Friday, February 10, 2012

EXORCISING OR EXERCISING RELIGION--OR NEITHER OF THE ABOVE?

With Catholic Rick Santorum screaming about the guillotine of the French Revolution, I am surprised that Jewish Charles Krauthammer is not screaming about the ovens of the Holocaust. The purported onslaught—the attack on religion, religious freedom, the First Amendment, the end of America as we know it, the triumph of godless something-or-other—is the Administration’s extension of insurance provisions for contraception to religiously affiliated institutions like hospitals and colleges.

This self-righteous indignation, full of sound and fury, is entirely contrived, thus contemptible.

First, the regulation does not apply to the Catholic Church (or any other church or temple or mosque; or seminaries, monasteries, nunneries, etc.)—institutions whose purposes are entirely religious. It applies only to religiously affiliated institutions like hospitals and colleges which serve the public, are non-denominational in their staffing, and receive public money. All talk about the regulation as an attack on religious freedom is deliberately irresponsible and inflammatory, for a purpose.

Second, 22 states already have laws requiring such religiously affiliated institutions to provide insurance coverage for contraception to their employees. The Catholic Church has not cared about these legal requirements for years and years. Now comes the federal government to make such a requirement uniform across all states, and the Church suddenly invokes religious liberty, etc. However, from a doctrinal perspective, there is no doctrinal difference between such requirements at the state level and such requirements at the federal level. The entire issue is an after-the-fact attempt by the Catholic Church to rally political support for its parochial interests in an election year.

Third, the requirement for such insurance coverage merely extends labor law to institutions already required to obey labor law. Were such not the case, the Catholic Church could have children or even slaves to do some of its work in its churches and in these institutions. After all, the Bible sanctions child labor and slave labor. The Church raises the issue because it is trying, once again, to find a way to exempt itself from the rule of civil law (while, as in the case of gross misconduct by sexually predatory priests to excuse itself from enforcing any kind of law, even its own.)

Fourth, 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women use contraceptives (oddly, by comparison, only 97 percent of sexually active non-Catholic women use them). The all-male leadership of the Catholic Church is not only completely out of touch with its laity, but is completely indifferent to their practices which deviate from doctrine. What Catholics, priests or parishioners, do in matters of sex is of no concern to the Catholic Church or beyond its control; what matters is what the Church pretends are threats to doctrines about which no one in the Church otherwise cares.

The larger issues concern the Church’s loss, not only of moral authority, but also of political power. Many Catholics have left the Church; others remain observant of ritual but have become selectively obedient or entirely indifferent to its teachings. The Church itself no longer concerns itself with this disparity; it no longer focuses on the moral or spiritual life of its priests or parishioners. It pays more attention to imposing doctrines without meaning within the Church on those outside it. And, as in the present controversy of its own creation, it tries to prop itself up with such contrivances to persuade its adherents that the Church still protects their interests. But the Church no longer knows or cares what they are. It cares about power and views its parishioners as its troops, exploitable and expendable in such controversies.

As for the national politicians and columnists as well as Catholic Church officials haranguing the Obama administration for its purported attacks on free exercise of religion, I have only one question: when does the love begin?

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