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Frank Brennan, S.J., on the Jesuit Pope: A View from Down Under

Frank Brennan, S.J., is a distinguished Australian Jesuit, lawyer, and human rights activist. Here are some o f his recent remarks on the new Pope:"At my regular parish mass in Canberra, I greeted the congregation with these words: "Good evening. My name is Frank and I am a Jesuit. I've had a good week. I hope you have too." I have been overwhelmed by the positive response by all sorts of people to the election of the first Jesuit pope. I have happily received the congratulations without quite knowing what to do with them, nor what I did to deserve them!"Read the rest here:

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I suspect that American culture is in the midst of a transition: from the old paradigm, in which Mainline churches, allied with a minority Catholic church, were able to realize in law a code of moral behavior that represented a majority consensus view; to a new paradigm, in which the Catholic church, stripped of its majority-Mainline alliances, will need to "play defense" in order to ensure its (still a minority) members' rights to live a Catholic life in the midst of a new consensus of moral-behavior permissiveness. Thus, gay marriage, abortion rights and employer-subsidized contraception are popular rights; Catholics need to ensure that (a) its members retain the right to abide by church tenets, rather than be forced by a tyrannical majority to violate those tenets in the name of permissiveness (whether that be Catholic institutions forced to subsidize contraception, or Catholic clergy forced to officiate at same-sex weddings); and(b) the church retains the right to preach the Gospel, including publicly.In the midst of this transition, the question for church leaders is: how vocal or how muted should be its public opposition to legal impositions that violate the church's tenets but that probably are inevitable sooner or later (cf gay marriage). I believe Governor Cuomo, in the wake of New York's passage of its same-sex marriage bill, described Cardinal Dolan's opposition as "reasonable". I take that to mean that the church was vocal/public enough in its opposition that everyone understood where the church stands on the question, but managed not to burn any bridges with the government or prominent public officials. I take that to be one of the things that Fr. Brennan is recommending here.Just speaking for myself - I'm not prepared to go as far as Fr. Brennan is on unpopular church teachings like IVF. I'm not ready to file anything in the archives. It seems to me that Jesus' admonition to the woman about to be stoned for adultery was, "Go, and sin no more". I believe that statement represents the right mixture of compassion, forgiveness and adherence to a Christian moral code. That is what the church should model in the public square.

Mr. Pauwels,Our country manages to allow the Plain Folk to abide by their tenets. No tyrannical majority suppresses the Jehovahs Witnesses or Orthodox Jews. People preach the Gospel everywhere one looks, from the fields of the Salinas Valley to the Skid Rows of our huge cities. Many of the preachers are Roman Catholics.Are there other ideas current that are available to practicing Roman Catholics? Of course, but that has always been so, here and everywhere in the world. And in every instance, unless I have misunderstood entirely, Christians believe that the responsibility for action remains with the individual, exercising her/his free will. No one is proposing that Catholic priests be forced to officiate at a gay marriage. No one proposes to require that a Catholic whose insurance coverage includes contraception be forced to use contraception. These are straw men.The difficult part for Believers is not that Unbelievers are striving to force us all into atheism and sin, but that so many of us find the proposals of the world to be sufficiently attractive that the arguments of the Church do not prevail. But it is not at all that the Church cannot make its arguments, or that those who hold certain beliefs as tenets are prevented in any way from following those beliefs. No one has ever forced me to sin; the most shallow search of my conscience makes that clear. There is no plot by a tyrannical majority in America to close the Churches or to prevent anyone from preaching the Gospel. That there are articulate atheists who argue against a belief in God has been a constant feature of the world since Socrates, if not before. The threat to the Church is that that it has lost the moral authority needed to speak definitively to our spiritual development. When the Church walks humbly in the presence of its God (Micah) - I think of the Catholic Workers communities, of St. Francis bathing the leper, of the true preferential option for the poor people listen, and by seeing a convergence of action and words, come to be convinced. Physician, heal thyself.Mark

"Our country manages to allow the Plain Folk to abide by their tenets."Mark, the American moral dilemma now is that there is almost no "our country" left. About all we have now is a consensus democracy, with no underlying morality at all - just momentary majorities on large emotional issues that bear strongly on morality but pay it no heed or even respect, as such. In this situation, you'll soon start collecting - you've already begun to collect - laws that very much force minorities - that is, any groups not in the political ascendency - to behave as the majority of the moment feels they should behave. If the Church cannot stand firm in the midst of this constantly shifting desert, what good is it?

