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"Bad" Samaritans

TheNew York Times carried an article last week on the dispute that is emerging between Democrats in Congress and the White House over Obama's consideration of the Catholic bishops' appeal to widen the religious health care exemption to make it possible for non-ecclesial, religiously affiliated institutions (like Notre Dame) to deny contraception coverage to its employees. In the article, the bishops are quoted making their case as follows:

Under the governments narrow criteria, the bishops said, even the ministry of Jesus and the early Christian Church would not qualify as religious, because they did not confine their ministry to their co-religionists. Moreover, the bishops said, the exemption is directly at odds with the parable of the Good Samaritan, in which Jesus teaches concern and assistance for those in need, regardless of faith differences.

First of all, the issue is not over how and to whom religiously affiliated institutions minister, but it is about who is doing the ministering. If non-Catholics are being employed to teach or doctor in a religiously affiliated institution, why should they be denied coverage for services that have been deemed medically necessary by a board of medical experts for all citizens? If the bishops are so scared of being defined out of their "religion" by the state, maybe they should divest themselves of "secular" ministry completely.Secondly, the story of the Good Samaritan is about providing for those in physical need regardless of the religious or ethnic identity of either the victim or the minister. It seems to me that it is precisely this kind of ministry that health care legislation is aimed at supporting. It is the bishops who are asking for the right to walk by those in need, if they have deemed that their needs are not really needs at all. It is the bishops who are the "bad" Samaritans in this parable by opting out of their obligations as members of a pluralistic society.Given that claiming exemption from "secular" authority hasn't worked out too well for them in the past, I'm not so sure the bishops really want to spend their dwindling moral capital trying to do the same now.

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"Secondly, the story of the Good Samaritan is about providing for those in physical need regardless of the religious or ethnic identity of either the victim or the minister. It seems to me that it is precisely this kind of ministry that health care legislation is aimed at supporting. It is the bishops who are asking for the right to walk by those in need, if they have deemed that their needs are not really needs at all. It is the bishops who are the bad Samaritans in this parable by opting out of their obligations as members of a pluralistic society."Boy is this ever a question-begging passage. Imagine that the state demands that hospitals provide assisted suicide services to elderly or ill people, including at the demands of the relatives and heirs. By your reasoning, Catholic hospitals shouldn't be able to opt out, because they have obligations as members of a pluralistic society, etc., etc., etc.

Whatever you think of the bishops' strategy, it's helpful to keep in mind that HHS is changing the rules and not maintaining rules that are already in place.

"First of all, the issue is not over how and to whom religiously affiliated institutions minister"Eric, inasmuch as this is precisely the issue, I am not sure why you posted this.

Jim, How is it the issue? The question seems to be whether religiously affiliated institutions must provide contraception coverage to their employees, not what services they must provide to the persons who come for care. Of course, the two often come together. But the questions as to whether a university must provide health care coverage to it's non-Catholic faculty and whether a church must directly provide similar services to non-Catholics who are not in its employ are different. The issue of exemption currently under consideration has to do with the former and not the latter.Stu, Slippery slope arguments are lazy. If the state made such demands, I doubt that many would say that resisting them is simply a "Catholic" issue. Believe it or not, not all morality must be faith-based.

I fully support cheap and easy access to effective contraceptives, but I'm sympathizing with the religious institutions here. Not to minimize the expense, I don't think it would break the bank for an employee to pay for those expenses out-of-pocket, especially if they could get it at the discounted rate the insurance companies get. (I know the insurer gets discounted rates for medical services, do they also get them for prescription drugs?) I've had employers who covered contraceptives, but who also required huge deductibles and co-pays. I don't think that left me any better off.I would have a bigger problem if there were religious objections to covering life-saving surgery, or a major medical expense, but I don't think the pill falls into that category.

Interesting to go back and read this:http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/?p=5456In just two years we've gone from, "Will the Affordable Care Act cover birth control? Of course not!" to, "Should Catholic institutions have to cover birth control? Of course!"

