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Faculty members of Catholic university urge school president to accept contraception 'accommodation.'

Last week, 47 of John Carroll University's roughly 215 faculty members signed a letter to school president Robert L. Niehoff, SJ, asking him to accept the contraception "accommodation" and include such coverage in employee health plans. The faculty members express their concern that "the bishops have chosen a path of continued confrontation." Given that the bishops "have rejected the accommodation offered by the administration," they continue, "leads us to wonder what motivates their continued resistance." Rejecting the bishops' claim that the contraception-coverage mandate constitutes an attack on religious freedom, the faculty argue that mandate "is driven by a concern for women's health." The signatories include the co-founders of the university's new public-health minor program, and members of the following departments: Biology, Classical and Modern Languages and Cultures, Communication and Theater Arts, Education, English, History, the Library, Math and Computer Science, Philosophy, Political Science, Physics, Psychology, Sociology and Criminology, and Theology and Religious Studies."Access to contraception is central to the health and well-being of women and children," according to these faculty members. Therefore, they urge Niehoff to "stand up to those who would play politics with women's health," and "endorse a policy of insurance coverage of contraception that respects the religious liberties and health of all who teach and work at Catholic colleges and universities." (You can view the entire letter here.)Not sure if this is the first letter of its kind, but I doubt it will be the last.

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No thinker of any merit would suggest that there is actually a "religious liberty" interest in having someone else supply one with contraceptives for free.

Not sure if this is the first letter of its kind, but I doubt it will be the last.---------Agree. The claims made by some who rushed to the barricades with their hysterical accusations, overwrought editorials, etc., that all/many/most liberal Catholics agreed with their denunciations of the President are crumbling. I wonder if any of them will now admit their error. Googling "all liberal Catholics agree with Dionne" brings up some examples of the premature assertions.

For a contrary view, addressing similar arguments in a recent America editorial Policy, Not Liberty (http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=13277 ), see: The Bishops and the Mandate: Principled Witness vs. Politics as Usual by Robert P. George, Sherif Girgis and Ryan T. Anderson, 2/28/12http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/02/4847

Employees at Catholic universities need to make their views known to their Catholic employers regarding contraception coverage. The ideological biases of Catholic employers should not rule out contraception coverage as part of insurance plans offered at Catholic universities. So I applaud the efforts of the 215 faculty at John Carroll University.

Good for them; let's hope more follow. And let's hope Bishop Lennon of Cleveland doesn't decide to get out his mandatum and use it to slap them around. It would be more than a little ironic to suppress intellectual freedom in the process of one's fight for religious freedom.

Why the continued use of quotation marks around "accomodation"?8 million examples:http://tinyurl.com/7xgbl38

It's about time!It will be good for the hierarchs to increasingly feel how alienated they are from their own people.No matter how loudly the hierarchs huff & puff and stamp their feet in their unctuous, defensive manner, no matter what medieval "mandatum" they dust off and try to intimidate people, our best response to them would be to simply ignore them.It's a tough thing to say, but the hierarchs are dying-off, and they are becoming more desperate: We should be respectful to them, eschew overly deferential behavior toward them, yet remain resolute in what our consciences are telling us what must be done to salvage the church.

From the faculty letter there is this:"We thus ask that...you urge the bishops to avoid the inflammatory rhetoric they have been using"And then, in the very next sentence, this:"We ask that you stand up to those who would play politics with women's health."So, you see, only the faculty is permitted to engage in inflammatory rhetoric. Nice work, if you can get it.It will be interesting to see how Father Niehoff and Bishop Lennon respond.

Michael J. Kelly, I don't see why you characterize the "America" editorial as a "contrary view"The religious liberty campaign seems to have abandoned a moral distinction that undergirded the conferences public advocacy in past decades: the contrast between authoritative teaching on matters of principle and debatable applications of principle to public policy. The natural law tradition assigned application to the prudent judgment of public officials. Writing of policy differences in 1983, the bishops wrote, The Church expects a certain diversity of views even though all hold the same universal moral principles. Contemporary Catholic social teaching has spoken of policy in terms of a legitimate variety of possible options for the faithful and the wider public; it has urged that differences over policy be tempered by charity and civility.The campaign also risks ignoring two fundamental principles of Catholic political theology. Official Catholic rights theory proposes that people should be willing to adjust their rights claims to one another. It also assigns to government the responsibility to coordinate contending rights and interests for the sake of the common good. The campaign fails to acknowledge that in the present instance, claims of religious liberty may collide with the right to health care, or that the religious rights of other denominations are in tension with those of Catholics. But as Pope Benedict XVI wrote in Deus Caritas Est, the church does not seek to impose on those who do not share the faith ways of thinking and modes of conduct proper to the faith. Furthermore, the campaign fails to admit that the administrations Feb. 10 solution, though it can be improved, fundamentally did what Catholic social teaching expects government to docoordinate contending rights for the good of all.By stretching the religious liberty strategy to cover the fine points of health care coverage, the campaign devalues the coinage of religious liberty. http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=13277

@John Hayes (2/28,12:12 pm) I think the "contrary view" is expressed in the response that appears at The Public Discourse.http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/02/4847

Luke Hill, I commented on that in these comments under Grant's "independent Lens" post.John Hayes 02/27/2012 - 4:41 pm SUBSCRIBERJohn Hayes 02/27/2012 - 5:04 pm SUBSCRIBER

Grant, I know that a similar letter has been signed by faculty and sent to Pres. Jenkins at Notre Dame, though the letter has not been published anywhere. His response was to reiterate the university's position that it would continue to work with Obama to find a compromise.

