The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
White House Flubs Contraception Compromise

First the Obama administration managed to alienate both its liberal supporters and its religious critics by pushing and then pulling back its HHS contraception mandate. Now the White House has succeeded in hitting the political sour spot yet again by producing a compromise designed to placate the Catholic bishops…without consulting the Catholic bishops. Reports the Times:

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops — which has led the opposition to the plan — said in a statement late Friday that the solution offered by the White House to quell a political furor was “unacceptable and must be corrected” because it still infringed on the religious liberty and conscience of Catholics. . . .

Administration officials said the White House had never expected to get the bishops’ support, given their absolute opposition to contraception, and was surprised when the initial statement of the bishops conference on Friday was noncommittal and went so far as to call the president’s modification a step in the right direction.

This isn’t political rocket science. Given the bishops’ openness on the issue, all the administration had to do was sit down with the conference and work out a mutually agreeable compromise before making the first announcement about it—let alone the second. Is this a deliberate choice of polarizing tactics to solidify the base, or simple ineptitude and arrogance? Via Meadia is waiting for more light.

Published on February 14, 2012 9:00 am
  • Richard Quigley

    “all the administration had to do was sit down with the conference and work out a mutually agreeable compromise”

    BHO doesn’t do red wine conferences.

  • Jim.

    It’s obvious — they have nothing but contempt for God, because He actually expects something of them.

    The sooner these people get drummed out of office, the better.

  • http://sgreffenius.wordpress.com/ Steven Greffenius

    It could be all four: ineptitude, arrogance, polarization, and solidification.

  • elisa

    Abusers abuse. Waiting for this bunch to respect the freedom of others to disagree with them is a losers game. They will abuse their power and disrespect their fellow citizens unless and until rebuked by superior strength.

  • elisa

    It doesn’t matter what the base thinks of it. This move is to consolidate power and trample the constitution. This move is to separate Americans from their freedom to self-determination. Lilliputians are tying down Gulliver while he wonders if there is some sort of misunderstanding or miscommunication. There is a misunderstanding on Gulliver’s part only.

  • Preston Pate

    As WRM mentioned in his first blog on this topic, this appears to be the worst kind of political error. I’m puzzled by why the White House’s tactics & strategy. They chose a battle of their own choosing on ground they selected.. There did not appear to be an immediate deadline for this decision. Instead they chose to pick a fight over a cultural issue. The Church was an easy mark as far as they were concerned for multiple reasons, and it was sure to fire up their base. So did they underestimate the vehemence of the response or do they have some other endpoint in mind? In my mind this latest “accommodation” looks like another tactical error. However, I must assume that Obama has at least a few competent political strategists involved who have thought this through in some detail, so what else is there? Are they really that incompetent?

  • Mrs. Davis

    A diktat like this is pure arrogance and only a hint of what we will see when the sons of the Post Office run the medical system.

  • A

    Could you all do a comprehensive “sour spot” post at some point?

  • Eurydice

    It’s a pretty well-known tactic. First, there’s the idea that in getting what you want it’s better to seek forgiveness than to ask permission. Then, when people object, you deflect attention from the act and place it on the apology – “I’m seeking forgiveness, why are you being so unreasonable?”

    As for why he should go after the church in the first place, I think arrogance is probably the answer. He really, really believes that the legacy of his health care reform is more important than any other considerations, even Constitutional ones.

  • WigWag

    Interesting comments on this Via Meadia post but I think the gold medal has to go to Elisa (February 14, 2012 at 10:10 am). On an essay pertinent to the Catholic Bishops she informs us that “abusers abuse”.

    Good work, Elisa, you’ve certainly stumbled into the truth.

  • MJB

    The Left is not very good at sharing power with anyone.

  • ms

    For those who think it through, this is the worst kind of arrogant overreach. My fear, though, and this is what BHO and his crowd are counting on, is that the electorate in general will just vaguely notice that Obama is sparring with Catholics over contraception. They will side with Obama because they want their insurance to cover contraceptives, and besides, how 100 years ago is that debate? They will consequently not dig deep enough to understand the serious implications for religious freedom. If the Bishops hold firm, however, and practice civil disobedience while making the larger case, I think they will win in the end. People will come to see beyond contraceptives and understand that the confrontation is really about conscience and belief, and if Obama wins, what they believe is also threatened.

  • WigWag

    While the Via Meadia crew may be right about the political implications of this story; they’ve missed the forest for the trees (again). The real story hiding in plain sight is the Bishop’s anachronistic policy towards contraception.

    We might as well call this policy what it is; a continuation of the Catholic Church’s centuries-old
    Jihad against recreational sex. That not even most Roman Catholics take their church’s teachings about contraception seriously tells you all you need to know about the increasing irrelevancy of the Church hierarchy.

    To be fair to the Church, it’s bizarre views are recapitulated in many of the world’s religions. Muslims believe that the Prophet ascended to heaven from Jerusalem on a flying horse. Tibetan Buddhists believe that they can reduce the number of reincarnations they will need before achieving Nirvana by circumambulating Mount Kailas three times in a counter-clockwise direction. Hindu acolytes of Vishnu believe he has four arms. The Bishop’s distaste for recreational sex and the contraception devices that make it safer and more reasonable isn’t any stranger than these beliefs of other religious groups (although it does tend to make the Bishop’s bigger party poopers).

