Catholics, Contraception & The Heretical 98%

By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

Last Sunday, most U.S. Catholics heard a letter read from the pulpit imploring them to oppose the Obamacare provision requiring most healthcare plans to cover contraceptive services for women. The reason given was that Catholic hospitals and universities would have to “shutter their doors”  in order to avoid heresy and be true to the faith. As part of the concerted effort, the chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Religious Liberty announced that the Obama administration’s requirement goes against “the mandate of Jesus Christ.”  Even though the earthly mandate contains an exemption for purely religious organizations, the all-male U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is clearly on the offensive in this politically charged debate about women, privacy, and the right of families to decide for themselves the number of children they can support.

Since the 1930s, most denominations have left the issue of contraception up to the conscience of the parishioners. The Catholic Church has stood virtually alone since 1951 by requiring its adherents to use only the “rhythm method” as a means to prevent pregnancy.  All other forms of contraception were deemed an interference in God’s Plan and hence heretical.  In the early 1960s with the reforms of Vatican II in full swing, the Pope appointed a 90 person committee to evaluate the Church’s position on contraception. 75 of the 90 recommended the Church allow contraception by means other than the rhythm method.

Disregarding the recommendation, Pope Paul VI issued his famous encyclical, Humanae Vitae, which reaffirmed the Church’s solitary position. The Pope reasoned that, “The Church, nevertheless, in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life.”  The Pope then waxed philosophic about the danger of government mandated contraception akin to that seen in China:

Careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone.

That textual cudgel has now been taken up against Obamacare.  Catholic apologists like Jennifer Brinker in the St. Louis Review have argued that the Pope was right and the government is now in the business of  pushing contraception for political reasons. Brinker even argues ironically that the mandate is a “dissolution of freedom.” Brinker reminds Catholics that disapproved contraception is a “sin” and that most Catholics don’t understand the reason for the ban.

What do Catholic women think about the Church’s unyielding stand on artificial birth control? In April of  last year, Reuters reported that a Guttmacher Institute poll showed that 98% of sexually active U.S. Catholic women used contraception methods outside of the Church’s teachings.  The numbers held up for women who regularly attended Catholic services as well as those who didn’t. In fact, the findings showed American Catholic women were just as likely to use artificial contraception as those in other denominations.

“In real-life America, contraceptive use and strong religious beliefs are highly compatible,” said the report’s lead author Rachel Jones.  Catholics overwhelmingly rely on the most common methods of birth control. Nearly 70 percent of Catholic women use sterilization, the birth control pill or an IUD, according to the Guttmacher Institute research.

What then are we to make of the schism between Church’s dogma and the reality of its followers?  Are 98% of the Church’s women sinners and heretics? Can a religion be viable if one of its fundamental tenets is  ignored on a daily basis by almost all of its “faithful”?  Can a male dominated authority maintain credibility in the modern world when it dictates to women on issues that are overwhelmingly that gender’s concern?

These questions do not seem to be troubling Church fathers.  In fact, they appear to be looking for a testosterone fueled showdown. As one recently said, “We cannot — we will not — comply with this unjust law.” They may do well to look over their shoulders as they climb up that political hill, theological banners flying. A cursory view of their ranks will likely find few honest Americans and almost no honest women.

Source: CNN

~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

178 thoughts on “Catholics, Contraception & The Heretical 98%

  1. Excellent article Mark…..Most folks that I know that claim affiliation with the “Church” do as you have indicated…They take what the hear and leave the rest at the door… you see it becomes a cycle of guilty…

    I see it along the way that you have stated….and I’ll reiterate what most financially successful religions do….they “Recycle Guilt for Monetary Gain”…

    We all operate off of some guilt which may or may not be designed to control…but in the end…the result is the same….There is a lot of double speak in all aspects of life…especially where money is concerned…

    This is where the RW Nuts join hands with most folks that on a daily basis appear to be reasonable….This is also where partisanship issues divide the rational thinking individuals from there conscience….

  2. Mark,

    I read the following article, which I found interesting, on ThinkProgress last night:

    ANALYSIS: Obama Reproductive Health Reg Mirrors State Conscience Protections
    By Igor Volsky

    The Catholic Bishops and their Republican allies argue that the Obama administration’s regulation requiring insurers and employers to offer reproductive health coverage at no additional cost sharing is an “unprecedented attack on religious liberties” that will force houses of worships to sacrifice deeply held beliefs. In reality, the rule, part of the Affordable Care Act, exempts houses of worship and other religious nonprofits that primarily employ and serve people of the same faith. But religious groups contend that its conscience protections are too narrow.

    A closer examination of the Obama provision, however, reveals that the conscience language closely mirrors the existing provisions in at least five states:

    – OBAMA: For purposes of this subsection, a “religious employer” is an organization that meets all of the following criteria:
    (1) The inculcation of religious values is the purpose of the organization.
    (2) The organization primarily employs persons who share the religious tenets of the organization.
    (3) The organization serves primarily persons who share the religious tenets of the organization.
    (4)The organization is a nonprofit organization

    – NEW YORK: For purposes of this subsection, a “religious employer” is an entity for which each of the following is true:
    (a) The inculcation of religious values is the purpose of the entity.
    (b) The entity primarily employs persons who share the religious tenets of the entity.
    (c) The entity serves primarily persons who share the religious tenets of the entity.
    (d) The entity is a nonprofit organization

    – CALIFORNIA: For purposes of this section, a “religious employer” is an entity for which each of the following is true:
    (A) The inculcation of religious values is the purpose of the entity.
    (B) The entity primarily employs persons who share the religious tenets of the entity.
    (C) The entity serves primarily persons who share the religious tenets of the entity.
    (D) The entity is a nonprofit organization

    – MICHIGAN: For our purposes, a “religious employer” is an entity for which all the following are true:
    (a) The entity is a nonprofit organization
    (b) The inculcation of religious values is the purpose of the entity.
    (c) The entity primarily employs people who share the religious tenets of the entity.
    (d) The entity serves primarily persons who share the religious tenets of the entity.

    – OREGON: A “religious employer” is an employer:
    (a) Whose purpose is the inculcation of religious values;
    (b) That primarily employs persons who share the religious tenets of the employer;
    (c) That primarily serves persons who share the religious tenets of the employer; and
    (d) That is a nonprofit organization

    Twenty-eight states already require employers, including most religiously affiliated institutions, to cover contraception in their health plans. The only change is that now they must cover the full cost. In fact, the administration will be expanding conscience protections in eight states, where all religious institutions are required to offer birth control coverage.

  3. There is another “unjust law” which church fathers, not church mothers, will have to obey. That is the law against pedophilia. Get your house in order you hypocrites! The church can not afford all of the court judgments against it for child rape cases committed by heavenly holy fathers. The church and the Susan Komen people are going to have to stick this one up their …

    Just a dog talking. I was on runaway status for a few days because my human pal (none dare call him owner) was TalkinRepubliCon– but he got religion (no pun intended) and thought better of it. This dogalog device which translates dog growl, bark and wimper into humanoid is still working.

  4. The question; “What then are we to make of the schism between Church’s dogma and the reality of its followers?”
    What else but that most women, and most men, do not accept the teaching?
    There is another teaching equally disregarded: “if you have two coats, give one to the poor”. Is your analysis “content neutral”?

  5. How can the religious hierarchy, of all Christian cults, pretend to be so holy, when in fact they live off us and pretend to be concerned, and give guidance?
    Thanks for the figures Elaine M. Reassuring.
    Net gain in 8 states, and they just want to avoid contraceptive counseling, I presume.

  6. The Catholic hierarchy is composed of sexist old men who have no understanding of or real concern for the lives of women. I find it odd that the same church that considers the use of birth control an immoral act covered up the sexual abuse of children for decades.

  7. Elaine,

    “I find it odd that the same church that considers the use of birth control an immoral act covered up the sexual abuse of children for decades.”

    lol…One is a Moral issue the other is a choice….or is it?

  8. I regard getting a lecture on morality by the Bishops of he Catholic church the logical equivalent of getting a lecture on diet and exercise from Jabba the Hutt.

  9. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.
    -Martin Luther (btw: the Reformation is underway). C’mon my brothers and sisters, you do not have to bow to the whims of bachelors. It’s been almost 600 years for you to understand that salvation is a matter of grace, not a good football team. The Pope, il Papa, is not your Daddy.

  10. “It’s been almost 600 years for you to understand that salvation is a matter of grace, not a good football team.” (Richard Faust)

    I like that sentence … a lot.

    Many of the priests I know mouth the words of the Pope in public but say something quite different when speaking to their parishioners in private.

  11. The Church and Republicans are objecting to the government dictating what to do about contraception because they see it as their role to dictate to people what to do about contraception.

  12. Let’s peruse this for a bit strictly on theological grounds. The RCC’s belief is that our entrance to heaven is judged by our actions on Earth and that God will judge us when we die. The only way for God to Judge a person’s sins if is they have the “free will” to sin or not to sin. By removing the option of sinning, you remove “free will” from the equation. A Catholic doctor could well refuse to do abortions on the ground that it is murder and still remain a doctor in good standing. When it comes to supplying birth control, you are not talking about murder from a religious perspective, but about sinning. To me the any doctor/institution that takes away the choice that an individual has to freely choose to sin, or not, is blocking free choice and therefore interfering with God.

    Alternatively, if you believe that there is no free choice, but all is God’s will, then to me you are a blasphemer because you make God into a Cosmic Puppeteer, with sadistic tendencies, manipulating us all for amusement.
    Either way there is a tremendous amount of logical fallacies in this proposition of trying to make birth control hard to obtain. However, when you get down to it religion and logical fallacies go hand in hand.

  13. R CAMPBELL………Hear, hear!!!
    Elaine M.
    …..covered up the sexual abuse of children for decades.

    Homosexuality may not be in DSM, but sexual predation should be IMHO.

    But then HOW IS IT WITH WOMEN ANYWAY????? Just joking.
    A helpless man am I. A sex object all my life. When you’re hungry, anything looks good, they must have been so influenced.

  14. “To me the any doctor/institution that takes away the choice that an individual has to freely choose to sin, or not, is blocking free choice and therefore interfering with God.” (Mike S)

    From the Hindu perspective, I am going to suggest that you may have spent one of your past lives as a Jesuit. …😉

  15. “From the Hindu perspective, I am going to suggest that you may have spent one of your past lives as a Jesuit.”


    Now that explains it all, the bad and the good.:)

  16. >”Are 98% of the Church’s women sinners and heretics?”

    I expect that 100% of the women and the men are sinners and heretics as that is what the Bible and the Church have taught for millenia. “All have fallen short of the glory of God.”

    For some yet unknown reason God founded a church for sinners, filled it with sinners and placed sinners in charge. That Church; however, has never taught a moral error.

  17. A lot of anti-Catholic/anti-religious feelings are on display here. I myself am not religious. But the point is not whether outsiders think the Catholic rules against birth control are silly or whether Catholic hierarchy is sexist or so on.

    The sole question is should the state have the right to force a religious institution’s organizations to pay for and help provide items which are anathema to them.

    I say no.

    The fact that millions of individual Catholics fall short of, ignore or simply reject some portions of Catholic teaching is irrelevant to whether the state should be able to force the Church to bend the knee.