There's nothing in the letter to indicate that the letter signees are Catholic; and yet the headline reads "Catholic faculty urge..." How do you know these professors are Catholic?Sloppy. And misleading.

Sorry to mislead you, Larry. I toyed with "faculty members of a Catholic university," but thought it was too wordy. Happy to change it. For the record, not all the signatories are Catholic.

John Hayes wrote: Official Catholic rights theory proposes that people should be willing to adjust their rights claims to one another.Catholic teaching does not propose any 'right to free contraceptive services', however it does hold that '...Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey...' So there is no conflict of rights in this situation.Furthermore, fertility is a normal, healthy human function. Infertility is a disease that warrants health care.Finally, rights are things that are: '...that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights...' as opposed to gifts that a benign government graciously showers upon its citizens.

John Hayes. My apologies. I should have written 'John Hayes quoted...'

The way the faculty put that, i.e., that the bishops "have chosen a path of continued confrontation" sums up the problem perfectly. The attitude's the problem. They're openly hostile, not the least willing to see goodwill on the other side. That kind of radical intransigence is something new.

Grant,Thank you for highlighting this sentence from the faculty letter: "Access to contraception is central to the health and well-being of [women and] children." I'm among those who think this is primarily a religious liberty issue, but those who accept the accommodation pretty much have to believe this about contraception, don't they?Catholic teaching is that fertility is not a disease, and that treating it like one (e.g. through contraception, sterilization, etc.) is harmful to human bodies and human relationships -- a view that doesn't lack for scientific and social-scientific evidence.

I know that I'm rather dim at times, but what about freedom of choice for these faculty members?By what right can these Catholic universities force their faculty to continue to work at those universities? How can they require that the faculty not be allowed to leave and work somewhere else if they do not like the conditions of employment that are part of the employment contract?And how could these Catholic universities have the power to hire these faculty in the first place against their will?It is time to tear down the walls built around these universities. Faculty should be able to quit and leave if they don't like it when Catholic universities act Catholic.

I found this interesting. Its not just the USCCB who objects to the 'accommodation'.Missouri Synod president says church remains deeply concerned about health plan mandate despite White House statementST. LOUISFebruary 14, 2012The Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president of The Lutheran ChurchMissouri Synod, issued a statement today in response to President Obamas health plan accommodation for religious groups, which was announced last week:In response to President Obamas announcement Friday concerning an accommodation to a previous mandate that health plans must cover all forms of birth control (even those that can kill the unborn), The Lutheran ChurchMissouri Synod (LCMS) remains deeply concerned. We strongly object to the use of drugs and procedures that are used to take the lives of unborn children, who are persons in the sight of God from the time of conception. Drugs such as Plan B and Ella, which are still included in the mandate, can work post-conception to cause the death of the developing child, so dont be fooled by statements to the contrary.We see President Obamas action Friday as significant, in that it appears to have been prompted by the many voices united in concern over an infringement of our religious liberties. But the accommodation did not expand the exemption for religious employers, nor did it restrict the mandate in any way. It simply described a temporary enforcement delay and a possible future changea change that, unfortunately, would not adequately protect religious freedom or unborn lives.We remain opposed to this mandate because it runs counter to the biblical truth of the sanctity of human life. We are committed to working to ensure that we remain free to practice the teachings of our faith, that our religious rights are not violated, and that our rights of conscience are retained. Freedom of religion extends beyond the practice of our faith in houses of worship. We must be free to put our faith into action in the public square, and, in response to Christs call, demonstrate His mercy through our love and compassion for all people according to the clear mandate of Holy Scripture.The government has overstepped its bounds. This controversy is not merely about birth control and the Catholic Churchs views about it. Its about mandating that we provide medications which kill life in the womb. And moreover, and perhaps even more ominous, it is about an overzealous government forcing coercive provisions that violate the consciences and rights of its citizens. We can no longer expect a favored position for Christianity in this country. But we can, as citizens of this great nation, fight for constitutional sanity against secularizing forces. As we have vividly experienced in discriminatory state legislation with respect to homosexual adoption, we, and our institutions (and those of other religious citizens of good will), are being robbed of the right to the free exercise of religion absent government intrusion or threat. The next assault will come upon church-related retirement facilities. How much longer will it be legal in this country to believe and act according to the dictates of biblical and creedal Christianity?Jesus bids us, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's (Mark 12:17). We will pray for and support our government where we can, but our consciences and lives belong to God.

For an alternate perspective on whether it is appropriate to invoke "women's health" in support of the HHS mandate: http://www2.nationalreview.com/pdf/20120221_womensletter.pdf

Eric Bugyis, the Notre Dame Observer published an update yesterday. I wish the USCCB had the same temperament as Fr. Jenkins.The current version of the mandate requires insurance companies rather than religiously-affiliated employers to pay for contraception for employees. The Obama administration said self-insured employers, like Notre Dame, would be included in the exemption, but has not released specifics as to how this will work.Brown said Jenkins welcomes conversations with the White House because respectful dialogue is the only path to resolving disagreements."He has emphasized over the past three years that you can't change society unless you persuade people, and you can't persuade them unless you engage them in a respectful way," Brown said. "So you don't shun the person you want to persuade perhaps especially when that person is our president."Nick Papas, a White House spokesman, said the Obama administration appreciates its relationship with Jenkins."We deeply value Fr. Jenkins' advice and counsel," he said. "The White House also benefits from a number of Notre Dame alums who play an integral role in our Administration."The spokesmen for the White House and Notre Dame declined to share specifics about the nature and extent of Jenkins' relationship with the White House, citing those conversations as private....Brown said the University plans to discuss specifics as to how the contraception mandate will affect Notre Dame in the near future. In the mean time, Jenkins will remain in communication with the White House, he said. "There will continue to be engagement with the administration on this and other issues," Brown said.http://www.ndsmcobserver.com/news/jenkins-converses-with-white-house-1.2...

