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Bishop Lori is not happy with 'America.'

From the Could Have Seen This Coming a Mile Away Department: Bishop Lori of Bridgeport -- chairman of the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Freedom -- has sent a strongly worded letter to America magazine in response to their strong editorial on the contraception-coverage mandate, "Policy, Not Liberty."The bishop writes:

The March 5th America editorial takes the United States Bishops to task for entering too deeply into the finer points of health care policy as they ponder what the slightly revised Obama Administration mandate might mean for the Catholic Church in the United States. These details, we are told, do not impinge on religious liberty. We are also told that our recent forthright language borders on incivility.

At which point he crosses that border, delivering a thoroughly uncivil scolding to the editors of America.

Ignoring the substantive theological critique made by the editors, Lori rehearses the points you've probably memorized by now. Here's one:

What details are we talking about? For one thing, a government mandate to insure, one way or another, for an abortifacient drug called Ella. Here the details would seem to be fertilized ova, small defenseless human beings, who will likely suffer abortion within the purview of a church-run health insurance program.

Never mind that Ella is not designed to act on existing pregnancies, that its primary function is to delay ovulation, that the science on its abortifacient properties in the human body remains inconclusive, and that it is only in animal studies where it's been shown that very high doses of the drug terminated pregnancies. (An overdose of aspirin would have the same effect.) The bishop would rather score rhetorical points by making it seem as though the editors of America believe the bishops should not concern themselves with innocent human life. Nonsense.Has Bishop Lori forgotten his 2007 decision to allow Catholic hospitals to comply with Connecticut state law requiring hospitals to provide emergency contraception to rape victims? The law held that patients must have a pregnancy test before receiving such drugs, but not an ovulation test, as the bishops wanted. (At the time, Plan B [levonorgestrel]was the only FDA-approved emergency-contraception drug. The statute doesn't specify which drug should be provided, only those deemed safe by the FDA. Perhaps Ella is now provided to rape victims -- trying to run that down.) Arguing that Plan B can act as an abortifacient, the bishops sent a letter to the governor pleading with her not to sign the bill. Cooperating with the law, the bishops wrote, would force Catholic institutions to act in "direct opposition to our religious belief that life begins at the moment of conception and as such is a serious violation of a basic tenet of the Catholic faith."That was May 2007. Just four moths later, the bishops experienced "an evolution in thinking," according to a spokesman for the Connecticut Catholic Conference, owing to "the state of existing science and the lack of definitive teaching by the church and the fact that there are many who are affiliated with the church that believe the ovulation test isnt necessary. Or, as the Connecticut bishops put it in their statement explaining their reversal: "The administration of Plan B pills in this instance cannot be judged to be the commission of an abortion because of such doubt about how Plan B pills and similar drugs work and because of the current impossibility of knowing from the ovulation test whether a new life is present."In other words, five years ago the bishops of Connecticut made a prudential judgment to allow Catholic hospitals to provide rape victims with pharmaceutical agents the USCCB now routinely refers to as "abortion-causing drugs." That would be the same sort of judgment Bishop Morlino of Madison made when he decided to comply with Wisconsin law and provide contraception coverage to diocesan employees.If the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was planning to make an actual moral-theological argument at some point -- one that goes beyond repeating that Catholic institutions will be "forced to provide for" services inimical to church teaching -- now would be a good time. While they're at it, maybe someone could point out to the chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Freedom that not all women can tolerate the outmoded pills offered at Walmart for $9 a month.

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That was a pretty snippy letter, but as I recall, it was a pretty snippy editorial.

David. that's a pretty snippy post.The coments at America tend to fall into the usual kind of divide.So it goes.....

