(and tax-funded political activity by any other churches, too)
I have always believed that it’s important to listen seriously to one’s opponents. Either (a) they’re right, in which case I ought to change my mind, or (b) it equips me with what I need to defeat their arguments, usually using their own words. Sometimes, of course, there’s a compromise to be found, but less often than one would wish.
In the matter of the Bishops’ letter to their congregations promising to fight tooth and nail over the requirement that the insurance they provide their employees include contraception, a lot of the focus has been on the insurance.
Listen to the Bishops’ argument:
1. While the church itself is exempt from the requirement, its schools, hospitals, and charities are not.
2. The institutions are morally opposed to fulfilling the requirement
3. The insurance would include voluntary sterilization and “Ella”, which prevents implantation of a fertilized egg and the Church regards as abortion
4. Most Catholics and allies among Protestants are opposed to the requirement
5. Although a number of states, including New York, California, and Oregon already require the inclusion of contraception, the Church has been able to dodge this in many states and some don’t have any requirement at all.
Now, already there are some serious holes in this. It turns out that some states already require the provision of contraceptive services. It turns out that most Catholics support the inclusion of contraception in insurance. It turns out that that there is no connection to abortion, which is already covered by the Hyde Amendment. The specific naming of Ella is notably dishonest, since a number of methods prevent implantation. It turns out that many of the people who would be affected are not Catholics. It certainly doesn’t force any Catholic to use contraception. It’s all just a matter of who pays for those who choose to use contraception.
So, already the Bishops are pretty deep into lying. (see here and here and here for a general discussion; Seehere for a statement that DePaul and other Catholic institutions provide contraception through insurance). The Church has very pragmatically decided not to, say, excommunicate Catholics who use birth control, even though they regard inhibiting implantation as murder–and unconfessed murder at that. It’s difficult to take the moral high ground when one has already lost authority over one’s troops.
But as numerous as the flaws in the Bishops’ arguments are, only radio show host Norman Goldman identified the issue which absolutely kills those arguments. The employees of the Catholic Church receive an exemption from taxes in exchange for the agreement not to intervene in political contests. This legislation was crafted by then-Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1954.
According to radio host Norman Goldman, in Florida, priests specifically referred to “the Obama Administration” (although the bishops are careful to avoid naming the president). But even where the president was not named, it’s very clear that this is political. The Bishops have taken no steps to reach an amicable compromise, such as offering to give employees an amount sufficient to buy a supplemental policy if they wish, and not if it goes against their conscience. Surely the Administration would accept any arrangement that does not unduly burden the employee. So the Bishops are picking a political fight, and yet they expect the taxpayers to fund their political activities through the tax exemption!
The Bishops are in rebellion against the lawfully elected government. And nowhere is this more apparent than in the letter from military chaplain, which he was directed not to read(see here) . Different dioceses read different versions of the Bishops’ letter, and his is in no way unrepresentative. But he has a special duty as the Catholic representative who speaks especially to the troops. When he says, “It [the contraception mandate] is a blow to a freedom that you have fought to defend and for which you have seen your buddies fall in battle,” he is standing in rebellion. When he says, “We cannot—we will not—comply with this unjust law,” this is sedition. True, his chain of command is not to the president, but to Rome. But he has placed Catholic military chaplains, whose chain of command does run to the president in an impossible situation.
The Catholic Church has in many ways ceased to be a religious institution. The hierarchy, at least, amounts to a political institution–indeed, a foreign-runpolitical institution, while it’s the Catholics in the pews who do all the good works.
It is time to end the tax benefits this Catholic Superpac enjoys. Taxpayers should not be paying priests to act as ward heelers and lobbyists for special treatment for those secular institutions operated by the Catholic Church. There are many reasons to deride the Catholic Bishops dishonesty and hypocrisy on contraceptive insurance, but none as simple and unambiguous as our demand that taxpayer dollars not be used to subvert our government.