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What's happening at Catholic News Service? A few weeks ago, I took note of a CNSarticle that looked like a news story but smelled like an opinion piece. On Wednesday CNS published a piece that purports to bust myths about the contraception-coverage mandate but reads more like a USCCB press release.Look at the lead:

Exaggerations and outright misrepresentations about the Department of Health and Human Services' contraceptive mandate have been appearing in White House "fact sheets" and mainstream media. Here are some of the more frequently cited claims and the facts to counter them.

The piece does not pin myth to mythmaker. Did the White House claim that self-funded health plans are "seldom used"? Or was that someone in the big bad MSM? Hard to say.Who floated the theory that because twenty-eight states already have contraception mandates the situation in those states won't change after the mandate takes effect? The article doesn't say.To be sure, the piece does correct a couple of common confusions: The claim that 98 percent of Catholic women use or have used contraception is inaccurate; astudy [.pdf]showed that 98 percent of self-identified Catholic women had used contraception (edit: other than natural family planning) at some point during childbearing years. And it's important to keep in mind that even though twenty-eight states require insurance companies to include contraception in their prescription-drug coverage, organizations that self-fund their health plans could avoid providing contraception coverage because such plans are federally regulated. That won't be an option under the HHS ruling.But some of the article's "facts" dodge important questions. Take, for example, its facts about self-funded employee health plans.

A majority of Americans who have private health insurance are in self-insured plans, according to separate reports by the Congressional Research Service and the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research & Educational Trust. The percentage was 44 percent in 1999, 55 percent in 2008 and had increased to 60 percent by 2011.Employees in large companies (those with 200 or more employees) were even more likely to be covered by a self-insured plan. Eighty-two percent of workers at large firms -- and 96 percent of those who work for a company with 5,000 or more workers -- were in a self-insured health plan.There is no precise count of how many of the employees working for Catholic organizations or institutions are in self-insured plans, but the number is believed to mirror that of the general population.

Hang on. The relevant question is: how will the HHS ruling affect religious employers' self-funded health plans? It's good to know how common such plans are across the full range of employers. But this is a Catholic News Service report. If it's true that no one knows how many employees of Catholic organizations are in self-funded plans, then find out. Work your beat: What does it take to self-fund an employee health plan? (A lot of cash.) How have affected Catholic institutions dealt with the question? (At least one bishop found self-insurance too expensive, so he provides contraception coverage to diocesan employees.) "Is believed" is not good enough, not if what's really at stake is the freedom of Catholic institutions to practice their religion.The CNS article presents other "facts" in a misleading way. For example:

Myth: Adding contraceptive coverage to health plans will be net cost-neutral, because those covered by the mandate will have fewer unintended pregnancies.Fact: Pharmacy directors disagree. An online survey by New Jersey-based Reimbursement Intelligence of 15 pharmacy directors representing more than 100 million employees or their dependents found that nearly 50 percent thought the mandate would increase costs, 20 percent thought it would be cost-neutral and none predicted that it would save money. More than 30 percent said they didn't know what the effect would be.Several respondents also raised the question of whether the mandate to provide contraceptives free of charge would require them to give away brand-name medications, even when generics are available.

It certainly is not a myth that adding contraception coverage to health plans will be net cost-neutral. [Here I'm cribbing from a comment I left on another post.] HHS studied the question, and found no evidence that contraception coverage increases insurers' costs. In 1999, for example, Congress required Federal Employees Health Benefits plans to cover FDA-approved contraception. At the time, the premium pricing had already been determined. So the office that administers the federal health benefits program created a reconciliation process for insurers who found the contraception mandate financially problematic. Yet, as the HHS study points out: There was no need to adjust premium levels because there was no cost increase as a result of providing coverage of contraceptive services. That program is the largest employee health plan in the United States.Actuarial studies also support that finding. From the HHS report: "When medical costs associated with unintended pregnancies are taken into account, including costs of prenatal care, pregnancy complications, and deliveries, the net effect on premiums is close to zero. One study author concluded, The message is simple: regardless of payment mechanism or contraceptive method, contraception saves money.There are also indirect costs to consider, such as time away from work. Global Health Outcomes developed a model that incorporates costs of contraception, costs of unintended pregnancy, and indirect costs. They find that it saves employers $97 per year per employee to offer a comprehensive contraceptive benefit.Finally, PriceWaterhouseCoopers actuaries concluded that contraceptive coverage is ultimately cost-saving.Does Catholic News Service expect readers to believe that an online survey [.pdf] of fifteen pharmacy directors undermines the conclusions of those studies, or conclusions drawn from the experience of the nation's largest employee health plan? Especially when 20 percent of them (in layman's terms, three people) say contraception coverage adds no cost to insurers, and 30 percent (four or five people) don't know? That means about half the surveyed pharmacy directors are not convinced that adding contraception coverage will increase costs to insurance companies. How does that comport with the first sentence of this "fact"?Mythbusting is a popular online sport. In theory, there's nothing wrong with CNS reporting stories that correct common misconceptions. But how it goes about doing so says something about its integrity as a news organization. This attempt is journalistically strange. It contains no quotes. It has one point of view. It conveniently ignores important aspects of the record it supposedly wants to correct.So I return to the question I led with: What is happening at CNS? For decades, Catholic News Service has served the church and the wider culture by providing reliable, professional reporting on Catholic news. Its excellent reputation derives not only from its admirable work, but also from its independence. The CNSmission statement is clear: "While created in 1920 by the bishops of the United States, CNS is editorially independent and a financially self-sustaining division of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops."Has that changed? Are bishops putting pressure on the organization to report stories that serve USCCB policy priorities? If it is the case that CNS is no longer editorially independent of the USCCB, then the organization must disclose that to its readers. Failure to share that information, if true, would constitute a serious violation of journalistic ethics.

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Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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What I am more concerned about is what is going on at the USCCB. It really seems it is becoming single-issue, looking at everything through that single issue. Interest in religious liberty is good. However, why do the bishops ignore experts in the field of inter-religious dialogue and instead bring in GOP-strategists for their committee? They are free to do so, of course; however, it will also give people ample room to question the declarations coming out of the committee, especially if they work in the field of inter-religious issues.

And before people start to attack me, I am pro-life, but we must understand that the professional pro-life lobby often contradicts the pro-life principle for Republican political gain (Scott Brown ring a bell?) and the methodology of this lobby is apparent in the current direction of the pro-life wing of the USCCB. It's good to promote the pro-life teachings of the Church, but it is bad when it is used as a tool for politicians who cares nothing for the tool they use.

One last thing -- what do my comments have to do with the original article? I think that the USCCB has had, and continues to have, considerable influence over what is put out through CNS. It's always been that way. However, the USCCB itself is becoming so single-minded and undermined by that small lens that its affects are seen in and through the CNS.

The "end" (e.g. pro-life) never justifies the "means" (e.g. confusing, misleading, or inaccurate statements purporting to be "facts).IMO, the tail is wagging the dog.

The suggestion that CNS isn't reporting or is parroting the USCCB is unfair. It is easy to see that the CNS piece does contain reporting and argument that goes beyond the USCCB press release, for instance on the Guttmacher study and about the reasons to doubt that contraception is cost neutral -- two points on which this post is quite misleading.

