I voted for President Obama in the 2008 election. Leading up to that election and after it, I’ve fought an uphill battle trying to explain how I could be Catholic and vote for a president that so obviously has pro-choice goals. In my argument, I kept coming back to the USCCB’s statement, “As Catholics we are not single-issue voters. A candidate’s position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter’s support.” There are 7 principles of Catholic Social Teaching. When I weighed how many of the principles McCain stood for and how many Obama stood for, my tally was overwhelmingly in favor of Obama. Just to name a few, Obama is in favor of the DREAM Act and more comprehensive immigration reform. Obama wanted to reform healthcare (an issue I have written about at length). Obama’s economic policies were intended to directly help those at the bottom as opposed to using the trickle-down effect. And on and on. Even though Obama is pro-choice, I couldn’t ignore all those other extremely important issues that I agreed with. And even when it came to FOCAor other pro-choice issues, I guess I just didn’t believe that he would rock the boat too much.
Then a couple weeks ago, I read an article in The Wall Street Journal: “Obama Offends the Catholic Left.” I’ll ignore for a second how I hate the terms liberal Catholic and conservative Catholic. The amount of discord and division between Republican Catholics and Democrat Catholics is disgusting, and the disdain that both groups have for one other is just plain depressing since we’re all on the same team. As Catholics we do not fall perfectly in line with either party. But that’s for another post.
The new Department of Health and Human Services ruling has people reeling over how the President could make a move that would obviously anger lots of people, including the Catholic Church. The rule “will require most health insurance plans to cover preventive services for women including recommended contraceptive services without charging a co-pay, co-insurance, or a deductible.” All employers that hire people of different faiths will be required to buy, as part of healthcare coverage for their employees, contraceptive and sterilization services. This means parishes that buy healthcare for their employees wouldn’t have to provide contraceptive services in their insurance plans because most of these employees are all the same faith. However, other Catholic employers like Catholic schools, charities, or hospitals, because they hire people of all religious backgrounds, will be forced to provide these services in their healthcare plans even though it violates one of the church’s basic moral teachings.
I, for one, am not just offended by the recent HHS ruling, but incensed about it. This whole time I’ve constantly had to defend why I support Obama and then he turns around and does this? And it’s not just Catholics that are angry but also non-Catholics who see this ruling as a defiance of conscience protections and an infringement on our Constitutional freedom of religion.
Plenty of people have written about why this ruling is bad and why they disagree (like here and here and here and here and here). That’s not really what I want to talk about. What has upgraded my anger to the level of fuming is how some Catholics have been writing about the decision and the Church.
1. “I am Catholic and I don’t agree with the Church on contraception but I do believe in the principle of conscience protections and I believe in the freedom of religion.”
I get it. Not everyone agrees with everything the Church teaches. But don’t treat the Church like your old Aunt Tilly who you smile at when she is talking to you, but roll your eyes at when you think she’s not looking. The Church is an institution that has wisely guided its flock for thousands of years. It doesn’t just make up its beliefs because a Bishop made a specific decision a long time ago. It uses hundreds of years of thinking, reasoning, and guidance from the Holy Spirit to come to its beliefs. Please don’t dismiss such a central teaching of the Church so easily. And it doesn’t make anyone more apt to agree with the Church about the HHS ruling by being so flippant about it. We don’t need the disclaimer to help get people on our side.
2. “This will not affect the Catholic vote.”
Don’t underestimate Catholics and their ability to get mad. People would have you believe that no one really cares what the Church teaches. If no one cared what the Church taught, then churches would be empty. Catholic schools would all be closed. And there would definitely not be new vocations. My church on Sunday was packed. The school I work at has plenty of students. And in May a new group of seminarians is being ordained to the priesthood. Please don’t be so condescending to presume that Catholics will not mobilize and try to fight this ruling.
3. “Obviously the Bishops don’t trust Catholics to not use the new options that would be added to their healthcare plans.”
This comment is so annoying to me. It is not that the Bishops want to trick people into not using birth control. Some say these Catholic institutions should pay for contraceptive services in their healthcare plan and then just tell their employees not to use it (except in cases of medical necessity). The Bishops getting mad about this is not a sign that they don’t trust people. They don’t want the Church’s money to go toward something that they see as morally wrong. What else could the government require the Church to pay for in their employees’ benefits? Euthanasia? Abortion? The Church knows that people use contraception. They are not trying to outlaw it; they just don’t want to be a party to it.
This issue is a deal-breaker for me. I can’t continue to follow Obama down this path. I still support the same immigration reform policies and economic policies and such. I don’t regret voting for him in the first place. But I can’t in good conscience vote for someone who would force the Catholic Church to violate its moral teachings so blatantly. Even with the clarification the government issued about the new HHS rule, it still is clear that they don’t understand why the Church and so many others are mad.
In the end, this is an issue that people need to rally around. Giving the Church the option to violate its own conscience or stop providing healthcare for its employees is unconscionable. And there are a lot of people that agree with the Church, whether by being faithful to Church teachings or just agreeing ideologically with the freedom of religion. If all these people came together, it could make a difference. What upsets me is that people on the Church’s side keep saying things that hurt the Church’s credibility. People have the right to disagree with the Church and to voice it, but when we’re all trying to come together and form a united front against a bad ruling, all these asides only cause further division. They are going to weaken the effect that people can have in getting this ruling changed. There are about 80 million Catholics in the United States. All of us united could make a difference.