Also, how can the bishops or any particular University accept an "accommodation" that has not actually been formally proposed. The law as it exists today does not exempt Catholic University from the mandate, there is just a stay of enforcement in effect while the official policy is created.

I've wondered myself about the differences between Fr. Jenkins' response and the bishops, and they both seem appropriate, and even mutually reinforcing, given their respective roles and their history with the White House. Certainly Jenkins hasn't criticized the bishops, and if the list of signatures on the "Unacceptable" letter is any indication he hasn't dissuaded those who work at Notre Dame from taking a harder position. I've assumed that Fr. Jenkins realizes he is uniquely positioned to influence the Obama administration. The bishops aren't, but that isn't their fault -- the Obama administration has already made it clear how little they care to respectfully engage with the bishops.Although the bishops have been frequently criticized for being "too political" during this, in a sense their response is a sign that they are free speak without worrying about political. Fr. Jenkins must be much more careful and diplomatic, because he must play this politically.Fr. Jenkins and the bishops may not be coordinating, but I would assume that Fr. Jenkins has been keeping in close contact with his local bishop, and in present circumstances, they need each other.

John Hayes, thanks for the link to the ND piece. It really helps illustrate how the call to accept the "accommodation" is premature since even the informal proposal does not in fact accommodate any self-funded plans like ND and several other hospitals and universities have. Let's hope the faculty at ND take a cue from Fr. Jenkins and wait for the process to move forward before they encourage ND to take a deal that doesn't work for ND. Go Irish.

MIkeD, I don't think there's any need to accept anything until a final draft is issued for the usual 60 days of public comments. In the same way, I don't think it's useful to reject it before seeing a final draft. I hear too much of "We don't need no stinkin' final draft - we know we won't like it."

It is clear as day that the American bishops support the Republican party on practically every issue. They are a rightly discredited group who have lost their way and become more political and less spiritual every day. They did have an issue and had support. But they quickly showed their colors and receded into the politicos they have become. It is not inflammatory to rebuke them. It is irresponsible not to.

Does anybody besides me find it thoroughly ironic that the Archbishop of New York who was originally touted as the ultimate in geniality, charm, and warm-hearted good nature, and who was seen as such recently also in Rome, is coming on in this brouhaha like Godzilla?What is Cardinal Dolan really like?

Cdl Dolan is and will be whatever it takes to ingratiate himself with as many Cardinals as possible. I do believe that he seriously thinks he has a better than 50/50 chance of being elected pope.Ambition and ego make for a dangerous combination, particularly when its public face is "aw shux", "let's have a beer and brat together", etc.

Jimmy Mac... no American would get enough votes on the first ballot to be even a distant contender. Charm in Rome is cheaper than pizza slices..

Good pastoral response from Cardinal Wuerl after a priest refused to give a woman communion at her mother's funeral. It's a relief after all the political maneuvering of the past few weeks.Archdiocese officials would not comment. Instead, they issued a short statement saying that the priests actions were against policy and that they would look into it as a personnel issue.When questions arise about whether or not an individual should present themselves for communion, it is not the policy of the Archdiocese of Washington to publicly reprimand the person, the statement said. Any issues regarding the suitability of an individual to receive communion should be addressed by the priest with that person in a private, pastoral setting.Messages for Guarnizo and other parish staff were not returned. Neither he nor other parish leaders were at the church or the rectory Tuesday night.Active Catholics in the Greater Washington region said they could not recall another recent occasion when a priest had refused to administer the sacrament to a gay Catholic. Guarnizos refusal, they said, seemed at odds with the strong stand against denial of communion to Catholics enunciated by the archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl.Wuerl said he did not believe in denying communion because it is impossible to know what is in another persons heart. The issue took off during the 2004 presidential campaign, when some conservative Catholic leaders said that Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic candidate, should be denied communion because of his pro-choice views.http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-archdiocese-denying-communion-to-...

SEcretary Sibelius says moving ahead with draft:HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says the Obama administration plans to issue a rule "in the near future" on its compromise plan on contraception coverage and is meeting with insurers, clergy and health leaders to get feedback on how to make it work.Weve begun outreach. I have talked to Catholic health leaders, Im reaching out to priests. Were also talking to union leaders, were talking to our partners at labor who run the self-insured plans to figure out a strategy, Sebelius told reporters at a conference in D.C. on Tuesday.We intend to propose a rule in the near future on some implementation strategies that I think do exactly what the president says - which is make sure women have preventive health services and respect religious freedom," Sebelius said....This will be an implementation rule, so well propose it and have it in place in time, Sebelius said. For those religious employers who do not fall under the exemption, their implementation deadline is August of 2013. So we have 18 months, but we intend to move well ahead of that deadline."http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0212/73372.html

The John Carroll letter is exactly what one would expect from a herd of independent minds. The courageous cohort boldly embraces the position that 95% of their colleagues at secular universities hold. Perhaps its more like 98%.

