    These two opposing views of church and state were a source of strife for centuries, but I thought Vat.2’s religious liberty statement was a step in the right direction. It’s hard to see why this particular issue would re-ignite tensions when so many others haven’t.

    In any case, when you say << If religious freedom is merely the freedom to “go to church” where you want, the Church is not free to be who she is…<< that reminds me that the bishops originally called that — the state too narrowly defining a church's role — to be the fundamental problem at hand, to which the President offered his compromise by broadening the definition to what he thought they wanted, the first time that's happened as far as I know. So — again, pardon the digression, if it is one — why is this still considered an issue? Or is it?

    • February 19, 2012 7:11 am

      Anne,

      Thanks for reading. As far as I understand it, this is still an issue for at least two reasons:
      1) Legally, the compromise doesn’t even exist.

      2)Even if the language of the regulation is changed in the federal register to reflect the compromise at some point in the next year, the mandate still reflects the government’s claim to decide what is church and what isn’t. Church is what you do privately in your house of worship. Schools, universities, hospitals, etc. are non-exempt. They get a work-around which claims to satisfy at least the “letter” of the complaints, but they are not really church.

      I’ll try to respond to the issue of Vat II statement later today when I have more time. But in brief, the American Catholic understanding of the teaching of the council on religious liberty (Hecker and Murray) reflects an over accommodation to the claims of liberalism. Why this issue, why now? Probably a very complex question.

      Peace

      • Kurt permalink
        February 19, 2012 12:03 pm

        the mandate still reflects the government’s claim to decide what is church and what isn’t. Church is what you do privately in your house of worship. Schools, universities, hospitals, etc. are non-exempt.

        That what the government did with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ending segregation in Christian hospitals and academies. I take it you oppose the Civil Rights Act?

      • February 19, 2012 10:40 pm

        The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was very carefully formulated in order to pass at all: it did what it did by sticking within a fairly strict interpretation of the interstate commerce clause in Title II, tying federal funding to non-discriminatory practices in Title VI, allowing a generous religious exemption in Title VII, and sticking chiefly to government activities for the rest. Trying to link the two as similar kinds of governance seems a stretch; it’s comparing a Russian ballet of statesmanship to what looks more like the hokey-pokey. But it would be interesting to see what your actual case is here. I’m sure you have a list of Christian hospitals and academies that tried to get a religious exemption to the Civil Rights Act so as to lay out clearly the details of religious liberty in the context of the Civil Rights Act so as to compare with this case; it would be handy, however, if you shared the details.

      • Kurt permalink
        February 20, 2012 10:02 am

        allowing a generous religious exemption in Title VII

        The “generous” religious exemption in Title VII is the same as the religious exemption in the first draft of the HHS rule.

        I’m sure you have a list of Christian hospitals and academies that tried to get a religious exemption to the Civil Rights Act

        With school integration, areas were littered with thousands of Christian seg academies with explicit “whites only” policies. There was no attempt to get a religious exemption after 1964 because the Civil Rights Act was very clear that these schools and hospitals were not exempt.

        There are legitimate reasons to question various versions of the proposed HHS rule. But claiming it is the government wrongly defining religious institution is a direct attack on the Civil Rights Act. Now, some parts of our society don’t care for the Civil Rights Act. That is their right. But for us liberals, if you are going to attack the Civil Rights Act, we are going to have a problem with that. Not everyone is liberal on civil rights; I know that.

      • February 20, 2012 11:27 am

        The generosity of the religious exemption comes from its place in the title as a whole, not the exemption itself. How thoroughly foolish it would be to compare exemptions without comparing what requirements, precisely, are being exempted from.