  18. Shady_Grady,

    I left an excerpt from a ThinkProgress article earlier on this thread. Here is an excerpt from that excerpt:

    The Catholic Bishops and their Republican allies argue that the Obama administration’s regulation requiring insurers and employers to offer reproductive health coverage at no additional cost sharing is an “unprecedented attack on religious liberties” that will force houses of worships to sacrifice deeply held beliefs. In reality, the rule, part of the Affordable Care Act, exempts houses of worship and other religious nonprofits that primarily employ and serve people of the same faith. But religious groups contend that its conscience protections are too narrow.

    A closer examination of the Obama provision, however, reveals that the conscience language closely mirrors the existing provisions in at least five states:

    – OBAMA: For purposes of this subsection, a “religious employer” is an organization that meets all of the following criteria:
    (1) The inculcation of religious values is the purpose of the organization.
    (2) The organization primarily employs persons who share the religious tenets of the organization.
    (3) The organization serves primarily persons who share the religious tenets of the organization.
    (4)The organization is a nonprofit organization

  19. Timothy, the nuns used to preach that clap-trap too about ” never taught a moral error ” I believed it when I was 10 years old….now I look at the church and think what a bunch of crap….POWER and MONEY baby thats the ticket

  20. Oh,,,when my 89 yr old mother’s St Louis Review came Friday I handed it to her she too one look at the front page, which was covered with hysterical statements about this subject and she didn’t even open it but threw it into the trash where it belonged.

  21. To answer Dredd… the reason they are upset, even if they have an “exemption”, is that the exemption is fairly narrow. While it applies to churches and organizations that provide services purely to coreligionists, it does not apply to Catholic hospitals, of which there are many.

  22. The Catholic Church is all about old men trying to control women’s bodies. I want to ask Newt how many women that he was having extra-marital affairs itch used the rhythm method of contraception?

  23. I always hate it when the topic of church propaganda and cult beliefs comes up and then it gets described as church dogma. I know that god spelled backwards is dog but leave my ma out of it please. A dog’s ma is special.
    But, its just me a dog talking. What do I know about humanoid religions– we dogs keep things rather neat and tidy. Number one, we dont have contraception or any contraptions other than a fast four to avoid the hump that leads to the litter. Number two, if four legs are good and two legs bad then it is usually humanoids deciding who our mates are and they usually want to keep us within the same species. Kind of like a catholic wanting his kid to marry a catholic. Number three, we dogs dont pay for sex and I am not just talkin about those humanoid cat houses because husbands and wives bargain and sale about when to inhale and do the dirty deed. Number four, when dogs have kids its not one or two but a litter. The humanoids break us up before we can impact on our pups and teach them good dog behavior. And, good dog behavior is nothing like catholic dogma.

    Oh, I am just thinking out loud here. Dont mind me. I was away for a few days from my humanoid household because my pal was threatening to vote for some guy who calls himself Mitt whose real name is Willard. And that, my four legged, or two legged friends, is kind of like dogma. Now if Willard was calling himself Mutt then he would have my ear.

  24. Oh, and that rhythm method that people practice. Inquiring dogs want to know: why is it that humans need music when they join up and how come they cant stay on their feet while doing so? And how come they call one method “doggie style” when it is nowhere near like a dog method? We might be stylin when we have a new collar or a fresh bath but ….

  25. There is a deeper issue then contraception at work here as highlighted by the Republican response. Essentially they believe any law of the land becomes invalid if cloaked in the name of religion. In other words, prejudice in the name of religion is not only permissible but encouraged.

    Republicans jumped all over this decision, for example, Gingrich said, ““The Obama administration is engaged in a war against religion,” Gingrich began.“ Romney said, “And on day one I will eliminate the Obama administration rule that compels religious institutions to violate the tenets of their own faith,” Romney wrote in the Examiner. “Such rules don’t belong in the America that I believe in.”

    What they really mean is to legalize hate, inequality, and exploitation through religion.

    As pointed out the law only applied to operations not directly related to the practice of ones religion. Running a hospital clearly is not directly related to that practice. It involves workers and patients of many different beliefs, color, national origin, age, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation, or union participation.

    What if any individul, or for that matter business decided to call themself a religion and according to the tenants of their faith Hispanics, Blacks or people of any particular belilef or characteristic they were opposed to were considered “sinners” by the tenants of their faith (as the for example the Christian religious prejudice against gays)?

    Essentially, the position of the right wing nut case party of hate is to make bigotry against any group and for any reason legal so long as you wrap it in the cloak of religion. And that is exactly the Right Wings intention.

    The first amendment protects the right of individuals to practice their religion but it does not give them the right to impose their bigotry on others in the name of their religion.

  26. Timothy:

    “For some yet unknown reason God founded a church for sinners, filled it with sinners and placed sinners in charge. That Church; however, has never taught a moral error.”


    No it was a man who founded the Church — even under Catholic dogma. What better way to create a need for it than by decreeing that men are born sick and that only your religion can effect the cure? As for never teaching moral error I’d be careful with that as the Bible teaches the value of slavery and the Church regards the scriptures as sacred.

  27. The statement quoted about from the church’s complaint includes the phrase “religious liberties”, which is a political analysis of the situation. “Religious liberties” is not a religious formulation. And there certainly have been greater attacks on “religious liberties” than requiring a co-pay or whatever. The complaint is that a religious institution is required to participate against its conscience in an immoral program. Slavery? Capitalism? War? These are nothing?

  28. Has the Catholic Church taken a position on health insurance coverage of erectile dysfunction drugs? Are men who take these drugs observing the “precepts of natural law?” Inquiring minds want to know.

  29. What follows is a copy of a letter I wrote to our Bishop in Richmond today about his call for Catholics to disobey the law:

    February 6, 2012

    Most Reverend Francis X. DiLorenzo
    Bishop of Richmond

    Re: Joint Letter of January 30, 2012

    Dear Bishop DiLorenzo:

    As a baptized Catholic and member of the legal profession, I find your recent letter (which you wrote with Bishop Loverde) concerning changes in the healthcare regulations extraordinary and dismaying. One sentence in that letter which apparently is part of some suggested language offered by other bishops around the nation is that, “We cannot – we will not – comply with this unjust law.” I have never seen a Catholic clergyman call for direct lawlessness and never thought I would see one. This is a dangerous precedent and places Catholic employers squarely in the path of either secular or religious sanction over a volatile issue that is debatable both theologically and legally.

    I urge you to rescind or fully clarify your call for disobeying the law of the land, and adopt a more conciliatory or democratic response to the issue. We are still a nation of laws and urging your congregants to violate those laws, even those you disagree with, is based neither in theology nor prudence. You have every right to persuade legislators or courts of your position on religious freedom and urge your followers to do likewise. You have no right call for Catholics to ignore the law in doing so.

    I do agree with at least one thing in your letter: “We must defend our right to practice what we profess and express our concerns and convictions about religious freedom to our elected officials.” That involves dialog with decision-makers and not ultimatums which subject your flock to criminal and civil penalties. We have every right to believe whatever our conscience allows, but we have no right to act in violation of the law – and neither do our leaders.


    Mark M. Esposito

  30. The issue is NOT, whether birth control should be legal or not. The issue is NOT, whether each person can legally decide whether or not to use birth control. Rather, the issue is whether an organization that believes birth control is sinful and immoral can be forced to pay for somebody else’s decision to use birth control. This mandate is particularly extreme because some of the mandated forms of birth control can cause early abortions (i.e.., they cause human lives to end after conception has already occurred), and so the Catholic church’s organizations are also being effectively ordered to pay for abortions too. The great majority of the issues brought up in the article and in the comments are completely irrelevant to the basic issue of religious liberty. Apparently religious liberty is to be recognized only when we happen to personally agree with what the religion believes or practices; otherwise, it is to be denied on some pretext.

    The current position of the Catholic Church represents the position that basically all branches of the Christian church took until the 20th century. Apparently some people believe that the content of Christian teaching is to be determined by polling 21st century American Christians. On the contrary, the American Christian church is in a most decrepit state. Most of its members are unfamiliar with even the most basic Bible teaching and stories and teachings of the Christian church. Most of its members do such a poor job of practicing their so-called “Christian” faith that they are indistinguishable from those who do not profess the Christian faith. I can hardly think of a less reliable means of determining what Christianity should be than by asking the (basically) self-indulgent, spoiled, and apostate 21st century American Christian church about anything. I have spent my whole life in America and gotten to know four people whom I thought exceptionally spiritual. Three out of the four were born and bred outside of the United States. Thank God the church has shown more vitality in other parts of the world.

  31. Ross S.:

    What is next? Forced sterilization and forced abortion of humans with genetic mutations so health care costs can be as low as possible?

    It goes way beyond freedom of religion.

    Just another hobnail in the jackboot.

  32. “Has the Catholic Church taken a position on health insurance coverage of erectile dysfunction drugs? Are men who take these drugs observing the “precepts of natural law?” Inquiring minds want to know.” (Elaine)

    That is beautiful …:)

  33. Ross S Heckman:

    Really? Then all those laws that require persons who serve the public to also serve minority people, should have their “rights” restored and we can go back to telling African American citizens they have to ride in the back of the bus, sit only in the balcony at the movie theatre and cannot eat with white diners in restaurants. And Jews cannot join the local golf club.


    If the Catholic Church wants to run a public facility like a hospital, which is a secular, not a religious operation, then they need to abide by the same rules as the local county hospital. If that does not work for them, then they ought to sell the hospital. They are not going to do that. Why? Because a well run hospital makes a ton of money, which the RC church needs, badly, in order to pay off all those lawsuits generated by pedophile priests.

  34. Otteray Scribe: I don’t think that people with religious objections have a universal, free-floating right to disregard all laws. Whether or not a religious accommodation should be recognized depends on the specific set of facts and is almost impossible to generalize. I do not think there are any religiously based objections based on race, so that situation would not arise. I don’t think any religious have local golf clubs, but if they do, they can’t really expect a tax-exemption for them, whether or not they are discriminatory.

    As far as the specific issue in question is concerned, the local county hospital is not required to pay for health insurance for its patients, so why should Catholic hospitals be required to do so?

    Seems to me the religiously based objections of Catholic institutions could be accommodated by requiring them to pay an extra sum of money equivalent in value to what the employee would otherwise get if their health insurance covered birth control. Under this scenario, the employee could use that money for birth control or whatever they wanted, and the Catholic institution would not be forced to pay for something that they regard as sinful & immoral. What’s the problem?

    Every religious institution is entitled to religious freedom. If a religious institution engages in misconduct, then they should be punished for that specific, proven misconduct, but their right to religious freedom should not be stripped from them.

  35. AY:

    “Are you trying to stir trouble where no may lay…..”


    To paraphrase a fine law professor of mine, Mr. Brabham, that’s what being on the cutting edge of social change is all about.

  36. Ross S. Heckmann:

    No person or institution has the right to disregard duly passed laws it disagrees with. They may lobby to change them; they may challenge them in court; they may find lawful ways to avoid them, but they have no right to disobey them. That’s what a “Nation of Laws” means and that is precisely what I was trying to tell my esteemed prelate. Maybe they can be accomodated, but they won’t be if they pick up their liturgical marbles and go home mumbling about how put upon they have become. They should quit being a “victim” especially given all the real victims they engendered themselves. You think they’d be ashamed.