Thanks - had simultaneously posted this below on your Kaveny blog:Jean to your excellent point about style read John OMalleys wonderful book about Vatican II in which he highlights the complete and deliberate decision to change the tone and style of concilar language no anathemas; no condemnations. Statements were almost always put in the affirmative to be supportive and induce discussion.Here is a written response from Bishop William Lori to America magazine editorial:The tone is whinny and petulant almost sophomoric in its statements. Lori states: .abortifacient drug called Ella. Here the details would seem to be fertilized ova, small defenseless human beings, who will likely suffer abortion within the purview of a church-run health insurance program. (natural law & HV as Kaveny says there isnt just one interpretation and HV is really discredited); IOM disputes this conclusion about the drug Ella- tubal ligations have been a part of most insurance plans for years (catholic hospitals deal with this in another manner does he have a clue?)- Lori states: bishops should regard it not as a matter of religious liberty but merely policy that, as providers they teach one thing but as employers they are made to teach something else. In other words, we are forced to be a countersign to Church teaching and to give people plenty of reason not to follow it. The detail in question here is called scandal. (very narrow definition in fact, catholic hospitals, universities, agencies have been a sign of church teaching within the public arena that, obviously, includes birth control, abortion, etc. His way of defining this could actually impact these ministries as a countersign HHS compromise does not create scandal?)Catholic insurance companies and catholic self-insured comapnies well, that is being negotiated and there is a period of time to do this in. Lori makes a statement that refuses to acknowledge this and, in effect, skews his accuracy.His easy dismissal and quote about $10 bc at Walmart ignores the reality of millions of very poor women, immigrants, non-insured, etc. He is disingenous at best.Like his congressional committee hearings and talks, Lori is not a very good advocate for what Prof. Kaveny said in less than 10 minutes. He reminds me of a scolding Southern Baptist minister in my youth.

Grant, I agree that Bishop Lori encountered a teaching moment and fed us sarcasm instead of wisdom. Maybe some other bishop will write the response to the America editorial that it deserves - the original piece much completely miscasts the nature of the dispute, thus making a number of its major points null and void. Lori's letter tries to make that critique, but the tone is all wrong.

Lori asks: "Have I forgotten any other details we bishops shouldnt be attending to?" Indeed, while he works in pre-implantation embryos, incorrect pharmacology, Pope Paul VI, Moses, Pharoah, and even the TV detective Colombo, there's not a word about women and their thoughts on this question. Access to comprehensive health care that includes contraception is very important to most American women. His previous comment comparing contraceptive coverage to whether or not a goy can get a ham sandwich in a Kosher deli showed a similar insensitivity to the importance of this question in women's lives.Yes there are women who agree with the bishops on this. (Women are not monolithic.) But this stance of the bishops appears to reveal them as out of touch with the experience of most of those whose health care they would micro-manage. They should beware scandal--if it's not too late already.

Jim: I'm curious about your perception of the 'America' editorial as confused about the nature of the dispute. How do you think the editors got it wrong?

those whose health care they would micro-manage. You can buy your own contraceptives anywhere; no one is stopping you or micro-managing you just because they won't humor your wish to get it for free.

Lisa,Although your point about the bishops' seemingly not listening to women is well taken, you seem to be avoiding the substance of his arguments. I would like to see some debate on them. I myself am very conflicted on this. I do think his tone is inappropriate. We will get no where on this if we don't presume the good faith of others, especially when they are fellow members of the same church.AA

Bishop Lori must feel much better after getting that load off his chest. It is too bad that, as Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee, he can't find professional help in the office to tell him where such letters should be filed. To the extent that he had some facts and principles to make a coherently argued critique tearing apart the America editorial, he managed to bury them all in a juvenile-sounding whine. If, as Jim P. suggests, some other bishop comes along to "write the response to the America editorial that it deserves", which wouldn't be too hard to compose, he will be greeted by the Lori letter already hanging on the door, online and in print. The USCCB appears incapable of functioning effectively in the multi-sided interactive world in which we women and men all live.

I think Bishop Lori's references to $10 co-pays at Walmart and the Columbo mention are just perfect! Pefect in demonstrating the primal scream that the hierarachy is making at this time as so many of the sexuality related issues aren't breaking their way... and they may still have to deal with the Philadephia fallout and the episode of the priest refusing Communion...and to quote Kurt Vonnegut.. "and so it goes..."

@AA, In addition to Grant's good point in the original post, I'd refer you to the other threads on this topic to deal with the details. I don't think he raises anything we haven't already tossed around here on dotCommonweal somewhere. (It's been a really thorough discussion that way.) I'm not ducking your question, I just don't want to be repetitive.

Jack Barry said: "The USCCB appears incapable of functioning effectively in the multi-sided interactive world in which we women and men all live."Years ago, Tim Unsworth of blessed memory said:" Bishops break out in shingles in the face of ambiguity; laity live with it each day in their homes, jobs and social life. "" Chancery offices constantly view the faithful as so befuddled that, without unctuous instruction, they would confuse the holy water fountain with a birdbath. "As for me and my family, we will listen to Tim Unsworth any day.