        The rest I read simply as a concession that despite your repeated attempts to draw a parallel, you know of no significant religious liberty issues following directly from the Civil Rights Act, as it has already become clear there will be on the mandate. Moreover (1) the Civil Rights Act was direct legislation passed by Congress whereas the mandate is an executive branch regulation with only indirect legislative authority that lacks the legitimacy arising both from the status of Congressional legislation and from deliberation and compromise at the legislative; and (2) the Civil Rights Act was the culmination of a long and serious discussion about the best way to move forward, in terms of both practical feasibility and Constitutional legitimacy, not something imposed by fiat. Trying to hold that the two are analogous merely trivializes the Civil Rights Act, and seems to show that for all your protestations of support, you don’t really appreciate or understand the statesmanship and work that went into it.

      • Kurt permalink
        February 21, 2012 9:00 am

        The generosity of the religious exemption comes from its place in the title as a whole, not the exemption itself.

        In other words, the exemption is the exact same as the first draft of the HHS rule — exempting houses of worship but not hospitals and schools. Whatever generosity it had, it did not extend to a broader class of organizations.

        How thoroughly foolish it would be to compare exemptions without comparing what requirements, precisely, are being exempted from.

        In both the CIvil Rights Act and the first draft of the HHS mandate, schools and hospitals were being asked to do something contrary to their stated religious principles.

        you know of no significant religious liberty issues following directly from the Civil Rights Act,

        As I stated the Civil Rights Act denied the religious liberty of schools and hosptials that believed in the separation of the races.

  15. Ronald King permalink
    February 19, 2012 5:01 pm

    Mark, And my wife has been teaching me for 36 years and the study of interpersonal neurobiology for since ’96 has helped. I hope I don’t sound defensive, but I am and I just received Communion today. Sometimes I forget Who is in me.

    • Mark Gordon permalink
      February 20, 2012 2:59 pm

      Ronald, you don’t sound defensive at all. My wife has been teaching me for 28 years (33 if you count our courtship).

      • Ronald King permalink
        February 20, 2012 3:05 pm

        Mark, I have repeated many lessons:)

  16. Anne permalink
    February 20, 2012 3:07 am

    Joshua: “Even if the language of the regulation is changed in the federal register to reflect the compromise at some point in the next year, the mandate still reflects the government’s claim to decide what is church and what isn’t. Church is what you do privately in your house of worship. Schools, universities, hospitals, etc. are non-exempt. They get a work-around which claims to satisfy at least the “letter” of the complaints, but they are not really church.”

    Well, yes, the modern nation state claims authority based on law, and the Church claims the authority to mediate between man and God. The Church has historically asserted ultimate authority even in matters Americans think of as more appropriate to the state…until relatively recently, as you say. But one religion claiming to be the higher authority is problematic in a pluralistic society. I’d think conservative American Catholics would be especially sensitive to the problem today, given how many fear Muslims asserting sharia law, which to Muslims is merely giving priority to the divine sphere. If we don’t want them doing it, how can we?

    When it comes to a practical issue in a society like ours where employers hold the key to their employees’ access to health care (a fundamental problem in itself, but one that’s not likely to change soon), the state in looking out for the welfare of all its citizens, has a Solomon-size case on its hands if one religion asserts the right of all its adherents to opt out of providing access to a type of health care to which the state says all its citizens have a right. If the employees share the same religion as the employers (as is normally the case for a church or church school), it doesn’t seem much of a problem. But when the employees are of all different religions, how can the state meet its responsibilities to all its citizens if it allows one religion’s adherents to opt out?

    In the current case, Obama found a workaround for Catholic religious and religiously affiliated employers, but he didn’t extend it to all Catholic employers in the country. Now the Church is demanding, not only that he exempt all Catholics, but that he rescind the state’s very claim that it’s a right for anybody else as well. How exactly does the state deal with that kind of claim?

    What if it were Christian Science employers refusing to pay for ANY health insurance coverage for their employees? Or Jehovah’s Witnesses refusing to cover blood transfusions? Or name-a-religionist refusing to cover organ transplants?

    In reality, the American Catholic Church has more practical clout with the state than any of these other religions because of the simple fact that it has a well-placed central authority with political power. But the question remains, in a pluralistic democracy, how can one church assert its authority not merely over the state, but over all the other religions living there as well? In other words, there’s another layer to the tale of two cities here when one oof those spheres of influence is really just one of many of its kind.