What is the percentage at Catholic universities?

I couldnt agree more Patrick. No real thought other than 'whats everyone else think?'

John H. -- Cdl. Wuerl's stand on denying Communion may be adaptive. About the time Abp. Burke was speaking harshly on bishops' practices on the matter, the Sebelius problem arrived in DC. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/26/AR200903... "Sebelius Communion ban to apply in Washington" "Washington D.C., Mar 30, 2009 / 05:26 pm (CNA).- According to the Washington Times, Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington plans to maintain the pastoral request Kathleen Sebelius bishop made in 2007 asking her not to receive Communion." http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/sebelius_communion_ban_to_apply_i...

Jack BarryThere there is this from the Washington Post: http://wapo.st/zcqIwC"Archdiocese officials would not comment. Instead, they issued a short statement saying that the priests actions were against policy and that they would look into it as a personnel issue.When questions arise about whether or not an individual should present themselves for communion, it is not the policy of the Archdiocese of Washington to publicly reprimand the person, the statement said. Any issues regarding the suitability of an individual to receive communion should be addressed by the priest with that person in a private, pastoral setting.Is Cdl Wuerl at odds with his own policy?

Oops, That should have begun "Then there."

Alan M. --He might distinguish in that one is a DC personnel issue whereas the other is fraternal respect for the judgment of another bishop. The uproar over politicians is becoming something of a tradition around the country.

Off topic.

Here are a couple of excerpts from Cardinal George's letter which I think give you an insight into the USCCB's thinking.Practically, were told that the majority of Catholics use artificial contraception. There are properly medical reasons, in some circumstances, for the use of contraceptive pills, as everyone knows. But even if contraceptives were used by a majority of couples only and exclusively to suppress a possible pregnancy, behavior doesnt determine morality. If it can be shown that a majority of Catholic students cheat on their exams, it is still wrong to cheat on exams. Trimming morality to how we behave guts the Gospel call to conversion of life and rejection of sin.Theoretically, it is argued that there are Catholic voices that disagree with the teaching of the church and therefore with the bishops. There have always been those whose personal faith is not adequate to the faith of the church. Perhaps this is the time for everyone to re-read the Acts of the Apostles. Bishops are the successors of the apostles; they collectively receive the authority to teach and govern that Christ bestowed upon the apostles. Bishops dont claim to speak for every baptized Catholic. Bishops speak, rather, for the Catholic and apostolic faith. Those who hold that faith gather with them; others go their own way. They are and should be free to do so, but they deceive themselves and others in calling their organizations Catholic.You can read the full letter here. http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2012/0226/cardinal.aspx

Thanks for the link Bruce. The Cardinal framed the matter quite clearly.

http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/292202/my-contraceptive-haul-char... "Were one to have listened uncritically to the more hysterical elements in Americas news media over the past month, one would have concluded that contraception is intractably hard to come by in the United States; but a cursory glance at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygienes well-appointed website gives quite the opposite impression. There, contrarily, visitors are informed that anyone in need of contraception is somewhat spoiled for choice."

The Cardinal did frame the matter quite clearly. He basically said that if you disagree with the bishops, your personal faith is not adequate to the faith of the church. "Bishops are the successors of the apostles; they collectively receive the authority to teach and govern that Christ bestowed upon the apostles." Sounds like episcopal pride to me.I think Ladislas Orsy has a better understanding: All who are people of God are called to build the church and sanctify the world. Not one of the letters from St. Paul (who was much concerned about building the church) is addressed to the heads of the churches. Instead, they are addressed to the people. In his letters, we have an authentic source for the correct theology of the people.- Ladislas Orsy, Receiving the Council: Theological and Canonical Insights and Debates

I'm not sure we need another thread on denial of communion again, but maybe it's good it was mentioned as just another culture war issue dividing the church as this topic isd.Ken and Bruce can fon off anyone who disagrees with the hierachy but they are preaching to their own choir.I say once again that the lived experiences of Catholics many of whom loyally serve need to be taken far more seriously, but loyalty to the party line will be heard from again and again; and as often happens here, Jeanne analyzes the dynamic well.

Responding to Jeanne FollmanLet me just say that the Apostolic line of succession has successfully husbanded the deposit of faith for 2000 years. I highly doubt that is because the clerics are better humans than you or me, but rather because Christ somehow keeps them generally going in the right direction. Individuals, however, can and do wander off, sometimes in great numbers. My personal bet is on the Bishops, not 'correct theology of the people'

It's an embarrassment to Catholic colleges that they would employ so many people who are so driven by political ideology and opposition to the Church that they would put out a letter like this. The letter's signers -- who bring with them no expertise in anything of relevance to this debate -- seem to think that: 1) Bringing a Group 1 carcinogen to more women is a boon to "women's health" (which is arguable at best); 2) Your "religious liberties" are at stake if someone else fails to give you free contraceptives; 3) It is possible to "insure" an item that is cheap and used on a weekly basis; 4) "Access to contraception" is somehow in danger (access has never been greater in any human society in history); 5) Any threat to religious liberty is refuted by claiming that the Obama administration's motives are merely to benefit women's health (the fact that religious liberty can be infringed even if the rule is not deliberately meant to do so seems to escape the letter signatories); 6) There has been any actual "accommodation offered by the administration" at this point; 7) The "accommodation" would make any moral difference; 8) Their opponents are the ones "play[ing] politics with women's health"; and9) The judgment of the Institute of Medicine simply settles the matter, as if no one outside that organization is allowed any critical thinking ability whatsoever. What a frivolous letter.