Mark --Who do you know that is being forced to violate their religious consciences within the border of the U. S. A.? Who is forcing them? What are they being forced to do or not do?

Oops -- My last post was really directed to David. Sorry, Mark.

More than one of the Founding Father of this nation noted, that American democracy will only endure for so long as the public is morally decent/upright - God fearing. Once the public loses its moral compass, once the moral supports are rotted or are pulled out from under a society, the structure of democracy begins to weaken and wobble. The forms and routines will remain of course, but the depth, the vigor will begin to fade.

Is American democracy fundamentally different from democracy in other countries, say Western Europe, where it is doing just fine with a non-God-fearing (and yet somehow, still generally morally decent!) populace?

(Yes, I know "Western Europe" isn't a country. Sigh. I really need to preview before I submit.)

Jen - You raise a good point. American democracy is different from the European version(s), one main difference being that Europeans civil rights are granted either by king or the civil government, whereas we Americans have always maintained that our rights are inalienable, and granted us by our Creator.This is not to say that Europeans suffer unduly; it is only to note a fundamental difference between our system and theirs.

"Who do you know that is being forced to violate their religious consciences within the border of the U. S. A.?"The owners of Hobby Lobby.

"No one proposes to require that a Catholic whose insurance coverage includes contraception be forced to use contraception. These are straw men."Your first sentence I've quoted here is a straw man.It's not only proposed, but now a law in force, that business owners with conscientious objections to subsidizing contraception, must subsidize their employees' contraception.

Oh well, selling off Catholics schools and hospitals, and selling the brick-and-mortar parts of various Catholic social services is straightforward enough; don't worry, the bishops will be fine.Catholic business people will have special challenges; Hobby Lobby is only one example. The owners cannot in good conscience fund the contraception mandate the federal government is requiring. If they lose in court, and if they want to stay true to their stated values, they will need to sell the business and put their monies to work elsewhere, maybe in the stock market for example, or in small, micro-business venturesIf we lay-Catholics are as loyal to Truth, and as vigorous about it as we claim we want our bishops to be, more and more lay Catholics will need sell their businesses and excuse themselves from the business world of more than 50 employees - 50 being the number of employees above which, employers need to provide health insurance that comports with (is approved by) the federal Obama-care. Lay Catholics will need to understand what is meant by the expression being in the world, but not of the world.The end result might well be, that while mainline Americans trod toward a Godless, gray, utopian future, filled with abortions, sterilizations, euthanasia for the weak and ultimately, black pills for the elderly (a nightmare for sure), Catholics will be small, main street business people, micro-capitalists, and will need to provide - for the Catholic community - as best we can.That might be what Benedict meant a few years ago when he mentioned a smaller, purer Church. American Catholics may need to adopt a sort of hunker down, ghetto-mode in order to ride out the insanity of the hour; optimistic, but keeping a low profile. And once the secular utopian dream of this hour materializes into the nightmare that all man-made utopias eventually become, once it has run its dreary course and the mainline public realizes the error and revolts sadly all that might even involve bloodshed the Catholic Church will still be there, guarding Eternal Truth, and Catholics will need to be ready and willing, to happily and optimistically present it to the world yet again.

Um, Jim, re-read that sentence. Who is forcing anyone to use contraception? How exactly are they forcing people to buy and use pills or other contraceptives?

Exactly, Clair. No one denies that the employer must provide the coverage. The point is the employee is not obliged to use that part of the coverage. Jen Roth, Europe is "God fearing." It is the regard for organized religion that is down. We must make that distinction. http://www.christiantoday.com/article/majority.of.europeans.believe.in.g..., A overwhelming majority of Catholics and clergy accept contraception as morally right. So your fantasy about truth is just that.

"Um, Jim, re-read that sentence. Who is forcing anyone to use contraception? "I both read it and re-read it. I described it as a straw man because nobody is forcing anybody to use contraception - and nobody has claimed otherwise.