    • Thales permalink
      February 20, 2012 9:46 am

      What if it were Christian Science employers refusing to pay for ANY health insurance coverage for their employees? Or Jehovah’s Witnesses refusing to cover blood transfusions? Or name-a-religionist refusing to cover organ transplants?

      I keep seeing this argument and I think it’s a little silly. What Anne describing is currently the status quo and has been the status quo for as long as employers have offered health insurance to employees — and yet I’ve never heard of any one having any problems with a Christian Science employer or some other religionist-employer. What is the case now, and has always been the case, is that if an employee wants a certain type of insurance coverage, the employee can get a job with an employer that offers that type of insurance coverage, or the employee can get supplemental insurance coverage from somewhere else, or the employee can come to some kind of agreement with the employer, or whatever other arrangement the employee can create. My point is, the HHS rule is a change to the current status quo — and under the current status quo, I’m aware of no flood of Christian Science employers screwing over their employees unjustly. (If someone has evidence of this happening, please let me know about it.) So since I’m aware of no current problem with the status quo, I see no need to change the status quo with the HHS rule to fix the non-existent problem.

    • February 20, 2012 1:50 pm

      Anne,

      Thanks for your engagement on this. I think you raise an important question. Ultimately I agree with the Thales. There is a difference between employers having the ability to choose their own insurance plan and the gov’t mandating that all insurance plans must cover this or that. The latter is a clear violation of subsidiarity and will necessarily also end up infringing on the conscience rights, for lack of a better term, of many employers.

      I don’t think the Church is claiming to be special among the other religious voices in this instance. I think the bishops are saying the gov’t does not have a right make this sort of mandate. There are other ways their goal could be acheived. If the health care “reform” (it doesn’t do nearly enough!) had been pushed us into a single-payer system, some of these problems would have been mitigated. I don’t see one can argue that the gov’t has the right to force someone to buy services he/she feels are immoral.

      Re: Church History, Vatican II, and Religious Liberty

      The pre-conciliar notion can be summarised as follows:
      1) where RC were in majority govt ought to embrace and support RC faith
      2) where not in the majority RC should be protected as minority
      RC ought to be particularly protected and respected bc its teaching the truth, and error has no rights.

      Those advocating for religious liberty at VC2 said that that privileged status had to go. This was done not be claiming that error has rights and thus contradicting former doctrine, but via a development. They shifts the focus from error to the person. Error still has no rights, but persons do. A person has a right to religious liberty.

      I don’t see how the current claims of the bishops is in any way contradictory to what the council said. Persons have the right to worship according to their conscience. No state, Catholic or otherwise, has the right to force a person to worship or this way or that or violate his religious freedoms. I don’t see how the council says the government can push religious issues completely out of the political sphere.

    • February 20, 2012 4:58 pm

      As Thales notes, Jehovah’s Witnesses already do often pay for insurance coverage that doesn’t cover whole blood transfusions; it’s sometimes quite good insurance coverage. For that matter, there are entire bloodless hospitals that don’t make any use of whole blood transfusions (some of them also very good). Likewise, Christian Scientists have their own forms of insurance. I don’t know much about them in general (they cover emergencies, and beyond that focus on nursing care), but the handful I’ve seen are all better than (for instance) any insurance I currently have.

      I’m inclined to think that this argument is actually emblematic of some of the problem of talking about this issue. It’s always put as a rhetorical question, but it always baffles those who are supposed to be convinced by it: faced with the question, “What if Jehovah’s Witnesses were to demand bloodless insurance coverage?” there are always going to be people who will respond with the question, “And if they did, why in the world wouldn’t you give it to them, as long as they made clear to people what they were doing and why?” There’s a big gap here in people’s expectations.