You don't know what motivates them, Stuart, and you are out of line for pretending that you do.

Bruce, I agree bishops are key to the web of the institution that has lasted 2000 years. But they are individuals as well and just as capable of wandering off as the rest of us. I don't think God whispers to them any louder than to anyone else. So it wouldn't kill them to listen more humbly to the voices around them, including to the voices of their own priests.

Jeanne, to paraphrase Grant, you don't know that they haven't listened. I, for one, read a lot of naivete in the comments on this website with regard to negotiating an acceptable settlement, and the concept of rights.

Hi Studebaker. I've read carefully through your thoughts and arguments.Firstly, let's look at what is actually being proposed. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), insurance policies are mandated to provide coverage for contraceptive services and counseling relating thereto. This benefit is written in such a way as to require issuers to offer insurance without contraception coverage to religiously-affiliated employers (or plan sponsors) and simultaneously to offer contraceptive coverage directly to the employers plan participants (and their beneficiaries) who desire it, with no cost-sharing. Sibelius has stated that there will be the same exemption for self-insured plans as presently exist in states such as California (on which the plan was modeled and in which the mandate has survived court challenges).Secondly, let's look at an existing Federal program -- Medicare. Under Medicare Advantage (a program championed by political conservatives), coverage for both contraceptive services and sterilization is generally provided. Many Medicare beneficiaries (generally with disabilities) are of reproductive age and utilize these benefits. Employers (including not just Catholic affiliated organizations, like hospitals and universities, but also churches, themselves) are required to pay for half of the cost of Medicare and help subsidize the extra cost of Medicare Advantage. Thus, Catholic Churches (and not simply hospitals, universities, etc.) have already been directly subsidizing contraceptive and sterilization services.The point is, contraception mandates have been in place for quite some time, at both state and federal levels, without undue political protestation by anyone, until the issue of contraception mandates got associated with Barack Obama, at which time it became a "war on the Catholic Church, just like Hitler" (in the words of a homily by one of my local parish priests a few weeks ago).You state that contraception services are readily available. To some extent, that is true, and, as a result, the number of abortions in the USA has fallen by 380,000 per year since 1985, to a rate approaching the level which existed before Roe v Wade. The number of abortions prevented by contraception is 100 fold greater than the sum total of all abortions prevented by all actions taken by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, all the priestly homilies, all the Operation Rescue efforts, all the conservative judges appointed by conservative politicians, all the picketing of Planned Parenthood clinics, all the mandatory prenatal ultrasounds, all the gory abortion photos, and all the online blathering combined.But it could be much improved, still. As I've pointed out before on this website, the Netherlands has "free love," legal drugs, legal gay marriage, and FREE abortion on demand. Yet their abortion rate is only one fourth that of the most conservative, abortion restricted states in the USA. Reducing our abortion rate to that in the Netherlands would prevent the slaughter of an additional 900,000 in utero babies per year, above those already prevented by existing increased availability of contraception since 1985.No one ever willingly seeks to get pregnant for the purpose of having an abortion. 40% of unwanted pregnancies end in abortion. Unwanted pregnancies occur when people don't use contraception (whether "natural" or "artificial") and/or when they use it improperly. That's why the education/counseling component of the contraception mandate is so important. Women shouldn't need to go to Planned Parenthood clinics (risking being ostracized and perhaps having to run a protest gauntlet). They should be able to receive free contraceptive counseling and contraceptives from their own physicians, in the privacy of their offices and clinics.The moral disconnect on this issue is jarring. The Bishops are worried about the most tenuous connection to a violation of natural law, while turning a blind eye to the blatant violation of the 5th Commandment. I've read the suggestion on this website that Humanae Vitae was about not weakening Papal Infallibility through yet another about-face/contradiction, of the type which has occurred throughout the history of the Church. I also read the suggestion on this website that the Bishop's political indignation (with mandatory priestly homilies against the Obama administration's contraception mandate) is motivated also by the fact that the Obama Justice Department is pursuing criminal cases against Bishops, including possible efforts to hide assets to avoid honoring the terms of settlement contracts in the clergy abuse cases. I certainly don't have an informed opinion about the above two suggestions, but, once again, I find the moral disconnect between attitudes toward contraception on one hand and the resulting impact on abortion, on the other hand, to be jarring, in the extreme.- Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach CA

Larry, Your Medicare example is off-base. The payment made by employers and employees is a tax. The government then decides in its sole discretion, how to disburse the funds. Paying taxes is always licit. Here's the statement from the Cathechism:2240 Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one's country:Whatever the ACA mandate is, it is explicitly not a tax.

Larry, you continue to post this same argument on all of the threads about the mandate. Something you need to remember about statistics and arguments is that correlation does not equal causation. The example of the Netherlands is especially inapplicable. Demographic differences between the U.S. and the Netherlands have a great deal to do with the difference in abortion rates, much moreso than differences in the licitness of drugs, contraception, "free love" and gay rights.