Jimmy Mac:Here's John Allen's appreciation of Tim Unsworth:http://ncronline.org/node/11780

Evidence Matters - per the manufacturer of Ella the mode of action is "... ella postpones follicular rupture. The likely primary mechanism of action of ulipristal acetate for emergency contraception is therefore inhibition or delay of ovulation; however, alterations to the endometrium that may affect implantation may also contribute to efficacy." The manufacturer considers it a potential abortafacient. The teaching moment missed here is that tu quoque is a logical fallacy (what Lori thought/did in 2007 has no bearing on the accuracy of his statements today and if his statement/acts in 2007 is in error Lori should change his mind). This also blurs post rape protocols (which properly are not considered to be the sin of contraception) and a "morning after pill" which is properly considered contraception which has always been a sin. It also fails to identify the Administration as a bully - using the force of law to compel a Church or a person of good will who considers contraception a sin to fund it. It dilutes healthcare and for every $1000 per year contraceptive patient, there is a $1000 not spent on ADHD, vaccinations, breast cancer or HIV. Healthcare is a zero sum game. Also ignored is a person's social decision to have a sexual encounter with prescription contraception should not be funded by the totality of the insured population it is simply unjust.

"using the force of law to compel a Church or a person of good will who considers contraception a sin to fund it." Nope--that was exactly the point of the Obama revision/compromise. That person/institution will NOT have to fund contraception. It's really as simple as that. Not a single precious dollar will be spent."It dilutes healthcare and for every $1000 per year contraceptive patient, there is a $1000 not spent on ADHD, vaccinations, breast cancer or HIV." Nope again. Contraception saves money or is AT WORST cost neutral. So for every $ spent there, MORE money is available for the conditions you list, or AT WORST no less. And as to uses of drugs--do you really want your doctor or your health care provider to determine your health care options based on what your employer's particular religious group considers sinful, as in your example? Really? What if your employer is of a religion whose tenets YOU find objectionable? Do you still want your employer to call the shots?

Daniel Kane, the Prescribing information or Plan B, which Bishop Lori and the other Connecticut bishops approved says:There are many misconceptions about emergency contraception, so its important for your patients to know that Plan B One-Step works similar to regular birth control pills; it simply contains a larger dose of the hormone levonorgestrel. Plan B One-Step works primarily by:- Preventing ovulation- Possibly preventing fertilization by altering tubal transport of sperm and/or egg- Altering the endometrium, which may inhibit implantationhttp://planbonestep.com/plan-b-prescribers/how-plan-b-works.aspxThe Prescribing information for Ella says:12.1 Mechanism of ActionWhen taken immediately before ovulation is to occur, ella postpones follicular rupture. The likely primary mechanism of action of ulipristal acetate for emergency contraception is therefore inhibition or delay of ovulation; however, alterations to the endometrium that may affect implantation may also contribute to efficacy. It appears that they both say that they "may" inhibit implantation if the other mechanisms don't work.Regarding Plan B, Bishop Lori said in 2007::Last spring, the Connecticut Bishops worked hard to defeat the so-called Plan B legislation. Its not that the Church opposes administering Plan B to victims of rape; these women have suffered a gravely unjust assault. Last year, nearly 75 rape victims were treated in the four Connecticut Catholic hospitals; no one was denied Plan B as the result of the Catholic hospital protocols which required both a pregnancy test and an ovulation test prior to the administration of that drug.Whats really at issue here is how much testing is appropriate to ensure that Plan B does not induce the chemical abortion of a fertilized ovum. There is uncertainty about how Plan B works. Its effect is to prevent fertilization of the ovum. Some believe, however, that in rare instances Plan B can render the lining of the uterus inhospitable to the fertilized ovum which must implant in it in order to survive and grow; many other experts dispute this. For their part, the Bishops of Connecticut felt it was best not only to administer the standard FDA-approved pregnancy test, but also an ovulation test. However, this course of action was only a prudential judgment, not a matter of settled Church teaching and practice. Other bishops and moral theologians hold that a pregnancy test alone suffices. Indeed, the Church does not teach that it is intrinsically evil to administer Plan B without first giving an ovulation test or that those who do so are committing an abortionhttp://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/1905953/postsNote also that, in 2007, the issue was not simply proving insurance coverage or Plan B but actually administering th drug in a Catholic Hospital.