  17. Anne permalink
    February 20, 2012 3:34 am

    Joshua: “…the American Catholic understanding of the teaching of the council on religious liberty (Hecker and Murray) reflects an over accommodation to the claims of liberalism…”

    If so, it’s one shared with American Protestants who came to the same conclusion only after centuries of religious violence of one kind or another. America’s Deist forefathers may have believed in religious tolerance, but the churches took quite a bit longer. Maybe it’s a tenuous peace in Catholic eyes (is it?), but still it’s the most peace that’s existed among Christians since we left Jerusalem, really. (See, e.g., HOW THE IDEA OF RELIGIOUS TOLERATION CAME TO THE WEST by Perez Zagorin.) Is this really so wrong?

    Some say it’s what we have to teach Islam.

  18. February 20, 2012 9:16 am

    Mark,

    “Influence? The Church doesn’t propose to influence, as one voice among many. The Church proposes to teach, and what she proposes to teach is the truth, applicable to all people at all times. If you want “influence,” join Rotary International or the Chamber of Commerce.”

    The Church does propose to influence society through it’s teaching and it’s service. It does need to do so in a radical way – in opposition to the spirit of the times as you said. If the Church is relegated to homilies at Mass, because the state has been ceded the right to decide in all other spheres, then the ability of the Church to teach and influence is diminished. If the state is granted the power, for instance, to dictate what must be covered in health care plans, the Church cannot teach as effectively by offering a plan which reflects a vision in opposition to the spirit of the times. It’s ability to teach by example is compromised.

    It seems to me that one aspect of the spirit of the times is to look to the government to do what is properly the role of the Church. The Church should feed the poor. The Church should care for the sick.

  19. Anne permalink
    February 20, 2012 4:08 pm

    ” If the state is granted the power, for instance, to dictate what must be covered in health care plans, the Church cannot teach as effectively by offering a plan which reflects a vision in opposition to the spirit of the times. It’s ability to teach by example is compromised.
    It seems to me that one aspect of the spirit of the times is to look to the government to do what is properly the role of the Church. The Church should feed the poor. The Church should care for the sick.”

    I’m sorry, but that idea ignores reality. The Church today can’t possibly care for all the sick, or feed all the poor, if it ever could. Even with government programs in place, Catholic Charities and other religious agencies can’t keep up with these needs. The principle of subsidiarity itself dicates that a larger authority — national governments or international organizations, or a combination — do their part, and the bigger that entity, the bigger the part.

    Again, we come back to the reality of the Church existing within or alongside, or however one perceives or defines the facts on the ground, democratic, pluralistic societies. The Church may understand itself as the ultimate authority in dictating divine law, but the prerequisites of peace on earth require it use persuasion, not any form of compulsion, to convey its message. Even using political pressure can backfire and dissuade others from the truth in what it says.

    Historically, the Church has nad a hard time accepting persuasion as its only recourse in co-existing with the earthly city, relying for too long on what John Courtney Murray summed up as “intolerance whenever possible, tolerance whenever necessary.” Circumstances allowed the American church to grasp sooner than most the positives for the Church in the new dynamic. It would be a shame to in any way turn from that hard-earned perspective at this point in time.

  20. February 20, 2012 8:05 pm

    Anne,

    No one can ever adequately care for all the poor and the sick. As Jesus said, they will always be with us. But I strongly disagree that a national system of care will provide better than local ecclesial or secular institutions. First and foremost because man does not live by bread alone. The poor and sick, more than anything else, need love, need to be treated as persons. (Deus Caritas Est) This is best done in and by local communities. It would again be a violation of subsidiarity to pawn this duty off on an national entity or for a national entity to deprive local communities of this responsibility.