    In fact, the Bishop’s aren’t even the only religious leaders who have strange views of human sexuality; many ultra orthodox Rebbes will tell you that a man shouldn’t even touch a menstruating woman let alone engage in sexual relations with her.

    The question that many people including many Roman Catholics are beginning to ask is whether there is a connection between the Bishop’s war on recreational sex and the child abuse scandals that have rocked the Church. Does the Bishop’s obsession with all things sexual from the virginity of Christ’s mother to the celibacy of the priesthood, to the bias against homosexuality (despite it’s prevalence amongst Catholic clergy), to the policy on contraception bear any relationship to the crisis rocking the Church.

    It seems to me that this is a far more interesting question for Professor Mead and his colleagues to reflect on than the relatively inconsequential (in the scheme of things) political mistakes that the Obama Administration may have made.

  • Mark Michael

    For what it’s worth, Dick Morris claims that it was a deliberate campaign tactic by the Obama operatives!

    Polls show a large majority of Americans support the use of contraceptives and also think it would be nice if health insurance covered their cost. Abortion, on the other hand, is opposed by a slim majority of voters; it’s more tolerated than endorsed. It’s a losing issue for D’s politically.

    Morris claimed that the George Stephanopoulos question in that January GOP primary debate of Mitt Romney was deliberately planted as a favor to the Obama campaign. Recall he asked, “Do states have the right to ban contraception – or is that trumped by a constitutional right to privacy?” Romney was baffled. He asked Stephanopoulos why he would even ask. No state was contemplating such a ban. He said, “George, that’s a silly question!”

    Then recall the back story of this ruling to require health insurance policies to cover contraceptives: it’s been under consideration since at least last summer by HHS. There have been meetings with Catholic bishops, feminists, etc.

    There was no reason for the HHS to make this ruling at this particular time. They could have waited. So this supports Morris’s idea that it was a deliberate campaign tactic. It would get the R candidates off the economy and off Obama’s record, which both are likely to be losers for Obama. Social issues are also tricky, unless you can find one that are popular with most voters.

    They hoped that the media would help them paint the R candidates, think Rick Santorum, a devout Catholic, also Newt Gingrich has converted to Catholicism, as blocking women getting contraceptives paid for by their insurance policies.

    Well, it seems a little convoluted to me, but “community organizers” do try to find issues that can “stir the pot” and cause dissension in the ranks of their political adversaries. Think ACORN and its lobbying for subprime mortgages for decades, picketing in front of the homes of CEOs of banks, suing Fannie and Freddie to change their strict lending requirements for supporting home loans. Obama worked as a lawyer for ACORN for 2 years in the early 1990s. Has there been any acknowledgement that the subprime mortgage expansion was a bad idea by the “community organizer in chief”? He blames Bush for the conditions that led to the severe recession of 2008-09, and not the D’s in Congress, ACORN, and Fannie & Freddie.

  • Laura Blanchard

    From today’s news, a tidbit that suggests that God (masquerading as evolution) may also be on the side of the jihad against recreational sex: the CDC warns that a new strain of gonorrhea, resistant to the last antibiotic that worked, is poised to wreak havoc. A dose of the clap ain’t herpes, folks.

  • Amphipolis

    They didn’t pull anything back. On Friday they finalized the regulation with the old language. This entire “compromise” episode has been a charade to get their thuggish regulation off the front page.

    http://www.ofr.gov/OFRUpload/OFRData/2012-03547_PI.pdf

  • Baby M

    “Is this a deliberate choice of polarizing tactics to solidify the base, or simple ineptitude and arrogance?”

    Yes. That, and the Progressive preference to have the State crowd out all other human institutions, particularly those which answer to a higher power than the almighty State.

  • spudnik

    Obama needs the sizable chunk of the Catholic vote that the Democratic candidate always got. Whether statist instincts got the better of his judgment or whether it was a calculated effort to fire up the Christian haters on the left and/or move the debate to the culture war to distract from the economy, I think history will record this a a monumental blunder.

  • Alan K

    Um, WigWag, it seems that you are saying the more important issue is to discuss why are the Catholics Catholic, right? That conversation will not impact voting come November. But the attempt to make Catholic conscience subject to the will of the nation state will only cost Obama come election time. Even “Liberal” Catholics realize this and are upset at the way this has gone down.

  • Yahzooman

    They are rallying the base.

    Keystone was a rally the enviros ploy. (GOP against the environment.)

    Contraception is a rally the feminists ploy. (Why do Republicans wage war on women, especially poor women?).

    It’s strange to us because we are not the prime audience. We respect the Constitution.

    The other side (including the Commander-in-Chief) doesn’t think Mr. Madison’s old parched document fits into the 21st Century world in which we live.

    This is one fascinating campaign.

  • TheAbstractor

    Anyone get the feeling that the White House is being chronically mismanaged, not just politically but purely from a business/media relations point of view?

    Rahm Emanuel was the only thing ever keeping the Obama Administration afloat, and the only guy smart enough to jump ship soon enough.

  • Jeffersonian

    I don’t think it’s any of the above. I think it’s another in a long line of expansions of State power that crowd out personal preference, religious conviction and any of a host of non-state views. As Mark Steyn aptly put it, when government gets bigger, everything else gets smaller.

    So get ready for more, everyone. The federal Leviathan has been unleashed in all its Frankensteinian horror. All individual preferences will be crushed before it in time, and if your agenda does not mesh quickly with that of the Central State, you will be, in the words of Saint-Simon, “treated as cattle.”

