Thursday, June 28, 2012

How Will the Church Respond to the Contraception Mandate?

The June 28, 2012 Supreme Court decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act (commonly termed Obamacare) quashed the hopes of conservative Catholics that a decision by the Obama administration to require religious employers to provide contraception might be repealed in the immediate future. In short, the mother of all clashes is brewing between the Catholic Church and the Obama administration.
On August 1, 2012, health plans for most organizations will be required to cover contraception, “emergency contraceptives,” and sterilization procedures. The mandate will be extended to non-profit religious employers on August 1, 2013. Narrow religious exemptions have been granted, but as Cardinal Wuerl has pointed out, not even Mother Teresa would qualify for these exemptions.
In other words, the Obama administration is forcing institutions affiliated with the Catholic Church to pay for coverage of contraceptives, “emergency contraception,” and sterilization. After being pressured by religious groups, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) tweaked the mandate so that insurance companies would be forced to provide contraception instead of Catholic institutions themselves. But Catholic institutions would be paying insurance companies to provide birth control to employees, so the religious objections of Catholics have not been resolved. (Besides, since many Catholic companies and dioceses self-insure, the major sticking point remains for Catholics in a host of cases.)
If the Church did comply and provided contraception coverage to its employees, it would signify that the Church’s moral teaching on contraception could be changed. And the Church would instantly lose all credibility if She reversed herself on contraception or any of Her other moral teachings; if She could reverse Herself on one critical teaching at the whim of the state, any of Her teachings would be mutable.
Accordingly, the Catholic Church is treating the HHS mandate as a serious blow to religious freedom. Every single one of the Catholic bishops in America has sworn that the Church will not and cannot comply with the Obama administration’s mandate. President Obama refuses to budge on the matter. The Catholic Church is now celebrating a “Fortnight for Freedom” – two weeks of prayer and penance as part of a “great hymn of prayer for our country” – in response to the HHS mandate.
The Catholic Church can choose to respond to the HHS mandate in several different ways. Here is a brief overview of the ways the Church can choose to respond to it. This list will also examine historical precedents for these choices.

1)      The “Nuclear Option” – Shutdown  

If the Obama administration continues to force church-affiliated institutions to provide contraception to their employees, the Catholic Church may be forced to shut many facilities down. Rather than comply with the mandate, church authorities could shut down schools, hospitals, and charities.
In recent years, this has already taken place on a small scale. Rather than be forced to cater to homosexual couples, many affiliates of Illinois Catholic Charities shut their doors. Under similar pressure from the state to recognize homosexual couples, affiliates of Catholic Charities in Boston and Washington D.C. closed their adoption programs.
However, if Catholic schools and charities closed in large enough numbers, societal chaos would erupt. Tens of thousands of people are employed by Catholic-affiliated institutions, and millions of Catholics and non-Catholics alike are served by these institutions. The suffering wrought by the decision to close the Church’s affiliated institutions would be immense.
But the alternative for the Catholic Church is impossible. This would truly be the Church’s nuclear option – one She would take only if there were no other choice.

2)      Passive Resistance

The Church could take a path of passive resistance – refusing to close affiliated institutions, while at the same time refusing to pay the fines mandated by the government as a penalty for not complying with the mandate. This would force the government to punish these institutions in other ways.
Essentially, this option would be a form of civil disobedience – namely, the refusal to obey an unjust law. This has historical precedent in the civil rights movement. Civil rights figures adopted tactics of passive resistance to fight against racial discrimination, crowding jails, refusing to pay fines, and not obeying what they (rightfully) considered to be unjust and discriminatory laws.
This is a potentially rewarding strategy, but one fraught with peril. The danger is that the government would be able to effectively punish Catholics without media or public outcry. In that case, those adopting this strategy would be punished by the government with little fanfare.
However, this option could potentially to make the Obama administration look very bad. Catholic charities punished or shut down by the government, because they refused to deny a key teaching of their faith, would draw the sympathy of fair-minded outside supporters, and could spark a massive public outcry.

3)       Obama Caves

This, of course, would be the ideal outcome. President Obama could simply rescind the HHS mandate regarding Catholics and contraception, and no conflict of religious liberty would exist.
It is possible, but very unlikely, that this outcome will occur. If the Church and Her allies were able to bring enough pressure on Obama, he might be forced to bend, as he did with the issue of gay marriage. There is the possibility of an “October surprise” on the part of Obama; a decision to “give in” to the Church might take place to pacify recalcitrant Catholics near the election, if his poll numbers were bad enough.
However, this is very unlikely. Obama and his administration implemented this contraception decision in an election year. He has since sworn that he will not compromise on this issue. He and his feminist allies wanted this fight badly; he chose an election year to implement this decision.
This outcome would occur only if an incredible amount of pressure was brought to bear on the President.