Claire You are correct in that the government is not forcing anyone to use contraception or be sterilized, but that is not the point. The point is that the government has regulations in place that will force employers regardless of the employers moral objections - to pay for insurance that offers free birth control pills, and that also cover sterilizations and some abortifacients.Analogies are never fully accurate, but here goes: Imagine Claire, that you are an employer who does not approve of drinking beer. For reasons of your own, you find drinking abhorrent and simply do not approve of it. And then imagine the government deciding that one 6-pack of beer each week is every workers right, and that all employers will be forced to: either buy the beer directly and distribute to the employees, or if they object to that, they can apply for an 'accommodation' which would allow the boss to purchase vouchers that can only be used at the local liquors store to buy beer (and nothing else), and hand those out to the workers.You might object, and the government would say; Nobody is forcing you to drink beer Claire, and with the voucher accommodation, nobody is forcing you to purchase beer directly. We (the government) will not buy the beer, but we will make sure your employees get the beer that is their right.:D

Or you could sustitute cigarettes in place of beer. If you are a Jewish or Muslim employer, or maybe even a Vegan amployer, you could substitute ham sandwiches or pork loin for the beer.Hmmm, beer and sandwiches - I am getting hungry!

Oh, right. We agree that nobody is forcing anybody to use contraception. My bad.

Ken, insurance is not "buying the beer directly and distributing it to the employees." Your analogy would be more on point if the employer gave gift certificates to the local grocery store to employees as part of their compensation for whatever reason, but then decided they could only use those gift certificates to buy employer-approved items. That's not the employer's place, and it's not violating their rights to not allow them to do that.(I don't think health insurance is all that similar to a grocery gift certificate, but you go to internet comments with the analogies you have, not the analogies you wish you had.)

Jim Pauwels wrote: "I think that much of the current uproar relates to differing views about the purpose of the civil law - whether it is supposed to make people good by promoting a particular view of morality or simply to provide the setting in which people of diverse beliefs can live together peacefully. The system the US has arrived at to do the second of those has been remarkably successful and I am reluctant to tamper with it. "First Things has an article "Eudaimonia in America" by Robert T. Miller:"For people like us in a society like ours, a necessary condition of social stability is that, when we decide contentious normative issues, we do so in a way that allows wide participation and open debate and is generally majoritarian. If a constitution is to be permanent, Aristotle says, all parts of the state must wish that it should exist and the same arrangements be maintained. Given our history and our pluralism, it is hard to imagine the American people supporting any political system that was not essentially liberal. A prudent eudaimonist will understand this and will support a liberal system of government on pragmatic grounds.My loyalty to the American system stems from such a pragmatic judgment. The liberal political system of the United States allows a Catholic like me to pursue my final end with remarkably little interference from others. Given our pluralism and the fact that many philosophical liberals would very much like to direct my life to accord with their views, views that Deneen and I agree are wrongheaded and damaging, this is no small thing and should be cherished and defended.Aristotle himself said that the best is often unattainable, and therefore the true legislator and statesman ought to be acquainted not only with that which is best in the abstract but also with that which is best relative to the circumstances. For people like us in a society like ours, this means a liberal political order, understood as a related set of pragmatic political compromises among people with diverse interests and beliefs, for such a system provides us the best hope of leading good human lives. Read it all: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2013/03/eudaimonia-in-america

Sorry, forgot to fill in the quote from JimJim Pauwels wrote: "I suspect that American culture is in the midst of a transition: from the old paradigm, in which Mainline churches, allied with a minority Catholic church, were able to realize in law a code of moral behavior that represented a majority consensus view; "

Bill sez "An overwhelming majority of Catholics and clergy accept contraception as morally right."Bill - Pope Paul VI (per Humanae Vitae) and every pope since then would beg to differ with you.If one day the Pope comes out and agrees with you Bill, then I will too. Until then, I will take my chances and follow the Holy See.

Ken, that's not right. Don't reject contraception just because the Pope says so. Instead, reject contraception because you believe that contraception is wrong. You're welcome to use the Pope's views and arguments as ways for you arrive to that conclusion, but ultimately you've got to follow your own judgment, and you are responsible for it.

Of course, the authority of the pope is part of what convinces you, but you still have to use your brain to listen to his reasons (knowing that, well, he's the pope, he deserves a respectful hearing with an open mind) and to find yourself swayed by them. Saying "If one day the Pope comes out and agrees with you Bill, then I will too" suggests that you are on automatic. That's not right.