  • http://abriefhistory.org Mike_K

    The fact that “modern” Catholics use contraception is irrelevant to this controversy. It is analogous to the story of the woman who was asked if she would sleep with the man for a million dollars. She said yes, for a million dollars. He then asked if she would do it for one hundred. She replied, “What do you think I can ?” He answered, “We’ve established that. Now we are haggling about price.”

    The bishops have swallowed a lot of leftist dogma. Now they are being backed into a corner. There are millions of people who oppose abortion and even contraception. The “morning after” pill is an abortion. The Catholic Left is being told that what they are has been established. Now, it’s price is being negotiated.

  • Echo Alpha

    *Wigwag says*

    Oh boy, a wit is amongst us! I’ve not heard a joke like that in… oh, wait, I’ve heard a few hundred ones like that, from latenight to the bar. A fine junior outing, swinging for low-hanging fruit like that, and I’m sure Mommy is patting your hand and cooing sweet soothing sounds over your achievement.

    News flash, bub- the Catholic priesthood harbors abusers in about the same ratio as… the public school system. That’s right, you better pull your kids out of school WigWag, lest some lecherous hot mama or wrinkly yogurt-loving creep offers a special tutoring session to your beloved.

    http://wizbangblog.com/2011/07/08/sexual-abuse-of-students-in-schools-is-likely-more-than-100-times-the-abuse-by-priests/

    http://blogs.denverpost.com/hark/2010/05/25/scandal-creates-contempt-for-catholic-clergy/

  • Kathy

    Recreational sex is certainly a shortened version of the Catholic belief in the dignity of life from conception to death. Strange how the Catholic stance against the death penalty is never viewed with the same derision as their belief regarding conception and I believe they use the same logic and reasoning.
    They are consistent.

  • AK

    WigWam:

    So the Church’s teachings that homosexual acts are wrong, sex that is not open to procreation is wrong, and all sex outside of marriage are wrong caused priests to fondle boys?

    Want to connect the dots for me on that one?

  • Not This Time

    This is not so much about the church as it is about the church goers. Millions of them own businesses they have convictions too. Its not enough to gain excemptions for the church the President wants to force the business owners to throw in the towell on providing insurance so he can come to the rescue.

  • MarkJ

    Obama’s idea of a “compromise”: the left side of his brain making a deal with the right side of his brain.

  • Mark of Lombard

    “The real story hiding in plain sight is the Bishop’s anachronistic policy towards contraception.” And then follows a long explanation of why the Catholic Church’s official belief about this religious matter is wrong, wrong, wrong, for which reason it should cause no one concern that the federal government is prohibiting them from practicing their religion.

    Wow, WigWag. Wow.

    You might want to consider whether this concept of religious freedom would mean when the occupant of the White House is someone who disagrees with you.

    It isn’t about contraception. It’s about religious freedom. If you don’t get that … wow.

  • Sage

    I like Morris’ theory that it’s about injecting contraception into the election debate–”The Republicans aren’t in favor of contraception!”–in an effort to scare centrist voters into thinking Santorum or Romney is riding to Washington with a plan to ban the pill. Most Americans, and in fact most Catholics, would just as soon have all the contraception they can lay their hands on. Plus most voters are very stupid. So it’s a pretty solid strategy, and an even better explanation for why Obama decided to pick this fight now.

  • http://boomushroom.blogspot.com BooMushroom

    @WigWag:
    Congratulations on conflating the following ideas:
    1. That intercourse has both biological and emotional/spiritual ramifications.
    2. Some people think a particular deity has extra body parts.

    The Catholic Church has a lot of dogma. Given. Much of it has a good reason. You are free to not agree with the dogma, or the reason, because we live in a country with religious freedom. And thank God for that.

    I could cite specifics from the Concordance, or Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, but this isn’t the forum for it. So I’ll say this instead: may your children, and your children’s children, go easy on the contraceptives: your retirement benefits are counting on them.

  • Mrs. Davis

    Whew, a disagreement with Wig Wag. All is right with the world again.

    Mother Nature is going to be much more effective in curtailing recreational sex than the Catholic Church will ever be.

    And ultimately the issue is not recreational sex. It is the government’s power over individuals. What will Obama try to force the Amish to do under cover of health care?

  • wiseowl

    What everyone forgets is that Catholics have an emotional attachment to their church that Obama (that shallow man) could never understand. Of course we were disgusted by abuse of childrenand of course we do not always agree on some of the churches doctrines. But you have to remember these priests baptized us, gave us first communion, married us and consoled us when we dealt with death be it ours or someone else. Even those who have left the church (with the notable exception of Bill Keller of the NYT) remember prayers and the ritual of mass. They may bot like organized religion but they do not like to see the government deciding that it is the sole moral dictator of our own personal freedom.

  • Corlyss

    “Is this a deliberate choice of polarizing tactics to solidify the base, or simple ineptitude and arrogance?”

    False choice. It’s both. This administration never compromises on anything. It doubles down. The alleged compromise still had Catholic insitutions paying for abortions and contraceptives thru the higher premiums the victimized insurance companies will charge them to off-set the costs the Obamanoids forced the insurance companies to sign up for.

  • Corlyss

    @MarkJ

    Is there any proof Obama’s brain has a right side?

  • Mrs. Davis

    Now we know what’s next. If the government doesn’t like the lunch you pack for your child, the child will be forced to eat the cafeteria lunch and you will be charged.