"Under Medicare Advantage (a program championed by political conservatives), coverage for both contraceptive services and sterilization is generally provided. Many Medicare beneficiaries (generally with disabilities) are of reproductive age and utilize these benefits."Larry, these are interesting facts but not on point. The argument is not about whether the government should subsidize birth control. If the ACA mandate had provided for additional government subsidies of birth control, this would be a non-issue. The issue is the government requiring church organizations to offer it to their own employees. That's a religious liberty issue, not a birth control availability issue.

Hi MikeD,Of course the Netherlands is not precisely the same as the USA, but the principle is valid. The social conservative approach to abortion in the USA is to criminalize it. Yet the Netherlands has just as much sex per capita as does the USA (would you stipulate to that?) and still they have 1/4 the abortion rate. What is the plausible explanation? Is there evidence that the Dutch have a biological fertility problem? No. Are they better at "natural" family planning? Doubtful. Therefore the only plausible explanation is more effective "artificial" contraception.Why is contraception more effective in the Netherlands than in the USA? Either it's more readily available or else the Dutch are more sophisticated/careful/educated in the correct use of "artificial" contraception. Both of these explanations are highly plausible. I dare say that most people would accept that this offers the complete explanation for why US abortion rates are 4 times the Dutch rates, even though the Dutch have FREE abortion on demand (and even though there are more legal and economic restrictions on abortion in the USA than in the Netherlands). So how do we bring down US abortion rates? How do we prevent the slaughter of as many in utero babies as possible? Repealing Roe v Wade would have a trivial impact. As I've also repeatedly noted, US abortion rates (per capita) have declined remarkably since 1985, owing to improved contraception and access to contraception and education about contraception (including sex education in the public schools). US abortion rates (per capita) are already approaching those which existed before Roe v Wade, even though the sexual climate has only intensified since then. Obviously, anything which improves access to contraception and education about contraception will prevent abortions. There is nothing but nothing which will decrease abortions more than increasing contraception. Were the Bishops to be successful in overturning the contraception mandate, they would be indirectly responsible for causing more abortions, although they would assuage their consciences by thinking that this is not their fault, it's the fault of all those women who, because of the efforts of the Bishops, did not use sinful artificial contraception.Access to contraception in this country is restricted -- by economics, by education, by local geography (who really would want to have to go to Planned Parenthood when she could just go to her own doctor, instead, and receive free counseling and free contraception?).Under the proposed mandate, there would only be the most tenuous, theoretical connection between the members of the board of directors or a Catholic hospital or trustees of a Catholic university and the voluntary decision of their employees to avail themselves of the contraceptive benefit, paid for by the insurance company and existing as a benefit (rider) which is separate from the insurance policy paid for by the employer. But the preventable abortions which would occur in the absence of this contraception benefit are all too real.As I wrote, the moral disconnect is truly jarring.- Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach CA

The issue is the government requiring church organizations to offer it to their own employees. Thats a religious liberty issue, not a birth control availability issue.The administration has said (and published in the Federal Register) that before those church organizations have to do anything, they will publish additional regulations that will:1. Allow non-profit church organizations (universities, hospitals, charities, etc) to exclude contraception from their health insurance policies.2. Achieve the same result for self-insured plans.When they have drafted the regulations they will have to publish them and allow a 60-day period for public comments before finalizing them. I would wait to see he draft before deciding whether the plan works or not.

Robert John Araujo, S.J. at Mirror of Justice on the letter by 47 of John Carroll Universitys 215 faculty members to the University president: http://mirrorofjustice.blogs.com/mirrorofjustice/2012/02/religious-freed... A principal hallmark of Catholic education has traditionally been that it is the place where God-given human intelligence comprehends the intelligible reality that surrounds the human person and human society so that what is good (i.e., what enables all human persons to flourish on the path to their destinies) can be pursued and what is not can be avoided. The John Carroll University faculty letter does not reveal this fundamental quality of education that employs the moniker Catholic. As it does not, there is reason to recall the series of addresses Archbishop Michael Miller delivered in the United States in 2005 and 2006 when he was the Secretary for the Congregation of Catholic Education and where he suggested that there might be need for a kind of evangelical pruning for those educational institutions which have compromised their Catholic identity, an identity that clearly and centrally is concerned with the question of what is the human person. I join the many who do not think that this is the right path for John Carroll University to take. Since the authors of the letter upon which I have been offering some comment have urged other institutions to follow their counsel, I do not think that the fruits of their advocacy constitute the proper path for any Catholic institution to pursue unless it wishes to cede its soul, its identity, by casting off the banner of Christ and accepting whatever accommodation might be offered so that confrontation and inflammatory rhetoric may be avoided.

Yet their abortion rate is only one fourth that of the most conservative, abortion restricted states in the USA.Larry, do you mind producing evidence for this? One webpage reports that there are 8.7 abortions per year per 1,000 women of childbearing age in the Netherlands, while in my home state of Arkansas, the rate (by marvelous coincidence) is precisely the same: 8.7.

Studebaker,Thanks for the link to the guttmacher stats. When looking at my own state of Indiana, I noticed that the curve for # of abortions and # of providers were very similar. Based on Larry's correlation=causation argument, one could posit that eliminating the number of providers is more effective at reducing abortion than inreasing the availability of contraceptives (the statistics for which Larry has never provided). But I know that correlation does not equal causation, so I wouldn't make such an argument. As for conceding that people in the Netherlands have as much sex per capita as people in the U.S., I'd need to see some stats on that. Wikipedia indicates that the Netherlands has a higher average age at first intercourse, which would appear to have some link to lower incidents of teen pregnancy and abortion.