  37. RSH, the operant phrase is “religious freedom.” A hospital is not a religious house. It is a facility to serve the public. ALL the public as prescribed as legal under the law.

    In a church, temple, synagogue or wherever people gather to worship their Deity of choice, they can discriminate or engage in other acts that might be illegal if they were acting as a public entity. For example, the hospital cannot ask a prospective employee their religious belief, but a church can require all employees to be of that faith. I have been on staff at a number of hospitals, including one run by a Catholic religious order. I happen to know that on that staff there were Catholics of course, but also Protestants of various flavors, ranging from Primitive Baptists and Pentecostals to Lutherans. Not to mention our Muslims, Hindus, a couple of Buddhists and more than one atheist.

    If the RC church wants to run a public business, they are not acting as a church or house of worship, but as a public service, just like the bus company. If they do not want to follow the rules for running a business open to the general public, then let them sell the damn thing and open a business that serves only the members of their organization.

  38. RSH, the county hospital does not pay health insurance for patients. They pay for health insurance for employees. Health benefits are rather like retirement funds. The CEO cannot have a 401K unless the janitor has access to that same benefit. Same with health insurance.

    Also, if a hospital receives Federal funds under the Hill-Burton Act, then they must follow the guidelines. No way to escape it.

  39. OS,
    The Catholic Church has a history of breaking and skirting the law. How many child predators did they hide from the police and the victims? Is hiding evidence from the authorities a religious precept?

  40. Well mespo,

    If you don’t lay you don’t get the protections of the invincible….damn….and if everyone was perfect then they would not need that protection either….

  41. “Is hiding evidence from the authorities a religious precept?”


    raff, if you listen to the Bishops and their lawyers it certainly appears to be.

    Others, not so much.

  42. raff,

    Tonight a lot of folks have said things that we agree with…. some we disagree with, but as civilized folks,we can agree to disagree and still get along…. i think a number of good points have been made…. Don’t you agree?

  43. Religious freedom is not simply a matter of legislative grace, it is a right, one recognized by the Constitution. This right was quite robust from the time of the Warren Court’s 1963 decision in Sherbert v. Verner, until Justice Antonin Scalia virtually interred it in his majority opinion in the 1990 case of Employment Division v. Smith.

    The Sherbert court held that the free exercise clause of the First Amendment required a religious exemption to a law unless the law served a compelling interest, and the law was the least burdensome means of serving that compelling interest.

    Justice Scalia’s opinion in Employment Division v. Smith eliminated the requirement for religious exemptions based on the First Amendment

    I for one prefer the Warren Court’s broad, expansive interpretation of the First Amendment over Scalia’s narrow, crabbed interpretation.

    At any rate, there remains a statutory basis for a religious exemption: the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (42 U.S.C. section 2000bb et seq.) As a matter of statutory law, RFRA requires religious exemptions basically on the same conditions as the Warren Court’s Sherbert v. Verner required them (see above).

    So it appears that the Catholic institutions in question are entitled to a religious exemption under RFRA.

  44. Ross S. Heckmann:

    If you read the law, you’d know they already have it. The problem is they want it for anything Catholic including employers. If granted that far the exemption owuld consume the whole. But in reality that’s what they want — not freedom but power. It’s a classic power grab over the secular world led by clergy, fundamentalists of all stripes, and their conservative patrons in power ever willing to use the religious zeal of the “faithful” in a cynical ploy to further their agenda. Jefferson had it right:

    “In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.”

    ~Thomas Jefferson to Horatio G. Spafford, 1814.

  45. Not really, Ross. The RFRA has already been successfully challenged once on the basis of the 14th Amendment in City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507 (1997). Being that the Federal government has a compelling interest in regulation of hospitals, in the providing of those services on a uniform and secular basis if they accept Medicare/Medicaid payments and protecting the Free Exercise rights of Medicare/Medicaid recipients via the 14th Amendment, it is not a given that the Catholic hospitals get a walk on this.

  46. It’s true that I hadn’t read RFRA for a while, so I looked up the relevant Wikepedia article as a starting point for an update. It stated in part:

    “The Act was amended in 2003 to only include the federal government and its entities, such as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.[9] A number of states have passed so-called mini-RFRAs, applying the rule to the laws of their own state, but the Smith case remains the authority in these matters in many states.[10]

    “The constitutionality of RFRA as applied to the federal government was confirmed on February 21, 2006, as the Supreme Court ruled unanimously against the government in Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal, 546 U.S. 418 (2006)”

    The Act states in part:

    “(b) Exception
    Government may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person—
    “(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and
    “(2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

    “. . . .

    “(b) Rule of construction
    Federal statutory law adopted after November 16, 1993, is subject to this chapter unless such law explicitly excludes such application by reference to this chapter.”

    (42 U.S.C. section 2000BB-1, 2000BB-3.)

    Therefore, it seems that RFRA does give the Catholic hospitals a statutory right to a religious exemption from the law.

    As long as the Catholic organizations give their employees the monetary equivalent of the foregone birth control coverage, leaving their employees complete freedom to spend the money on birth control or otherwise, then I just can’t see this as a religion attempting to usurp power or control over other people. Indeed, the exact opposite is the case; the Catholic church organizations are on the receiving end of an unwarranted exercise of governmental power We can be watchful over any unwarranted attempts at power grabs by any group of zealots, whether they be religious or irreligious, without depriving any of them of important legal rights.

  47. Ross,

    “the exact opposite is the case; the Catholic church organizations are on the receiving end of an unwarranted exercise of governmental power”

    The converse argument holds true too though. Not everyone who works for a Catholic run hospital is a Catholic just like every patient there isn’t a Catholic. They’d have to do a lot more than just compensate their employees for the difference in coverage, which is in some ways a silly argument as they’d still be paying for contraception. Accepting government money for services comes with strings attached like anti-discrimination legislation that can and has been applied via the 14th Amendment. They’d have to stop taking Medicare/Medicaid too. That or they’d have to close their doors to non-Catholics (not going to happen) and/or escalate the confrontation by only hiring only Catholics (and opening the door to all manner of lawsuits in the process). Hospitals are a public service. They cannot do either of those two actions and possibly hope to keep their doors open. If they don’t like having to play by the rules inherent to the industry, they should get out of the hospital business. But the issue of discrimination here is neither the slam dunk you suggest nor is it just the Catholics being persecuted based on religious grounds. Their options are limited and they were limited the day they opened a hospital as a public service and started taking government payment for services.

  48. RSH sez, in part, “…As long as the Catholic organizations give their employees the monetary equivalent of the foregone birth control coverage, leaving their employees complete freedom to spend the money on birth control or otherwise…”


    Sorry, it does not work that way. The treatment of all employees must be equal and they do not get off that easily. They cannot get to pick and choose what the employee services that insurance can provide, and an ‘in kind’ contribution to the employee is hypocrisy at its finest. At many Catholic hospitals, Catholics may even be in the minority of their employees.

    The Pope does not run the hospital, the hospital administrator does, and those people are specially trained in business. For you see, running a public service hospital is a secular enterprise, no matter the personal beliefs of the owners.

    As I said before, if they want to skirt the law then sell the hospital. And that is not gonna happen. Why you ask? Hospitals are cash cows, especially if they collect insurance money to provide services. Medicaid, Medicare and all the various private insurance companies require services bought and paid for by their clients to be given to those clients without question. Freedom of religion must stop at the church/temple/mosque door when it comes to serving the public, and not dictate what services the non-religious receive from a public business.

  49. To Mr Talking Dog:
    Enough with the doggie metaphor. There’s a misogynist born every minute , something the holy pedophiles don’t seem to think is important .
    About your flailing the fates for not being allowed to effect proper dog behavior : there’s so much you can muttify, prefix wise, because the words Willard or William or Will is an endless supply of , sorry, doggerel . The best doggerel poets are those who see the bigger chain of needless suffering and work it in. You only see an opponent as someone to abusively perpetuate your childish hatreds . Work out your self -hatred before you delight us again obsessively with an emotionally stupid projection.

  50. Many Catholic Universities, Hospitals Already Cover Contraception In Their Health Insurance Plans
    By Igor Volsky on Feb 7, 2012

    Catholic leaders and the GOP presidential candidates have intentionally distorted the Obama administration’s new rule requiring employers and insurers to provide reproductive health benefits at no additional cost sharing. Conservatives are seeking a way to politically unite Republican voters around a social issue and portray the regulation as a big government intrusion into religious liberties. In reality, the mandate is modeled on existing rules in six states, exempts houses of worship and other religious nonprofits that primarily employ and serve people of faith, and offers employers a transitional period of one year to determine how best to comply with the rule.

    It’s also nothing new. Twenty-eight states already require organizations that offer prescription insurance to cover contraception and since 98 percent of Catholic women use birth control, many Catholic institutions offer the benefit to their employees. For instance, a Georgetown University spokesperson told ThinkProgress yesterday that employees “have access to health insurance plans offered and designed by national providers to a national pool. These plans include coverage for birth control.”

    Similarly, an informal survey conducted by Our Sunday Visitor found that many Catholic colleges have purchased insurance plans that provide contraception benefits:

    University of Scranton, for example, appears to specifically cover contraception. The University of San Francisco offers employees two health plans, both of which cover abortion, contraception and sterilization…Also problematic is the Jesuit University of Scranton. One of its health insurance plans, the First Priority HMO, lists a benefit of “contraceptives when used for the purpose of birth control.”

    DePaul University in Chicago covers birth control in both its fully insured HMO plan and its self-insured PPO plan and excludes “elective abortion,” said spokesman John Holden, adding that the 1,800 employee-university responded to a complaint from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission several years ago and added artificial contraception as a benefit to its Blue Cross PPO.

    Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tenn., offers employee health insurance via the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association, a consortium of Christian Bible and other private college and universities. Its plan excludes abortion, but probably covers artificial contraception as a prescription drug, said C. Gregg Conroy, the executive director of the TICUA Benefit Consortium.

    Boston College, the six former Caritas Christi Catholic hospitals in Massachusetts, and other Catholic organizations that are located in one of the 28 states that already require employers to provide contraception benefits could have self-insured or stopped offering prescription drug coverage to avoid the mandate — but didn’t do so. Instead, they — like many Catholic hospitals and health care insurers around the country — chose to meet the needs of the overwhelming majority of Catholic women and offer these much needed services.

  51. As Contraceptives Rule Enters GOP Race, Will Reproductive Rights Affect 2012 Election?

    JON O’BRIEN: Ninety-eight percent of Catholic women in the United States have used a method of birth control that the bishops don’t approve of. When the bishops talk, they talk on behalf of the 350 U.S. bishops. They don’t speak for 68 million Catholics. It’s very clear Catholics support the use of contraception. Catholics even support, at a higher level than most Americans, the idea that contraceptives would be covered as part of health insurance.

    It’s clear to me that what’s going on here really is that the bishops are looking to have their cake and eat it. They actually want to run hospitals and schools, very often taking taxpayer dollars to do that, but they want to be exempted from the same rules as everybody else. The idea that an employer could actually determine what you do in your personal life, if you use birth control or not, by virtue of blocking your access to insurance coverage is really outrageous and very un-American.