If other employers can get away with offering no insurance at all, I don't see why some others can't offer partial coverage.The ACLU wants to rule the world.

Politically speaking at this time, it makes sense for HHS to just reaffirm current practice. But, the issue will only be kicked down the road.....Eric's point is well made and is common sense. The USCCB committee is again fixated on "catholic identity" in a narrow sense which, given the behavior of the USCCB across all sorts of issues, is hypocritical, at best, and wanting it both ways, at worst.Studebaker - your response is a non-sequiter. Contraceptives are part of our pluralistic society; part of our medical system currently as defined by experts, research, studies (speaking about something that is current practice) and, in fact, used by more than 90% of all catholics per survey results for years. They are legal and a part of 90% of all employer offered medical plans. To equate contraceptive means to euthansia is a straw man - with a few rigid exceptions, our pluralistic society does not allow euthansia nor is it covered by employer medical plans. Try again.

Rick Garnett correctly notes in his great op=ed in today's USA Today:"A more generous exemption for religious employers indeed, the elimination of the mandate itself would not hamstring the aims of the new health care law because nearly all employer-based insurance plans already cover prescription contraceptives. The belief that drug-induced abortion is wrong and should not be publicly subsidized is deeply and widely held, by people on all sides of the health care debate. This is not an instance in which religious believers are asking the community to compromise a core shared value, to impose harms on third parties, or to endorse an offensive or dangerous view."http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/story/2011-11-27/hhs-contrace... it's not, as Nancy Pelosi so "ably" put it last week, just a matter of that pesky Catholic "conscience thing."

Thanks, Adeodatus, for reminding of us of the historical arc of this issue. Whether we like it or not, the Church does not sanction the use of birth control, let alone "birth control" that can act also as an abortifacent. Why do we have to bend over backwards to accommodation ourselves to the wider culture. We should stand for a workable plan for universal healthcare for all and we should not have our institutions support healthcare plans which contain elements contrary to Catholic teaching.

Adeodatus writes: "In just two years weve gone from, 'Will the Affordable Care Act cover birth control? Of course not!' to, 'Should Catholic institutions have to cover birth control? Of course!'" To whom does this "we" refer? Two years ago one contributor to this blog wrote a post assuring us that the Affordable Care Act would not be used to force employers to cover birth control. Now another contributor welcomes the new HHS rules that force employers to cover birth control. There is no hypocrisy here, and very little irony. Paul Lauritzen is not responsible for Eric Bugyis's opinions, and neither one of them speaks for Commonweal.Eric tells Stu: "Believe it or not, not all morality must be faith-based." Yes, but some is, and good laws take account of this. Stu's reductio is not sloppy. He is simply pointing out that the form of Eric's argument generates all sorts of conclusions that he himself would reject. The answer cannot be that religious institutions may claim exemptions for only those principles that enjoy majority support from society at large. That makes a nonsense of the phrase "conscience protection."I also worry about that phrase "medically necessary," which appears in Eric's original post. The pill is medical, yes. And it is clearly useful, for several purposes -- including contraception. But necessary? Medically necessary? Well, no, not in most cases. Whatever you think of the church's teaching on artificial contraception, the most that can be said of the pill as it is ordinarily used is that it is medically convenient and morally unobjectionable.