Claire - and Mark Logsdon, and everyone else - sorry if I'm coming across as snippy. I want to make sure that I'm being understood. In the matter of the HHS mandate, there are a number of issues all rolled into one: the alleged moral good of contraception; the government's right to impose such a mandate on private entities; the right of individuals to cite a conscientious objection; the remoteness of cooperation in evil that the mandate represents; the role of church authorities in speaking on behalf of such objectors; the strategy to be pursued by church authorities in the public square; the legal strategy of litigants; and presumably many others. What prompted my comment in Brennan's piece is his suggestion that the Holy Father may be setting an example on dialing down the public rhetoric. Most of those other issues I've listed here, I believe we've discussed to death already :-) I don't want to get caught up in those other issues, at least not on this particular thread.

"'Who do you know that is being forced to violate their religious consciences within the border of the U. S. A.?'The owners of Hobby Lobby."and, earlier,"(a) its members retain the right to abide by church tenets, rather than be forced by a tyrannical majority to violate those tenets in the name of permissiveness (whether that be Catholic institutions forced to subsidize contraception, or Catholic clergy forced to officiate at same-sex weddings); and(b) the church retains the right to preach the Gospel, including publicly."So, can we at least agree that, if this is a slippery slope argument, we are at the very earliest point on a very looooong slope?

Mark Preece: I know of nothing that is intrinsically invalid about slippery slope arguments. This is particularly the case when I happen to be the one making it :-)I'm glad you agree that we're not on level ground on this matter. I'd note that the HHS mandate is not the first little slip-slide downhill.

I expect one of the contributors will post about this later but for anyone who wants to start to study the. USCCB official response to the proposed HHS contraception regulations it is here:http://www.usccb.org/about/general-counsel/rulemaking/upload/2013-NPRM-C...

One simply cannot have a country of 310 Million people and allow every individual to decide which laws of general applicability will be binding and which will not. I claim to be morally opposed to capital punishment. In CA I will self-identify on this issue in a jury questionnaire in a capital case, and I will be excused from the jury pool. But I still must pay my State taxes, some portion of which go to the maintenance of the capacity to execute persons tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death. The same situation arises with respect to the portion of my Federal taxes that go to, say, using drones for targeted killing, or maintaining a nuclear first-strike capability, or ... The taxes are costs of citizenship, and if I found them too burdensome whether to my conscience or to my wallet, I could move to another state or country where these issues do not arise. I could also decline to pay my taxes and go to prison for my conscience. I understand there are people who make this decision, and it is theirs to make. My moral discernment does not require me to make that choice. In which, of course, I may be wrong.My company offers its emloyees insurance coverage that includes contraception and a range of medical procedures that certainly includes D&C. We are a small business, and I am under no obligation to provide these or any coverages. I do not provide coverage out of any compulsion of a tyrannical majority, nor does it have anything whatsoever to do with "permissiveness." I do so in order that my employees and their depedents may be relieved of most of the stress that comes with being medically-uninsured persons in America. How they lead their moral lives is a matter I leave entirely to their conscience. As I hope that they, and all others, will leave me to lead my own moral life.Mark

"My company offers its emloyees insurance coverage that includes contraception and a range of medical procedures that certainly includes D&C. We are a small business, and I am under no obligation to provide these or any coverages. I do not provide coverage out of any compulsion of a tyrannical majority, nor does it have anything whatsoever to do with permissiveness. I do so in order that my employees and their depedents may be relieved of most of the stress that comes with being medically-uninsured persons in America."How wonderful that you as an employer were able to align your vocation with your moral views. That seems to me to be the very essence of freedom. That right has been taken away from the owners of Hobby Lobby by the government. The term for that deprivation is "tyranny". But it seems to me that the topic at hand is: how should church leaders respond to this situation? What should be the tone and pitch of their rhetoric? Should they, as Fr. Brennan seems to imply, choose to remain silent out of respect for others' moral codes?

Fair questions, fairly stated. Could we consider expanding them to "how should the Church respond?" Perhaps your view is that these are not different questions, but I would have thought that a central issue for the Catholic Church in the near future is to resolve what shall be the relationship between the "leaders" (which I imagine - please correct me if I am wrong - would be the Bishops) and the parish-based, faithful men and women, including the pastorate and its first-line support and also the laity. Fr. Brennan's issue seems to me a very fair one in a diverse democratic state. Maybe this is a matter of "tone and pitch of rhetoric". I see no reason why in our system anyone would feel constrained to speak out, but perhaps the nature of the speech can be more or less definitively worded.On Hobby Lobby, I think we should just agree to disagree. Mark