Here's one review of the murky evidence: "Does insurance coverage for contraception save money? We find lots of evidence. But it's conflicting, and inconclusive."http://www.factcheck.org/2012/02/cloudy-contraception-costs/Which leads ineluctably to the default conclusion of researchers - - More research is needed. But who will fund it?"I suppose we should be glad that liberals no longer find large pharmaceutical companies to be the root of all evil. Still, it is rather fascinating that our friends on the left are gladly citing a study, funded in part by those oft-demonized pharmaceutical companies, as an objective assessment of the value of buying those pharmaceutical products for every woman of childbearing age in America."http://www.nationalreview.com/campaign-spot/291338/birth-control-cant-be...

To avoid the skepticism of Guttmacher, here is a Centers for Disease Control report showing that in 2006-2008, 99.1% of women aged 15 to 44 who had ever had intercourse had used some form of contraception at least once.http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_23/sr23_029.pdf. (see Table 1)Catholics comprise about 25% of the U.S. population. Even if you assume that all of the 0.9% of the total who didn't use contraception were Catholics, the percentage of Catholics would be 24.1/25 = 96%

And as no one can answer, why bother to mandate that employers take advantage of something that "saves [them] $97 per year per employee"? Every employer I've ever worked at changed insurance plans at some point to save a bit of money here and there. If employers can save even $97 per year per employee, they will all leap to do so -- except for the religious objectors.So if the cost analyses that Grant cites are true, then there is no conceivable purpose for the mandate except to run roughshod over religious objectors.

My expectation is that the final rules will make certain that any loss by the insurance company on providing contraception for a company's employees cannot be recovered from that employer.The administration had to deal with that problem in the ACA where individual purchasers who want abortion coverage on government subsidized policies sold through an insurance exchange must pay a eparate premium for the abortion coverage. The regulations go into quite a lot of detail on how the insurance company has to do its accounting to avoid any loss on the abortion coverage becoming part of the premium the government subsidizes.

Grant, I think your concern about Catholic media is justified. I know that many dedicated people working in Catholic media would agree that they have much less independence, journalistically, than they did even five or 10 years ago. As the official Catholic media becomes more and more an extension of the diocesan public-relations offices, its credibility diminishes.The better editors realize that and struggle with it. CNS has been a bright spot, but it's no doubt under pressure. It would be a real loss to the church if it drifted away from the editorial independence it claims.

Grant, is Nancy O'Brien still at CNS? Her coverge of the ACA battle between the USCCB, CHA and Tim Jost In 2010 was pretty balanced.http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1001103.Got Fr. Z worked up:http://wdtprs.com/blog/2010/03/cns-catholic-health-ass-backs-bill-usccb-... some other people at USCCB thought it should have been a press release.

OK, I see that she wrote the piece you posted. It has a different feeling.

What I can't understand is how anybody can have any confidence at all in the official media of the American Church. Just look at the non-coverage in the diocesan "newspapers" of the sex scandals in their respective dioceses. Pitiful.

Ann, I agreed that the diocesan newspapers I have seen are company newsletters.The articles present one point of view and don't acknowledge than any others exist. Every year or two our local diocesan newspaper sends me free copies for a few months and then tries to get me to sign up to a paying subscription. I don't read it when it's free, so I surely won't pay for it.

Mr. Hayes - what Fr. Z knows about the specifics of this debate would barely fill a thimble. He quites repeatedly from George's statement that was put out and read at the Chicago Archdiocesan parishes at Sunday worship after Obama's Friday compromise. His comments are about the original HHS decision; he did not revise those statements after Obama's compromise statement. Thus, much of what George states is incorrect, not accurate, and cites data or statements that are inaccurate (but he declares are facts).Taking this complex issue apart to analyze and arrive at a balanced approach that respects B16's statement last year that religious freedom or catholic morality does not seek to impose itself on prudent public, governmental, or society laws. Both George and Fr. Z appear to not understand that more nuanced approach. George has little objectivity around this complex issue.

John Hayes, did you read the CDC study? They count "withdrawal" and "periodic abstinence" as methods of contraception. That 99% number is meaningless.

What's meaningless is the attempt to pretend that Catholics have not, in huge majorities, rejected the teaching that every act of contraception is evil. Incidentally, withdrawal is not an approved method of contraception according to Catholic teaching. You can look at a summary of the '02 data set here:http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nsfg/abc_list_c.htm#contraception

Grant, nobody is disputing that. What is disputed is the 98% or 99% statistic, which is indeed a myth.

The attempt to discredit the study by claiming these contracepting women aren't really all that Catholic is an attempt to downplay the statistic. As I wrote above, the CNS story correctly points out that the CDC statistic has been repeatedly misstated.

" Every year or two our local diocesan newspaper sends me free copies for a few months and then tries to get me to sign up to a paying subscription. I dont read it when its free, so I surely wont pay for it. "I have been getting the paper from the Oakland diocese for years - I haven't been a member of a parish there for at least 30 years. Subscription data inflation, anyone?But they DO print dissenting letters (I get published quite often), apparently as a counterpoint to the nonsense and drivel that usually gets printed. The readership of said paper seems to have not progressed since the days they read (not understood) the old Baltimore catechism.

Josh,The 99.1% figure is correct as the number of people who had everused some method of contraception. It is not the sum of the lines below. If you add those up, you will see that they total several hundred percent. That is because people used different methods of contraception at different times and reported all the different ones that they were asked about. For instance, 82.3% reported that they had used the contraceptive pill. If you look forward to Table 3, you will see that, when asked what current method of birth control they were using, 61.8% said they were using contraception then and only 1% of them were using periodic abstinence.

Sorry, Table 4

One Million youngsters to age 26 were added to parents insurance coverage in the last year by the 'evil' Obamacare. and of course the #s are growing. Half are women. so can we say they are of child bearing age? Will there be less out of wedlock babies, less abortions, less shot-gun weddings [as we 80 year olds call it] because they will have BC access? I say yes and maybe someone can data find the facts. My cable TV program experience tells me the numbers will be substantial.

Bill deHaas,Fr. Z. Is on a political campaign. He posted an article by Sr. Keehan which was published in the February 15 print issue of Catholic Health News and claimed she had reversed her favorable opinion of the "accomodation" on the orders of her board and the bishops.http://wdtprs.com/blog/2012/02/sr-keehan-backtracks/I posted on his blog to point out that Sr. Keehan's article had been available online on February 2 and had been written before the February 10 accomodation (it didn't it get pulled from the printed mag after February 10).Fr. Z. Didn't acknowledge that information and his article is still online.

Time to switch to ncronline.org to stay informed of what is happening to the Catholic church.

Grant, regarding self-insured plans. Plans that existed on March 23, 2010 are grandfathered and do not to hav to provide contraception or other preventative services as long as they meet the other requirements.To take care of self-insured plans* that have been created since then, it might be reasonable to move that date to some date in 2012 so they wouldn't have to provide contraception either.The remaining question would be whether to do anything for new self-insured plans that may be created in the future. That will be a political issue on which people will argue both sides *of non-profit organizations with religious objections to covering contraception.

Actuarial studies also support that finding. From the HHS report: When medical costs associated with unintended pregnancies are taken into account, including costs of prenatal care, pregnancy complications, and deliveries, the net effect on premiums is close to zero. One study author concluded, The message is simple: regardless of payment mechanism or contraceptive method, contraception saves money.