    Think I’m kidding?

    This is why the Obama decision is based on arrogance. Those with power will abuse it.

  • Some Jerk

    Obama’s folks were hoping they could limit the debate to contraception, and that the Catholic leaders would be sidelined by the time everyone realized the HHS order was really the first step towards Federally-funded abortions under Obamacare. I’m still pretty sure that’s where they want to go with this, but they will wait to force us to pay for abortions until 2013.

  • Ron W

    If contraception is so widely accepted, why do we have over a million surgical abortions and over a million non-marital births every year? What’s the catch? or the catches?

    Too bad natural family planning (NFP) is virtually surpressed, despite having no complications or side effects, requiring the co-operation of both spouses (partners?), and properly requiring the development of the kind of self-control whose need is recognized in every other area of life.

    The Catholic Church has nothing to apologize for on the merits. That said, this conflict is about the rights of every faith, not just mine.

  • Amanuensis

    The people supporting Obama and his thugs are not liberals, they are libertines.

  • Amanuensis

    Read George Weigel’s “The Libertine Police State” on National Review Online, February 12. You will get a real understanding of what is happening in our nation.

  • Claude Hopper

    It is estimated that women spend over $100 billion each year on beauty aids. Add in clothes, shoes and weight loss plans, it adds up to real money. A few percent of that would cover this “health need”. If they spent a little less on beauty, there might be less need for the contraceptives. But as Micky Gilley says, the girls all get prettier at closing time.

  • Mr. G

    I’m all for the discussion WigWag as long as you are willing to discuss why we kowtow to the University system which is a European anachronism rather than modernizing the model. This way public policy is not set by a self-selected few and we get back to the more modern method of actual rights and constitutional democracy.

  • http://fkclinic.blogspot.com tioedong

    then “announced” a compromise, but it was a shell game, since everyone will still have to pay for contraceptive and abortive medicine (or did you think that insurance companies will print their own money?).

    And actually it makes it worse: those of us who self insure will also be forced to pay for it, since there will be no health insurance that doesn’t include these medications.

  • WigWag

    “Recreational sex is certainly a shortened version of the Catholic belief in the dignity of life from conception to death. Strange how the Catholic stance against the death penalty is never viewed with the same derision as their belief regarding conception and I believe they use the same logic and reasoning. They are consistent.”
    (Kathy @ February 14, 2012 at 3:29 pm)

    You know what they say, Kathy, consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

  • norman p gregas

    I agree, the Obama administration did not think this through. But! I believe he had the best interest for women with this issue. He just wanted equal healthcare for everybody. Which is not a bad thing. but! She did not take into consideration religious views, that is religious views of the church, the religious views of the church and the religious views of its followers, are not the same. National poll, if there was one. would show, the Catholic women, would like the option

  • SC Mike

    By focusing solely on “contraception,” you are playing the administration’s political game. While contraception alone would be problematic, the rule deals with the trifecta: contraceptive, sterilization, and abortion services in the form of abortifacients.

    As the election nears we’ll be hearing more about Republicans and contraception when that one word does not depict the whole issue. But this won’t be the first time that a half-truth or a third-truth was used to win an election.

  • Don

    How about this: Obama raised the contraception issue to test the depth, breadth and will of opposition to his stated purpose to “transform America”. He has already crammed down Obamacare by talking the Senate Parliamentarian into allowing it to proceed as a budget issue, thus requiring only 51 votes to pass instead of the 60 which would have been required otherwise. Now that his re-election chances don’t look like a lock he has to move more aggressively to advance his desired transformation. What better way to advance his agenda than taking on the Catholic Church, or should I say taking out the Catholic Church. The portion of his base which will support him is large, loud, united and ruthless. The Catholic Church (and its potential supporters such as the Southern Baptist Convention) is large but how united, loud, and ruthless can they be? Will they be? If Obama can prevail in this battle, what stands in the way of him doing whatever else he wants?
    I’m a novice in these matters but I’ve always thought Obama’s statement that he wanted to “transform America” was a bad thing, that he wanted (and wants) to turn us into another European social democracy (at best) and a 2nd rate world power (at best). I thought and still think America is fundamentally good, sound, and OK. It can definitely use some tweaking. But transformation? No. A social democracy? No way! A 2nd rate world power? No way!

  • Micha Elyi

    It’s a pretty well-known tactic. … [W]hen people object, you deflect attention from the act and place it on the apology – “I’m seeking forgiveness, why are you being so unreasonable?”-Eurydice (11:31)

    Expecting a firm purpose of amendment from the truly contrite is being reasonable. “Unreasonable” is Obamanoid behavior. (Good catch, Eurydice.)

    Moving on to the canard repeated by many other commenters here, so what if blah-blah percent of Catholics have ever indulged in such-and-such sin? Zero percent of ‘em are expecting their church to pay for it. (Duh.)

  • WigWag

    “So the Church’s teachings that homosexual acts are wrong, sex that is not open to procreation is wrong, and all sex outside of marriage are wrong caused priests to fondle boys? Want to connect the dots for me on that one?” (AK @ February 14, 2012 at 3:38 pm)

    Sure, AK, let me connect the dots for you. Many critics, including Catholic critics like Gary Wills, believe that in a church obsessed with all things sexual that men with unresolved sexual issues are drawn to a celibate priesthood. When these men prove unable to conquer their erotic urges, they act out in unhealthy and even illegal ways. While I am happy to stipulate that homosexuality doesn’t increase the proclivity to child abuse, many critics have suggested that a celibate priesthood not only attracts homosexuals looking to sublimate their sexual desires but also men with more destructive sexual inclinations. There is nothing very startling about this theory; it is widely discussed and debated in Catholic circles.