Verbitsky, the Argentinian reporter who loudly accused Bergoglio, has back-tracked a lot. " In an article on page 12 of the daily which published his accusations against the Pope, Verbitsky recalled that Jalics had declared his reconciliation with Bergoglio and reconciliation is a Catholic sacrament which involves forgiveness for offences committed. But he also admits that the new statement goes far beyond that, exempting Bergoglio from all responsibility. Nevertheless, the journalist added that the priest himself admitted he had thought the accusations had been made against himself and Orlando Yorio and that it took him a quarter of a century before he arrived at a different conclusion and before he could say that it is a mistake to say Bergoglio was responsible for their arrests. "Finally, Verbitsky recalled that Yorio (now deceased), Jalics and other sources had issued a number of different statements over the years, claiming that not only did the then Fr. Bergoglio do nothing to help free the two priests from prison they were illegally detained for over five months but that he had reported them to the dictatorships authorities as subversive.OTHER NEWS"http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/the-vatican/detail/articolo/francis... ]

Per Mark I claim to be morally opposed to capital punishment. In CA I will self-identify on this issue in a jury questionnaire in a capital case, and I will be excused from the jury pool. But I still must pay my State taxes, some portion of which go to the maintenance of the capacity to execute persons tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death Ah, this is a common logical error Mark. I am not trying to be overly critical, please know you seem like a smart fellow. But you and others who follow this line are missing a key point. The HHS mandate is Not talking about using federal tax money to provide service Catholics find objectionable. The HHS mandate tells Catholics we must buy those objectionable services personally, with our money. The government is not taking tax money and deciding how to spend it. The government is telling you and I how to spend our own money, period end of story. First it says we must buy something, simply because we are breathing, and then it insist we buy something we find deeply objectionable.I agree with you on capital punishment; I do not support it either. However the ship of state is driven by the current will of the majority of voters, and for whatever reason, the majority of Americans, for now anyway, think capital punishment is necessary.Think for a moment of the Mexico City policy. Years ago at a meeting in Mexico City, Reagan issed an executive order the prohibited the US government from funding UN programs that provided abortions. Republicans were dring the US ship of state then, and so that order accurately reflected the will of the majority. When Clinton won office in the 90s, in accordance with the Democrats party platform, he quickly recsined the Mexico City policy and money flowed from the US government to fund UN programs and helps pay for abortions. When Republicans won the presidency again, Bush reinstated the policy and we stopped funding UN abortion programs. Now with Obama, we are funding them again.That is how it goes with taxes and tax dollars; the governemt collect tax money and it is supposed to spend it the way the majority of voters prefer at that moment.This HHS mandate however, where the federal government is Not paying the fiddler, but insists on calling the tune, is not only not justifiable, it represents a dangerous mindset that is far worse, in that it shows those who came up with the policy are either astoundingly ignorant of the US Constitution, or that they simply do not value it at all.Either way, the whole matter is very worrisome indeed.

"The HHS mandate tells Catholics we must buy those objectionable services personally, with our money."According to my employer's HR department, the health insurance policy I earn as compensation for my labor belongs to me, not them. So employers are not buying contraception "personally, with [their] money." They are compensating their employees with insurance policies, and the employees and their doctors are choosing how to use those insurance policies. One option, among very many, is that they may choose to use them to plan their childbearing. That decision is several steps removed from the employer; it does not imply the employer's approval, nor does it implicate the employer's morality in any way.Do you believe employers should be allowed to tell employees how to use their paychecks?

Jen - If health insurance was considered to be income, it would be subject to federal income tax.

Where I work we have a choice of Kaiser Permanente or Blue Shield (I prefer Kasier). Next year (for our business) Blue Shield will go away, and we all will be on Kaiser. And so the notion that as employees, you or I have a say in the insurance is not true.He who pays the fiddler gets to call the tune. The employer pays for most of our helathcare premium, and so he (or she) gets to decide where he will buy it, and what it will be.The upshot is, your quip about the boss telling his employees what to do with their paychecks sounds good/quick, but it simply does not apply to this situation.

Jen - Your HR department is trying to get you to believe that health insurance is part of your pay. They say those sorts of things in order to keep downward pressure on employees' hourly/monthly pay - that is simply part of their job.They are lying of course; health insurance it is not part of your pay.