The question for me is whether "religiously affiliated institutions," [such as the Univ. of Notre Dame or hundreds of Catholic hospitals, etc. both of which have diverse employees and clientele populations] whether these institutions are subject to the US constitution, specifically the 14th Amendment's proscription of "equal protection under the law" This means in this case do employees, students or patients have access to the health care THEY NEED, not subject to the whim of religious autocrats consumed with their anti-feminine political ideology?These institutions receive literally $billions of US taxpayer money to support their programs and/or students - over decades. If an institution is going to take US tax money, then they need to act consistent with our constitution and law.No one is forcing ND to take these subsidies mainly channeled through tuition supports. No one is forcing Catholic Health Care West, for instance, to take Medicare and Medicaid money. The fact is that neither of these institutions could even survive without these public, taxpayer-funded programs.If you are going to take taxpayer money, you're going to have to park your religiously inspired prejudices at the door and recognize that the VAST majority of Americans find your anti-contraceptive ideology repugnant. It may not be popular in Vatican circles, but that is our law. God knows, Americans don't always act like it, but ours is a liberal democracy that strives to honor diversity and inclusion.The hierarchs can't have it both ways: either Catholic institutions are part of the American commons, or they are not. If Catholic institutions are not, then they should forego their taxpayer-funded subsidies. This choice, of course, would lead to the demise of these institutions - a cultural "cutting-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face" exercise.Why should the students or employees of these institutions be denied their constitutional rights just so hierarchs can politically posture to shore-up their standing with their Vatican patrons?Don't you think it is just a little bit hypocritical for hierarchs to decry the dissemination of contraceptives when Catholics, at least those who are sexually active, use these very contraceptives at virtually the same rate as the rest of the population despite "official" Catholic teachings? This is all about internal Catholic politics, let's not forget! The hierarchs don't give a wit about women's health care needs, rich or poor.For political reasons, the Obama administration is offering to maintain the same compromise on these issues that has been in operation for decades - WHICH IS TO THE ADVANTAGE OF THE VERY SAME CATHOLIC INSTITUTIONS. Personally, I would not make this compromise, but then I'm not up for reelection next year.The hierarchs have made their point. They have scored their "brownie points" with Rome. The hierarchs should take the deal before them, and go find some other way to undermine the legitimate health care needs of women to support their continuing political hegemony within the church.

Employers don't buy health insurance for their employees out of benevolence. Rather they provide health insurance because the tax code and the benefits of larger buying power and risk pools makes it mutually beneficial for employers to take part of their employees' compensation and use it to purchase health insurance. It is the employees' money. Employers shouldn't be meddling with how they use it any more than with how they spend their wages. I don't see any meaningful difference between restricting how someone can use their benefits and how they can use their wages.

A fantasy--I wonder what would happen if Church leadership had responded differently. Instead of saying "Health care? Well, we're not paying for any contraceptives, because that violates CATHOLIC principles!" what if they'd said "Health care! Absolutely! We're CATHOLIC, and our teaching speaks to the basic human dignity of all. Access to health care is essential to that. We're CATHOLIC, so let's beef up provisions that care for the poor beyond the minimum--let's work toward programs that assist in getting people the kind of assistance they need to really improve their quality of life: let's look toward better funding for nutrition, housing, education and jobs programs. We're CATHOLIC, so we believe that public support of excellent pre-natal and childhood health care is a basic need that our society should provide. We're CATHOLIC, so we believe that our health care system should treat all people who need it, not only the documented, because human dignity doesn't stop at the border. We're CATHOLIC, so let's pay attention to the underserved in need of mental health care, which will also help to alleviate the problem of chronic homelessness that endangers the most vulnerable in our society..." Why is CATHOLIC so easily reducible to "no birth control or abortion"? What if we asked to do more instead of less, and led the way in prioritizing the needs of the poor and marginalized? Church leadership has spoken in favor of health care in the abstract, and even to looking to the needs of the poor, but then seems to try to shoot down any actual plan on grounds that the Church might have to pay for access to something it disapproves of. The place for the Church to sell its anti-contraception message is first to convince Catholics of the worth of its teaching. Then whether the Church subsidized access to contraception or not would be moot--Catholics wouldn't use it. As to non-Catholics using contraceptives subsidized by health care plans funded in Catholic institutions, well, do we believe in the primacy of conscience, or is that only for Catholics? Other Christian churches, many others of good will, have discerned the issue differently than the magisterium has. If nothing else, we could follow the lead of St. Augustine, who argued that prostitution should be legal--surely we might tolerate contraceptive use by non-Catholics working in Catholic institutions.

I thought the point of Eric's post (a topic we've talked baout previously) is that we should(mentally) walk in the shoes of the persons to be served, like the good samaritan.I think that's a reasonable frame to consider.I think lLsa's post was quite germane then.