No doubt a baby aspirin every day or two and BandAids and Bacitracin also save money, for similar reasons. Can we expect to start receiving free aspirin, BandAids, and Bacitracin from the government? That would be nice!

John Hayes wrote:My expectation is that the final rules will make certain that any loss by the insurance company on providing contraception for a companys employees cannot be recovered from that employer.And then he provided the abortion provisions of the law as an example of how the accounting would be made to work. However there is one important difference between the abortion provisions and the proposed accommodation. In the abortion provision, the purchaser can be charged more when the actual costs change. In the proposed accommodation, there is no one to compensate the insurance company. As an intermediary, they need to get the money from someone else.Btw, it seems to me that if we follow the birth control cost saving thought to its logical conclusion, then our population will dwindle to zero because one pill will always be less costly in the short term than one baby.

Bruce, if I were writing the regulations I could solve that problem .But no point to speculating on those details until we see draft regulations released for public comment.

Grant, I didn't attempt to discredit the study that way, although since you mention it the study does contain interesting data indicating a correlation between frequency of Mass attendance and conformity to Catholic teaching on sexual behavior.My point is that even in sort-of conceding that it is a myth that 98% of Catholic women use contraception, you seem to perpetuate it. That statistic concerrns "sexually experienced" women. The study gives some indication of what percent of Catholics are left out of that number. But I guess it just isn't as headline-worthy to say, "31% of sexually experienced women who identify as Catholic use or have used the pill." (Presumably it is an even lower percentage of regularly-attending-Mass sexually experienced women, and of all Catholic women.)

Perhaps this is also meaningless:Whats meaningless is the attempt to pretend that Catholics have not, in huge majorities, rejected the teaching that every act of contraception is evil.Catholics also cohabitate and avail themselves of abortion. Does that devalue those teachings as well?

P.S. If the CNS report had been agressively attempting to exclude some as not "real" Catholics, it might not have said, "Twenty-five percent of the respondents to the survey self-identified as Catholics, but 40 percent of those said they never attended Mass or attended less frequently than once a month." Instead, it might have said (equally truthfully), "Twenty-five percent of the respondents to the survey self-identified as Catholics, but only 30 percent of those attend Mass at least once a week."

John Hayes, you are still leaving out "sexually experienced", a non-negligible qualifier.

Josh, sounds like the "No True Scotsman" fallacy to me. But apart from hat, I haven't heard anyone say that 98% of Catholic women use contraception (meaning regularly)The statement is that 98% of Catholic women of childbearing age have used contraception at some time (meaning perhaps only once)In newspaper articles "of childbearing age" sometimes gets of out but, otherwise, I don't see real confusion about this.

I hope the isue here is not about 'real"Catholics.That's probably part of the sorry srory that I found quite important here in this thread -viz. catholic journalist and journalism are under more pressure to folow a party line rather than repoty objectively.Given all the spin we are surrounded with politically and religionwise, I think we are at the beginnin gof a amjor junction on this.

Josh: I didn't say you had attempted to discredit the study in that way, although you did call it meaningless. Given your subsequent comments, I presume you were exaggerating. Not sure why you think I'm perpetuating the myth that 98 percent of Catholic women use contraception (and people and news outlets have claimed that, John), when I wrote that the CNS story was correct to point out that the data do not support such a claim. What the data show is that of sexually experienced women of childbearing age who self-identify as Catholic (would attending Mass three times a month count?), 98 percent say they have used contraceptive methods other than naturally family planning. The study explains what "sexually experienced" and "childbearing age" mean.

More on the crazy economics of the birth control mandate:"If this had truly been about ensuring 'access' to effective birth control for the poor, expanding free-condom programs would have done the trick. But the policys supporters know that the politics of federally funding condom distribution are much worse than just declaring pills free. This is about implementing social policy stimulating wider use of birth control pills through health insurance regulation...."This brings me to the wider point, which is about using government mandates to create individual rights to free goods and services that no one has the duty to provide...The problem with such mandates is that they do not create rights for some so much as levy burdens on others, many of whom would be considered more deserving under more compelling criteria, in a manner hidden behind the veil of higher prices and fewer choices."http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2012/02/23/the-economics-of-preside...

Josh, Grant, to get it exactly right, I quote the Guttmacher statement below. The survey data they are using is for women age 15 to 45 who have ever had sex (even once).In their April 2011 study linked in the article quoted below, they report that 89% of Catholic women aged 20 to 24 who have never married are sexually experienced and 70% for the Catholic 15 - 45 group overall. In April 2011, the Guttmacher Institute published the results of an analysis finding that 99% of all women of reproductive age who have ever had sexincluding 98% of such Catholic womenhave used a method of contraception other than natural family planning. These data have been ubiquitous in the recent debate over the requirement that private insurance plans cover contraceptive services and supplies without cost-sharing. However, there has been some confusion about various aspects of the research that produced this statistic.http://www.guttmacher.org/media/inthenews/2012/02/15/index.html

Should be "70% for the Catholic 15-45 never married group overall"

OK, I get it: 2 attempts to be snarky about "Fr." Z were deleted - I get the point.Can I at least sneak this in (it IS from a pope, you know)?"When Pius X died, the conclave of 1914 elected Benedict XV, who immediately issued an encyclical (Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_Beatissimi_Apostolorum) calling on Catholics to appease dissension and strife" so that "no one should consider himself entitled to affix on those who merely do not agree with his ideas the stigma of disloyalty to faith. There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism, he concluded. It is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname David Gibson, Who Is a Real Catholic? The Washington Post, Sunday, May 17, 2009 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/15/AR200905...

Do you get it? It's Sunday. Every time you leave a comment like that, you force me to remove it. You know better. Please cut it out.

Point made, although what it being Sunday has to do with it is beyond me.

It means you are making work for me on the weekend.

A few months ago, I happened to be perusing our archdiocesan newspaper archives that had been microfiched. I was looking at issues from the mid-60s to the early '70s. Looking at the headlines back then (Vatican II and later) and the headlines today, I could simply see no comparison. Back in the day, they reflected excitement, innovation. Today, the headlines seem to reflect regulation, uniformity --- and (too much of the time) mush.In the Louisville archdiocese, every registered household (if policy hasn't changed) gets an automatic subscription to the local Catholic newspaper, which is now also online. When I left the Church of Rome five years ago, I lost my subscription. Given the lack of genuine leadership in the Vatican and elsewhere, I don't think I've lost much at all.Thank God for independent Catholic news and commentary outlets such as COMMONWEAL and NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER. They at least respect their readers as adults --- which is far more than I could ever say for the hierarchs. When an archbishop shuts down publication of informed but dissenting feedback on contemporary issues (e.g., women's ordination, optional celibacy, artificial birth control), he is diminishing his credibility as an official teacher of the local church. He is shooting himself in the foot. Given the fact that "Letters to the Editor" have been a very popular feature in newspapers in past years, a hierarch is, in effect, undercutting his attempt to evangelize. Adults are not going to allow their bishops to shut down discussion and debate. Louisville's archbishop rigidly applies canon 212.3. I can only guess if you're not asking people to pray to St. Jude or whatever, you need a doctorate in theology, etc. to qualify having your letter published in Louisville's Catholic newspaper. "Father knows best."Like hell he does!