    It is worth remembering that the Catholic Church’s bizarre thinking about sexuality is not limited to dogma advanced by the Catholic hierarchy. Anyone with even a passing familiarity with Catholic (and also Eastern Orthodox) iconography is often struck by the pseudosexual nature of much Catholic art. The San Damiano Cross in Assisi is one example of this and Michelangelo’s Pieta is another. That homoeroticism is a common feature of much Catholic art is now so routinely accepted that it is no longer even controversial.

    So the answer to your question, AK, is that the Church’s long Jihad against recreational sex and the strange inclinations that motivate it just might be related to the sex scandals that have rocked the Church.

    About the kindest thing that can be said about the Church’s sexual obsessions is that they are not alone in seeking to control the sexual activities of their congregants. As I said in an earlier post, ultra orthodox Jews frequently hold bizarre views about human sexuality. Perhaps Islam is the worst offender. Remember that in wide swaths of the Muslim world, female genital mutilation is ubiquitous in the form of clitorectomies forced upon young girls shortly after puberty. The whole purpose of this practice is to limit premarital recreational sex, at least by women.

    I think we should be grateful that the Catholic Church merely wants to withhold contraception from young women thus threatening them with the prospect of unwanted pregnancy if they engage in premarital recreational sex. This is far better than the all too common practice of some Muslims who mutilate the genitals of young girls to accomplish the same purpose

  • Tom Holsinger

    WigWag,

    “Those who get into bed with government will get up with more than a good night’s sleep” – Ronald Reagan.

    The Catholic bishops’ conference has discovered what being a little bit pregnant is.

    The Catholic Church was perfectly willing to take government money to fund its good works, and not coincidentally expand its power. It has just received the real bill.

    WRM, this is part of the collapse of the Blue State social model. The federal government first provided “matching funds” to state governments, and then to local governments, and then funded NGO’s. This system became corrupt in every way, including the NGO’s hiring of professional lefty staff who share far more with deserving Democratic politicians than anyone else.

    The GOP and faiths like the Catholic Church are now aware that the lefties who feed off this federal funding do not share their values. The only effective means of fighting the professional left infesting these federally funded NGO’s is to cut off their federal funding, which means cutting off most or almost all federally funded NGO’s as well as most revenue “sharing” with state and local governments. At a time when the federal budget is under enormous strain.

    This means, for the Catholic Church, that it may soon have to choose between federal funds and its convictions. WigWag and I both feel the Church hierarchy wants to have its cake and eat it too in this instance. We’ll see how successful it is at that.

  • ThomasD

    Obama is forcing the leftists within the Catholic Church to declare their true affiliations. He is purposefully creating schism in order to fracture the voices of the ostensibly religious. He seeks to aggrandize himself, and centralized government, at the expense of another societal entity.

    In other words, business as usual for Obama.

  • R.C.

    I think I can offer some helpful insight, here.

    First, there is an assumption here that this is uniquely a *religious* freedom question, where “religious” is defined as involving only supernaturalistic belief systems.

    That’s wrong.

    It is a freedom of conscience question. Conscience may be informed by a supernaturalistic religion, or by some other philosophical standpoint; either way, it remains conscience, and the government has no just authority to compel you to violate your conscience by active participation in an act you hold immoral.

    This is why we allow the possibility of Conscientious Objector status rather than compelling Amish and Quakers to serve in the military.

    What the government did in the initial formulation of the HHS policy was to compel Amish and Quakers to buy handguns and fund military recruitment. It was to compel Jews to buy all-pork hot dogs. It was to compel Muslims to buy a case of Jack Daniels. It was to compel a vegan to kill a gorilla and eat a grilled gorilla steak.

    Then, the government reformulated things slightly. The reformulated policy compelled Amish and Quakers to pay someone else to buy handguns and fund military recruitment for them. It compelled the Jews to pay a Gentile who was then compelled to give them a hot dog for free. It compelled the Muslims to pay one of the kuffar to a buy a case of Jack Daniels, and then deliver it to the Muslims. It compelled a vegans to hire poachers, who were then compelled to kill and grill some gorillas and serve it to the vegans for no additional charge.

    Government ought not do that…and I put the vegan matter in there to clarify that it isn’t a “religious” question in the sense of requiring association with a supernaturalist faith.

    Or, to put it differently: One can see this as a religious question only if one broadens the term “religion” sufficiently that veganism, or even modern materialist positivism, fall equally within it.

    The government exists for the protection of the rights of individuals, including most particularly their right to life, liberty, and to not be compelled at gunpoint to do things that they believe are immoral.

    It’s one (quite bad) thing if your government tortures your wife, say. It’s another thing if the government passes a law saying they’ll take your business away and impoverish you unless you agree to assist it in torturing your wife. This remains the case even if you’re in a society where most couples are into sadomasochism and can’t fathom why you wouldn’t want to flog your wife.

    So, let’s dispense with the idea that this is peculiarly a matter of religion in which secular-minded folk can remain blissfully unconcerned. It isn’t.