    JPII clearly understands the Council’s teaching on conscience and religious liberty to be a reminder that truth and love always convince but never coerce. I agree with you completely here, and I agree with Murray that in the past Church has too often exhibited intolerance. However, following Benedict XVI and Cavanaugh, I see this tolerance as a result of the Church’s having gotten too comfortable with its relationship with the state and the power that came with that. The form which the Church’s refusal to compromise with the HHS mandate ( or analogous laws regarding immigration, for example) should take is not one of triumphalism and intolerance, but suffering and witness. The Church’s relationship to the state should like Jesus’ relationship with the Roman and Jewish leaders of his day. We need our imaginations to capable of conceiving how to live out an active cruciform ecclesiology, which is also to say a eucharistic ecclesiology.

    • February 21, 2012 9:51 am

      @ Joshua B. —

      “First and foremost because man does not live by bread alone. The poor and sick, more than anything else, need love, need to be treated as persons.”

      Ah! The tried-and-true “pie in the sky when you die” rationale. That one is usually applied to full effect just before the advent of the revolution.

      • Ronald King permalink
        February 21, 2012 12:12 pm

        I agree Rodak. When human beings are nourished it is in the form of physical and spiritual nourishment. One does not exist without the other. Love does not exist without an action. The poor and sick receive the nourishment of love when we are actually with them and serving them. Love can be expressed in the form of the HHS mandate. One’s beliefs determines how love is expressed.

      • February 21, 2012 1:27 pm

        Perhaps I was not clear. It is not an either-or, but spiritual and material nourishment are needed. I am arguing that local communities are more suited for provided “personal” ministry to the poor and sick than are are national institutions.

        Deus Caritas Est 28, b:

        ” Love—caritas—will always prove necessary, even in the most just society. There is no ordering of the State so just that it can eliminate the need for a service of love. Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man as such. There will always be suffering which cries out for consolation and help. There will always be loneliness. There will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love of neighbour is indispensable.[20] The State which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person—every person—needs: namely, loving personal concern. We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need. The Church is one of those living forces: she is alive with the love enkindled by the Spirit of Christ. This love does not simply offer people material help, but refreshment and care for their souls, something which often is even more necessary than material support. In the end, the claim that just social structures would make works of charity superfluous masks a materialist conception of man: the mistaken notion that man can live “by bread alone” (Mt 4:4; cf. Dt 8:3)—a conviction that demeans man and ultimately disregards all that is specifically human.”

  21. Ronald King permalink
    February 21, 2012 2:34 pm

    “There is no ordering of the State so just that it can eliminate the need for a service of love. Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man as such.” It appears to me that the state is providing a loving service to those who need it with the HHS mandate.

    • Thales permalink
      February 22, 2012 11:39 am

      This is probably not the time or place for a discussion on this topic, but I just wanted to register my dissent: I don’t think providing contraception is a loving service.

      But back to the topic of debate: even it was a loving service, why provide it this way, when there are a dozen other ways to provide the service that are not as offensive to people’s consciences?

      • Kurt permalink
        February 22, 2012 2:14 pm

        Thales,

        The problem seems to be with a boss morally opposed to contraception including it in the company health care plan. Do you think a boss would not be immorally participating in contraception if instead of purchasing contraceptive inclusive insurance, he made a cash payment (equal to what the company had been spending on insurance) to an Employee Health & Welfare Fund, owned and controlled by the employees that would then decide what insurance to buy?

      • Thales permalink
        February 22, 2012 4:28 pm

        Kurt,
        That scenario would certainly be a lesser cooperation with evil. I don’t know whether the cooperation would be immoral or not — I’d have to do a full analysis of all the details and circumstances. But I welcome your interest in seeking out other possible scenarios that aren’t as infringing on conscience. Why won’t the Obama admin do the same?

        (Also, remember, the issue is not strictly whether it is morally permissible or not for the employer to indirectly pay for contraception. It’s morally permissible for me to buy your contraception if you’re threatening my family at gunpoint, for example. Instead, the issue is whether the infringement on freedom is just or not, regardless of whether the cooperation with evil is morally permissible. The Public Discourse has a recent article on this:
        http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/02/4817 )

      • Kurt permalink
        February 22, 2012 8:31 pm

        Thales,

        Well, that is some progress. What are the points of your reservation? If a boss has separated himself from the purchase of contraception but surrendered an opportunity to obstruct his employees from obtaining contraception, is that a concern?