But Grant, you offered as clarification in your post:"astudy [.pdf]showed that 98 percent of self-identified Catholic women had used contraception at some point during childbearing years."Even with the subsequent parenthetical edit, you are leaving out "sexually experienced".

That's right, Josh. You figured me out. I was trying to fool our readers while providing a link to the study.

Josh, I posted the text from Guttmacher in my 4:24 comment. They do not use the vague term "sexually experienced." instead, they say "who have ever had sex." One occasion is all that's required to be in the group.Neither Guttmacher nor CDC have extracted the figures on how many total Catholic women aged 15 to 45 have never had sex. The only figures I have found are the percentages of unmarried Catholic women I gave in my 4:24 comment. Adding in Catholic women aged 15 to 45 who have never had sex would reduce the percentages reported by Guttmacher but it doesn't look as if it would make an overwhelming difference.

Grant, I have no idea what you were *trying* to do by publishing that factually incorrect claim. What you *did* was misrepresent the data and then, when that was pointed out, defend yourself as if you hadn't.I assume that in general you are *trying* to get to the truth of things and make credible commentary, and my comments have been made in the same spirit. If you made a mistake and I helped you see that, we should both be glad.

Guttmacher says 53% of Catholics ages 15-44 have never been married, and 30% of them have never had sex, so 15.9% of Catholic women ages 15-44 have never had sex.

Josh, what is the link to the 53% figure?

Oops, my mistake. P. 5, right column, first bullet, says 47% of Catholic women *are* married (not *are or have been* as I treated it to get 53% never married).

This is not broken out by religion, but for all women aged 15 through 44, 86.8% have had vaginal intercourse and 89% have had some kind of heterosexual sex. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr036.pdf (see table 5)The data is from the same 2006-2008 survey.

Josh: You have no idea or you assume I was trying to present the data as it was collected? I did not misrepresent the data. That is an uncharitable reading of my post. If I had tried to hide the data you'd have a leg to stand on. But you actually called the study meaningless, so I don't know why you are standing up for it now. There is a difference between misrepresentation and incomplete description. And you know that. And you choose the nastier rendition.

Grant, I'm not being nasty. With this line, you misrepresented what the study says: astudy [.pdf]showed that 98 percent of self-identified Catholic women had used contraception at some point during childbearing years. To call that a misrepresentation is to say nothing about your motives. The study you linked to -- yes, thank you for he link -- doesn't say what you said it says. I take it you've admitted that, and it was honest error, so that's that.But for the record, now you are also misrepresenting my statements. I never called the study meaningless. I only called the 98% statistic meaningless, because it is almost always repeated without context and without defining terms. I find the study quite interesting and informative, which is why I've referred to it in my comments (and why I've been happy to admit when I accidentally misrepresented the data).

Josh: Apologies for misreading you. No apologies for finding your interpretation of what I wrote misleading. For what would it mean for a woman who hadn't had sex to have used contraception?

Regarding the 98% figure:Thanks in part to this conversation, I think we have a clearer idea of what the 98% really means. If I may, I'd like to offer some additional thoughts.Let me start by noting a couple of things from my own life. One is that I am fifty years old, and I don't believe I've ever heard a homily - ever - defending or supporting, or dissenting or trashing, or saying anything whatsoever about, the church's teaching on contraception. Perhaps if I were just a bit older - old enough to have been aware of, and to have cared about, the hullabaloo in the wake of the promulgation of Humanae Vitae - I might be able to say truthfully that such things were preached about 40+ years ago. But if it was ever addressed from the pulpit in the parishes I belonged to in those days, it made no impression on me. And in the three decades + since I was a college freshman, I've never heard it as the subject of a homily. For something that is so important, that's remarkable.(I cannot point fingers only at others, as I preach from time to time myself).The second item is one that I think I've mentioned here before: that I was married for something over five years before I ever knew that the Catholic church forbade contraception for married couples. Not knowing any better, we did the seemingly-sensible thing - we contracepted.That Catholic usage of contraception mirrors, to a large extent, usage in the overall population, illustrates how popular and powerful the cultural attraction to contraception is. Dissent from the church's teaching on contraception falls into that same category as other Catholic strictures, such as weekly mass attendance and remarriage without an annulment of the previous marriage, that are widely, and perhaps tragically, ignored. Somehow, the Catholic subculture has un-acculaturated its Catholic influence from these areas of life.Here is my thought: Catholicism - Christianity - doesn't measure its successes or failures via polls. Catholicism is essentially forward-looking. Even when we look back, as we do on Christmas and Easter, it is to give thanks for Christ's presence with us now, and to look forward to what is coming. I'd suggest that the key thing is not how many women and men have failed sometime in the past to live perfect lives. We all know that sin is ubiquitous, and all of us will fail many times. What is important is: given our starting point, our lives as they are right now, what are we going to do about it? Are we able to make changes in our lives - to really transform our lives?Every time a woman and man make a life-changing decision - 'We will no longer contracept in our marriage' - it is a victory. If the church rediscovers the nerve to preach what she actually believes about contraception, then many more such victories are possible. If this political controversy strengthens the church's resolve to actually teach, in the face of a howling wind of dissent, what it actually believes, then even if it loses the political battle, this could still, as the church measures things, be a winning moment.

A fair question: "what would it mean for a woman who hadnt had sex to have used contraception?" Nothing at all, which is the point. If the set of women who have not had sex is not empty, then it's not true that "98 percent of Catholic women have used contraception." If the argument for universal provision of contraception is "everyone uses it" it is relevant to point out that not everyone uses it.That is leaving aside my hunch that what many people have in mind by "women using contraception" is women using the pill (or perhaps IUD), as opposed to a condom (used by men) or sterilization (not usually referred to as contraception in common parlance, and I presume mostly elected by women who have already had children). The case for "preventive health" is rhetorically weaker when we name condoms and sterilization, which in no way restore health (and the former are cheap and widely accessible without a prescription). The pill, because it is a pill, makes people think it is medicine and so perhaps something the government, or a health plan, should provide for "free".

Jim P. ==I'm very old, and I assure you that when I was young every Catholic had been taught unequivocally that contraception was a mortal sin. So looking *backwards* you will find the very teaching that you say the Church should look *forward* to. I say, look at it this way: the Church has *already tried* thinking that contraception is immoral and found that teaching wanting. Could it be that with the Church's new vision of women as the equal of men that it has come to realize that the ban on contraception doesn't make any sense?I also find it very interesting that,as you point out, priests no longer teach the ban on contraception. Perhaps most important (up until Santorum anyway) even the bishops haven't seemed to think that it was OK not to teach it. (Actions speak louder than words.) Only Rome is concerned to keep teaching it, and that in the face of the Commission's findings. Couldn't it possibly be that the faithful and clergy have rejected it for good reason *already*? Could it not be the Holy Spirit at work? After all, it has never been declared an infallible doctrine.

"Perhaps most important (up until Santorum anyway) even the bishops havent seemed to think that it was OK not to teach it.'OOPS -- that should have been: "even the bishops HAVE seemed to think that it is OK not to teach it."