    This is, in no way—and I think the Republicans may be making a big mistake, because what they’re trying to do is they’re trying to politicize an issue around healthcare. The Institute of Medicine determined that contraception was preventative healthcare. It’s important for women’s health. The idea that the Republicans now are trying to use this as a wedge issue to criticize President Obama is really striking a very low chord, and I think it does not resonate with women. Women know that birth control is very important for their healthcare. Birth control can be very expensive. It can cost $500 or $600 a year. In the United States at the moment, when many people are suffering from the economic downturn, the idea that you could get coverage for your birth control is something that I think most American women and most American voters will actually appreciate.

    It’s really, you know, a—it’s Orwellian for the bishops to suggest that their religious freedom has been trampled on. What they actually want to do is they want to impose their view on contraception, which is very much a minority view within the Catholic Church, on Catholics and non-Catholics who actually work in hospitals and schools. Catholics and non-Catholic workers in hospitals and schools should have the freedom of conscience, of their conscience, to follow their religious or non-religious beliefs to use contraception. The idea that an employer, that a bishop, can get between you and your birth control, there’s something that’s very un-American and wrong about that. Freedom of conscience is an essential part of actually being a Catholic. So, at the end of the day, it really is for individuals to make this decision, and the bishops, as an employer, should butt out of it.

    And the Affordable Care Act, which the Obama administration created and included birth control in, I think that most Americans and most American voters, and certainly most Catholics, are supportive of the idea of birth control being covered. It’s a good thing, as well. It prevents unplanned pregnancy. And we would have—I would have thought that the Republicans, who talk so much about abortion, would have been interested in achieving that end goal.

    NOTE: Jon O’Brien is president of Catholics for Choice, a nonprofit organization that represents the voice of Catholics on reproductive and sexual health.


    LORETTA ROSS: Well, really, we need to talk about the fact that this rule really allows low-income women, women who are dependent on their healthcare, to access birth control—women of color, in particular. And we need to also point out that freedom of religion also encompasses freedom from religion. And if you don’t want to use birth control, don’t buy it, don’t use it. But don’t block others who do want to use it, who cannot afford it, from accessing it. And so, it’s really unfair that they are punishing women in this political fight over who wins the Republican nomination, and they’re unfairly putting pressure on the Obama administration for upholding scientific evidence that birth control is preventive care, that that is something very important to women. And while they talk about values and conscience, let’s not lose sight that there are women being damaged by this political football men are making of our lives.

    NOTE: Loretta Ross is national coordinator of the SisterSong Reproductive Justice Collective and longtime human rights activist.

  52. Most of Obama’s “Controversial” Birth Control Rule Was Law During Bush Years
    The right has freaked out over an Obama administration rule requiring employers to offer birth control to their employees. Most companies already had to do that.
    —By Nick Baumann
    Feb. 8, 2012

    President Barack Obama’s decision to require most employers to cover birth control and insurers to offer it at no cost has created a firestorm of controversy. But the central mandate—that most employers have to cover preventative care for women—has been law for over a decade. This point has been completely lost in the current controversy, as Republican presidential candidates and social conservatives claim that Obama has launched a war on religious liberty and the Catholic Church.

    Despite the longstanding precedent, “no one screamed” until now, said Sara Rosenbaum, a health law expert at George Washington University.

    In December 2000, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that companies that provided prescription drugs to their employees but didn’t provide birth control were in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prevents discrimination on the basis of sex. That opinion, which the George W. Bush administration did nothing to alter or withdraw when it took office the next month, is still in effect today—and because it relies on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, it applies to all employers with 15 or more employees. Employers that don’t offer prescription coverage or don’t offer insurance at all are exempt, because they treat men and women equally—but under the EEOC’s interpretation of the law, you can’t offer other preventative care coverage without offering birth control coverage, too.

    “It was, we thought at the time, a fairly straightforward application of Title VII principles,” a top former EEOC official who was involved in the decision told Mother Jones. “All of these plans covered Viagra immediately, without thinking, and they were still declining to cover prescription contraceptives. It’s a little bit jaw-dropping to see what is going on now…There was some press at the time but we issued guidances that were far, far more controversial.”

  53. Elaine, I am waiting with bated breath for the “right to life” folks to raise a hue and cry about spending taxpayer money on the death penalty. You could raise a kid from birth to adulthood and pay for some higher education for the price of one execution by the time you figure in all the costs of trial, endless appeals and finally, the execution itself.

    Where is the sanctity of life for the condemned on death row?

  54. Otteray,

    The “right to life” folks don’t seem to think that women have a right to control their own lives.

    Did you hear the latest out of Oklahoma?


    Oklahoma Democrat Adds ‘Every Sperm Is Sacred’ Amendment To Personhood Bill
    By Marie Diamond on Feb 8, 2012

    Despite being rebuffed by voters in Mississippi and Colorado, proponents of the “personhood” movement are still pushing to enact legislation in states like Ohio and Oklahoma that would give zygotes the same rights as American citizens. These bills would not only criminalize abortion in all circumstances, they would also outlaw common forms of contraception, as well as in vitro fertilization.

    To poke fun at the absurdity of the measure, Oklahoma state Sen. Constance Johnson (D), has tacked on a provision affirming — in the words of a famous Monty Python song — that every sperm is sacred:

    State Senator Constance Johnson of Oklahoma City has served Oklahoma’s 48th Senate District since 2005, but it was yesterday’s introduction of Senate Bill 1433 that really pushed her over the edge. The bill sought to define human life as beginning at the moment of conception, before it’s even implanted in the womb, and offers full legal protection to those tiny multicelled lumps. In the words of the bill, “the unborn child at every stage of development (has) all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of this state.”

    Johnson submitted an amendment of her own to the bill, which would have added the language,

    However, any action in which a man ejaculates or otherwise deposits semen anywhere but in a woman’s vagina shall be interpreted and construed as an action against an unborn child.

    Among other things, Johnson’s amendment would essentially outlaw oral sex, anal sex, and masturbation. Were it not a satirical bill, it would almost certainly be deemed unconstitutional.

    To prove that her amendment was in jest, Johnson voted with her colleagues to table it later in the day. But it does illustrate a serious point: only about half of fertilized eggs develop into a pregnancy. If Republican lawmakers are willing to declare every cluster of cells with the potential to become a fetus a person, why stop at fertilized eggs? Why not sperm as well?

    To protest the inherent sexism of the personhood bill, another Democratic senator attempted to add an amendment that would require the father of the child to be financially responsible for the mother’s health care, housing, and other expenses while she is pregnant.

  55. Great lins Elaine. The right is betting that running on outlawing contraception is a winning hand. That is a losing hand.
    The right to life only matter when it is a fetus. Once they are born, they on’t give a crap

  56. Funny they don’t say jack shyte nothing about the fact that many health plans already cover “you can’t get yours up” meds like Viagra and Cialis. Not a peep from them about that. How friggin sexist is THAT?

  57. ……”the Catholic Church and her Republican allies……….”
    How smart was this politically? Do you really want to push an issue that will tend to move some Catholic voters to the right?
    As for the Church and contraception, we are patient with her. As for the anti-Catholic sentiments unleashed here, not so much.

  58. Joe S.,

    The Catholic Church deserves the criticism. The bishops should realize this is the 21st century–and that not all married couples can afford to raise all the children they would procreate if they could not use contraceptives. Would the bishops suggest that married couples abstain from having sex if they don’t want more children? After all, the rhythm method isn’t the most effective way to prevent a pregnancy.

  59. We are the 98 percent
    Catholics who ignore the church’s teaching on contraception shouldn’t expect Obama to follow it
    By Joan Walsh

    The Obama administration is facing a political crisis for making a common-sense decision: acting on the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation that health insurance plans cover contraceptive services. This is a test for the forces that mobilized to get the Susan G. Komen Foundation to reverse its politically cowardly decision to cut funding for Planned Parenthood. Clear political thinking about women’s health made a comeback in the backlash against Komen’s move; we need to make sure that clear political thinking prevails on the new Health and Human Services contraception regulations, too.

    Predictably, the GOP presidential candidates are whacking Obama on the issue; fittingly, Rick Santorum is surging again, as this latest battle in the culture war rages. As always, the biggest hypocrite is Mitt Romney, who is attacking the president’s decision even though he went along with the same regulations in Massachusetts. And when the state enacted the universal health insurance law he used to be proud of, it covered the same “family planning services” as the new HHS regulations.

    I knew the president’s decision would be controversial, but I underestimated the firestorm he would face. Since 98 percent of Catholics practice forms of contraception forbidden by the church at some point in their lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control, I assumed many of them would speak out in favor of the new regulations. How could they expect the president to follow church teachings if they did not?

    I was wrong. Too many Catholics are insisting that while they may personally disagree with the church on contraception, they defend the bishops’ opposition to the HHS moves as a matter of “religious liberty.” Others are silent. But silence lets the most right-wing forces of reaction prevail. It’s time for the 98 percent to speak up.

    This is indeed a matter of religious liberty – the liberty of non-Catholic women who work for Catholic employers to have the full spectrum of healthcare coverage, regardless of what the church believes.

    Twenty-eight states already require church-run agencies to cover contraception in the health insurance they provide employees. Catholic Charities sued to oppose the regulation in New York, and lost. The world didn’t end; Catholic agencies in New York and those 27 other states now cover contraception. And they should: Women who have access to family planning services have lower infant mortality rates and healthier babies than those who don’t. Others take the birth control pill to deal with endometriosis or other reproductive system issues. Contraception has to be part of comprehensive healthcare for women.

  60. Joe S:

    “As for the Church and contraception, we are patient with her.”


    Given the Church’s obstinant stance against contraception in sub-Saharan Africa where rampant AIDS results is widespead death daily, your infinite patience with “her” is quite lethal and quite undeserved.

  61. Pro-Choice GOP Warns Party That Contraception Fight Will Be A Disaster
    Evan McMorris-Santoro February 8, 2012

    Pro-choice Republicans are begging their party to drop this fight over contraception before it’s too late. Turning to a discussion about access to birth control will be nothing short of a disaster, they say.

    The new and unexpected war over contraception may not end up as only a battle between the White House and the Republican party. It could end up as a fight between the GOP and itself. As we saw during the 2011’s push to defund Planned Parenthood — when some Republican Senators rebuked their colleagues in the House for attacking the organization — Republicans on Capitol Hill do not speak with one voice on matters of women’s health. Now, as Speaker John Boehner seemingly prepares to turn the House GOP’s attention to contraception, pro-choice Republicans are warning that the GOP may become the next Komen For The Cure.

    “I think this week’s outrage over the Komen decision should be a warning to the Republican party about how quickly there was a mass outrage over further and further attacks on general women’s health,” Kellie Ferguson, executive director of Republican Majority for choice, told me Wednesday. “You could see the same backlash on attacks on contraception.”

    Ferguson calls the Republican rhetoric on contraception “crossing the line” — taking the discussion away from choice issues (where Republicans can find some broader, if still national minority constituency) and into the realm of the fringy extreme.

    “For the last number of years, we in the pro-choice community in general — and we specifically as Republicans — have been saying as this pandering to a sort of social conservative faction of voters continues, you’re going to see the line pushed further and further and further,” she said. “And we’re now crossing the line from discussion of when we should regulate abortion to when we should now regulate legal doctor-prescribed medications like birth control, which is woven in the fabric of society as an acceptable medication.”

    She pointed to widely-reported polling showing that a majority of Americans — and a majority of Catholics — support the White House policy and urged her party to take a step back before it’s too late.