    Second, it isn’t only Catholics who object to the required coverage. Amongst the things an employer will be forced to offer are abortifacients. This puts the more conservative wing of Evangelicals in the crosshairs, too, along with a large number of Orthodox and Conservative Jews, Muslims, Eastern Orthodox, and frankly many of the more principled libertarian atheists. (I know some. They are pro-lifers because they retain the view that rights are intrinsic to humanity and not a thing granted by government; and thus, that the right to life is intrinsic to the genetically-complete human organism from the first cell-division or act of metabolism.)

    It is because of the mainstream press’ success at downplaying the issue — and maybe because of the cold weather — that more Evangelicals and others aren’t currently marching in the streets. But they may yet become aware, and springtime is coming on fast. You may yet see Christians of many stripes chaining themselves to the White House gates. It is that serious.

    Third, do you realize how the government is trying to expand the welfare state into a monopoly?

    The idea, for most Christians, is that their religion does not just involve belief in certain propositions. It also requires of them that they feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner, and so on.

    But the government doesn’t like competition in this regard: Care for the needy is supposed to be the responsibility of the government exclusively. That way the needy can be properly grateful to the politicians and reward the politicians with votes.

    So the government is chasing Catholics and other groups out of charitable work. Orphanages first, because (for reasons of conscience) they won’t place children with gay couples. Hospitals and healthcare provision and universities come next.

    The current HHS policy makes it illegal to be a Catholic who doesn’t violate his conscience, and operate a hospital or health insurance firm or university. The Catholics will have to either violate their consciences, or pay millions of dollars in fines which will, of course, drive them out of that business, forcing them to sell the hospital or insurance firm or university to someone who isn’t Catholic.

    In the end, the government is able to chase Christians out of helping the needy or educating the young entirely, because Christians no longer pass the religious test required for participating in those industries.

    “First they came for the Catholics, and I was not a Catholic…”

    Well, you know the rest.

  • WigWag

    “Mother Nature is going to be much more effective in curtailing recreational sex than the Catholic Church will ever.” (Mrs. Davis @ February 14, 2012 at 3:58 pm)

    I am afraid not Mrs. Davis. Recreational sex has been enjoyed for thousands of years; long before the invention of antibiotics which stemmed venerial disease. The fact that new drug resistant forms of venerial disease are appearing merely begins to restore the status quo ante that existed for most of human
    history. People did not stop having sex for the fun of it as a result of the AIDS epidemic and they won’t stop now. Leaders in the Roman Catholic Church have, throughout history, been like the leaders of other religious movements; profoundly misogynist. The ban on contraception doesn’t insure that there will be no recreational sex, it insures that the social consequences of recreational sex are almost entirely born by women. No doubt that despite their lame protestations to the contrary, this has always been an outcome perfectly acceptable to the Bishops.

    How many Bishops and Popes down through history do you suppose have fathered children secretly while their lovers were forced to accept the consequences?

  • Corlyss

    @Tom Holsinger
    “The Catholic bishops’ conference has discovered what being a little bit pregnant is.”

    LOL Sharp.

    @ThomasD

    Spot on. http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/obamacare-vs-catholics_620946.html

  • R.C.

    One other comment, directed towards WigWag:

    WigWag, with respect, on topics related to religion, you are speaking in a deeply uninformed way. I know you don’t see it, but some of the comments you’ve made (re: the presumably twisted sexuality of Catholics) are absolute howlers. I’m reminded of some of Stephen Hawking’s remarks about God, or, for that matter, some of Pat Robertson’s.

    It’s no great shame to be uninformed on a topic — nobody can be an expert on everything — but for one’s own sake, one ought to try to keep one’s public commentary confined to topics in which one can avoid making amateur mistakes.

    This is not a “shut up” (I have no authority to issue such a command) and of course I would never violate your freedom of speech by using force to compel silence.

    It is merely a suggestion, which I am offering it in lieu of trying to address what you’ve said directly and specifically to correct the errors.

    This is admittedly the “easy way out.”

    My only excuse is that doing it the hard way would really be a huge time-investment. The closest analogy I can think of is a complex word-problem requiring calculus being attempted by a kid who knows nothing past 5th grade math. Of course the kid gets the answer wrong. And if you know the calculus, even in a shaky way, you can see that the kid got it wrong. But does that mean you’re gung-ho about taking him aside and explaining why? Probably not. You first would have to teach him calculus, assuming he’s willing to learn. And if his pride is already tied up in thinking he had it right the first time, it’s probably hopeless.

    I tried, just now, to retain a respectful and reasonably friendly tone, while still being accurate. I’m not sure how well I’ve succeeded. Perhaps you could go to a Catholic friend you respect, who really knows Christopher West and Alice von Hildebrand and Dawn Eden quite well, and get a bit of a primer from them? That’s as you see fit. But it’d be better if you didn’t comment on these matters again until you did.

  • NaSa

    I think this is terrible for conservative Catholics… for liberal Catholics who have stood by in non-opposition to Democrat party dogma on abortion for the last 4 decades, this should actually be a much easier call.

    A)If they are willing to support a pro-legal abortion stance where an infant which has been alive for months is aborted, why the brouhaha over an abortifecent where life is literally nipped in the bud closer to the time of conception?

    B)Those who use contraceptives and happen to work at a Catholic organization (hospital/charity/school etc) may or may not be Catholic.If they are not Catholic, then there should be no problems.

    A Catholic minister who administers to a death row prisoner on the day of execution is not sanctioning the death penalty.Similarly a Catholic organization that offers insurance for contraceptives is NOT sanctioning the practice even though it is easy to see why they can feel very upset/queasy about it.