In light of the difficulty of making international comparisons, Larry should also consider the U.S. evidence -- liberal states with contraceptive access don't see lower abortion rates. See http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/opinion/sunday/douthat-the-safe-legal-...

Hi Studebaker, You ask an entirely appropriate question. I got my Netherlands stat from the following article:http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/3310607.html#5aQuote:"In developed countries where contraception is accepted socially and family planning services are generally available, the abortion rate ranges from about seven to 20 per 1,000 women. In some subpopulations, the rate has been as low as 34 per 1,000, as among the Dutch-born population of the Netherlands in the recent past.56"US stats are here (scroll down to document 103, which is a PDF file, and download):http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/cats/births_deaths_marriages_divo... rates are admirably lower than in the USA as a whole, but still well above the Dutch rates (where overall abortion rates have been rising recently, attributable entirely to an influx of Surinamese, Antillean, Turkish and Moroccan immigrants, with less sophisticated knowledge of contraceptive techniques.http://www.expatguideholland.com/themes/personal___social_needs/health_c... has been a lot of scholarly research relating (inversely) contraception to abortion. I'm only allowed to provide a few links (according to Commonweal comment guidelines, to avoid being labeled a spammer), but we could discuss these data, should you wish, or you can easily research it for yourself, if you haven't already.- Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach CA

Hi Studebaker (regarding 7:23 PM comment): This actually illustrates my point very well (about reversal of Roe v Wade having a trivial impact on abortion rates). In modern day America, people readily cross state borders to do everything from buying guns to having abortions. When women are sufficiently desperate to seek abortions, relatively few are dissuaded by local laws. That's why the national statistics are the most meaningful. But my point remains valid: abortion rates are low when excellent universal contraceptive education and resources are available, despite the co-existence of free abortion on demand.- Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach CA

I'm so sorry for the multi-post spamming, but Douthat's article draws unwarranted conclusions.As I wrote before, no one gets pregnant because she wants to have an abortion. 40% of unwanted pregnancies end in abortion. Pregnancy results from failed contraception (whether natural or artificial). It's very misleading to ask an aborted woman "did your pregnancy result from lack of access to contraception?" Obviously, the pregnancy resulted from ineffective contraception. So the woman was either using ineffective contraception or she or her partner were using it inappropriately. That's precisely why both access to contraceptive services and counseling in the use of contraceptives are important.- Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach CA

Larry, your basic premise: Pregnancy results from failed contraception (whether natural or artificial) leads you to only one conclusion. If you posit the question slightly differently like: pregnancy results from sexual intercourse, you come up with an entirely different answer. And, of course we know from Biology 101 that pregnancy results from sexual intercourse.Also, I'm not sure where you come up with your pre-Roe v Wade abortion figures. I doubt the figures in the 1950's were anywhere near todays per-capita rates.

Larry -- you say that Arkansas' rate of abortion is "well above the Dutch rates" even though I just showed you that the rates are precisely the same as of 2008. Also, just for fun, I pulled the percentage by which each of the 51 states (incl. DC) favors Democrats, along with the abortion rate per 1,000 women. A simple regression in Stata shows that for every percentage point by which voters lean Democratic, the abortion rate rises by 0.3 per 1,000 women. The t-value is 4.91, which means that the finding is highly statistically significant. Thus, for example, New York leans Democratic by 15 points, and its abortion rate is 37.6, while Mississippi is fairly evenly balanced, and its abortion rate is only 4.6, about 8 times lower than New York, and considerably lower than the Dutch rate you're bragging about. Do you think that this is because Mississippi has 8 times greater access to contraception than New York? Or could there be something else going on?

I then added an indicator variable for whether each state has a law requiring insurance to cover contraceptives (list of states drawn from here: http://www.guttmacher.org/statecenter/spibs/spib_ICC.pdf ). The presence of a mandate is associated with a 3.93 percentage point increase in the abortion rate, although this is somewhat imprecise (95% confidence interval: -.34 to 8.21). To be sure, this is merely cross-sectional, and I'm not making any causal claims. Longitudinal data would be required for that, although longitudinal data from other countries don't always indicate that contraceptive use lowers the abortion rate (the exact opposite occurred in Spain, for example).

Interesting reference to Fr. Richard John Neuhaus writing in Commonweal back in 1967:http://www.nationalreview.com/blogs/print/292310

It's not a surprise:"The Senate defeated Sen. Roy Blunts amendment to allow employers to refuse to cover health services Thursday, dealing Republicans a high-profile setback in the fight over the Obama administrations contraception coverage mandate."Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0312/73497.html

While some(apparently a minority in the Us) think this is about principle -one way or another (and pace Fr. Araujo), most think and I agree it has devolved into a political debate for power -see the latest Romney flip flop.Most comments over the many many on this topic seem to follow the line of politics.The continued in Church division over the issue can't be resolved by any right/wrong argument on either side.I just think it would be good if we could move on - but politics will continue to intervene.

I want to add that I continue to be itked by Bruce whose view of the ups and downs history of the Church is paper thin and his callin gMs. Fullman naive is not only uncalled fir but the pot calling the kettle.Such is the state of the'new apologetic" thinking !