    A high-profile debate over contraception will only serve to alienate voters and deny Republicans the White House in the fall, Ferguson suggested.

    “There’s a big leap between people who vote at a Republican caucus and the majority that will vote in a general election,” she said. “I think pigeon-holing the party as against women’s health in general not only hurts the party, but it hurts our key candidates.”

  62. The Republican War on Contraception
    Not satisfied with restricting abortion rights, the GOP is now coming after your birth control.
    —By Nick Baumann
    Thu Feb. 9, 2012

    Last year was not a great one for abortion rights. First, congressional Republicans attempted to deny statutory rape victims access to Medicaid-funded abortions (twice). Then GOP-dominated state legislatures pushed record numbers of laws limiting abortion rights, including proposals that could have treated killing abortion providers as “justifiable homicide.”

    Yet in the past six months, social conservatives have widened their offensive, and their new target is clear: Not satisfied with making it harder to obtain legal abortions, they want to limit access to birth control, too.

    “Contraception is under attack in a way it really wasn’t in the past few years,” says Judy Waxman, the vice president for health and reproductive rights at the National Women’s Law Center. “In 2004, we could not find any group—the National Right to Life Committee, the Bush campaign, anyone—that would go on the record to say they’re opposed to birth control,” adds Elizabeth Shipp, the political director for NARAL Pro-Choice America. “We couldn’t find them in 2006 either, and in 2008 it was just fringe groups. In 2010, 2011, and this year, it’s just exploded.”

    Last year was not a great one for abortion rights. First, congressional Republicans attempted to deny statutory rape victims access to Medicaid-funded abortions (twice). Then GOP-dominated state legislatures pushed record numbers of laws limiting abortion rights, including proposals that could have treated killing abortion providers as “justifiable homicide.”

    Yet in the past six months, social conservatives have widened their offensive, and their new target is clear: Not satisfied with making it harder to obtain legal abortions, they want to limit access to birth control, too.

    “Contraception is under attack in a way it really wasn’t in the past few years,” says Judy Waxman, the vice president for health and reproductive rights at the National Women’s Law Center. “In 2004, we could not find any group—the National Right to Life Committee, the Bush campaign, anyone—that would go on the record to say they’re opposed to birth control,” adds Elizabeth Shipp, the political director for NARAL Pro-Choice America. “We couldn’t find them in 2006 either, and in 2008 it was just fringe groups. In 2010, 2011, and this year, it’s just exploded.”

  63. Swarthmore mom,

    Here’s another excerpt from the Mother Jones article:

    Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who won the non-binding Missouri primary as well as the Minnesota and Colorado caucuses on Tuesday, has also slammed Obama’s decision. But he’s also gone farther than that, suggesting that any form of birth control is immoral. “Many of the Christian faith have said, well, that’s okay, contraception is okay,” Santorum, a devout Catholic, said in October. “It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” As Salon’s Irin Carmon has documented, Santorum thinks Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court decision that said states can not deny married couples access to contraception, should be overturned.


    God help us if Santorum becomes president!

  64. Springtime for Santorum
    Senator Wingnut’s reelection effort looks just like a remake of The Producers
    By Noel Weyrich
    Posted on February 2006

    Last year, when Senator Rick Santorum published his anti-liberal, anti-feminist, anti-gay manifesto It Takes a Family, a lot of political pundits were stunned by his bad timing. Most officeholders try to broaden their popular appeal in the months before kicking off a reelection campaign. Santorum did the opposite. He dished out a heaping helping of right-wing red meat, blaming our civilization’s decay on working moms, divorced parents, and supporters of gay rights and cultural diversity. In short, the book attacked three-quarters of Pennsylvania — not a smart move for someone due to face the voters in 2006.

    Few considered that Rick Santorum probably wrote It Takes a Family for the same reason most people write books. Red meat sells, and the man needs money. On a Senate salary of $165,200, Santorum supports a stay-at-home wife and six children under age 16. The entire brood is homeschooled at the couple’s four-acre, $750,000 estate in Virginia. Without Rick’s royalties, Karen Santorum is clipping coupons, buying generic and wearing Kmart.

    Since his book title was an obvious rebuke to Hillary Clinton’s It Takes a Village, many assumed that Santorum was also trying to set the stage for a presidential run in 2008. But he recently ruled that out, so only one explanation remains for why Santorum seems hell-bent on alienating every moderate voter in the state: He’s done with elective office. There are six college tuitions in the Santorum family’s future, and it’s time for Daddy to cash his chips on K Street, lobbyists’ row in D.C. This year’s reelection campaign is just his latest attempt to buff up his bankable bone fides as America’s foremost right-wing nut. Already down by double digits in the polls, Rick Santorum is throwing this election.

    It’s not just Santorum’s silly rhetoric — that the “right to privacy” may lead to court-approved infanticide, that career women have been brainwashed by radical feminism, that unmarried couples are “wrong” to live together. His actions speak even louder. In recent years the Santorums have been caught supplementing their income with methods popular among desperate low-lifes: They cheated the government, and they filed a back-related medical malpractice claim.

    Two years ago, while our rugged individualist Senator was penning a book that extolled the value of homeschooling, his family was getting free online curriculum services worth about $30,000 a year, courtesy of the small school district in Western Pennsylvania where the Santorums claim residency. When the Penn Hills school board noticed that the putative Santorum homestead outside Pittsburgh has only three bedrooms and was rented out to someone else, it demanded a refund. A legal technicality over filing dates sank the school board’s case, and Santorum claimed, absurdly, that he was being persecuted by liberal Penn Hills Democrats. He was right about one thing, though. It takes a family to rip off a village.

    Even more strangely for Senator Self-Reliant, in 1999 Karen Santorum filed a $500,000 medical malpractice claim — the exact kind of claim Senator Santorum has long fought to outlaw in Washington. In testimony redolent of bleeding-heart-liberal whining, Santorum told a court his wife’s chiropractor-induced back troubles caused her to gain weight and damaged her self-esteem. The jury of softies, touched by the Senator’s tales of having to drag the family laundry upstairs for his afflicted spouse, awarded Karen Santorum $350,000. An indignant judge cut the award in half, but the fact remains that the Santorums scored tens of thousands of dollars on Karen’s achy back, while the Senator demands legal caps on pain-and-suffering awards to amputees and quadriplegics.

  65. Thanks to Elaine and SwM we have ample proof as to the true motivation of those who disingenuously label themselves Pro-Life. These anti abortionists will not admit the true purpose of their movement and like panderers of the meanest sort cloak it in appeals that focus on babies. Like apple pie, everyone pretends to love babies/children. By playing this cynical card they keep the focus off what they are really trying to accomplish and suck in well meaning people in service of the real misogynistic purpose of their sick inhumane cause.

    The aim of this disgusting and immoral movement is the subjugation of women and a return to extremist patriarchy. They pretend to want only to stop abortions, yet they also now are openly adding the previously hidden agenda item of birth control. Obviously birth control would reduce abortion, but that doesn’t matter to them because it has never been about abortion, rather it is the fear that women’s sexual autonomy will free women from patriarchal control. That anti-abortionists are also against sex education has long been the tip off that controlling abortions was just the cover for this rotten agenda. Another is that their legislative proponents are against any support for mothers as single parents, pre-natal care, or health care for children. They do not cherish life, they fear and loathe independent women.

    Another component of this scam is the chastity until marriage movement. As the father of now grown daughters I must say that my daughter’s virginity was never an interest of mine, one way or another. My daughters were brought up to be independent thinkers, but given all the information and support they needed to make mature sexual choices based on their particular beliefs. They’ve made their choices and continue to do so in a mature fashion, though I’ve honestly never discussed that aspect of their lives by respecting their right of privacy, I’ve also never been interested in their particular choices. To me fathers who are so interested in their daughters sexuality/virginity are somewhat icky. I understand that as a parent you want to ensure that your child is not taken advantage of by some male user. However, I believe the best way to protect their safety is to teach them to be responsible, provide them with the facts about sexuality and to instill within them the self-confidence that a female needs independence of males whether in or out of love.

    The statistics show clearly that in the areas where anti-abortion and abstinence hold sway, the rates of sexuality and out of wedlock births is higher than in less sexually uptight areas. Planned ignorance breeds the kind of climate where unplanned pregnancies thrive. To me this misogyny is one of the premier issues of our time and the right of equality for women is a major issue.

  66. Catholic bishops hypocrites in birth control controversy

    Everything you need to know about the Holy Crusade being waged by the Catholic bishops against President Obama over health insurance coverage for birth control can be found in this single fact: One of the loudest voices attacking the President for his “War” on Catholicism is the same guy — Newt Gingrich — let into the Catholic Church in the first place by bishops who overlooked the two wives he abandoned, as well as his admitted fondness for infidelity, and in spite of the Church’s frowning on divorce if not creepiness in general.

    “The Obama administration has just launched an attack on Christianity so severe that every single church had a letter read from the bishops all across the country,” the shameless Gingrich thundered. “Freedom of religion in America is now being attacked by Obama.”

    Maybe it’s just me, but to my way of thinking leaving a sick wife who suffers from cancer in order to shack up with a sweet young thing on my staff is a far more grievous example of the self indulgence and selfishness which the bishops hope to stamp out than is the Church’s present American Inquisition against condoms.

    The stink of hypocrisy here is so thick it is overpowering. And that is because power is what this dispute has been about from the start. This controversy isn’t about theology and never was. And if it’s a “war on religion” conservatives are whining about it’s a war the bishops lost decades ago, and with their own Church followers, who sensibly concluded that Catholic hostility towards birth control was both esoteric and antique.

    The bishops have tried to re-frame the issue as one of conscience and the Church’s right to be free from government interference. But as the liberal-leaning National Catholic Reporter editorializes: “The clash of rights in this case is not so neatly defined by those outside and inside the Church.”

    It is abundantly clear that in the United States, says the Reporter, “Catholics themselves do not feel conscience-bound by the Church’s teaching prohibiting the use of contraceptives,” especially where Church teaching “has been consistently rejected” for more than 50 years.

    So, wonders this prominent Catholic newspaper, is government then duty-bound to enforce a religious group’s moral teaching if that religion’s own leaders “have failed to persuade the group of its importance?”

  67. At Whom Are The Bishops Angry?
    by Ken Briggs on Feb. 07, 2012
    National Catholic Reporter

    The flurry of response to the Obama Administration’s ruling that Catholic institutions must cover the cost of contraceptives has emphasized the political tensions underlying the conflict but neglects the strains created within the church itself.

    Two consequences especially seem evident, if not immediately then in the months and years come.

    They both stem from the failure of the birth control encyclical to persuade American Catholics that the prohibition made sense, in part because it left them, the ones most involved with the issue, out of the decision.

    Has the Vatican been nursing a resentment against American Catholics ever since? I think much evidence suggests this is so. But under the prevailing customs of creeping infallibilism, the encyclical cannot be declared flawed or in need of reconsideration.