That person/institution will NOT have to fund contraception. Its really as simple as that. Not a single precious dollar will be spent.Lisa, this shows a failure to understand basic economics. Money is being paid to an insurance company. The insurance company is then supposed to provide something that does cost money for "free." Even if the insurance company supposedly saves money in the long run, it still has to expend dollars paying for the thing that supposedly helps it save money. And the insurance company therefore has to include the price of that thing in the premium. Grant, here's just one way that America magazine is confused:

Then, on Feb. 10, President Obama announced a compromise solution by which religious institutions would be exempt from paying the objectionable premiums but women would not be denied contraceptive coverage. A confrontation that should never have happened was over.

There is no truthful depiction of events by which the confrontation was "over" as of Feb. 10. The original rule went into effect as planned. It doesn't apply to church organizations for the first year, but there is as yet no actual or even proposed "compromise" rule that would displace the original rule. Another point of confusion:

The campaign fails to acknowledge that in the present instance, claims of religious liberty may collide with the right to health care, or that the religious rights of other denominations are in tension with those of Catholics.

There is no plausible claim that anyone has a "religious right" to obtain contraceptives for free. No one has ever suggested such a thing except when the purpose is to create a false equivalence, as if there are religious rights at issue on both sides.

Lisa -- an analogy might help you understand. If I spend $300 every year to have a wooden deck treated with a special chemical that prevents rot, I may be saving lots of money in the long run by not having to replace the entire deck. Still, it's a complete falsehood to say that "not a single precious dollar will be spent" on the deck treatment. Obviously, I'm spending money on the deck treatment -- I may be able to avoid spending money on something else down the road, but I'm still writing out a check for $300 here and now. And guess what: if my wife says, "I hate buying this deck treatment, because it's tested on animals in horribly painful conditions, and I am morally opposed to that," I'm not going to get very far if I respond, "But we're not actually spending any money, because we're saving money in the long run." That is both a falsehood (as I really am writing out a check) and a complete evasion of the issue (the issue isn't how many net dollars are spent over a lifetime, but being involved in buying something here and now).

Studebaker Here is a shorter more accurate analogy. Your city passes an ordinance that every contractor must treat all his new decks with with the special chemical. The ordinance says decks will last longer and be safe from collapse and will save everyone down the line. Contractor will not give a damn about your wife's animal concerns if you hire him to do the deck.. he will follow the city ordnance.

The bishops' "religious liberty" mantra is such a sham.Want to know about so-called "religious liberty", bishops?Talk to your counterparts in China and other places that make it difficult if not impossible to be truly free in exercising episcopal duties.Then you'll know something about (quote)religious liberty(endquote).I hope our bishops end up becoming the worst kind of friends any Republican candidate might ever hope of having in a presidential election.

"There is no plausible claim that anyone has a religious right to obtain contraceptives for free. No one has ever suggested such a thing except when the purpose is to create a false equivalence, as if there are religious rights at issue on both sides."Studebaker --I'm with you here. But your contention that the insurance company's decision to buy the contraceptives and take a slight immediate loss, implies that it is the bishops who are responsible for the act of buying them is just nonsense. If the bishops were buying them, then money would have to pass between the bishops and the insurers *for the contraceptives*. But that is not what the revised plan calls for. What is it you mainly object to? You seem to be confusing remote cooperation with immediate cooperation, or maybe you don't permit *either* remote or immediate cooperation You seem to think that the bishops are somehow sending money to pay for the contraceptives.But ALL the bishops are doing is contracting for a policy which in fact does NOT include contraceptive coverage. Since the policy doesn't cover them, I can't see how you can claim that the bishops are paying for them. They're paying ONLY for what they've contracted for.