    If they are Catholic and still ask for insurance for contraceptives they are obviously not following the Church’s stance on this.Effectively they are non Catholic in this subject alone. So what is the deal in having their health plan cover for contraceptives? Why do LIBERALS oppose this ?

    Again I understand why conservatives who have always been pro life and who follow the Church teachings on this subject should feel horrified at this mandate but the liberal opposition seems confounding to me.

  • SC Mike

    WigWag and Tom Holsinger -

    You make some interesting charges about the Catholic Church. It may surprise you that in his defense of the US Bishops rejection of the ObamaCare mandate, Paul Rahe — author, professor of history at Hillsdale College, etc. — agrees with you to some extent. The Catholic Bishops are by no means innocent in this case.

    But he does defend their position, not only from the Roman Catholic tradition, but also quite convincingly from the American position. The Founders had several items that they believed in quite strongly, and one was religious freedom. I highly recommend his ”American Catholicism’s Pact With the Devil”.

    I also urge you to recognize that Obama’s HHS’s heavy-handed move is just the start. Let’s see what the reaction is as GOP candidates begin speculating about what else is in store as ObamaCare kicks in. If the US Postal Service can end Saturday delivery of mail to save a couple of bucks, ObamaCare can end hip and knee transplants for those over 72, heroic efforts to save the lives of infants born prematurely (probably termed “sudden fetal ejection” in HHS lingo), regular pediatric care for Down’s syndrome kids, and on and on. The IPAB is empowered to do all this and more, so please stand by.

  • http://whiskeys-place.blogspot.com whiskey

    Obama’s move was tactically brilliant. White professional women are the only swing voters left. Every other group is locked in by patronage (Blacks, Hispanics, Elite Whites) or being on the outs as the ones who are taxed/repressed to provide the patronage (non elite White men, blue collar White women).

    Those in the balance, low on the spoils totem pole of “diversity” and not finding much in traditional culture of Republicans, are White professional women. They are fiscally conservative but socially very, very liberal. They HATE HATE HATE any restrictions on their sexual and personal freedom. They don’t like religion and Christianity (which in theory if not in practice disapprove of total sexual freedom).

    So Obama loses Married White Catholics (who were never voting for him anyway); Hispanics will vote their patronage interest (goodies provided by taxing and Affirmative Action preferences). Blue collar White female Catholics continue to vote against Obama, meanwhile White professional women vote for him heavily as the “defender” of abortion on demand and unlimited sexuality.

    It is true that nationwide abortion is a net negative for Obama, but he’s seeking to pick up swing White professional women and this is a brilliant Chicago-style winner.

    Anyone seriously thinking Hispanic Catholics will vote against the gravy train? I didn’t think so.

  • spudnik

    The more I look at this the more troubling it is. Obama has used this issue to energize his leftist base which has convinced itself that objection to this mandate is tantamount to looming theocracy. If Obama loses the election it will mean a temporary reprieve for religious freedom. But in asymmetric fashion, if he wins it will be seen as a mandate for the dismantling of religious freedom on any grounds the state or the will-to-power left sees fit.

  • craig

    NaSa says: “A Catholic minister who administers to a death row prisoner on the day of execution is not sanctioning the death penalty.”

    Ministering to prisoners is a work of mercy regardless of the prisoner’s reason for being there. The situation changes markedly if the state orders that no visitors shall be admitted unless they provide bamboo canes the jailers use to beat the prisoners. Providing the tools of torture is implicitly sanctioning the cruelty. That violation of conscience is different only in degree, but not in kind, than ordering the minister to throw the switch on Old Sparky.

  • richard40

    The “compromise” was never intended to solve the issue, or to satisfy the bishops, or even most catholics. It was only intended to provide political cover for leftist catholics to defect from their opposition, allow the media to hail him on his great compromise, and even allow some leftists to make him look moderate by criticising the “compsomise”, while at the same time giving away absolutely nothing.

  • richard40

    Mind you, even though I support their opposition to this mandate, I have a hard time sympathising with the catholic church, and catholics, on this issue, for several reasons:
    1. The church mostly supported Obamacare, and many other Obama policies, including the provision that is now being used to persecute them. When you support a tyrant, you should not be surprised when that tyrant, after screwing everybody else, turns on you next.
    2. If they actually get their waiver, will they then say everything is just fine, forgetting all the other people and businesses in the nation, who will still have their health care coverage dictated from DC, regardless of their wishes, including many individual catholics, who will still have to pay for contraceptive coverage.
    3. They are framing this issue as one of religious freedom, when the real issue is freedom for everybody. What right has the fed gov to tell ANYBODY, catholic or not, what health coverage they are forced to buy. That decision should be between the individual, their employer, their insurer, and their doctor. No gov role should be needed at all, other than preventing fraud, harm to innocent 3rd parties, preventing monopolies, and other actions necessary to promote a working free market. But mandating we pay for something just because Obama thinks it is a good thing for us to have, no way.

    Despite these reservations, as a secular libertarian, I support the church in their fight, not because I care a fig about their contraception stand, but because I see no reason why the fed gov should mandate health care coverage for ANYBODY, religious or otherwise. What I wonder is, once the church gets theirs, will they support MY freedom, as ardently as I now support theirs.