  68. Santorum: Obama Has Put America On ‘The Path’ Of Executing Religious People By Decapitation
    By Igor Volsky on Feb 9, 2012

    Rick Santorum continued to rail against President Obama’s so-called war against religion during a town hall in Plano, Texas Wednesday night. The former Pennsylvania senator — who has spent the last several days criticizing the government’s requirement that insurers provide contraception coverage and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision striking down Proposition 8 — accused the administration of “crushing” religion and setting the United States on the path towards executing religious people by decapitation:

    SANTORUM: They are taking faith and crushing it. Why? Why? When you marginalize faith in America, when you remove the pillar of God-given rights, then what’s left is the French Revolution. What’s left is the government that gives you right, what’s left are no unalienable rights, what’s left is a government that will tell you who you are, what you’ll do and when you’ll do it. What’s left in France became the guillotine. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re a long way from that, but if we do and follow the path of President Obama and his overt hostility to faith in America, then we are headed down that road.

  69. I want to echo Mike S and his thanks to Elaine and Swarthmore Mom for their links to evidence that the war on women is now being fought on a new front. Contraception. I mentioned this on an earlier thread, but I wonder how many of Newt’s girlfriends were using contraception when he was involved in adulterous affairs?

  70. Republicans Threaten Contraception Access World Wide
    by Jessica Pieklo
    February 9, 2012

    The Republicans may be launching an all out assault on contraception here in the United States, but as Michelle Goldberg reports, it’s a war that has devastating global consequences.

    In Liberia teen pregnancy rates are high even by West African standards, birth control is largely paid for by USAID programs that are at risk of evaporating should Republicans win in 2012. With every Republican candidate speaking out against contraception and with all of them pledging to eliminate Title X, the federal family-planning program launched by conservative Richard Nixon, public health officials are legitimately worried about a coming spike in unintended pregnancies and deaths should access to contraception be taken away.

    As Goldberg notes, to put the severity of attack in some context, consider Mike Pence. Pence is one of Congress’s leading crusaders against Planned Parenthood, but even he thinks the right has gone too far. “I’ve never advocated reducing funding for Title X,” he told an Indiana radio station last year. “Title X clinics do important work in our inner cities. They provide health services for women and children that might not otherwise have access to them.”

    Just how at risk are international women’s health programs? Should Mitt Romney, the most moderate of the Republicans win the presidency then he’ll impose the global gag rule, preventing any American money from going to organizations that perform or even counsel about abortions. He will also likely withhold money from the United Nations Population Fund, or UNFPA, an agency that promotes reproductive health worldwide on the “demonstrably false” grounds that it supports coerced abortion in China.

    Romney has also made it clear he would slash funding for HIV/AIDS relief efforts, pulling harder to the right on international public health initiatives than even former President Bush.

  71. If you create an exception for “religious” affiliated entities in regard to this law then it is also an exception for every law. In other words, so long as you call yourself a religion you have a right (according to the Rightwing nut cases) to be a bigot. That is the real goal of the Republican/Tparty of hate.

  72. No one is forcing “good” Catholics to use contraception because of this Obamacare provision. The option should be included in the health insurance coverage for employees of Catholic hospitals, colleges, etc., who are not Catholic…and for Catholics who do use birth control methods frowned upon by the bishops–none of whom have ever been pregnant, have given birth, or have had to support and raise a family.

  73. “I wonder how many people wish Newt’s parents had used contraception.” (Gene)

    They did. Explains a lot, doesn’t it.

  74. Reason vs. hysteria in the birth control debate
    David Boies explains the issue in terms of labor law, while Santorum says Obama may lead us to the “guillotine” VIDEO

    On Wednesday night we reached the high and the low, so far, in the debate over the Obama administration’s requirement that Catholic institutions that employ non-Catholics include contraception coverage in their health insurance policies.

    The high, in terms of reason and clarity, came from famed attorney David Boies on MSNBC’s “The Last Word.” Lawrence O’Donnell has let male “liberal” pundits like Mark Shields wax a little shrill on his show, but to his credit, he offered the best rebuttal to all the shrieking I’ve seen so far: Boies calmly and clearly explaining the new regulations as an issue of labor law, and the government’s regulation of employers (relatively minimal, compared to other countries) on issues of health, safety and non-discrimination.

    I’ve tried to make the same points: What if Catholics didn’t believe in child labor laws? Would we let church-run agencies flout them? Boies used the example of a religion that believed people shouldn’t work after age 60: Could they legally ban older people from employment? Of course, they could do neither. This is indeed an issue of religious freedom: the freedom of non-Catholics not to be bound by the dictates of the Catholic Church in the workplace.


    Watch David Boies discussing the subject with Lawrence O’Donnell on The Last Word.

  75. Catholic Bishops Demand All Businesses Be Given The Right To Deny Women Contraception Coverage
    By Marie Diamond on Feb 9, 2012

    Catholic bishops and their GOP allies have been in an uproar ever since the Obama administration announced new rules that require employers, including most religiously-affiliated institutions, to cover contraception in their health plans with no cost-sharing. Republican candidates have accused Obama of waging a “war against religious freedom.” Rick Santorum went so far as to say Obama has put America on “the path” of beheading devout citizens.

    The less shrill voices have implored Obama to “compromise” by broadening the religious exemption to let religiously-affiliated hospitals refuse women contraception. But the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has made it clear they’re not interested in compromise. According to a report in USA Today, they aren’t just demanding a broader religious exemption from the new contraception coverage rule — they want contraception coverage removed from the Affordable Care Act altogether:

    The White House is “all talk, no action” on moving toward compromise, said Anthony Picarello, general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “There has been a lot of talk in the last couple days about compromise, but it sounds to us like a way to turn down the heat, to placate people without doing anything in particular,” Picarello said. “We’re not going to do anything until this is fixed.”

    That means removing the provision from the health care law altogether, he said, not simply changing it for Catholic employers and their insurers. He cited the problem that would create for “good Catholic business people who can’t in good conscience cooperate with this.”

  76. Marco Rubio’s Plan Could Cut Off Birth Control Coverage for Millions
    How the Florida senator—and potential VP pick—aims to use religion to undermine Obama’s health care policy.
    —By Nick Baumann | Thu Feb. 9, 2012

    A new bill introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a rising conservative star and leading contender for the Republican vice-presidential nomination in 2012, could cut off birth control coverage for millions of women who receive it through their health plans.

    Rubio has sold his proposal—introduced January 31 as the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” or S. 2043—as a way to counter President Barack Obama’s controversial rule requiring even religiously-affiliated schools and universities to offer copay-free birth control to their employees. But health care experts say that its implications could be far broader.

    If passed, the bill would allow any institution or corporation to cut off birth control coverage simply by citing religious grounds.

  77. Comment seen on the Intertubes:

    “If altar boys could get pregnant, they would make birth control mandatory.”

  78. Catholic bishops’ birth control stance harms employees, bioethicist says
    By Art Caplan, Ph.D.

    This week GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney angrily decreed that the Obama administration’s health plan to cover birth control as an “assault on religion.” Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum issued press releases decrying the insensitivity of the government’s religious freedom.

    But, I invite you to envision a different scenario: Imagine that the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which is based in Brooklyn, NY, creates a printing company that happily employs people from many faiths and cultural backgrounds. The company’s sole task is to print all the Witness literature that its followers distribute door-to-door all over the world. That literature clearly states the Jehovah’s Witnesses adamant opposition to blood transfusion. Then the federal government then issues a national set of minimal standards which all companies operating as public entities must provide as part of the health insurance coverage they offer.

    The Governing Body is outraged because on that list are blood transfusions. They issue a statement accusing the President of trying to crush religious liberty by forcing their printing company, which employs many non-Jehovah’s witnesses, to cover transfusions.

    In that instance, would politicians be rushing to slam the health care plan on the basis of religious freedom? Would anyone in the media be sympathetic if the entire leadership of the Jehovah’s Witnesses said they would not budge an inch in including coverage of blood transfusions at their printing company no matter what government, doctors or even their own employees believe that ought to have covered? I doubt it.

    And yet, this is exactly the reaction that has greeted the pronouncement by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that they feel persecuted by the inclusion of birth control in the list of covered benefits that they need to provide when they operate institutions in the public arena.

  79. Bishops Were Prepared for Battle Over Birth Control Coverage
    Seth Wenig/Associated Press


    Published: February 9, 2012


    When after much internal debate the Obama administration finally announced its decision to require religiously affiliated hospitals and universities to cover birth control in their insurance plans, the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops were fully prepared for battle.

    Seven months earlier, they had started laying the groundwork for a major new campaign to combat what they saw as the growing threat to religious liberty, including the legalization of same-sex marriage. But the birth control mandate, issued on Jan. 20, was their Pearl Harbor.

    Hours after President Obama phoned to share his decision with Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, who is president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the bishops’ headquarters in Washington posted on its Web site a video of Archbishop Dolan, which had been recorded the day before.

    “Never before,” Archbishop Dolan said, setting the tone, “has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience. This shouldn’t happen in a land where free exercise of religion ranks first in the Bill of Rights.”

    The speed and passion behind the bishops’ response reflects their growing sense of siege, and their belief that the space the Catholic church once occupied in American society and the deference it was given are gradually being curtailed by an increasingly secular culture.

    The conflict puts not just the White House, but also the bishops to the test. Will their flock follow their lead? And are they sufficiently powerful, now that they have joined forces with evangelicals and other religious conservatives, to outmuscle the women’s groups, public health advocates and liberal religious leaders who argue that the real issue is contraceptive coverage for all women, and that the Obama administration was right?

    On the day of the decision, bishops across the country posted similarly dire statements on their Web sites, and at Mass on the following Sundays, priests read the bishops’ letters from their pulpits and wove the religious freedom theme into their homilies. By the bishops’ own count, 147 bishops in the nation’s 195 dioceses have now issued personal letters on religious freedom, which are trickling down to Catholics through their local parish bulletins and diocesan newspapers.

    Some bishops called on Catholics to lobby their legislators to overturn the mandate, while a few have called for resistance. Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who oversees Catholic military chaplains, instructed them to read a pastoral letter at Mass that said, “We cannot — and will not — comply with this unjust law.” Army officials ordered him to strike that line because it could be interpreted as a call for civil disobedience.

    “I have never seen the bishops mobilize so quickly,” said Stephen S. Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America, in Washington. “I remember Roe v. Wade, and it took years for them to respond to that, in terms of an organized response.”

    “The bishops really are convinced that this is a direct abridgement of their First Amendment religion rights,” Mr. Schneck said. “From their perspective, this really isn’t about contraception.”

    The ruling issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, said that only religious organizations that primarily employ and serve their co-religionists would be exempt from the requirement to provide insurance that covers birth control. Churches are therefore exempt, but Catholic hospitals, service agencies and colleges are not. The White House said that 28 states already had such mandates, so this federal rule, which is part of the health care overhaul, just applies the mandate uniformly. (and the article continues)

  80. Catholic bishops cry wolf on contraception
    Bill Press
    Tribune Media Services
    February 9, 2012–tms–bpresstt–m-a20120209feb09,0,6652048.column

    I love protests, and have taken part in many of them. My first was picketing in front of Safeway in San Francisco, urging shoppers to support California farm workers and boycott grapes.

    But there are real protests and there are phony protests. And one of the phoniest we’ve ever seen is today’s protest by Catholic bishops against the Obama administration’s new rules on insurance coverage of contraception.

    Judging from the cries of outrage coming from the Catholic hierarchy, you’d think President Obama had shut down Catholic churches, defrocked all priests, sent nuns back to Ireland, and dropped an atomic bomb on the Vatican. On every cable news or talk radio show, Obama’s accused of trampling on the First Amendment, declaring war on religion, destroying religious freedom and, of course, Catholic-bashing.

