Friday, March 9, 2012

Amish, Ok. Catholics, No.

The Amish are exempt from the entire health care reform law. So are members of Medi-Share, a program of Christian Care Ministry. Yet, when the Catholic Church asks for a religious exemption from just one regulation issued under the law – the mandate that all employers, including religious institutions, must pay for sterilization and contraceptives, including abortion-inducing drugs – the Administration balks.

The government respects the First Amendment that guarantees the right to freely exercise one’s religious beliefs, but only to a point. In the health care law it picks and chooses which beliefs it respects. The Amish do not believe in insurance, and the government understands. Christian Care Ministry believes people should form a religious community and pay medical bills for one another, and the government says okay. Yet when the Catholic Church opposes being forced to pay for services that violate its beliefs, the Administration says “tough.”

What is so special about this mandate that it cannot be touched? It was added after Congress passed the health care law and offers no exemption for religious charitable or educational institutions. It will not accept Catholic charities and schools as “religious enough” unless they hire only Catholics, serve only Catholics, have the narrow tax exempt status granted to houses of worship, and teach religion as their purpose.

Amazingly, this mandate has more force than the overall health care law. In fact recent regulations allow states to decide which “essential health benefits” to require in health plans, such as hospitalization, prescription drugs and pediatric services. At the same time, all insurance plans must include the objectionable services mentioned above. Here federal law trumps state law and threatens to fine into submission institutions that dare oppose it. The going rate is at least $100 per day per employee.

What has the government got against the Catholic Church? Has it forgotten the contributions the church has made to the poor and needy for centuries?

Catholic elementary and secondary schools provide the only real alternative to public schools in many parts of the nation. Catholic colleges offer outstanding education, be it at the university or the community college. The contribution has a long history, back to 1789 when Georgetown University was founded by the Jesuits. Yet under the health care law, if these schools and colleges wish to remain faithful to their religious principles the government will fine them into submission. There’s a thank-you note.

Many Catholic hospitals were founded by religious orders of women, and today one out of six persons seeking hospital care in the United States goes to a Catholic hospital. Until now, religious background of the patient has not been an issue. “Where does it hurt?” is the first question, not “Where is your baptismal certificate?” This approach threatens to deny hospitals any real protection as “religious employers” under the new rule. Yet their Catholicity means many of these hospitals have an added benefit. At Providence Hospital in Washington, DC, for example, patients not only get medical care, they can get clothing too if they need it. It comes through the Ladies of Charity, an auxiliary of the Daughters of Charity who founded the hospital in 1861.

Catholic social service agencies, including adoption and foster care agencies, parish food banks, and soup kitchens, meet human concerns. Services depend on need, not creed. Church sponsorship means the services have a little extra, be they volunteers from parishes, financial donations through diocesan appeals, or the dedication that comes from working for God as well as paycheck.

A Catholic might take personally the Administration’s dissing their beliefs. Lucky the Amish, who have their basic constitutional rights respected. If only we objected to health insurance generally, we might be able to enjoy the same protection. Seems odd that the Administration is more inflexible on contraception than on services that actually treat disease.


Tom Steele said...

I'm having a hard time following the logic of this argument. Two religious groups, comprised solely of their members, both of which have a religious basis for forgoing any kind of "insurance" (as the modern world defines it), have been granted an exemption from providing something they've never provided in the first place. How does this relate to the Catholic church? Neither the Amish nor CCI have hired non-members or provided health insurance a part of a compensation package to non-members.

Further, the Amish and CCI receive no funding whatsoever from federal, state or local governments (as opposed to Catholic Charities), nor to my knowledge are they exempted from taxation to the extent the Catholic Church is.

The issue here seems to be that the Catholic Church (which I grew up in, and was educated by) would have to confront the fact that 99% of its parishoners already avail themselves of birth control and contraceptive services.

Ruth Ann Pilney said...

I support what you and the bishops say concerning the HHS Mandate, and I'm very concerned about what might happen if the government doesn't budge and the courts don't rule in our favor.

Is it possible to quit believing in insurance, like the Amish? Or might we go the way of the Christian Care Ministry? Perhaps it's too late for either of those.

I do hope that the mandate will be rescinded.

Leslie Cooper said...

I'm trying to wrap my head around this whole mandate. It's maddening.

I know President Obama has an agenda; I just can't decide if it's motivated by evil or by stupidity. I don't mean that to sound flippant -- I'm sincerely baffled.

Stric T said...