        Of course, the President has tried to do the same as us here in finding solutions. He revised the initial plan to match the accomodation the Diocese of Honolulu obtained and that many Catholic universities already follow. You can say that is not enough, but I don’t think you can say he is not trying.

    • Thales permalink
      February 22, 2012 10:49 pm

      Kurt,

      I think your suggested situation is probably fine — it’s similar to an employer giving an increased pay amount, and the employee using that increased pay to purchase contraception himself, or to purchase a separate insurance plan that covers contraception. I don’t have any reservations about that. Get the White House on board! :)

      From everything I’ve read, the President’s accommodation is not the Diocese of Honolulu’s; and I’ve also read plenty indicating that the Diocese of Honolulu’s situation is not acceptable.because the plan still requires the employer to refer employees to where they can get contraception. (I don’t find it relevant that the Diocese of Honolulu survives under its rule — as I’ve said elsewhere, the fact that someone lives under a certain rule and is even able to cooperate with it morally, doesn’t mean that the rule is not unjust or objectionable.) Moreover, the accommodation (as most people understand it) is still objectionable to the bishops and to most who have looked at it. Finally — and I think, importantly — remember, the accommodation doesn’t actually exist right now. Right now, the law is the original rule (to which practically everyone voiced an objection). And I can’t say that I have any confidence that the President will actually do anything to modify the rule — I mean, it’s been two weeks since the President’s statement about the accommodation, but we still haven’t seen from the White House any proposed language for modifying the rule, nor have we seen any timeline for getting the rule modified before August 2013.

      • Matt Bowman permalink
        February 23, 2012 1:34 pm

        The President didn’t revise his plan–he passed the original plan “without change.”

      • Thales permalink
        February 23, 2012 3:02 pm

        Yep, I know. That’s what I was trying to say in the last part of my comment.

      • Kurt permalink
        February 23, 2012 5:52 pm

        I think your suggested situation is probably fine — it’s similar to an employer giving an increased pay amount, and the employee using that increased pay to purchase contraception himself, or to purchase a separate insurance plan that covers contraception. I don’t have any reservations about that. Get the White House on board! :)

        Thales, I have fantastic news. This option already exists in law. Yes, it is uncommon outside the building and construction trades ( very common, however, in Catholic Europe) but that is largely due to employer desire to have control over their workers. Certainly a Catholic employer, both embracing CST and wishing not to be linked to contraception would not have such a problem.

        So here we have one means of accomodating both sides.

      • Thales permalink
        February 24, 2012 9:58 am

        Kurt,

        So here we have one means of accomodating both sides.

        Then get on the horn with the White House and get the President to change the current unjust rule.

        I’ve said all along that if you wanted to increase contraception access, there are dozens of ways to do it without offending personal conscience and religious liberty the way that the current rule does.

      • grega permalink
        February 24, 2012 4:24 pm

        In many ways for me this is a bit like ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ –
        The American Bishops are mandating and insisting on one thing – some Spectators play along and keep insisting against all odds that they share the bishops view ( typically the most vocal of those spectators are conveniently outside the furtile years) – it is in reality however rather obvious that there is not much to see – the churches model of proper procreation and idea of proper marital sex has been flat out rejected for all practical matters.
        Sure we can keep insititng it aint so – most folks eventually get tired pretending.
        In my view the bishops have no backing for this in the catholic populace. The emperor is rather stark naked – has been naked for a long time really.
        Just my very personal, not particular sophisticated yet honest opinion.
        I can respect your opinion but honestly do not view yours or the official church position as morally superior.

        • Drew permalink
          February 24, 2012 8:48 pm

          Grega. interesting point. i wonder about stuff like this, like..the Church is not a democracy and we are supposed to follow the decisions of the Church in all moral issues right? but when 98 percent of Catholics use birth control isn’t it kind of silly for the Church to go on like this? i guess right is right no matter how many don’t agree, but what does it mean when so many just do their own thing but want to be a part of a religion that is in part defined by top-down management? What does it mean when the Church holds a position it knows will be forever (most likely) ignored?