Cardinal Dolan remarks on an administration tactic that, to my knowledge, has never been used before and which has deeply disturbing implications:"And a recent meeting between staff of the bishops conference and the White House staff ended with the Presidents people informing us that the broader concerns of religious freedom that is, revisiting the straight-jacketing mandates, or broadening the maligned exemptionare all off the table. Instead, they advised the bishops conference that we should listen to the 'enlightened' voices of accommodation, such as the recent hardly-surprising but terribly unfortunate editorial in America. The White House seems to think we bishops are hopelessly out of touch with our people, and with those whom the White House now has nominated as official Catholic teachers."http://blog.archny.org/?p=2291

Leave it to the bishops to complicate the uncomplicated in order to suit their political (and obviously partisan political) agenda. The administration has granted a reasonable and good faith accommodation. The Church will not be buying contraceptives. Insurance companies will be saving monies that would otherwise be going for pregnancy-related expenses. "The White House seems to think we bishops are hopelessly out of touch with our people, and with those whom the White House now has nominated as official Catholic teachers.I've got news for Dolan: The White House folks are not the only people who believe the bishops are hopelessly out of touch with Catholics, and most Catholics would likely agree that the hierarchs --- as "official Catholic teachers" --- have not demonstrated the competence to teach in any authoritative way. They simply lack any moral or other credibility. Perhaps we're seeing a role-reversal here: The laity are teaching the bishops, and the bishops are having a hard time accepting this new reality.

I say bishop Lori picked up support from Rush Limbaugh but lost the Georgetown Law school. If you walk into the political arena/ring to play the political game it's always been ' you win some and lose some'.

You seem to think that the bishops are somehow sending money to pay for the contraceptives. But ALL the bishops are doing is contracting for a policy which in fact does NOT include contraceptive coverage.Ann -- you're using the present tense about a rule that doesn't even exist yet. Leaving that aside, the point has been made by several commenters (and never refuted) that it's a mere matter of semantics to say the policy wouldn't include contraceptive coverage, when every policy is automatically accompanied by an offer of "free" contraceptive coverage (while such an offer is never made without the underlying policy). If someone said we should make every health insurance policy come with a monthly package of marijuana, and objections were raised, would it really fool so many people if the "compromise" were this: "every single health insurance policy has to come with a 'separate' offer of a 'free' monthly package of marijuana." It would obviously be silly to describe that as a "compromise" at all -- the insurance policy would still be covering the marijuana the same as before. Another analogy: suppose someone said, "I want it to be illegal to sell a hamburger without a large French fries along with it." (French fries, after all, are more expensive than most contraceptives on a monthly basis.) Would anyone be fooled as to what was going on if a "compromise" were that with every purchase of a hamburger, a third drive-through window handed out "free" sacks of French fries? Would anyone be gullible enough to believe, "Oh, gee, I guess the French fries really are free, and have nothing to do with the hamburger purchase at all."

To supplement my 9:56 pm comment last night which quoted Bishop Lori's blog on administering Plan B in Catholic hospitals in CT, the official announcement by the bishops as a group pointed out that it was the doubt about how Plan B worked that allowed Catholic hospitals to administer it - but that if it became clear that Plan B did cause an abortion, the matter would have to be reopened. Since the teaching authority of the Church has not definitively resolved this matter and since there is serious doubt about how Plan B pills work, the Catholic Bishops of Connecticut have stated that Catholic hospitals in the State may follow protocols that do not require an ovulation test in the treatment of victims of rape. A pregnancy test approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration suffices. If it becomes clear that Plan B pills would lead to an early chemical abortion in some instances, this matter would have to be reopened. I have no personal knowledge of Plan B (or Ella) other than the prescribing information I quoted that says they both "may" inhibit implantation. If there is new information that has become available since 2007, the bishops would certainly be justified in reopening the question of whether Catholic hospitals can administer Plan B or Ella. It's not clear from the statements I have read whether the bishops are saying that new information has become available since 2007 which makes clear that Plan B does result in an abortion - and that information available for Ella makes clear that it does as well.

Cdl. Dolan in his blog to which Patrick M. linked proudly mentions Fidelis Care New York, a Medicare/Medicaid insurance provider owned by the Church. ( http://blog.archny.org/?p=2291 ). It limits its provision of Family Planning Services benefits and notifies doctors accordingly. It is interesting to note the detailed efforts Fidelis appears to make (2007 Manual) to ensure that patients who are Fidelis members and their doctors will be informed of the identity and telephone number of other sources of the services that Fidelis elects not to provide. http://www.fideliscare.org/downloads/prov_manual/pm_16.pdf It is difficult for me to see how this situation differs substantially from the HHS grant contract issue in which Cdl. Dolan in his blog refers to "their exclusion from contracts just because they will not refer victims of human trafficking, immigrants and refugees, and the hungry of the world, for abortions, sterilization, or contraception."