4)      Paying the Fines

Those who refuse to obey the mandate will be penalized with fines. Church businesses could pay fines (of $2000 for each individual employee employed by the institution), so that they would not have to pay insurance companies to cover contraception, “emergency contraception,” and sterilization.
For historical comparison, one would have to go back to Elizabethan England. During the Elizabethan era, refusal to attend established Anglican Church services resulted in fines. At first, the fines for not attending state-sponsored services were small. Later, the governments increased the fines to massive amounts, and only extremely wealthy Catholics could afford to pay those fines.
The likelihood of Catholic businesses paying fines to the government on a large scale is slim, for two reasons. The first is that Church businesses simply don’t have enough money to afford paying the government fines; only wealthy Catholic businesses could utilize this option. Also, this option would legitimize the mandate, effectively subordinating religious institutions to the state.

5)      The Bishops Cave

Hypothetically speaking, the bishops could give in and permit Church-affiliated institutions to accept the HHS mandate. But there is absolutely no chance that this will happen.
As previously noted, every single Catholic bishop in the United States of America opposes the mandate. Besides, the Church could not defend Her teaching on contraception if Her institutions were forced to provide it to their employees. If the Church were to cave on this decision, She would immediately lose all moral authority.

So what will happen?

Cardinal Francis George of Chicago succinctly summarized the Church’s options, declaring: “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. (I did not examine this option, because this could not be implemented in all cases, and the institutions in question would not remain Catholic.) 4) Close down.” 
So what will happen if the mandate remains in place? Individual Catholic businesses will adopt a combination of these paths. A few wealthy businesses may be able to pay fines to the government. Poorer, smaller Catholic-owned businesses may be forced to shut down. Charities may continue to operate and refuse to pay the fines, daring the government to shut them down.
However, it is difficult to say which option the majority of Church businesses will take, assuming the mandate remains in place until it is implemented. But this much is clear. The Obama administration’s HHS mandate is nothing less than a declaration of war against the Catholic Church and religious liberty – and the Church will defend Her teachings on the morality of contraception with Her very life.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

On the Rarity of Human Beauty

There is a reason why practically every Christian virgin martyr during the early persecutions was described as beautiful by outside observers.
The early Christian martyrs had the love of God burning within them. The love of God present in the human person makes one beautiful. And the deeper the presence of God in a human, the greater his or her beauty is.
It’s amazing how many men and women could be beautiful, if they wished to be – and how few of us are actually beautiful. There are many attractive women; after all, God designed women to be attractive to men! There are even many pretty women - the female face and form is pleasant for men to view. But beauty is a higher plane of attraction, implying a sensible, detectable level of goodness, present in the human body.
This is not to say that few of us are physically attractive. I have elsewhere distinguished between the terms sexy, pretty, and beautiful. 
There are few truly beautiful women – women in whom the love of God shines through, whose appearances reveal a willingness to follow God wherever He leads, whose voices reflect the sweetness and innocence of sanctity.
The few truly beautiful women I have been blessed to meet have nearly brought me to my knees – their appearance practically commands awe.
I am a male, so I naturally am more focused on the beauty of women. (I'm sexist like that. Sorry.) But the corollary is true in men.
There are few beautiful men – men in whom service becomes an elegant artform, whose voices resound with the power and authority of one who has mastered himself, in whom the power of protective strength is manifest.
Most, if not all, of us are capable of beauty - if we would simply forsake our own wills, and follow God's will.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Reflections on the Sandusky Verdict

Former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky was just found guilty of 45 counts of child molestation. If media reports are correct, the decision was eminently just, and Sandusky was clearly guilty of disgusting crimes.
Justice has been served - and justice is only to be welcomed. But many people are demanding more than mere justice for Sandusky. Cries are coming from a host of sources that Sandusky himself be raped in prison, and even that he "rot in hell." 
That reaction disturbs me intensely. It may be a natural reaction of fallen humanity to wish horrible things on hateful people – but it is not a Christian reaction.
Most of us have skeletons of our own in our closets. I know I have absolutely nightmarish skeletons in mine. And I know that my crimes would earn me the undying scorn of those who don't know me.
I would never defend a child molester. Anyone who would commit a crime of that nature has plumbed the depths of evil, and should be punished to the full extent of the law. But I would never pray that anyone, even a child molester, "rot in Hell." Nor would I pray that those who foolishly defend him rot in Hell, either (as I have seen others do).
My own sins are many. And if I would ask for mercy for myself, I must offer mercy to others.
I pray for Sandusky's repentance, not his torture and death. Even the worst humans can be converted and brought to Christ. I know this, because I have been.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Defining Sport