Re the original subject: I have wondered the very same thing, and like Henry Karlson, I think the USCCB is the even bigger problem. I wish some truly serious Catholic journalist would look into what's going on and report back. Please.I suspect we're seeing the newfound influence of super-conservative lay Catholics, whose power has spread in two-prong fashion from the secular arena of the last Bush administration to the pro-life lobby and USCCB (at least in advisory capacity) simultaneously. This could be seen as inevitable, given the departure in hordes of so many "non-conservative" Catholics from the Church -- and the halls of Church influence -- in recent decades. Unfortunately, those who've remained faithful doctrinally have tended in general to be conservative to the extreme politically. That hasn't always been the case, especially in the American church, but that's what seems to be going on right now.Of course, for the Church, it's a particularly vicious vicious cycle: The more non-conservatives leave, the more power conservatives get; and the more power conservatives get, the more everybody else wants to leave.

Re the contraception percentages, does the Guttmacher study claim that 99 or 98% refers to Catholic women who use contraception per se, or to those who've used contraceptives? I ask because "the Pill" is now used to treat virtually every "female" problem women go to a gynecologist for, from dysfunctional bleeding to endometriosis. I personally know many Catholic women who use contraceptives for reasons other than contraception.

Beverly Baily,Here is the script the interviewer used when asking about Birth control methods used:CONTRACEPTIVE METHODS EVER USED (EA)INTR-EA1EA-0. Card 30 lists methods that some people use to prevent pregnancy or to prevent sexually transmitted disease. As I read a method from the list, please tell me if you have ever used it for any reason. Just give me a "yes" or "no" answer. Please answer yes even if you have only used the method once.PILLEA-1. Have you ever used birth control pills? If R volunteers she never used a method, probe to make sure R has read the entire card and is sure of her answer.[interviewer continues with "Have you ever used..." for each method]http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nsfg/NSFG_2006-2010_Y3_FemaleE_CRQ.pdf (see page 3)

Josh: I have not made an argument for universal provision of contraception. Regarding the Guttmacher study, my point was that the CNS story was correct to point out that the CDC data do not support the claim that 98 percent of Catholic women use or have used contraception. I don't know what people have in mind when they think "contraception," but, for the purposes of interpreting this data set, that is irrelevant. The survey asked whether ("sexually experienced") women (aged 15 to 44) had used at least one of twelve listed forms of contraception.Whether or not one considers the pill medicine, obtaining it requires medical supervision. A couple of weeks ago, the L.A. Times ran an op-ed by a doctor who argued for selling the pill over the counter. Might be one way to dodge an aspect of this controversy.

Ann Oliver wrote: Couldnt it possibly be that the faithful and clergy have rejected it for good reason *already*? Could it not be the Holy Spirit at work?There is a probability that your supposition is true, but there is also a probability that its false. As Jim Pauwels points out it could be ignorance or I want to add, it could be willfulness (sin). Given that I highly doubt the Holy Spirit relies on ignorance to advance a Truth, it seems highly unlikely to me that He is guiding us to contraception.Also, I would point out that along with many other factors, the rise in the use of the pill has coincided with the rise of out-of-wedlock births which I highly doubt is the Holy Spirit's wish for the proper order of human life.

Grant, I think these three statements are correct:99% of women aged 15-44 who have had sex at least once have used some method of contraception at least once.86% of all women's aged 15-44 have used some method of contraception at least once*98% of Catholic women aged 15-44 who have had sex at least once have used some method of contraception at least onceI haven't found anything about what percentage of all Catholic women aged 15-44 have used some method of contraception at least once. it requires knowing what percentage of all Catholic women aged 15-44 have had sex. The 86.8% for all women 15-44 is not broken out by religion anywhere I have found.. None of the above figures deal with "all" Catholic women. They do not include women younger than 15 or older than 44. *99% x 86.8% who have had vaginal intercourse at least once. It would be 89% if other kinds of heterosexual sex were included

I cannot recall ever hearing a homily on contraception. But is it not covered in the required marriage preparation course?

"Im very old, and I assure you that when I was young every Catholic had been taught unequivocally that contraception was a mortal sin. So looking *backwards* you will find the very teaching that you say the Church should look *forward* to. I say, look at it this way: the Church has *already tried* thinking that contraception is immoral and found that teaching wanting. Could it be that with the Churchs new vision of women as the equal of men that it has come to realize that the ban on contraception doesnt make any sense?"Hi, Ann, sometimes, church teaching really does change, or at least develop, but I don't think this is one of those times. Those with teaching authority haven't indicated that there have been any developments. The grass-roots movement in favor of contraception hasn't been able to persuade those who with teaching authority.If 98% of Catholic sexually active women of child-bearing age have, at some point or other, tried some method of contraception at least once, then that is a massive ... something. Conglomeration of sin? Dissent? Both?"I also find it very interesting that,as you point out, priests no longer teach the ban on contraception. Perhaps most important (up until Santorum anyway) even the bishops havent seemed to think that it was OK not to teach it. (Actions speak louder than words.) Only Rome is concerned to keep teaching it, and that in the face of the Commissions findings. Couldnt it possibly be that the faithful and clergy have rejected it for good reason *already*? Could it not be the Holy Spirit at work? After all, it has never been declared an infallible doctrine."Here is why I don't think it is the Holy Spirit at work - because the wide acceptance of contraception in the culture correlates strongly with the very trends that are pulling our culture apart at the seams: the catastrophic rise in children born out of wedlock, the near-collapse of stable, life-long marriage among entire demographic segments, the loss of one in four healthy pregnancies to abortion. (These are the areas where I would locate the marriage crisis. To my mind, gay marriage is at most a second-tier issue). I would suggest that nothing makes a woman more *un*-equal than saddling her with the brunt of the child rearing duties as a single mom while the dad's responsibility is little more than financial. (And this doesn't even get to the macro effects, in which entire *nations* are in danger of demographic collapse because of plummeting birth rates.)I am particularly concerned about the huge numbers of children among the poor in the US who grow up in single-parent households. Our country already fails to educate the children of the poor, making their prospects for advancement dismal. We've already failed to provide unskilled labor at a living wage for them once they become adults. By also failing to provide them with stable and loving two-parent families, it seems difficult to argue that we haven't just given up on the poor. This may be sinful on at least as massive a scale as widespread adoption of contraception.

This thread may be about contraception and how widespread its use -its use is widespread but I let Josh/Grant continue to argue numbers.This thread has now an added piece (thanks to Jim P about the poor who he wants to help by eliminating contraception or do I miss understand.Or is it that we need (contrary as we've ediscussed elsewhere) what were traditional marriages in the face of changing families -which runs across society/ To borrow an Ann phrase, could it be that our economics and greed are what's really keeping the poor poor????)This thread may also be about Catholic journalism and, I agree with Joe J. that Catholic house organs -including EWTN -are "mush."But if reliable Catholic journalists are under pressure not to present facts and stories whereever they lead, there is a major problem, especialy if we say we value"truth."I think it particularly germane because it's not just more catholic conservative power, which is probably the case, but that the rift inside the Church continues to grow even as we talk about this being the"body of Christ" as Church.And that rift is widenin gunder the leadeship of our hiwerarchy and abeted by it -which, despite views to the contray, I think they deseve to be"clubbed" for.