Update - the USCCB will continue to try to get a bill passed by Congress:"The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said it would build on the vote to push its case to overturn the new contraception coverage rule in the House. We will build on this base of support as we pursue legislation in the House of Representatives, Bishop William Lori, chairman of the USCCB's Religious Liberty Committee, said in a statement."Without a majority in the Senate, no bill passed by the Senate will get to the President. Without a two-thirds-majority in both houses, no bill can survive a presidential veto. As a practical matter, this bill cannot pass with the present Congress and President. It will probably be kept alive as an argument for why people should elect a new Congress and President who will pass the bill. Unfortunately, by putting themselves in the position of betting on having a supportive Congress and President next year, the USCCB is undercutting its credentials as a constructive participant in the development of the administration's next round of draft regulations.

Update - the USCCB will continue to try to get a bill passed by Congress:"The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said it would build on the vote to push its case to overturn the new contraception coverage rule in the House. We will build on this base of support as we pursue legislation in the House of Representatives, Bishop William Lori, chairman of the USCCB's Religious Liberty Committee, said in a statement."Without a majority in the Senate, no bill passed by the Senate will get to the President. Without a two-thirds-majority in both houses, no bill can survive a presidential veto. As a practical matter, this bill cannot pass with the present Congress and President. It will probably be kept alive as an argument for why people should elect a new Congress and President who will pass the bill. Unfortunately, by putting themselves in the position of betting on having a right-thinking Congress and President next year, the USCCB is undercutting its credentials as a constructive participant in the development of the administration's next round of draft regulations.

Moderator - please remove my duplicate post so there is only one copy visible. Sorry.

Final correction:This sentence:"Without a majority in the Senate, no bill passed by the Senate will get to the President. "Should read""Without a majority in the Senate, no bill passed by the House will get to the President. "

"As a practical matter, this bill cannot pass with the present Congress and President. It will probably be kept alive as an argument for why people should elect a new Congress and President who will pass the bill. Unfortunately, by putting themselves in the position of betting on having a right-thinking Congress and President next year, the USCCB is undercutting its credentials as a constructive participant in the development of the administrations next round of draft regulations."This seems to me no different than any other lobbying organization. The NRA's favorite political party is "the collection of Congressional representatives from any party who vote as the NRA wishes." The NRA is partisan, not so much on behalf of Republicans or Democrats, but on behalf of the NRA. Istm that the bishops are doing the same here.

As to making the bishops' views known in DC, Richard Doerflinger, USCCB pro-life lobbyist speaking of USCCB activities, " says he has been helping lawmakers write anti-abortion bills behind the scenes for decades, including the Stupak Amendment. . And the bishops were not only influential in swaying votes during health care reform debate; Doerflinger said they actually helped Reps. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) write the controversial anti-abortion amendment, which the House approved ." http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/01/the-men-behind-the-war-on_n_106...

Hey Bob,Sorry I ticked you off. I certainly didnt intend to Jeanne naive. I wrote:I, for one, read a lot of naivete in the comments on this websiteThere is no reference to any specific comment or commenter. Its a general impression I have from reading multiple comments across multiple threads on this website. You are certainly entitled to a different opinion.

Hey, Bruce, you're not the first person to have itked Bob, and you won't be the last. :-)

From last Sunday's Boston Colle Newspaper:Unlike many other Catholic universities, BC was not especially impacted by the health care overhaul due to its location in Massachusetts."In Massachusetts, every college student has to have health insurance, and that's been true for years," said Thomas Nary, director of health services. "We have had that mandate for a while because of the state law."Massachusetts passed a bill that required all state citizens to have a basic level of health insurance in 2006. The preventative care mandate has a limited effect on BC as well, since Massachusetts passed a bill in 2002 that forced insurance companies to cover contraception in the way that they cover other health products. BC has had to offer contraceptive care measures in the insurance it offers to employees since 2002, and in the insurance it offers students since 2006. http://www.bcheights.com/law-to-provide-contraceptives-without-copay-1.2...

I just found this paragraph and wanted to share it:Thoreau argues that people should not permit governments to overrule or atrophy their consciences, and that people have a duty to avoid allowing such acquiescence to enable the government to make them the agents of injustice.

Bruce, that's from "Civil Disobedience", where Thoreau also says:"The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right."He was concerned about slavery and the Mexican-American War.It's certainly good counsel for an individual but, when it involves actions, is not something that society can accept.A more modern example would be the Berrigan Brothers:"In 1968, after his release on bail, [Philip] Berrigan decided to repeat the protest in a somewhat modified form. George Mische played the decisive role in organizing this action. A local high school physics teacher, Dean Pappas, helped to concoct homemade napalm. Nine activists, who later became known as the Catonsville Nine, walked into the draft board of Catonsville, Maryland, removed draft records and burned 378 draft files in a lot outside of the building. The Catonsville Nine, who were all Catholics, issued a statement:"We confront the Roman Catholic Church, other Christian bodies, and the synagogues of America with their silence and cowardice in the face of our country's crimes. We are convinced that the religious bureaucracy in this country is racist, is an accomplice in this war, and is hostile to the poor."While he was staying at the rectory, located on the fourth floor of the Church of St. Gregory the Great, on the Upper West Side in New York City, the FBI broke down the church's door to arrest him. He was sentenced to three and a half years in prison.

The Berrigan quote is from Wikipedia.

At the risk of going off topic, there's the continuing SOA protests and notably ex col. Montano Morales fed trial in Boston.(Of course, a major figure in SOA is in trouble for arguing women's ordination.)Not much liberty for those in Church jonbs these days to speak out for what's right -did someone say "poiwer and control?"

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