Lori's comments are no more snippy than posts from regular contributors here. Give me a break. Some seem downright incensed that the bishops are daring to talk back to those tut-tittering their decidedly inappropriate fetishizing (in their view) of this issue. But "uncivil?" Come on.

A suggestion: Both here and elsewhere I think it would help the conversation if we men refrained (abstained?) from using analogies to make our points (whatever they may be) about contraception. So far, just in this thread, I've read analogies to ham sandwiches, house decks, marijuana and french fries. None of them (in my opinion) has clarified, elevated or illuminated the issues involved. All of them (again, in my opinion) are befuddling, unfortunate and/or insensitive to varying degrees.As for what Lisa Fullam said at 3/2, 5:08 pm regarding the importance of listening to women's voices on this issue---yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

Luke, I don't think I agree that this is a "women's issue". What the pill does to an individual woman is that woman's issue, but what it does to society is everyone's concern.

Luke Hill,What a bizarre, illiberal, infantilizing suggestion! I presume you don't think men should forever not use analogies. I trust that you will inform us when in your view the time is appropriate so that we can make use of analogies once again.

Luke, I think you don't quite understand what an analogy even is. The point of an analogy isn't to compare birth control itself to French fries, but to think about the (ridiculous) things that are said about how birth control is going to be "free" under some new system. If it helps, feel free to replace any analogy with the abstract terms X and Y. Here's an example: Suppose someone said, I want it to be illegal to sell X without Y along with it. But suppose a small segment of the population believed that buying Y is immoral. Would anyone be fooled as to what was going on if a compromise were that with every purchase of X, the provider of X had to make Y available for "free"? (Note: even here, one has to avoid getting distracted by the thought that birth control isn't literally the letter "X.")

" Leaving that aside, the point has been made by several commenters (and never refuted) that its a mere matter of semantics to say the policy wouldnt include contraceptive coverage, when every policy is automatically accompanied by an offer of free contraceptive coverage (while such an offer is never made without the underlying policy)."Studebaker --Yes, the point was made, and I disagreed with it. You think it wsan't refuted, I think it was. (It's those apodictic pronouncements that turn people off, Stu, "It was refuted" -- as if all that needs doing is for Studebaker to decide who won the argument.)Your post here goes off into "iffy" situaions which might be relevant as illustrative of your points. But we already know your points. Now the thing to do is to present your "sed contras", your arguments against criticism of your view. You don't win any converts until they see that you position holds up under criticism.

Ann, it's not my decision. As far as I can tell (amidst hundreds and hundreds of comments, some of which I admittedly might have missed), no one has even tried to refute the following point: If (1) The sale of X is automatically accompanied by an offer of "Free Y!", and (2) "Free Y" itself isn't ever offered outside of a particular sale of X, then obviously the sale of X and the offer of "Free Y" are being tied together. And just as obviously, since Y isn't literally free here and now (drug companies make Y, and someone has to pay them), the average cost of Y will be built into the average price of X. The difference is only cosmetic. What the Obama administration has done is exactly like this: "We'll sell you a value meal that includes a hamburger, fries, and Coke for $5.00. Never mind, actually what we'll do is sell you a hamburger for $5.00, and you can get the fries and Coke for 'free.'" Why would anyone think that the second economic transaction is so different?

Studebaker ==Your argument misses the point of the other side. You keep saying that because the insurance company pays for the contraceptives (somhow at the instigation of the bishops), qnd because other buyers of ins. will have to make up for the ins. co.'s outlay for the contraceptives that the cooperation of the bishops is so close to the buying of contraceptives that they are guilty of proximate material cooperation.Your problem seems to be you don't accept the notion of remote material cooperation as qualifyung a moral situation.

On rereading Lori's letter, I looked in vain for his strong, stage-setting statement to the effect of "Religious freedom in the United States in 2012 is ..". Instead, he leaves it to the patient reader to induce his and, presumably, the USCCB's concept from a laundry list of sore points. Is he unable to define it? Or, is it a vague, flexible, general-purpose umbrella over several challenges the Church authorities hope to settle in the public square, given their difficulties in doing so internally amongst the Catholic faithful? And, in conclusion (his), it is difficult to identify the constructive alternative he would propose that offers an ending for Church and State better than the one that is coming. The American editors tried to do that. What are the bishops interested in achieving?