Ann, This comment was on the thread entitled 'Why does God test us' and I think its apropos hereAugustine himself spent years disagreeing with a Catholic faith and Church that did not exist except in his imagination. Once he realized that all he thought about the true Catholic faith was false, that he had been the one in error, not the Church or scriptures, then it started making sense to him.With this explanationThe whole first part of The Confessions describes his life before his conversion, when he zigged and zagged between this idea and that, all the while thinking that the scriptures were silly and the Churchs teachings wrong. It was not until he heard Ambrose that he started to realize that it was his prior beliefs that were silly and wrong. And even then he struggled, having grasped the truth of the faith, and wanting to fully embrace it, but still clinging to the vestiges of worldly things (God grant me chastity, but not yet).

" Jim P about the poor who he wants to help by eliminating contraception or do I miss understand."You don't understand.

Since when did birth control and abortion pills become preventative medicine? Preventative medicine includes things like flu shots and vaccinations, healthy eating programs and the like; things to help prevent disease.Pregnancy is not a disease.This sort of playing with words is in keeping with Progressives approach (their playbook if you will) to tearing down our freedoms, specifically those referenced in the First Amendment, so as to further their efforts toward building a secular utopia. In their minds, the end justifies the means.It is worth noting that Progressives (read Liberals') atheistic secular utopias all end in failure at best, more often as horrible, blood soaked disasters.

Sorry, Bob, I didn't state that right.You've misstated what I wrote. Whether that's because you don't understand what I wrote, only you can answer.

"If 98% of Catholic sexually active women of child-bearing age have, at some point or other, tried some method of contraception at least once, then that is a massive something. Conglomeration of sin? Dissent? Both?"Jim P. --How about: the Faithful and lower clergy have realized the truth that contraception is not always wrong? (I notice that you did not even consider that possibility.)You also say: "Here is why I dont think it is the Holy Spirit at work because the wide acceptance of contraception in the culture correlates strongly with the very trends that are pulling our culture apart at the seams: the catastrophic rise in children born out of wedlock, the near-collapse of stable, life-long marriage among entire demographic segments, the loss of one in four healthy pregnancies to abortion."So there are more abortions because there is more contraception? Seems to me thishas it backwards. And the point at issue is simply: is contraception sinful in itself? I could also argue that the reason that abortion, etc., are increasing is because the young people don't trust the bishops anymore because of the simultaneous support of Paul VI, JP II and Ben. 16 of Humanae Vitae. All of those facts are correlated, not just the rise in abortions, etc. Correlation is not causation.Yes, the problem of children without fathers is a terrible one. But it is a mistake to talk of "the" problem. There are many problems contributing to it -- including the fact that their mothers should have used contraceptives and didn't, or their contraceptives didn't work. Yes, I agree that sex outside of marriage, since it results in fatherless childreen so often, is very wrong. But it isn't the only thing wrong in all of this. We are also obliged to minimize the dangers of our sinful actions. That means using contraceptions when not married. So back to the original question: are contraceptives intrinsically evil? Why?

Two things:1. Church teachings come with both an argument and a context. The current debate (not just around the mandate, but contraception in general, still an issue mainly in seminaries and among bishops,) tends to ignore both. This teaching did not come down the mountain with Moses, nor did Jesus think it was worth mentioning.2. The original opposition to birth control had to do with distinguishing Christians from certain gnostic groups who opposed procreation on theological grounds. That's not the case now. Met any Manichees lately? 3. The current opposition to "artificial" contraception is based on an argument that says, basically, because we can procreate and express love in sex, that every sex act must be open to both. (One quick counter-example--we can both nourish ourselves plus participate sacramentally in the life of the risen Christ by eating. Must every meal do both? Can I get a burger with my wafer? And there are better, more sophisticated arguments than this, so don't bother to flame me on this grounds.) There is competent counter-argument inside and outside the Church.4. The current argument comes with a context and a history. As has been mentioned on another thread, one VERY READABLE account of the contraception debate in the 60's is Robert McClory's "Turning Point: The Inside Story of the Papal Birth Control Commission and How Humanae Vitae Changed the Life of Patty Crowley and the Future of the Church." (http://www.amazon.com/Turning-Point-Control-Commission-Humanae/dp/082451...) Especially poignant are the reports gathered by the Crowleys from couples struggling to abide by Church teaching at great cost, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially. See also Robert Blair Kaiser's excellent work from a decade earlier: "The Politics of Sex and Religion: A Case History in the Development of Doctrine, 1962-1984." (http://www.amazon.com/Politics-Sex-Religion-Development-1962-1984/dp/093...)Perhaps the folks over at the literature blog might start a "book club" reviewing these accounts of the current teaching? And sure, how about a pro-teaching account, too--there are collections out there. And to the point of the post--how sad that another Catholic press fixture seems to be selling its soul. Hold the line, Commonweal and NCR! CNS is "editorially independent", but who runs it? If it is run by religious, the line of pressure to conform to the USCCB line is clear. If it is lay-led, perhaps the issue is access.

"Pregnancy is not a disease."Ken --No, for men it's never a disease. But try to put yourself in the place of an unmarried girl who cannot support even herself decently, and, granted, through her boyfriend's urging and her own choice, she becomes pregnant.. He disappears. She now has no realistic hope of getting out of poverty, and that includes the poverty that her child will suffer.These consequences are exactly the same as if she had discovered that she has a severe heart disorder. Being pregnant for her has the same effect as having a serious disease.Those are just facts, Ken. Try to see her situation in its awful completeness.

Please Ann, save the sob story card. Playing with words does not change the fact that you pregnancy is not a disease and therefore has no place in the category of "preventative medicine.Contraception is relatively cheap; most estimate put BC pills at about $1 dollar per day and in any case, poor women already have access to free bc pills and the like via any number of government programs.Why then, is the government demanding access to free contraception for All women?As with user taxes on liquor and tobacco, and things like higher insurance premiums for smokers; things work best when people finance their own lifestyle choices themselves.

Lisa That is rich; if I did not know better I would have thought you were joking. Imagine a Catholic publication selling its soul by actually agreeing with the bishops of the Catholic Church.And even after what all the smart people know about the inside story regarding the Papal Birth Control Commission of the glorious 1960's, Pope Benedict still wont pronounce that bc pills are in line with church teaching.Oh the horror of it all!:-) The fact is that pope Paul VI set up that commission and while he listened to (considered) their recommendations, he pronounced Church teaching in Humanae Vitae very clearly.That folks hissed Humanae Vitae then and do not like it now, does not mean the popes (Paul VI, JP-1, JP-2 and now Benedict) are wrong.

"So there are more abortions because there is more contraception? Seems to me thishas it backwards. And the point at issue is simply: is contraception sinful in itself? I could also argue that the reason that abortion, etc., are increasing is because the young people dont trust the bishops anymore because of the simultaneous support of Paul VI, JP II and Ben. 16 of Humanae Vitae. All of those facts are correlated, not just the rise in abortions, etc. Correlation is not causation."No, I do not claim that there are more abortions because there is more contraception. But the inverse - that contraception prevents abortion - is at best only marginally true. Abortions skyrocketed at about the time that contraception was becoming widely available. In point of fact, I don't think either one causes or prevents the other. I take both of them to be symptomatic of a collapse of sexual discipline. There is no evidence that hurling contraception at women will result in more sexual discipline, and a good deal of evidence that it won't. Remember: contraception is *already widely available*, and yet we're already beset with these terrible social ills. I would think that, to the extent that contraception encourages sexual irresponsibility, it is an enabler of social ills (and profound sinfulness).Christianity - and other religions - by proclaiming the truth about sexual discipline, can be a counterbalancing force to the culture's celebration and obsession with sexual irresponsibility.Regarding young people and the popes - the percentage of young people who have ever read an encyclical surely is in the low single digits. But I do think that a father's presence - his moral presence - in a young person's life can serve as a powerful deterrent to sexually irresponsible behavior. I believe this is pretty well-established by social scientists.