    Nonsense. Here’s the truth. On January 20, the Health and Human Services Agency, under Secretary Kathleen Sibelius, issued a new rule that insurance policies, as part of their basic package, must offer contraceptive services with no deductible or co-pay. An exception was made for 335,000 churches, missions, or other places of worship where all employees were Catholic or members of any religion which opposed contraception as a matter of faith.

    Note: The new ruling does not require Catholic hospitals or clinics to provide birth control pills or devices. It does not force Catholics to practice contraception. It does not interfere with anyone’s religion. It does not prevent priests and bishops from continuing their appalling medieval and widely ignored attempts to convince Catholics that contraception is sinful. It simply says that there can no longer be two kinds of health insurance policies: those that cover contraception and those that don’t. All women deserve access to the same health protection. It’s up to the individual woman to decide whether to practice contraception or not.

    What makes this whole debate so appalling is that, in raising holy hell against Obama, Catholic bishops are being dishonest. They accuse the president of infringing on religious liberty. Yet they fail to acknowledge, for example, that not everybody who works in a Catholic hospital or university is a Catholic — and should not, therefore, be bound by narrow Catholic attitudes toward sex.

    Listening to the bishops squeal, you’d also never know that, long before the Obama administration acted, 28 states — including Mitt Romney’s home state of Massachusetts and Newt Gingrich’s home state of Georgia — had already adopted regulations requiring contraception coverage without co-pay. Eight of those states, by the way, don’t even provide an opt-out provision for churches. And you’d certainly never know that many leading Catholic universities — including Catholic University, America’s biggest Catholic university — include free contraception coverage as part of their basic health insurance for all employees.

    Let’s face it. Here’s what’s really going on. Ever since Pope Paul VI condemned contraception in his 1968 encyclical letter entitled Humanae Vitae: On the Regulation of Birth, the Catholic Church has been fighting a losing battle. Today, even though the Church is officially against it, 98 percent of Catholic women who are sexually active say they practice some form of birth control, this according to a new report from the Guttmacher Institute. So now, by demanding government permission to deny contraception coverage in their own health plans, what Catholic bishops are really trying to do is get President Obama to deliver where they have failed. And that’s not his job. His priority is to protect women’s health, not to enforce some outdated, anachronistic and unrealistic policy of an out-of-touch, celibate Catholic hierarchy.

    And that’s the real issue. Not Catholic teaching. Not religious freedom. But women’s health. Guttmacher found that 58 percent of women who use birth control do so, not just to prevent pregnancy, but for other important health reasons, like reducing the risk of ovarian cancer or treating uterine fibroid tumors and anemia.

  81. You have probably heard Obama’s modification to the contraception issue…

    I am of the opinion Obama completely outsmarted the Repubnuts on the debt crisis…. now think about this: the contraception issue will probably help Santorum especially now during CPAC… helping Santorum keeps the Republican primary war going and makes life tough for Romney…..

    Think of the political brilliance of Obama’s move in effectively helping Santorum which ultimately is great for Obama…..

    The guy is really a master political strategist.

  82. Any word yet from the Catholic bishops on Obama’s “tweaking” of contraception coverage? I’m glad our president didn’t cave on this issue to the right wingnuts and the women-are-second-class-citizens folks.

  83. NOW and Planned Parenthood are okay with the modification as posted above. Obama is on the right side of the culture war. The republican candidates are not.

  84. Yep … he understands the importance of this issue and seems willing to stand firm.

    Take a look at Betty Sutton, Congresswoman from Ohio, and see if you want to help …

    Like Warren, she is one of the good guys fighting off the US Chamber of Congress money machine.

  85. The Men Behind The War On Women
    By Laura Bassett

    A group of men with no real background in law or medicine, but blessed with a strong personal interest in women’s bodies, have quietly influenced all of the major anti-abortion legislation over the past several years. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops may be one of the quietest, yet most powerful lobbies on Capitol Hill, with political allies that have enabled them to roll back decades of law and precedent.

    Over the past two years the GOP-controlled House of Representatives has launched one of the most extreme assaults on women’s choice the U.S. has seen in decades. Republicans voted twice to slash federal family planning funds for low-income women, moved to prevent women from using their own money to buy insurance plans that cover abortion, introduced legislation that would force women to have ultrasounds before receiving an abortion and, most recently, passed a bill that will allow hospitals to refuse to perform emergency abortions for women with life-threatening pregnancy complications.

    But the erosion of women’s rights didn’t begin with the GOP takeover. President Barack Obama’s health care reform law contained some of the most restrictive abortion language seen in decades.

    Lift the curtain, and behind the assault was the conference of bishops.

    “It is a very effective lobby, unfortunately, and now they have an ally in the Republican majority because both groups find this a means by which to fight women’s health issues in general,” said Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.), a member of the House Pro-Choice Caucus. “The bishops carry a lot of clout.”

  86. Bishops Are Behind the ‘Let Women Die’ Act and the Push Against Birth Control — Even As They’re Under Fire for Sex Abuse Scandals
    Sarah Seltzer
    Catholics for Choice
    17 October 2011

    Last week, the House’s passage of the now-notorious H.R. 358 — also known as the “Let Women Die” bill — caused deserved outrage. But the bill’s connection to the high-ranking Catholic group that fought for its passage, even while the American church is fighting a horrific new sex abuse scandal, hasn’t been given the attention it deserves.

    The new bill (which the president has vowed to veto) would essentially obliterate abortion coverage by both public and private insurers, and most egregiously get hospitals off the hook for refusing to perform abortions for women whose lives are in immediate danger. It would literally allow hospitals to let women die with impunity.

    H.R. 358’s easy passage by a majority in Congress (with some defecting Democrats in the ranks) delivered another shock of sexism in a political landscape that has been assaulted by one anti-abortion, anti-contraception, anti-women’s health measure after another, all firing in a succession of rapid shots from statehouses across the nation as well as from DC. Helping to man the artillery is a largely disgraced Catholic hierarchy.

    This momentum for misogyny has been painted as having mostly arisen from the Tea Party and the extremist evangelical megachurch Pat Robertson types. But these anti-choice forces are not alone, and they are not solely responsible: rather the (all-male, it should go without saying) Council of Catholic Bishops has aggressively, relentlessly, and successfully lobbied for many of the worst of the measures in the “War on Women.”

  87. A Catholic Bishop Is Indicted in Child Pornography and Again I Ask: Why Does Congress Kowtow to the USCCB?
    by Jodi Jacobson, Editor in Chief, RH Reality Check
    October 16, 2011

    Almost exactly two years ago, during the heat of the health reform debate, I wrote an article asking why the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has so much power in the halls of Congress, especially when it comes to pushing for policies that deny women their rights.

    Today, I ask again: Why?

    On Friday, October 14th, 2011, the day after the USCCB succeeded in achieving its long-held goal of getting the House of Representatives to pass the Let Women Die Act of 2011, one of their own, Bishop Robert W. Finn, was indicted for failure to report suspected child abuse.

    This is, according to the New York Times, “the first time in the 25-year history of the church’s sex abuse scandals that the leader of an American diocese has been held criminally liable for the behavior of a priest he supervised.”

    The indictment of the bishop, Robert W. Finn, and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph by a county grand jury was announced on Friday. Each was charged with one misdemeanor count involving a priest accused of taking pornographic photographs of girls as recently as this year. They pleaded not guilty.

    According to the Times, the bishops pledged a decade ago to report suspected abusers to law enforcement authorities. And “Bishop Finn himself had made such a promise three years ago as part of a $10 million legal settlement with abuse victims in Kansas City.”

    Instead he continued to cover up this abuse.

    Bishop Finn acknowledged that he knew of the photographs last December but did not turn them over to the police until May. During that time, the priest, the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, is said to have continued to attend church events with children, and took lewd photographs of another young girl.

    Taking lewd photographs of young girls and covering it up. Raping young boys and girls and covering it up. Getting women pregnant and covering it up.

    There is a sustained pattern of institutionalized corruption and immorality by any measure and these men are allowed to declare themselves the moral arbiters of the most private decisions made by women and their families?

  88. The Catholic Church’s Secret Sex-Crime Files
    How a scandal in Philadelphia exposed documents that reveal a high-level conspiracy to cover up decades of sexual abuse
    SEPTEMBER 6, 2011

    The five co-defendants sit close enough to shake hands in the Philadelphia courtroom, but they never once acknowledge one another. Father James Brennan, a 47-year-old priest accused of raping a 14-year-old boy, looks sad and stooped in a navy sweater, unshaven and sniffling. Edward Avery, a defrocked priest in his sixties, wears an unsettlingly pleasant expression on his face, as though he’s mentally very far away. He and two other defendants – the Rev. Charles Engelhardt, also in his sixties, and Bernard Shero, a former Catholic schoolteacher in his forties – are accused of passing around “Billy,” a fifth-grade altar boy. According to the charges, the three men raped and sodomized the 10-year-old, sometimes making him perform stripteases or getting him drunk on sacramental wine after Mass.

    Heinous as the accusations are, the most shocking – and significant – are those against the fifth defendant, Monsignor William Lynn. At 60, Lynn is portly and dignified, his thin lips pressed together and his double chin held high. In a dramatic fashion statement, he alone has chosen to wear his black clerical garb today, a startling reminder that this is a priest on trial, a revered representative of the Catholic Church, not to mention a high-ranking official in Philadelphia’s archdiocese. Lynn, who reported directly to the cardinal, was the trusted custodian of a trove of documents known in the church as the “Secret Archives files.” The files prove what many have long suspected: that officials in the upper echelons of the church not only tolerated the widespread sexual abuse of children by priests but conspired to hide the crimes and silence the victims. Lynn is accused of having been the archdiocese’s sex-abuse fixer, the man who covered up for its priests. Incredibly, after a scandal that has rocked the church for a generation, he is the first Catholic official ever criminally charged for the cover-up.

  89. Would it be too inflammatory to suggest that the Prelacy of the Roman Catholic Church are fully embarked upon an ongoing, world-wide Crusade Against Women?

  90. REPORT: By A Nearly 2 To 1 Margin, Cable Networks Call On Men Over Women To Comment On Birth Control
    By Faiz Shakir and Adam Peck on Feb 10, 2012

    President Obama’s regulation mandating that health insurance plans offer free birth control is an issue that most directly affects women. And yet, the cable news chatter over this controversy has been driven mostly by men, according to a new ThinkProgress analysis.

    From Monday through Thursday evening, the leading cable news channels – Fox, Fox Business, MSNBC, and CNN – invited almost twice as many men as women onto their shows to discuss contraceptive coverage.
    Out of a total of 146 guests who discussed contraception, the cables invited 91 men compared to 55 women as commentators. In other words, males comprised 62 percent of the total guests who commented on contraception.

  91. House Republican Leader Price: ‘There’s Not One Woman’ Who Doesn’t Have Access To Birth Control
    By Scott Keyes and Travis Waldron on Feb 10, 2012

    WASHINGTON, DC — Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) shed his usual placid demeanor when discussing birth control for low-income women on Friday, telling ThinkProgress that “not one” woman doesn’t have access to contraception in the United States.