The egalitarian tendencies of modern feminism induces otherwise intelligent individuals to argue breathtakingly ridiculous positions. Take this article, which essentially posits that women are capable of challenging men in sports like baseball, tennis, etc. (Read the comments if you want a rebuttal.)
This article does spark the question of what exactly constitutes a sport in the first place. I am about to share some highly provocative and speculative thoughts on this topic, which have sparked several family disagreements.
So now, as punishment for my family’s rejection of my infinite wisdom, I inflict my infinite wisdom on you. (The faint of heart or easily offended should probably leave now.) Here are my criteria for what constitutes a sport:
           1. A sport must involve moderate-to-intense physical activity and some level of human locomotion. This eliminates horse racing, auto racing, boating, and other events where the mode of locomotion is machine or animal powered. This also eliminates games such as darts, archery, and other contests which measure aim and accuracy.
            2. A sport must have a measure of scoring that depends on objective means. This eliminates gymnastics, figure skating, and other contests dependent upon the whims of judges.
      3. The ELITE males in a sport must ALWAYS be better than the ELITE females in a sport. This point, as you will find, merely reinforces the first two points.
      For those of you who made it to the end without throwing a brick through their computer, I congratulate you.  For those of you offended by what you perceive to be blatant sexism:


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Government in the Bedroom?

The feminist movement often argues that the government should stay out of the bedrooms of its citizens, arguing that the state should simply ignore citizens’ personal and sexual lives altogether.
If they really want to achieve this end, they should stop demanding that the government fully subsidize their birth control. By subsidizing birth control, government effectively intrudes into the bedrooms of its citizens.
For contraception is not health care (except in rare cases, and then it is only contraceptive per accidens.) By funding contraception, government is effectively subsidizing childlessness by choice, encouraging casual sexual behavior.
In order for government to truly “get out of the bedroom,” government would need to stop funding contraception and abortion altogether, and place no restrictions on contraceptive devices. Only then would government be truly “out of the bedroom.”
When feminists argue that “government should stay out of the bedroom,” of course, what they really mean is that government should subsidize free contraception and abortion on demand. They do want government in the bedroom – but they want government supporting their whims.
Catchy slogans like "get government out of the bedroom" distort reality.

Monday, June 11, 2012

In Defense of Quirkiness

I recently sparked a mini-controversy last week at my workplace, when I wore gloves to my workplace. I’ve also raised eyebrows over other seemingly odd habits, such as carrying around a stick to classes, perching on chairs, wearing sunglasses at night, etc.
I’d like to say I’m sorry for these quirks, but I’m not. They are deliberate, and I have adopted them for several reasons.
Besides, strange behavior is often only strange by accident. After all, fashion is a social construct, started by trendsetters and incredibly fickle. My odd fashion choices now may prove prophetic years in the future.
But there is actual logic behind quirky behavior. For one thing, it puts society's hypocrisy on full display. In a world that always claims to cherish non-conformity, it is striking how much societal pressure there is to conform to prevailing norms. People who do odd things are criticized for “being weird” or “not going with the flow,” and are not championed; instead, they are bashed for their strangeness. 
More importantly, odd behavior draws other people out of themselves. Most people are self-absorbed; odd behavior forces people to acknowledge the quirky habits of an individual. Odd behavior demands a human response, and evokes a semblance of concern from another people which polite behavior rarely does.
For humanity is depressingly object-centered. People ALWAYS notice a stick, or gloves, or any object out of the ordinary, yet rarely,observe the look on someone’s face when someone is sad, or joyful, or angry. Many people care a great deal about objects or fashion choices, but have little concern for the human person. 
We humans observe sunglasses on a man's head, but fail to see the sorrow in his eyes; we compliment a young lady on her new dress or hairstyle, but ignore the glow of her newly in love.
But human beings are PEOPLE – humans with thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and not merely constructs of bodies and attached objects. And any means by which I can help people understand that, even seemingly odd ones, I will utilize.
Even the caricature of caring wrought by quirkiness is better than no concern at all. So I'll keep wearing my sunglasses and gloves, thank you very much.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Nonsensical "Love is Love" Argument

“I love him, and he loves me! Who are you to hinder our love for each other? Love is love!”
This "argument" in favor of gay marriage is common. It is also an emotional appeal masquerading as a serious argument.
It is based on the false assumption that sexual attraction is equivalent to love. If sexual attraction is love, and any attempt to forbid love is discriminatory, then homosexual marriage must be clearly acceptable.
The proponents of this argument ignore the fact that the same logic could be used to justify “consensual” incest, or polyamory, or any type of relationship between two consenting partners.  
Why should the state forbid a brother and sister who are sexually attracted to one another from marrying? Because incest is disgusting? Many people say the same about gay marriage. Because the children the couple bear might suffer disease? The couple can simply contracept, and refuse to bear children. 
If a 30 year old teacher and a 15 year old student both consent to a relationship, then why should the state interfere?  Because the relationship is inherently coercive? Who determines whether or not a relationship is inherently coercive, anyway? 
If sexual attraction is synonymous with love, any type of consensual sexual relationship is acceptable. After all, love is love!