  • harasan

    I read Walter Mead’s post and the 60 responses. I leafed through the statements of the bishops, the Presidential candidates, and the Senate leaders. Nowhere have I seen any description of what is in Obama’s compromise and why is it wrong. Mead is concentrating on how the compromise is presented, but, from my experience, this is the first sign of not being able to argue about the essence. Before I come to the conclusion that I am being had, maybe someone can explain what is in the Friday compromise, and what is wrong with it? Thanks.

  • craig

    Harasan, the ‘compromise’ (which does not yet exist, since the original rule is what was published) is that instead of having employers pay for plans that include abortifacients, contraceptives, sterilization, etc., the insurance companies will be required to offer these for ‘free’ to plan participants. Obviously any ‘free’ coverage requirement must be priced into the plans, making this whole exercise a shell game designed to fool only those who want to be fooled.

  • R.C.

    Harasan:

    What Craig just said is correct.

    It’s pretty simple, and we can see it quite clearly through a non-religious analogy which still involves a matter of conscience.

    Say that you’re a Vegan, and you decide to start a not-for-profit community organization offering free school lunches for poor kids and tutoring at-risk kids in the afternoons. You “brand” it as a “Vegan” charity; with signage associating it with Veganism. As part of that, you have a cafeteria in your headquarters…though of course it doesn’t serve meat. And all the school lunches you pack and after-school snacks you offer to the kids being tutored are vegetarian.

    In comes the Federal Government. They say, “Guess what? We’re instituting a program which says that, since all employees have to eat, all employers must provide a cafeteria to employees.”

    No problem, you think: You already do.

    Later, the Federal Government revises the policy a bit: “Because all employees have to eat, but some of them lack the money to buy a good meal, we’re requiring that all company cafeterias must serve meals for free.”

    Annoying, but still no problem, you reason. You can just lower your employee salaries by whatever it takes to cover compliance costs. You’re not a libertarian free-marketer so you see no reason to oppose the mandate on love-of-liberty principles. Or, maybe you are a liberty-lover, but it’s too much hassle to fight city hall over something that really doesn’t bug you all that much.

    Then the Federal Government comes in and says, “Because all employees have to have protein in their diet, and because the human body is clearly omnivorous not purely herbivorous, if your organization has a cafeteria it must serve meals which include meat in quantities compliant with the FDA food pyramid guidelines.”

    At this point, you balk. “Hey,” you think, “the Federal Government is forcing me to provide for my employees’ needs in a way which I think is immoral!”

    So, you ask for an exception to be made for Vegan organizations, as a matter of conscience.

    The Federal Government replies, “Understood. We value your liberty to follow your conscience, so we will offer an exception for Vegan organizations on the meat requirement.”

    Excellent, you think. And it stays that way for fifty years.

    Then one day, out of the blue, the Federal Government radically tightens the exemption, not even through a law, but through executive-branch regulation.

    Now, all of a sudden, the only Vegan organizations that are exempt from the meat requirement are those which (a.) are staffed only by Vegans, with no non-Vegan volunteers or employees, and (b.) only serve Vegans as part of their organizational mission, and do not attempt to serve non-Vegans.

    Any Vegan organization not falling within that narrow exemption is required to serve meat lunches and snacks, or pay a crushing fine annually.

    Suddenly, your organization is screwed. You have mostly Vegan employees, but you’ve never minded non-Vegans working there as secretaries and whatnot. You like and respect your non-Vegan employees. Furthermore, you’ve always served disadvantaged kids whether they’re Vegan or not.

    But now, it’s either serve steak and hot dogs, or pay a couple of million dollars in fines every year.

    Since you refuse to do the former as a matter of conscience, and since the latter will destroy your whole budget for charitable work in months, there’s no option: You must close down. You’re screwed. Probably your offices and gear will be bought at fire-sale prices by non-Vegan charities doing the same kind of work.

    That is what the Federal Government is doing to Catholics, some Eastern Orthodox and Conservative Evangelicals, and some Conservative/Orthodox Jews and Muslims, with the new HHS requirements.

    It is driving them out of charitable work in education and health care and pretty much anything that involves them doing good works for persons who aren’t necessarily members of their faith. That’s because ministering to folk outside their faith takes them outside the exemption. And, it’ll likewise force them to fire any employees that aren’t members, for the same reason.

    That was the Obama policy prior to the “compromise.”

    Then came the “compromise”: Instead of the Vegans having to serve the steaks themselves, they are forced by law to hire a caterer, and all caterers are forced by law to provide steaks as a “free,” non-optional add-on to all meals. Of course the employee or kid doesn’t have to eat the steak, but it’ll be on the tray regardless, and since the caterers have to provide it with all meals for no extra charge, they way they pay for it is by rolling the cost into what their customers pay for catering…including the Vegan customers.

    That’s the “compromise.” Har, har.

    All clear, now?

  • harasan

    R.C. and Craig (64,65): R.C. seems to be making a good argument for a single payer system that would avoid these moral difficulties without giving people substandard care. Still, I think that a more relevant comparison is to an employee paying salary but demanding that it not be used in certain ways. Say, a Muslim grocer paying his Christian worker and demanding that he does not buy pork or travel to Israel or… He sure can demand that the pork should not be consumed, and the Magen David displayed, on his premises (see the Vegan analogy). As to the suspicions of playing a shell game, they are natural part of any negotiation. Is the other part allowed to suspect that the Church is playing a political game in an election year, their real aim being forcing their demands on people? Sure it is, but is this valid as the sole legitimate reason to reject the opponents’ position?