Ken: it is men with attitudes such as yours that make a lot of men ashamed to be in the same gender with you.Harsh authorities bleed credibility.

I mentioned in in earlier comment that I feel frustrated by documents issued by the bishops that factually misrepresent the accomodation announced by the administration on Febuary 10.That misrepresentation continues in the Statement issued today and signed by Cardinal Dolan and a great long list of church leaders. Again, It makes me wonder if they really do not understood the accomodation According To the statement:- Once a religiously-affiliated (or believing individual) employer purchases insurance (as it must, by law), the insurance company will then contact the insured employees to advise them that the terms of the policy include coverage for these objectionable things.- Under the new rule, the government still coerces religious institutions and individuals to purchase insurance policies that include the very same services.- abortion-drugs, sterilizations, and contraceptives are a necessary feature of the policy purchased by the religious institution or believing individual.The simple fact is that the Obama administration is compelling religious people and institutions who are employers to purchase a health insurance contract that provides abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization..

And so Jimmy Mac, you are saying that pregnancy is a disease?Ashamed? Harsh authorities? When dealing with an issue like this, trying to use logic and reason almost always clarifies the matter better than just emoting and repeating ones wants.

Ann Oliver wrote: '...So there are more abortions because there is more contraception? Seems to me this has it backwards...'At first blush, I agree with Ann that more contraception should lead to less pregnancy and hence less abortions. But I think that the actual math behind that conclusion is probably wrong. Here's why: no contraceptive works with 100% efficiency except for abstinence and it seems likely that contraceptive use leads to more risky behavior. For example, it seems probable that some of the increase in cohabitation has resulted from the presumed protection from pregnancy provided by contraceptives. Below are some data on the failure rates of various contraceptives. For comparison, I believe about 10% couples are infertile, so 1 year failure rates for a random couple trying to conceive would be 90%.When contraceptive methods are ranked by effectiveness over the first 12 months of use (corrected for abortion underreporting), the implant and injectables have the lowest failure rates (2-4%), followed by the pill (9%), the diaphragm and the cervical cap (13%), the male condom (15%), periodic abstinence (22%), withdrawal (26%) and spermicides (28%). In general, failure rates are highest among cohabiting and other unmarried women, among those with an annual family income below 200% of the federal poverty level, among black and Hispanic women, among adolescents and among women in their 20s. For example, adolescent women who are not married but are cohabiting experience a failure rate of about 47% in the first year of contraceptive use, while the 12-month failure rate among married women aged 30 and older is only 8%. Black women have a contraceptive failure rate of about 20%, and this rate does not vary by family income; in contrast, overall 12-month rates are lower among Hispanic women (16%) and white women (11%), but vary by income, with poorer women having substantially greater failure rates than more affluent women.

Sorry, I hit the "Submit" key by error before I reached the end.http://www.becketfund.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Unacceptable-2-27-1... reality, theaccomodation published in the Federal Register says "Specifically, the Departments plan to initiate a rulemaking to require issuers to offer insurance without contraception coverage to such an employer (or plan sponsor)http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-02-15/pdf/2012-3547.pdfCan it really be that the bishops have been badly informed by their staff?

John Hayes, I understand you are frustrated that Dolan doesn't seem to agree with your view of the accommodation but I think if you look at it from his perspective, his position is perfectly understandable;1) As a matter of law, there is no accommodation only a 1 year enforcement haitus and the promise to try to devise a solution. However, if no solution is devised, the original law will be enforced as originally written.2) The proposed solution remains somewhat undefined, but it seems reasonably clear that there is only one insurance policy: the one purchased by the employer. If the employer supplied policy goes away, no one is claiming that some random third party insurer will offer women 'contraceptive services' for free. So I think Dolans analysis of the situation is likely correct.3) Finally, I believe Dolan feels that Obama mislead him in a meeting between the two of them.So Dolan's position is perfectly understandable to me. What I find difficult to understand is what you think the above analysis misses?

Bruce, it is clear that the letter purports to describe the "accomodation" offered. The four statements I quoted are factually incorrect as a description of the accomodation offered.

Sorry John, I wrote before your second send. But I still am perplexed because I see no way for the proposed rule making to actually separate the contraceptives from the policy. And thats basically for 2 reasons1) If the underlying policy goes away, then the contraceptive coverage goes away. That makes the coverage inextricably linked to the policy.2) No one is claiming or believes that any insurance company will offer women free contraceptive coverage as the sole item of an insurance policy.So the proposed accommodation is at best a slight-of-hand which we can all see. I would not want to argue with my maker about the morality participating in such an arrangement.

Bruce, the Dolan et al sttement could have said, as you have, "this is what they propose but we don't think they will be able to do it for these reasons" perhaps adding "even if they could do it, it wouldn't be adequate to resolve our concerns." What frustrates me is the consistent misrepresentation of what has been proposed. 'It undercuts the bishops credibility when they do that. I would be perfectly happy to believe that it is not intentional and they have just been badly advised by staff.

John Hayes, thanks for the link to that Becket Fund statement. If quantity equates to quality, the list of signatories is impressive.I agree with you that the statement refers to the proposed accommodation. The argument seems to be as follows:* For organizations that don't qualify for either the original religious exemption or the proposed accommodation (the vast majority of employers, presumably), the terms of the employer's group policy must include coverage for contraceptives, abortifacients and sterilization - we could say that such policies *explicitly* cover these items;* For organizations that do qualify for the accommodation, each employer group policy, every time and without fail, triggers an alternative arrangement by which the employees still are offered contraceptives, abortifacients and sterilization - thus, it might be said that such policies *implicitly* cover these items. Thus there is no moral difference between those policies that explicitly cover the items and those that implicitly cover them.There may be something to it. As the Providence College moral theologians pointed out, the implicit coverage equates to immediate material cooperation.

"Please Ann, save the sob story card. Playing with words does not change the fact that you pregnancy is not a disease and therefore has no place in the category of preventative medicine."KEn --The point is that pregnancy for many women and girls is IDENTICAL in its consequences with having a very serious disease. If you can't see that, then you don't see the problemAnd don't try that semantic card with me. This is not "playing with words". It is pointing to widespread *facts* you seem unwilling or unable to notice.

"Christianity and other religions by proclaiming the truth about sexual discipline, can be a counterbalancing force to the cultures celebration and obsession with sexual irresponsibility."JIm P. --WEll, at least that's true.