      • grega permalink
        February 24, 2012 11:47 pm

        One can view our church history and the general way the other major important Worldreligion besides Christianity evolved of course in various ways. I have to admit that my own thinking here is heavily influenced by a deep desire for this to all make sense – in my case I very much assume that of course major societal developments will eventually be reflected in religious teaching and practice. It is a bit like chicken and egg really in my view.
        An early christian believer would certainly not recognize todays church.
        Every generation seems to go through the same notion – the parents wonder what the kids are up too – the grandparents are convinced that their children are not quite as devout – tough – dedicated as they are – and so on.
        In the meantime the church and society changes under our very own feet – if we all are honest we experience this most certainly all the time.
        I have in general a pretty positive opinion of most of my fellow human beings – most of us are not some sleazy characters that go about life in the most evil way possible – no we experience life and react.
        We try to be good – we try to forge a path that works – when we run into trouble as a people and a society and a religion we adjust. Yes in my view if 90% of the population uses one form of contraception or the other than this is well-reasoned reaction to the given societal and scientific circumstances and not some evil moral breakdown- this is my opinion. I am sure I will have a slightly different take at a different point in my life – but in my view the church should not treat us contracepting contemporary parents like some evil morally compromised jerks.

      • Kurt permalink
        February 26, 2012 9:09 pm

        Then get on the horn with the White House and get the President to change the current unjust rule.

        I’ve said all along that if you wanted to increase contraception access, there are dozens of ways to do it without offending personal conscience and religious liberty the way that the current rule does.

        Thales.

        DONE! The employee health and welfare plan is an option all employers have. See, a little dialogue and we find problems are not so difficult.

      • Thales permalink
        February 27, 2012 9:50 am

        Kurt,
        No it’s not. If you’re describing an option different from what the HHS rule requires, it’s not an option. The HHS rule is binding on all and doesn’t permit alternative options.

      • Kurt permalink
        February 27, 2012 8:08 pm

        Thales,

        It is not binding on those who do not contract with an insurance company. We have both seen the merit of a system where the employer simply pulls out of the business of contracting with an insurance company and setting the terms and conditions of the policy. The employer simply makes a payment of a dollar amount to an Employee Health and Welfare of which he does not control and is freed of any moral responsibility for the decisions the Fund eventually makes.

      • Thales permalink
        February 27, 2012 9:03 pm

        It is not binding on those who do not contract with an insurance company. We have both seen the merit of a system where the employer simply pulls out of the business of contracting with an insurance company and setting the terms and conditions of the policy.

        But it was my understanding that the latter option you’re describing is not available under the HHS rule.

      • Kurt permalink
        February 29, 2012 9:16 pm

        But it was my understanding that the latter option you’re describing is not available under the HHS rule.

        You would be mistaken. Employee Health and Welfare plans already exist (mostly in the construction industry). I’m not even sure why there would be any confusion that this is an option. If the HHS rule was shutting down Employee Health and Welfare Plans, it would certainly be news.

  22. Rodak permalink
    February 21, 2012 3:23 pm

    @ Joshua B. —

    What we need is a society so constituted that instances of dire individual, or familial, need are so rare that local charity will be sufficient to provide the help needed in each and every such case. I.e., we need a society in which work, education, housing and healthcare are guaranteed rights of citizenship. This isn’t a utopian dream; it has been pretty much realized in societies such as those in Scandanavia; and this without an oppressive central government. All that is needed is to make that goal the societal priority. There will always be plenty of need for works of charity, even when the basic human needs are accounted for. But charity will never be able to supply those needs in a dog-eat-dog society where the accumulation of private wealth is the highest ideal.