Ken wrote: "They are lying of course; health insurance it is not part of your pay"Perhaps you are niggling on the word "pay". It is part of your compensation for the work you do for your employer. If St Ann's hospital pays you $50,000 and provides health insurance that costs it $15,000 for your family, you are getting more compensation than if you take the same job with St. Elizabeth's hospital for $50,000 with no insurance. If you work for an employer with more the 250 employees, you will see the cost of our health insurance on the W2 form you received at the end of January. Smaller employers will begin showing it on W2's next year. Although it shows on the W2, it is non-taxable income (in most cases).

I wrote, in reference to the US bishops and the HHS contraception mandate: "how should church leaders respond to this situation? What should be the tone and pitch of their rhetoric? Should they, as Fr. Brennan seems to imply, choose to remain silent out of respect for others moral codes?"Mark Logsdon replied, "Fair questions, fairly stated. Could we consider expanding them to how should the Church respond? Perhaps your view is that these are not different questions, but I would have thought that a central issue for the Catholic Church in the near future is to resolve what shall be the relationship between the leaders (which I imagine please correct me if I am wrong would be the Bishops) and the parish-based, faithful men and women, including the pastorate and its first-line support and also the laity."Two answers that I believe are the wrong answers to the question, "How should the Church respond?" are (1) "Only the bishops may speak on behalf of the church on this matter" and (2) "the Church's views on the contraception mandate may be determined by the techniques of public opinion pollsters".My own view is as follows:* The bishops, who possess teaching authority on faith and morals, have a responsibility to inform (and form) the church as to what has been authoritatively taught by the church regarding this complex of issues that have arisen as a result of the HHS contraception mandate. This would include such topics as the teachings contained in Humanae Vitae, and the church's views on religious liberty and church/state relations. It could also include the formation and exercise of individual conscience, the rights and obligations of employees and employers, the rights and obligations of Catholic public officials, the process of determining the proximity of cooperation with evil, and the obligations of citizens in the face of an unjust law. I am sure there are other areas as well.* The Church as a whole, which includes many different stakeholders in the HHS mandate, of various types, levels and roles, has an obligation to listen respectfully and seriously to what its teachers teach on these matters. Dialogue - both speaking and listening - among these stakeholders is necessary. Ultimately, the Church needs to be able to give the type of free assent to church teachings t as appropriate to the type of teaching under consideration, and direct its public words and actions in accordance with that assent.* FWIW, I don't see that the bishops must be the public face of the entire church in the public square on the HHS mandate. Those of us who live "in the world" bear the primary responsibility for public words and actions. This is happening, of course, even though the bishops have garnered a share of prominence - perhaps disproportionately so. Bishops who are organized into a national conference and who form committees, make spokespersons available and issue public statements and media releases are relatively easy for the news media to cover.

"He who pays the fiddler gets to call the tune."That does seem to be the principle underlying this issue, yes, but I wouldn't call it a moral concern. More of a power struggle.

Ok Jen, I will tell you how many packs and what kind of cigarettes to buy each week.And you are Ok with that little power struggle? After all, my forcing you to spend your money as I see fit, is not a really moral issue.;D

Oh and of course, I will not force you to smoke the cigarettes; just to pay for them - so they are available.

Ken, if you are willing to grapple with the difference between paying for an insurance policy that can potentially be used for many different drugs or procedures depending on an individual's health needs, and directly buying a product and giving it to someone, I would be willing to have that conversation. If you're going to keep acting as though there's no difference, I am not.

Per John If St Anns hospital pays you $50,000 and provides health insurance that costs it $15,000 for your family, you are getting more compensation than if you take the same job with St. Elizabeths hospital for $50,000 with no insurance.And what business is it of the government, whether or not St Anns hospital does pay for (buys) insurance that cover contraceptives, sterilizations, or abortion?I can see where, for the sake of the common good, the government can require St. Elizabeths hospital and other large employers (i.e., 50 employees or more) to also provide insurance, but again, I cannot see why the government is so insistent about employers buying contraceptives etc.. Why would the government force employers into such a position? Basically they are forcing employers to finance the personal habits/lifestyles of their employees, habits and lifestyle the employer might find grubby and repugnant.If the government wants to use tax money to provide free contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortifacients, why doesnt Obama and crowd do that? I think it best if people pay for their lifestyle choices themselves.