"At first blush, I agree with Ann that more contraception should lead to less pregnancy and hence less abortions. But I think that the actual math behind that conclusion is probably wrong. Heres why: no contraceptive works with 100% efficiency except for abstinence and it seems likely that contraceptive use leads to more risky behavior. "Bruce --You have a point here. But it still does not imply that contraception of itself increases abortion. Granted, many people still taken unwarranted risks, even *more* risks than they would have otherwise. But I don't see how your figures are conclusive, and, indeed, I don't see you actually drawing any conclusion from them.I have never argued that extramarital sex is permissible. So long as pregnancy is possible (and it is even with the best contraceptives), and circumstances and human nature are such that the fathers won't have to accept their responsibility, it will always be wrong to take a chance. But that does not imply that extramarital sex, if it is chosen, *ought* to be unprotected. On the contrary. The two issues are quite different. Always, the issue is whether or not the couple is willing to act responsibly towards any resulting child. What we see is that typically this does not happen. The girls and women are typically left bereft with a fatherless child. And that is always wrong.

There may be something to it. As the Providence College moral theologians pointed out, the implicit coverage equates to immediate material cooperation.If they are right, then all Catholic universities, hospitals, charities, dioceses, etc that provide contraception coverage should immediately stop doing that, even if the consequence is that state law would require them to close down. The theologians for all those institutions decided that even paying directly for contraception coverage was, at the most, remote cooperation and allowable in view of the good of providing health insurance for their employees.

Jim Pauwels,I would not be troubled at all if the statement had made the arguments you did.It's the factual misrepresentation of the proposal that troubles me.

Cardinal George says he'll take his ball and go home:"If you havent already purchased the Archdiocesan Directory for 2012, I would suggest you get one as a souvenir. On page L-3, there is a complete list of Catholic hospitals and health care institutions in Cook and Lake counties. Each entry represents much sacrifice on the part of medical personnel, administrators and religious sponsors. Each name signifies the love of Christ to people of all classes and races and religions. Two Lents from now, unless something changes, that page will be blank."http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2012/0226/cardinal.aspx

Ann, I think this is being a little thick: But it still does not imply that contraception of itself increases abortion. I didnt draw a conclusion because I dont have any numbers on how much contraception has increased sexual intercourse. But I think the rise in single motherhood and cohabitation make a virtually ironclad case supporting the conclusion that contraception has in fact resulted in increased abortions. Its certainly clear that there were far fewer abortions when contraception choices were much more limited.

J. Random, cardinal George's letter is dated February 26, that is, more than two weeks after the "accomodation" was announced. But there is no recognition of the accomodation in his letter. He saysWhat will happen if the HHS regulations are not rescinded? A Catholic institution, so far as I can see right now, will have one of four choices: 1) secularize itself, breaking its connection to the church, her moral and social teachings and the oversight of its ministry by the local bishop. This is a form of theft. It means the church will not be permitted to have an institutional voice in public life. 2) Pay exorbitant annual fines to avoid paying for insurance policies that cover abortifacient drugs, artificial contraception and sterilization. This is not economically sustainable. 3) Sell the institution to a non-Catholic group or to a local government. 4) Close down.His point (2) was true before February 10, but not since then. The Aministration has said that the Catholic institutions Cardinal George is discussing will not be required to buy insurance that includes contraception. People reading Cardinal George's letter who have not been following the situation in detail will not know from his letter that that accomodation was announced. Strangely, his list does not include a "Point 5": the option of providing contraception coverage "under duress" as many dioceses, hospitals nd universities are already doing. That option should not be necessary with the accomodation.

Ken: "Since when did birth control and abortion pills become preventative medicine? Preventative medicine includes things like flu shots and vaccinations, healthy eating programs and the like; things to help prevent disease. Pregnancy is not a disease."Ann answered that last point pretty well. I don't know of anybody who claims pregnancy is a disease, but the complications of pregnancy -- from gestational diabetes to pre-eclampsia -- can be medically expensive results, as are C-sections, etc. (and these don't count costs involved in troubled or premature births themselves). If you're measuring cost ratios, contraceptives can certainly be seen as preventive.But when it comes to contraceptive medications, they are actually used as preventive care for women who have various diseases, such as endometriosis. In that case,e.g., they're used to halt further tissue growth and prevent pain; in the past, the only treatments were surgery and high-powered hormones that cause far more side effects. In oncology, contraceptive pills are now widely used to prevent recurrences of ovarian and endometrial cancers.

Well, Medicare (nearly a half trillion dollars a year) is spent entirely on the aging population, and possibly most of it's spent on the very old. Thus, if you can prevent old age - or even just extremely old age - you'll probably make a significant dent in the amount of the deficit that goes to Medicare. Euthanasia, therefore, is preventive medicine in the same way as contraception. Attack the medical-expense problem at both ends. Of course, you can't call it "euthanasia", but limiting expenses on, let's say, "nonproductive" or "minimally productive" care for the very old ought to be acceptable, especially if you show what great benefit it would be to the young, "productive" population. Proposed study: How Health-Care Accounting Is Impacting Our Understanding of Morality.

Beverly, you make note of an important distinction. In the relatively few areas where bc pills are actually used as a treatment rather than a way to avoid responsibility for ones actions, then of course that is different set of circumstances and one can reasonably argue that they should be covered. However the situation you cite is the exception and does not go both ways. The vast majority of women who use bc pills do not have medical problems; they use the pills only to avoid getting pregnant, to plan their families, so to speak.For example, if out of 100 women using bc pills, 3 are actually use them as a treatment for some disease, that does not justify giving the other 97 women free pills. It certainly does not justify forcing people to act against the dictates of their conscience, against their faith.Just because some women want society to give them free bc pills does not make contraception correct.Contraception is relatively cheap and widely available, and if someone cannot afford it, the government has programs for the poor that provide free contraceptives. To be a libertine is one thing; to be a cheap, demanding libertine is quite another matter.President Obama et al are addressing a problem that does not exists and in doing so are using this as an opportunity to storm into the affairs of religious institutions like jack booted thugs, and making it clear to individuals that the god-almighty State will tell the unwashed masses what to believe. China pretends to have a state-authorized Catholic Church, the Patriotic Catholic Church, but of course it is a farce.Cardinal George (Chicago I think) is correct and he is not exaggerating. If this does not change, the Church in order to be faithful to Truth - will have no choice but to sell the hospitals and close her social service agencies. The bishops are not drama queens, and they will not let this go.

Well, Medicare (nearly a half trillion dollars a year) is spent entirely on the aging population,Well, "Medicare (nearly a half trillion dollars a year) is spent entirely on the aging population,"Oh, come off it, David. Yes, a much larger proportion is spent on the current aged population, and the same will be true when those who are now young will be old. So there is no inequity in the system taken as a process, which it is. This assumes, of course, that we don't allow it to go bankrupt by its peculiarly American inefficiencies. But it's true that if we don't fix the system now you will end up having to choose between rationing and letting die versus killing. But the Republicans won't let us fix it now -- they won't tolerate raising taxes, and won't tolerate rationing (the word brings of visions of death committees), so that leaves euthanasia for you. Happy conservatism.

Oops -- wrong -- I was including Medicaid in my thinking there and Aid to Dependnet Children.

Yes, a much larger proportion is spent on the current aged population, and the same will be true when those who are now young will be old. Part of the problem is that beginning in the 60s and 70s, parents did not have enough children to support (finance) the social systems that provide benefits like Social Security and Medicare to the elderly. Frankly there are simply a lot fewer young folks working to support a lot more older folks.Thanks Boomers!

KEn --And this is why the boomers have to make up their minds to pay more taxes to support the system. And there's the rub. We want the system, but we want somebody else to pay for it.

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