Matt, Thanks for your comment. It seems to me that it is the bishops who are making nonsense of "conscience protections" by claiming that the "conscience" of the institution should be privileged over the conscience of individuals. My point to Stu was that there is a universally accessible moral reasoning to which we must appeal in making laws. The healthcare provisions are just that, they do not require anyone to perform or have performed on oneself any procedures that one finds objectionable. It only allows individuals to act on their consciences under the advice of medical professionals. If the bishops really feel so strongly about the immorality of contraception then they should make the universal moral argument to outlaw it, as they have been doing with abortion. Otherwise, they should continue to appeal to the consciences of individual Catholics and leave everyone else alone.I agree that "medically necessary" is a contested concept. I will just say that I have known people for whom contraception was a medical necessity (i.e. pregnancy would present an undue health risk), and I don't see why they should be denied the benefits to which they are legally entitled because the phantom "conscience" of their religiously-affiliated employer objects.

Eric originally posted, "the issue is not over how and to whom religiously affiliated institutions minister"I replied, "this is precisely the issue"Eric responded, "How is it the issue? The question seems to be whether religiously affiliated institutions must provide contraception coverage to their employees"The legislation, and HHS's interpretation, do make an exception for religiously affiliated institutions. The core issue is that "religiously affiliated institutions" is defined so narrowly under these new guidelines that institutions such as Catholic Charities, Notre Dame or Catholic Healthcare West don't qualify as religiously affiliated institution, because large numbers of their clientele are not Catholic.If this definition is allowed to stand, the obvious recourse - probably the only recourse, short of shutting down the institutions - is for Catholic Charities to serve only Catholics; for Notre Dame to employ and teach only Catholics; for CHW to serve only Catholic patients and employ only Catholic health care personnel. That's not my view of Catholic social ministry. I want the church - which is much broader than the bishops and religious orders - to be able to serve humanity, not just Catholics, and to have the freedom to do so while being Catholic.

Matthew, I am aware that I was using "we" liberally. Just pointing out how much the conversation has changed. Going back to the original discussion about birth control coverage in general, I believe the Affordable Care Act ought not cover it under the guise of preventative medicine. I believe unagidon was correct when he said it was elective.

" Whether we like it or not, the Church does not sanction the use of birth control, --"Tell that to the good sheople who have tried their luck at "Catholic roulette", i.e., the rhythm method, because HMTC has sprinkled holy water on it.

"These institutions receive literally $billions of US taxpayer money to support their programs and/or students over decades. If an institution is going to take US tax money, then they need to act consistent with our constitution and law."Your argument holds only with respect to the monies given by the government for specific purposes. The government has not awarded any grants to any universities to pay for employee contraction and abortion. So the government has no right to require a university to spend *its* money on something against its principles.Another example: when the government grants a neighborhood organization money for an art program for children the government has an interest *only* in that art program. It does not have any interest in the organization's summer swimming program and cannot insist that the program teach every child to swim regardless of what the child wants to do.

"It does not have any interest in the organizations summer swimming program and cannot insist that the program teach every child to swim regardless of what the child wants to do." It does, however, have the right to insist that all children, irrespective of race or gender, have a right to be taught to swim so long as the program receives taxpayers' funding.Other conditions that come with receipt of taxpayer funding must also be met.

Jimmy Mac ==You have changed the example -- I speccifically said that the grant was given FOR AN ART PROGRAM. IF the grant were for teaching kids to swim, what you say would hold. But that is not the issue. With respect to the case at issue -- religious colleges, etc -- the grant ARE NOT GIVEN TO SUPPLY CONTRACEPTION AND ABORTION SERVICES.If what you say were cogent, then every time a government grant was made for some particular good, then that would subject the grantee to government supervision of *every* possible good that could be provided by the grantee. This would include an art gallery (which was given a grant for an exhibition of neighborhood artists) being required to have art classes for kids in its neighborhood. It could also include a city park (which has been given a grant for a statue of the city's first mayor) being required if the government so chose, to provide statues of all the mayors. That would be total, absolute nonsense, as is requiring the contraceptive/abortion on the basis of having granted moneies for physics labs, better English instruction, a library wing, etc. One would think that Catholics above all would recognize power and control grabs when they find them. But in the case at issue the bossiness of the ACLU et al seems to be going over our Commonwealers heads. Face it, guys, the ACLU and the Humanists organization members are out to cripple the churches financially. It is YOUR freedom that is being eroded.