The Health and Human Service's mandate requiring all employers with a couple exceptions to provide insurance coverage that includes abortifacients, sterilization, and contraceptives must presume that the First Amendment includes the language "separation of church and state." In fact, no such language exists in the First Amendment or anywhere else in the U.S. Constitution. Rather, the beginning of the First Amendment is: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." "Freedom of Religion" is the first civil right listed and, therefore, it is superior to others. The federal government has a duty to protect religion and to restrain itself from encroaching upon religion. Freedom of religion is based on the God-given "unalienable rights" of "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness", identified in the Declaration of Independence. Further therein, government is limited to exercising "just powers" granted by the people. Therefore, the people cannot grant unjust powers to government such as to murder, to steal, to lie,.... It is self-evident that the abortifacient mandate is unjust because abortifacients terminate life and sterilization and contraceptives prevent life, all of which are intrinsic evils in God's eyes according to the teaching authority of our Church. Therefore, the federal government must revoke this mandate because it prohibits “the free exercise [of religion].”
Article 3 of Northwest Ordinance of 1787 begins with: "Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind,...." From the beginning of the United States of America, Congress confirmed the prominent role of religion in all aspects of life, and its vital role for our happiness. Yet, we as a culture have turned away from religion, immorality is now legal, and education has been dumbed-down. It is a recipe for unhappiness. The choice for happiness is clear: Encourage religion, repeal laws that legitimize immorality, and decentralize education.

tjtaolm said...

The issue here is power and control. It is not about providing the best care or helping people. Since the Catholic Church has a large number of people who subscribe to its tenants and the Catholic Church provides many services to the community it infringes upon governmental control. If an organization as large as the Catholic Church and all of its ministries can stand up to the government and refuse to obey the whim of the government on something so clearly delineated in the constitution, government is bounded and cannot continue to grasp for more power.

There is something more at stake here. More and more it is the government that is providing assistance. As with all things related to the government what begins as a little fiefdom of some bureaucrat tries to expand into an empire. The lose-lose for the Church here is if the law stands the Church is forced to decide to violate either its teachings on abortion or its teachings on charity. The Church either submits to human authority or gives up on charity.

musculars said...

Please give it up already. You keep repeating the error that the institution, whether it is religious or not, is providing the contraception. Health care benefits are a form of remuneration -- thus the money that pays for insurance belongs to the employee, not the institution.

Furthermore the employer as the plan fiduciary must act for the exclusive benefit of plan participants. If a conflict of interest arises between a fiduciary and plan members, a fiduciary legally must step aside in favor of an independent third party.

The Obama administration's compromise has provided that third party free of conflict.
To continue to block the compromise amounts to a failure of fiduciary duty and infringes upon the religious liberty of the employees who in any case have always been the true moral agents and not the corporation.

Miki Odendahl said...

I'm sorry, but the bishops and Liberal Catholics got us into this mess to begin with.

No discipline for wild, disobedient faithless politicians calling themselves Catholic? No adequate catechesis in the parishes? No preaching for the pulpit on hard issues?

Y'all got us here, y'all need to start taking some personal responsibility for our shackeling.

Svoboda said...

First, I will note that I am completely in favor of the Church's stance on this issue. However, the Church has another problem that I believe underlies the HHS mandate issue.

This problem is the concept of "universal" health care and the Church’s stated support for it. The use of this term implies support for “Obamacare” in all aspects except that which the Church does not favor. I believe the USCCB was about to publicly support it, if there had been no financing of abortion. Nevertheless, the Church needs to define this concept and to define very specifically as to what it means and does not mean.

If the use of this term means that the Church otherwise supports “Obamacare,” which is government dictating (gov. already does this) to insurance companies their coverage and to medical doctors procedures and groups of persons to be covered, I would then posit that the Church no longer views humans as individuals with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and property, but rather as members of groups with “rights” according to group membership. Along with this, is the logic that it is somehow moral for those categorized as belonging to one group (e.g. government or the Church, or poor people, or labor union, or too-big-to fail businesses) to force others in another group (e.g. insurance companies, medical doctors, taxpayers) to provide a service for or to give what is demanded or needed to the other group simply by virtue of their group membership. (How such a position can be seen as moral is beyond me).

In case the concept of “force” is not clear: Government is the only societal arm that can legally apply the force of fines, imprisonment, or death or the threat thereof in order to achieve its ends. Such means are force and they are integral to all laws and nowadays bureaucratic mandates.

If the Catholic Church has become an institution that supports and proposes such beliefs as noted above, then we are no longer individuals who are not be used by other individuals or groups of individuals to achieve their ends, desires, or needs. Without the fundamental base of positing individual rights, there is no logical basis for a conscience clause; we have consciences individually. There is no such thing as a group conscience.

In other words, any time the Church proposes, sponsors or otherwise supports something that is socialistic or fascistic or group-forced in its nature, it will run into the same problems over and over again. It will appear to many, and logically rightly so, that the Church itself is trying to dictate its beliefs on others. One group upon another, each claiming its rights not by virtue of being a human individual, as that principle has been abandoned, but by its membership in a particular group, one being favored at the moment over another.

J.O. said...

There is no consitutional right to have someone provide you with birth control, or even insurance. But there is a constitutional right to freedom of religious expression. These regs would seem to be unconstitutional on their face, but whether that will matter to an increasingly brazen government remains to be seen.

I think that the USCCB should create an alternative insurance program of its own, and let those of us Catholics who are disgusted by this anti-freedom, anti-life debacle participate in it! These health insurance companies are hardly paragons of virtue to begin with...

Question: do the members of the Christian Care Ministry program, escape the individual health insurance mandate to purchase health insurance as a result?