  23. Stan DeVoir permalink
    February 26, 2012 6:07 pm

    Throughout the history of our country Christians have exercised their right to be heard in the public square. Without the right to do so their would have been no Underground Railroad, no Freedom Riders, no war protests, etc. It is the right of the people to alter or abolish the government when it becomes destructive of our individual rights. It is time to alter this one.

    • Kurt permalink
      February 26, 2012 9:06 pm

      Both the vast majority of Christians who believe it is possible for a woman to responsibly use contraception, and the minority of Christians who do not, have the right to be heard in the public square. One venue of the public square is a congressional hearing. The guys- only lead panel did not represent the diversity of opinions among Christians nor any women. That was unfortunate.

      • Thales permalink
        February 27, 2012 10:28 am

        This is not a men vs. women issue. The congressional hearing had women on subsequent panels, and plenty of women have voiced opposition to the HHS rule.

  24. grega permalink
    February 26, 2012 10:33 pm

    Perhaps I misunderstand you – but most certainly Christians have exercised their right to be heard – many of us actually helped electing Obama – most of us find that Obama unlike Mullah Rick or Newt 3.0 represents the best that particular catholic social teaching dictates.
    And yes the majority of catholics actually do support the administration on this one.
    As frustrating as this might be for some – this is a free country.

    • Thales permalink
      February 27, 2012 10:58 am

      And yes the majority of catholics actually do support the administration on this one.

      You have any evidence for this? I doubt very much that that is the case. Remember, you’ve got 100% of bishops against the administration. I’ve seen polls saying that 50% of people disagree with the administration on this, and that’s not even taking into account Catholics, which would obviously be a higher percentage.
      http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2012/02/16/cnn-poll-half-oppose-obama-birth-control-insurance-plan/

      Keep in mind that even if a great majority of Catholics use contraception, that doesn’t mean that they support the administration on this matter. You’ve got Catholics who use contraception from time to time, but still believe what they’re doing is wrong and don’t want the contraception teaching changed. You’ve also got Catholics who think the contraception teaching is incorrect and want it changed, but don’t want to see the government stepping in and telling the Church what to do. You’ve got Catholics who want the contraception teaching changed, but see this as an issue of religious liberty being infringed by the government. I doubt very much that a majority of Catholics support the administration here.

      • grega permalink
        February 27, 2012 1:39 pm

        Thales,
        I really can respect and appreciate your patience with me and others when explaining and defending the official catholic positon. Yes we can agree that plenty of catholics use contraceptives from ‘time to time’ – I am not sure that most of these folks feel all that conflicted about it. I just know that most of my married friends -regardless of religion -typically are not entirely naive in this matter and take appropriate steps to increase the chances that the desired number of children is roughly achieved. Yes it would take a very different mindset to seriously move a way from this reality.
        I doubt that there is a realistic chance that that mindset will ever have a serious chance to enter mainstream going forward.

        Currently Obama has a ~50% approval rating with a bit of an upwards trend.
        I am actually not sure if among Catholics he would have ‘obviously’ a lower approval rating – certainly Catholics in the last election voted for Obama ~55%. Given that and the fact that a fair number of influential and reasonable conservative opinion maker do not like this HHS/contraception discussion one bit – digbydolben posted a link to George Will’s more recent piece and here is Kathleen Parker’s opinion – I doubt that your optimistic numbers will ever materialize
        http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/obamas-dream-to-run-against-santorum/2012/02/24/gIQAD9VfYR_story.html
        To be a bit flippant (but honest about) it as the semi liberal Dowd recently put it – “Republicans being against sex is not good,” the G.O.P. strategist Alex Castellanos told me mournfully. “Sex is popular.”
        And Americans and Catholics around the world after more than 40 years post HV have not gotten around liking the essence of HV one bit more – one could say that the actual ‘practitioners of the art’ reject the catholic ideal of marital sex.

      • February 27, 2012 2:25 pm

        In a poll, Catholics voters were found to support the mandate 57% to 36%. For all voters it was 59% to 34%.

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