What Lisa wrote. Sadly, the Church, religious bodies and charitable organizations use government to fatten their organization, increase its influence and power. If the church did the truly "Catholic " thing and advocated for the poor it would have credibility and following.

Eric,I'll concede it's a little strange to talk about the "conscience" of a whole institution. That's why I prefer terms like "religious freedom" and "religious exemption." I think it's a mistake to say that only individual believers, and not religious communities, have religious freedom. That is not how Catholics, at least, have understood religious freedom; nor can they understand it that way without undermining an important element of their ecclesiology.Perhaps a good compromise on this question would involve a recognition, by both HHS and Catholic institutions, of the distinction you suggest between contraception as a purely elective medical technology and contraception as a medical necessity -- i.e., those cases in which a pregnancy would gravely threaten the health of a woman. But such qualifications are hard to get right and easy to abuse.

"Perhaps a good compromise on this question would involve a recognition, by both HHS and Catholic institutions, of the distinction you suggest between contraception as a purely elective medical technology and contraception as a medical necessity i.e., those cases in which a pregnancy would gravely threaten the health of a woman. But such qualifications are hard to get right and easy to abuse."Conceptually, another good compromise would be to distinguish between prescriptions for the purpose of contraception and prescriptions for the same medications for non-contraceptive purposes. But how the government or insurance companies would monitor that distinction, I don't know.

That might also get you into questions of privacy.

Ann - it might, although the privacy agreement I sign at the doctor's office does give them permission to share necessary medical info with the insurance company.

I continue to think I see two starting points in the discusion:"one) the needs of the institution, noble to some degree, concern with power to somne degre.two) the needs of those in need as primary. Unfortunately, I see this kind of dichotomy jere too frequently for my taste: it strikes me trhat the institution still has a strong presuppositional hold on many of us -despite their weaknesses.

Yes, Bob, and this is yet another reason why we need a single payer health care system -- to protect freedom of religious action.

Well, the "we're a pluralistic society" argument that you and Bill DeHaas make is both lazy and stupid. It accomplishes precisely nothing in establishing that anyone has an obligation to go against their conscience.

I will just say that I have known people for whom contraception was a medical necessity (i.e. pregnancy would present an undue health risk), and I dont see why they should be denied the benefits to which they are legally entitled because the phantom conscience of their religiously-affiliated employer objects.No one is being "denied" anything. If it's a medical necessity in that sense, just go to the nearest gas station bathroom and spring for the 75 cents already.

Tell me why any Catholic (or anybody) has to live in a car when s/he can walk into church and ask for help? Talking about bad Samaritans. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-57330802/hard-times-generation-fam... you watch the video, clearly you will see that these are not low lifes or drug addicts. What hypocrites many Christian clergy are!! Translations are absurd when seen in this light.

No one is being denied anything. If its a medical necessity in that sense, just go to the nearest gas station bathroom and spring for the 75 cents already.Studebaker,And you accuse others of making stupid arguments!

Matt, I agree that the distinction you make between "medically necessary" and "elective" contraception might be a place to begin a compromise, but I also acknowledge that it would be difficult for the blunt instrument of the law to adjudicate such distinctions in practice. The same is true, I think, for your distinction between individual and communal religious freedom. Given that modern rights discourse was, in part, founded on the premise that individual freedoms must be protected from corporate coercion (which was often religiously motivated), it seems that the law must side with individuals over institutions, unless the exercise of a particular individual freedom results in a nonconsensual infringement on the freedom of another or an egregious violation of the common good. The former seems to be at issue, for example, in the abortion debate, for those who hold that the fetus is a full person protected by law, and the latter obtains with regard to things like taxes for national defense, infrastructure, healthcare, education, and other civil services. As concerns contraception, I see no reason why corporate freedom ought to be privileged over individual freedom in the eyes of the law. Any argument otherwise, I think, might take us into realms that are, as Obama once said, "above the President's pay-grade."