Jen I will try to be clearer; I am not talking about how the government spends tax money. I am talking about unelected government bureaucrats telling you what to do with you money.There is a difference between paying taxes, and the duly-elected government spending those taxes as they think the public wants them to, and someone romping into your life and telling you first that you need to buy something (health insurance for your employees), and then insisting you purchase what they tell you to i.e., insurance that covers things you find morally offensive.The politician who decides incorrectly and spends money in a way the public does not like is subject to the ballot box and can be voted out of office. The nameless, faceless, grey bureaucrats (rule writers) are HHS is not subject to re-election. Please try not to veer down the rabbit hole.

http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/343460/unmourned-mark-steyn. . . It's all about a woman's "right to choose". What women? Well, how about a miss Robyn Reid and Davida Johnson:FIFTEEN-YEAR-OLD Robyn Reid didn't want an abortion. But when her grandmother forcibly took her to an abortion clinic one wintry day in 1998, Reid figured she'd just tell the doctor her wishes and then sneak away.Instead, Kermit Gosnell barked: "I don't have time for this!" He then ripped off her clothes, spanked her, wrestled her onto a dirty surgical stretcher, tied her flailing arms and legs down and pumped sedatives into her until she quit screaming and lost consciousness, she told the In 2001, Davida Johnson changed her mind about aborting her 6-month fetus after seeing Gosnell's dazed, bloodied patients in his recovery room, she said. But in the treatment room, Gosnell's staffers ignored her protests, slapped her, tied her arms down and sedated her into unconsciousness, she said. She awoke no longer pregnant.Oh. Well, "Dr" Gosnell's just one rogue abortionist. How about the "right to choose" over at Planned Parenthood? There are a whole range of choices - not so much for the illegally smuggled underage foreign sex slave, but at least for her pimp. If you're a middle-aged guy running a child-sex business, you have the "right to choose" what's best for that 13-year old Venezuelan hottie you brought over a couple weeks back. As the Falls Church clinic assures him:We don't necessarily look at the legal status, like I said.That's good to know." " . . . And so it goes two years on, at Doctor Gosnells trial: "Medical" assistant Adrienne Moton admitted Tuesday that she had cut the necks of at least 10 babies after they were delivered, as Gosnell had instructed her. Gosnell and another employee regularly snipped the spines to ensure fetal demise, she said.Moton recalled taking a cellphone photograph of one baby because he was bigger than any she had seen aborted before. She measured the fetus at nearly 30 weeks, and thought he could have survived, given his size and pinkish color. Gosnell later joked that the baby was so big he could have walked to the bus stop, she said. . . ."----------------------------It is an odd (interesting?) time, when a story like this gets so little coverage from mainstream media outlets.

Ken: you concede that you can understand why the government would require employers to provide insurance as part of their employee compensation. If you were against that, I'd understand, by the way -- I'm not crazy with the whole model of insurance being tied to employment, though I also realize that we have to start *somewhere* on the road to universal coverage, and we're starting from a place where insurance already is tied to employment to a large degree.But given that you're OK with the requirement that employers provide insurance, do you think there should be standards for what is provided in that insurance, so that there is a minimum level that everyone is guaranteed to have? And if you're OK with *that*, what do you think the minimum level should be based on? The standards for the no-copay preventive services were based on what is beneficial for the health of broad-based segments of the population, and allow for the prevention or early treatment of common and costly problems. Do you agree that that's an appropriate basis? (Family planning prevents a number of negative health outcomes for both women and children, as planned and properly spaced pregnancies are healthier for both.) You think some of those preventive services are immoral. Other people think some of the others (vaccines, mental health services) are immoral or against their religion. Medically speaking, that's irrelevant to the question of their inclusion in standard insurance benefits.

And again, I would point out that the employer does not purchase birth control directly or directly give it to anyone, any more than New Agers are buying vaccines for their employees or Scientologists are buying Prozac for theirs. They're basically buying "the ability to access medical care," and the employees and their doctors are deciding what medical care is appropriate for them.

To Jim Pauwels; re: responses of the Church.Thank you for a concise but comprehensive reply. You are admirably clear on your positions, and this helps me greatly in understanding. It seems to me the discussion and the distinctions you present here are deeply relevant in any number of matters beyond the HHS Mandate.I shall think about this framework, and try to apply it to what I see happening with respect to Catholic words and positions as this and other issues roll out. Mark

Jen Roth: "..buying the ability to access medical care, and the employees and their doctors are deciding what medical care is appropriate for them"This is exactly the context in which our company offers medical insurance. Thanks for the clear statement.Mark

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