Sorry, I thought I'd made a relatively innocuous comment, and then went off to do my usual Saturday errands and chores. It appears I've partially derailed the thread, for which I apologize to all. By way of quick response to those kind enough to reply to my comment at 3/3, 12:11 pm:@David Smith (3/3, 1:12 pm) I didn't state, or mean to imply, that contraception is a "women's issue" (so I perhaps we actually agree?). @Patrick Molloy (3/3, 1:43 pm) Sorry, I thought it was a liberal do-gooding, how-can-we-all-work-together-to-improve-the-quality-and-value-of-our-conversation-type suggestion. Analogize away.@Studebaker (3/3, 2:14 pm) With all due respect, I think I do know something about what an analogy is, and is used for. Again, analogize away. My experience so far in this conversation over the past few weeks is that analogies have generated more heat than light. However, I recognize that other folks may well have had a different, even opposite experience.And now (hopefully), back to the main topic.

Ann -- You keep saying that because the insurance company pays for the contraceptives (somhow at the instigation of the bishops), qnd because other buyers of ins. will have to make up for the ins. co.s outlay for the contraceptives that the cooperation of the bishops is so close to the buying of contraceptives that they are guilty of proximate material cooperation.No, I say the bishops themselves would be paying for contraception. More specifically, any insurance policy that is accompanied by an offer of "free" anything will incorporate the price of that "free anything" into the price of the policy. Therefore, whoever buys the policy is THEMSELVES actually paying money for the "free anything," just as much as you're really paying something for the "free ginsu knife if you order in the next 20 minutes" on a late night info-mercial.Another analogy: suppose that a home warranty company offers you a warranty for all structural repairs for 5 years, for $5,000. Suppose the warranty company tells you, "Look, we used to have to charge $6,000 for this policy, but we're saving money because we now supply a 'free' service that maintains your A/C and heating units every year, so that we don't have to replace them as often. This service really does cost us $500, but we're throwing it in for 'free.'" Even if all of those figures really are true (not just sales pitches), and even if you accept that the warranty company is indeed saving money in the long run by offering A/C and heating maintenance, would anyone really think that the $5,000 cost of the warranty literally included nothing whatsoever that went towards the $500 cost of the maintenance? Would anyone really contend that people who buy the warranty are not spending "one precious dollar" for the maintenance?

"Access to comprehensive health care that includes contraception is very important to most American women."Lisa - shouldn't the government devise a way to distribute contraception to women that doesn't impinge on religious liberty? Why set the two in opposition to one another?

I hold out hope that this whole brouhaha might open up a discussion on the real issue - which is not, I think, the government's intrusion on our religious liberty but rather the absurdity of the Catholic bishops' insistence that contraception - one of the most important advances in women's health - is still morally unacceptable. We Catholics came close once - until Paul VI quashed it. Are there no members of the Catholic hierarchy who are unafraid to speak on behalf of - and with - women?

Jim Pauwels, to avoid the arguments about the accomodation for Catholic Hopitals, Universities, etc, let me limit my comment to just the Catholic Taco Bell stand owner wih 50 or more employees.He will ask insurance brokers for quotes on health insurance policies that meet the government minimum standard to avoid the tax penalty for not providing adequate health insurance for your employees. All of he policies for which he receives quotes will include coverage of contraception. It is not a decision over which he has any control other than to just not buy insurance - and not provide health insurance for his employees.That issue has been discussed many times here and (I believe) most people see it as, at most, remote cooperation with evil which is allowable.You may say that, even if it is remote and allowable, he shouldn't haves to be involved in cooperation in evil at all. That is essentially the position of the person who doesn't want to pay income taxes that will, in part, be used to support an unjust war.As the editor of "America" said in their recent editorial "The campaign also risks ignoring two fundamental principles of Catholic political theology. Official Catholic rights theory proposes that people should be willing to adjust their rights claims to one another. It also assigns to government the responsibility to coordinate contending rights and interests for the sake of the common good"When Bishop Hunthausen withheld some of his income tax, the IRS garnished his salary from the diocese. I honor him for holding to his moral principles but I also believe that the IRS did what is necessary to deal with competing claims in a diverse society.