David -- do you not know what I'm talking about? (Condom machines . . . .) Point being, given how widespread and cheap contraception is, no one is being "denied" anything just because they're paying for contraception directly rather than through higher insurance rates.

Ann, I guess I should not submit your name as a potential donor to the Louisiana ACLU - right?

"I agree that the distinction you make between medically necessary and elective contraception --"Substitute Viagra or Cialis for contraception then we'll see how things roll out.(Of course, we know that no clerics have any working knowledge of any of these things - unless they are members of the Orneryariate or other ministers who have "Poped.")

Jimmy Mac --Actually, when I was young I intended to join the ACLU, thinking it was a very good idea to have such an organization. But I didn't get around to it and as the years went on it became clear that its interpretations of the Constitution pretty much followed the liberal line no matter what the liberal line. So I never have joined.

It's amazing to me that the teaching on contraception, a teaching not based on scripture (that I know of), a teaching that the majority at Vatcan II as well as the Pontifical Commission on Birth Control would have overturned, a teaching criticized by over 600 theologians and other academics, a teaching that has so dramatically failed with 90+% of the faithful, can srill have such a life.

I don't understand why this discussion is being restricted to the bishops or to Catholic institutions. What about individual Catholics. Say I am a Catholic who owns a business and I pay health insurance for my employees. Shall I be forced to pay out of my pocket for things I find morally objectionable? Because some bogus "experts" have decided that health coverage must include condoms and abortifacents? That's simply insane. Or to be more precise, it is a form of soft totalitarian government, except that fellow travelers like Eric think it is meant "to help those in need." Please give me a break.

Crystal, I agree with you, which is why I wonder whether the USCCB's chest-puffing is just an opportunistic attempt to flex its political muscles. I doubt seriously that we are going to start hearing anti-contraception sermons any time soon, because most priests know that they would be alienating 90% of their parishioners. This is also why the bishops are generally focusing on a bundle of issues under the umbrella of "religious freedom" and not actually making the strong public moral arguments on specific issues.

So, let me get this straight...the government has now decided it can tell private, religious communities how they should form their consciouses and run their affairs (by "experts" and technocrats, of course!) and Bugyis somehow thinks that the push back against this infraction of religious liberty is the "chest-puffing" of opportunistic bishops? It this bizarro-land??? I suppose certain "liberal" Catholics only believe in the First Amendment when it suits them...perhaps they even think that the government can force a liberalization of the Church where their internal efforts have clearly failed. There certainly is politics involved here, but it is coming from the left who support such myopic and hyper-individualistic view of religious communities and ever expansive view of the rights/imperative of the state.PS- a millennial, I would say that the pill and sexual revolution of the liberal baby-boomers (many on this board) have been an unmitigated disaster for our generation and that the Church has the correct view of healthy human sexuality and contraception. A typical stat would be that 1-4 teenage girls now has HPV...there are many more stats along those lines thanks to a reductionist, "liberated" and materialist view of sexuality...

