|This graphic shows how little of a profile women actually have in discussing a subject that directly impacts only them. This whole brouha ain't just a Catholic problem. The USCCB is just the most 'in your face' picture of this paternalism.|
When President Obama announced his compromise on birth control coverage in health insurance policies, I gave the USCCB about five seconds to announce their objections. I suspected they would state they were very concerned it didn't go far enough in protecting religious freedom and individual conscience. I was right, but it didn't take any ability as a prophet to call this one. What surprised me is they have gone much further in their concerns than I expected. Now it seems they are concerned about any one individual who works for or leads any business enterprise who might have objections to this that or the other thing and states their objections are on religious grounds. But then they also added 'moral' grounds to religious grounds. Maybe they are trying to respect the individual consciences of atheists with that addition, but I kind of doubt that. I think they are trying to rewrite the Constitution so that they are an agency outside and above the Constitution and not answerable to any form of secular government.
In the letter the fabulous five sent to their brother bishops they listed the following as their guiding principles:
Our brother bishops permit us to repeat the principles that are guiding us:
First, there is the respect for religious liberty. No government has the right to intrude into the affairs of the Church, much less coerce, the Church faithful individuals to engage in or cooperate in any way with immoral practices. (This sentence needs a corollary however, and the Fab Five aren't quite ready to state it--yet. They also believe the Church has the right to intrude into the affairs of governments and individuals and should be both free to do so without impediment, and have their intrusion enforced by government mandate.)
Second, it is the place of the Church, not of government to define its religious identity and ministry.
(Actually, this should read it is the place of we bishops to define Catholic religious identity and ministry as we see it. The USCCB certainly isn't speaking for the vast majority of lay Catholics, and they don't speak for women at all. They are speaking about themselves and their power and that has zero to do with us pew potatoes. They are stating in no uncertain terms American Catholicism is their church... period. The lay exist to pay for their Church.)
Third, we continue to oppose the underlying policy of a government mandate for purchase or promotion of contraception, sterilization or abortion inducing drugs. (Their real truth is they oppose reproductive health care for women but attempt to obfuscate that truth by listing effects like contraception, sterilization, and abortion inducing drugs. They won't state that their 'principles' reject the fundamental right of a woman to make decisions about her own life, and additionally go so far as to actually deny her any right to her own life in the reproductive process. That's too much truth to openly express and so it's spin, spin, spin.)
I am becoming more and more curious as to why President Obama pays this much attention to the Fab Five. It's not like they speak for the majority of American Catholics. Even if I credence that the centrist and progressive Catholic periodicals and writers sided with the Bishops on this issue--probably out of guilt, self preservation, or juvenile tribal identity issues, I am still befuddled as to why President Obama felt the need to attempt this compromise. If he hasn't learned by now that there is no such thing as compromise with this kind of male mindset, then he has an awfully slow learning curve. But being the eternal optimist I like to pretend I am, I think President Obama might actually be playing a sort of end around. Sometimes the only way to deal with bullies is to let them hang themselves by providing multiple opportunities for others to see just how immature, self centered, fearful, willfully ignorant, and relationally inept bullies actually are. The idea is to let bullies make themselves their own worst enemy by giving them the attention they crave
Should President Obama accomplish this with the USCCB, by letting our erstwhile leaders think they can take this religious freedom issue to ridiculous ends, he would be doing a very great service for the American Catholic Church. The bishops have already alienated a huge percentage of Catholic women, now it's only a matter of time before more Catholic men see this power play for what is--an assault on American democracy.