"Are there no members of the Catholic hierarchy who are unafraid to speak on behalf of and with women?"Noreen, the American bishops were once men of conscience who would warn the Vatican when they believed it was wrong. Then the Vatican started to insist that the American bishops obey Rome. Bishop Bernardin, a bishop of conscience, complained that the Vatican was treating them like altar boys. Then Cardinal Law, O'connor and the rest started to ridicule bishops like Bernardine. As a result, the bishops have become....altar boys. They complain of maltreatment from the laity. Dolan complains that the Pew study shows the laity love Jesus but not the hierarchy. Nor realizing that what the laity wants is leadership. Not altar boys.

@noreen connolly (3/3, 7:04 pm) No. Apparently there aren't. (This has been another edition of Simple Answers to Simple Questions.)@Bill Mazzella (3/3, 7:51 pm) (There's no reason to drag altar boys into this and start insulting them.)

Lisa shouldnt the government devise a way to distribute contraception to women that doesnt impinge on religious liberty?Exactly. For example, if you've determined that an extra $50 a month is just too much for all of the women-working-at-Catholic-institutions-who-have-no-significant-other-who-can-help-out, then why not have a universal redistribution program that gives more women an extra $50 a month? That way, you'd be helping the women like my wife, who is infertile due to cancer treatment and whose life would be endangered by birth control. Giving her birth control coverage is useless, and it's puzzling that the putatively women-friendly commenters/bloggers don't seem to care about people like her.

Daniel Kane "It also fails to identify the Administration as a bully using the force of law to compel a Church or a person of good will who considers contraception a sin to fund it."Studebaker and Ann have been going back and forth over this very issue, which I would think might at least prove it's NOT a given. Even before the President expanded (or proposed to expand) the religious exemption to include hospitals and universities, etc., churches weren't "compelled" to fund contraceptives. As I recall, way back then (before Feb. 10) the bishops said the Issue was how insulting it was that the Obama administration didn't "get" that the Church's mission covers far more than mere worship and that hospitals, social welfare agencies, etc., should clearly be exempted too since anybody who knows anything about Christianity knows they're part and parcel of the Church's work. Once Obama extended the exemption, they immediately changed focus to claim that the exemption isn't really an exemption, and then settled on the assertion that NO employer should have to pay for an insurance plan that covers something he considers morally objectionable. The only constant has been the hostile tone. Really, if Obama's the bully, he's been muffling his message with civility. The bishops, on the other hand, have been doing a darn good job of mimicking what bullies sound like. All of which just goes to show...I'm not sure what.

Beverly, I'm afraid you're falling for the misinformation some people have been peddling. You say, "Once Obama extended the exemption . . . ." But Obama did no such thing. The original rule went into effect, and today is the law. Obama merely says that there might be a change in the policy at some future date, but as I explained at great length above, the change that Obama has so far suggested cannot possibly make any difference, and it certainly isn't "extending" anything, as you say.

Actually, even if we assume that the promised accommodation is delivered, it is not an extension of the religious exemption.

In our local Sunday paper this morning out here in Dakota land, a letter writer used an expression I hadn't seen before in reading many online articles and columns: "the Republican bishops." This captures it very succinctly. I'm sure others have said or written this, maybe above in the comments. But it's worth stating again. It sure feels like Republican bishops more than Catholic (diversity-within-unity) bishops. As far as diversity of perspective (or gifts of the Holy Spirit), it seems the Church's large tent has shrunk to a pup tent.

Another report from very conservative and very Republican North Dakota. Our local paper this morning also has yesterday's results from the Online Poll: "Is discussion about who should pay for contraceptives a political diversion or a legitimate presidential campaign issue? Diversion 62%, Real issue 15%, A bit of both 23%"

Please God, no! Violent language leads to violence. It's past time to tamp down the rhetoric. Whatever happened to "Blessed are the peacemakers"?Where are the Carrolls, the Englands, the (Francis Patrick) Kenricks, the (Martin and John Lancaster) Spaldings, the Gibbonses, the Irelands, the Hayeses, the Mundeleins, the Spellmans, the Cushings, the Hallinans, the Deardens, the Bernardins?Why not send a delegation made up of Bishop Kicanas (the almost USCCB president), Archbishop Aymond, Bishop Cupich to the White House for quiet talks with principal White House aides? Or is the only end the defeat of President Obama?It won't be, I fear, just denying Communion to politicians this time round, but every Catholic who works for, or volunteers for, or contributes to Democratic presidential, senatorial, congressional campaigns will be said to be co-operating in evil. To say nothing of voting.There has to be some way forward other than crying "fire" in a crowded hall.

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