re: "No one is forcing ND to take these subsidies mainly channeled through tuition supports. No one is forcing Catholic Health Care West, for instance, to take Medicare and Medicaid money. The fact is that neither of these institutions could even survive without these public, taxpayer-funded programs."Doesn't the last sentence somewhat refute the first two? Of course there is no legal requirement that Catholic institutions accept public funds. However, there is effectively an financial requirement that they do so if they want to continue to exist at all. Once the government begins putting large amounts of money into the system (be it health care or higher education or whatever) a competitive advantage is given to those institutions that accept this funding. In many instances the competitive advantage is so great that institutions that do not accept this money are forced out of the market (in much the same way that American farm subsidies have made it impossible for farmers in some other parts of the world to compete with artificially low priced American crops). Without clear religious exemptions, the government, simply by entering the market, ends up forcing religious institutions to choose between being faithful to their mission of service and being faithful to their moral doctrines. Regardless of whether one happens to agree with the moral doctrines of a given religious social service provider, one should recognize the problematic and coercive nature of such a government action. As far as the church respecting the conscience of individuals who are employed at Catholic institutions, note that the Church has not been lobbying for the criminalization of contraception. Employees of Catholic institutions who desire contraception are free to purchase it. The cost is low enough that it would still be within reach for nearly everyone who chose to do so regardless of whether it was covered in their health care plan.If I worked for a Jain institution, I would not expect them to serve meat in their cafeteria even if some government entity has determined that meat is an important part of a balanced diet. If I work for a Catholic institution, I do not expect that institution to cover abortion or contraceptive services in their health care plan even if these have been designated as essential services by a government agency. If I object to these restrictions, I should find work with an employer who covers them.

"Of course there is no legal requirement that Catholic institutions accept public funds. However, there is effectively an financial requirement that they do so if they want to continue to exist at all. "Why? Why does the church need to be in the health business? Why does the church, if it decides to be in the health business, need to be financially competitive or make a profit by being part of government programs instead of usding its own wealth to fund its healthcare institutions? Why should the citizens of the US, many of them not Catholic, have their taxes go to a religious organization that will not give them all oprions available?

Crystal --Most Catholic hospitals are run by nuns for the sake of other people. Historically they have centuries of experience doing this. They have benefitted humanity greatly. They are not in it for the money.The first public hospital in the U. S. was Charity Hospital in New Orleans, founded in the early 18th century by the Sisters of Charity. The State of Louisiana was glad to have them run it because they did it so well. They had to give it up when public hospitals were required to supply abortions. They have raised some money and have built some neighborhood clinics in poor areas here. I don't think you will find the poor people here saying get rid of the nuns.

Why force out hospitals that serve the public - often with extremely high quality of care compared to public facilities - simply because they do not offer two medically elective and morally controversial practices?Is this what liberal tolerance looks like? This is the same principle for the recent denial of grants by the HHS to Catholic Refugee programs: the denial of funds to the TOP rated agency simply because of politics and the democratic infatuation with promoting abortion at any cost...the common good and refugees be damned.It is simply the political forcing of religious charities and hospitals from the public square because they do not tow the line of liberal dogma. This is not about "neutrality" or medical experts or even popular opinion (the majority of americans are against abortion according to recent polls) - this is about power and the silencing of dissent, hence the question: "Why does the church need to be in the health business?"The next question will be "why do catholics have to be in the education "business" or why should catholics - with their so called "conscious" - be in the public square at all...

Ann,When I asked why the church had to turn a profit, I was responding to the comment above mine which stated that the church needed to accept government money or it would be put out of the health business because it wouldn't be able to remain competitive.I'm not saying the nuns have alterior motives or are in health care for the money, I'm talking about the church in general. I remember a couple of Fr. James Martin's books mentioning nuns working in clinics and hospitals - they were very altruistic.

No one is saying churches should not run hospitals or colleges or refugee programs. All they are saying is that when these programs are run with taxpayer dollars, the government should be able to guarantee that the users will get all legal services available.

Oops - that should be "ulterior motives" :)

The government is also restricting licenses to Catholic groups for the operation hospitals or adoption agencies - MA is a perfect example.Also, considering the fact that hospitals are reimbursed for procedures (from Medicad or Medicare etc.) - what does abortion or contraception have to do with the conversation? If a Catholic hospital treats a elderly woman's broken arm in the emergency room, it gets reimbursed by Medicare for the public service rendered.To say that hospitals must cover all "services" or none is nonsense and a pure political ploy to remove Catholic morality and voices from the public square (of course, in the name of neutrality and tolerance!)

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