    Price, who serves as the fifth ranking Republican in the House, made the comments to ThinkProgress this morning at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. Like virtually all Republicans in Congress, he opposes the recent Obama administration rule requiring employers and insurers to offer birth control at no cost.

    We asked Price, who is a medical doctor by trade, what he would say to low-income women who can’t afford birth control if it’s not covered by their insurance policies. Price responded by denying their very existence. “Bring me one woman who has been left behind,” he demanded. “Bring me one. There’s not one”:

    KEYES: Obviously one of the main sticking points is whether or not contraception coverage is going to be covered health insurance plans and at hospitals and whether or not they’re going to be able to pay for it, especially for low-income women. Where do we leave these women if this rule is rescinded?

    PRICE: Bring me one woman who has been left behind. Bring me one. There’s not one. The fact of the matter is, this is a trampling of religious freedom and religious liberty in this country. The president does not have the power to say that your First Amendment rights go away. That’s wrong.

  92. Blouise, Just read the bishops are going to back the extension of unemployment compensation. The republicans won’t be supporting them on that. They are not so bad on economic justice. But when it has to do with women’s bodies, they are horrible. I decided they were crazy on that stuff in high school and tuned them out.

  93. SwM,

    I don’t like to mess in other people’s religion so understand what I’m trying to say … These Bishops are the responsibility of Catholics and as so many people tell devout Muslims to speak-up to Islam, I encourage Catholics to do as mespo did … if you disagree, let them know. It has greater impact coming from a member of the flock than coming from a non-member like me.

    Now, I have dinner with the ladies … talk with you tomorrow.

  94. I was raised as a Catholic. But i strongly disagree with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops statement denouncing President Barack Obama’s attempts at compromise as “needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions” . On the contrary, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops comments are themselves a needless intrusion upon the proper functions of government. Someone should explain to them the concept of separation of Church And State. Perhaps if they moved to a county governed by Sharia law for awhile, they would be more enlightened? Just because a religious group in America claims to believe something, we cannot exclude or excuse them from obeying the law. They can legally attempt to change the law… not to deny it.

  95. GOP Ups The Ante, Introduces Legislation To Allow Any Employer To Deny Any Preventive Health Service
    By Igor Volsky on Feb 10, 2012

    Earlier today, in response to criticism from Catholic groups, the White House altered its regulation requiring employers and insurers to provide no-cost contraception coverage as part of their health care plans. Churches and religious nonprofits that primarily employ people of the same faith are still exempt from the requirement, but now religiously affiliated colleges, universities, and hospitals that wish to avoid providing birth control can do so. Their employees will still receive contraception coverage at no additional cost sharing directly from the insurer.

    But Republicans and some conservative Catholic groups are not satisfied with the accommodation and hope to use their false claim of “religious persecution” to deny women access to preventive health services. Despite Obama’s decision to shield nonprofit religious institutions from offering birth control benefits, next week Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) is expected to offer an amendment that would permit any employer or insurance plan to exclude any health service, no matter how essential, from coverage if they morally object to it:


    “(A) FOR HEALTH PLANS. — A health plan shall not be considered to have failed to provide the essential health benefits package described in subsection (a) (or preventive health services described in section 2713 of the Public Health Services Act), to fail to be a qualified health plan, or to fail to fulfill any other requirement under this title on the basis that it declines to provide coverage of specific items or services because —

    “(i) providing coverage (or, in the case of a sponsor of a group health plan, paying for coverage) of such specific items or services is contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the sponsor, issuer, or other entity offering the plan; or

    “(ii) such coverage (in the case of individual coverage) is contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the purchaser or beneficiary of the coverage.

    Under the measure, an insurer or an employer would be able to claim a moral or religious objection to covering HIV/AIDS screenings, Type 2 Diabetes treatments, cancer tests or anything else they deem inappropriate or the result of an “unhealthy” or “immoral” lifestyle. Similarly, a health plan could refuse to cover mental health care on the grounds that the plan believes that psychiatric problems should be treated with prayer.

  96. Santorum: Birth Control Is Not Something ‘You Need Insurance For’ Because It Costs ‘Just A Few Dollars’
    By Igor Volsky on Feb 10, 2012

    Rick Santorum told an audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this morning that insurance plans shouldn’t cover contraception services because birth control “costs a few dollars” and is only a “minor expense” for women:

    SANTORUM: [I]nterestingly enough, here is what they are forcing them to do — in an insurance policy, they or forcing them to pay for something that costs just a few dollars. Is that what insurance is for? The foundational idea that we have the government tells you that you have to pay for everything as a business. Things that are not really things you need insurance for, and still forcing on something that is not a critical economic need, when you have an economic distress, where you would need insurance. But forcing them even more to do it for minor expenses.

    In reality, oral contraceptives or “The Pill” range between $35 and $250 for the initial provider visit and the cost of a monthly supply of pills ranges between $15 and $50 a month, which amounts to between $180 and $600 a year depending on woman’s medical coverage. This means some women without insurance coverage for contraception may pay over $850 the first year of their prescription. Other forms of birth control are far more expensive. For instance, the cost for a monthly supply of birth control patches ranges from $15 to $80 dollars, or between $180 and $960 a year. Combined with the doctors visit, uninsured women could spend over $1,200 dollars in the first year.

    Santorum has long opposed contraception and has pledged to preach about “the dangers of contraception in this country,” if elected president. “It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be,” he has said. The former Pennsylvania senator has also claimed that states have the right to outlaw birth control.

  97. From the dailymail link… :-)

    The Romney campaign pooh-poohed the notion of a brokered convention at which a dark horse would come forward. ‘Fantasy,’ said Stuart Stevens, Mr Romney’s chief strategist. ‘All my life I’ve heard that. Pigs will fly. Total fantasy.

    ‘It’s the same way that I could have sex with some supermodel tonight. It could happen. We could be on a plane, we could crash… No, it’s not going to happen. It never has.’

  98. “The rest of us have a battle to fight.” -Swarthmore mom

    Yep… a mighty battle, Swarthmore mom. I hope that we’re up to it… I have to believe that we are…

  99. Catholic bishops group denounces contraception compromise

    The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops denounced President Barack Obama’s compromise over whether to require religiously affiliated institutions to provide contraception to female employees, saying the proposal raises “serious moral concerns,” according to a statement posted on its website late Friday.

    “Today’s proposal continues to involve needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions, and to threaten government coercion of religious people and groups to violate their most deploy held convictions,” the statement said.

    Under the new plan announced by Obama Friday, religiously affiliated universities and hospitals will not be forced to offer contraception coverage to their employees. Insurers will be required, however, to offer complete coverage free of charge to any women who work at such institutions. Women who work at churches, though, will have no guarantee of such contraception coverage — a continuation of current law.

    News of the compromise came after days of escalating partisan and ideological rhetoric over the divisive issue. The White House originally wanted to require hospitals and schools with religious ties to offer full contraception coverage. Many Catholic leaders and other religious groups strongly oppose any requirement for contraception coverage on theological grounds.

    The question of whether institutions with religious ties should be required to offer insurance plans covering birth control and the so-called morning after pill, among other things, hits a number of political hot buttons. Liberal groups have pushed for an expansive contraception coverage requirement on grounds of gender equality in health care. Conservatives generally consider it a violation of the First Amendment and an infringement on religious liberty.

    The statement released by the Catholic Bishops conference said the proposal requires “careful moral analysis,” saying it did not appear to offer clear protection for self-insured religious employers or religious and secular for-profit and non-profit employers.

    It came hours after the president briefed New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, head of the Catholic Bishops conference. Dolan later released a statement declaring “while there may be openness to respond to some of our concerns, we reserve judgment on the details until we have them.”

    But ‘today’s decision … is a first step in the right direction,” he said.

    Under the proposal, there will be a one-year transition period for religious organizations after the policy formally takes effect on August 1.

    “No woman’s health should depend on who she is or where she works or how much money she makes.” Obama said at the White House. But “the principle of religious liberty” is also at stake. “As a citizen and as a Christian, I cherish this right.”

    The president also discussed the decision with Sister Carol Keehan of the Catholic Health Association and Cecile Richards, head of Planned Parenthood.

  100. Bishops call Obama’s contraception compromise ‘unacceptable’

    Hours after calling the Obama administration’s contraceptives compromise a “first step,” the Catholic bishops said Friday night they have “two serious objections” to the new policy and will fight its enactment.

    First, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said the administration’s plan still includes a “nationwide mandate of insurance coverage of sterilization and contraception, including some abortifacients.”

    “This is both unsupported in the law and remains a grave moral concern,” the bishops said in their statement. “We cannot fail to reiterate this, even as so many would focus exclusively on the question of religious liberty.

    And while Obama’s new plan allows religious-affiliated employers to refrain from paying for contraceptive coverage — insurers would be obligated to provide the coverage for free — the bishops said the change doesn’t go far enough.

    “It would still mandate that all insurers must include coverage for the objectionable services in all the policies they would write,” the bishops said. “At this point, it would appear that self-insuring religious employers, and religious insurance companies, are not exempt from this mandate.”

  101. “Lots of buzz about Jeb picking up the nomination:
    “Jeb Bush could emerge as GOP nominee at a brokered convention, says top Republican””

    I’ve been predicting Jeb here for at least six months. Romney is definitely unlikable and Jeb is very well liked by the base. Also never underestimate the desire of the Bush family to have a dynasty.

  102. Mike S.,

    It would certainly be an interesting twist, wouldn’t it? Strange times, so who know what could happen…

  103. A few posts back I said, “I am of the opinion Obama completely outsmarted the Repubnuts on the debt crisis…. now think about this: the contraception issue will probably help Santorum especially now during CPAC… helping Santorum keeps the Republican primary war going and makes life tough for Romney…..

    Think of the political brilliance of Obama’s move in effectively helping Santorum which ultimately is great for Obama….. The guy is really a master political strategist.”

    Seems I was not alone in this view. Andrew Sullivan wrote a piece that included:

    “The more Machiavellian observer might even suspect this is actually an improved bait and switch by Obama to more firmly identify the religious right with opposition to contraception, its weakest issue by far, and to shore up support among independent women and his more liberal base. I’ve found by observing this president closely for years that what often seem like short-term tactical blunders turn out in the long run to be strategically shrewd. And if this was a trap, the religious right walked right into it.”

    Reminder, in the real world, prescribing birth control pills is a standard treatment for woman who have ovarian cysts, endometriosis, and many other non birth control related conditions.

    The church and the Republican/Tparty call Obama’s policy a “war against religion”. I call the church and the Republican/Tparty a war against womant and the rights of everyone.”

  104. I am a Catholic female who was on the pill at one time, yet I strongly agree with Church’s stance on the pill. Am I a heretic? I don’t think so… I was put on the pill in high school because I did not have my period for almost two years. Once my periods were regular and steady, I went off of it. The doctor suggested this, and this is what I did. But even if I had taken the pill as a method of birth control, and then decided later on to research the stance of the Church and discovered the truth in these teachings, I would still be in the “98%”, but my current beliefs would be no more heretical.

    Yes, there are many Catholics who are currently on the pill, and you may like to throw that number at me. However, the truth is the truth no matter how many people fail to confront it. The truth that the pill hurts women, men, families, and our society is real whether or not you want to see it, and citizens of this country should be allowed to practice their religion freely even if it is not the religion of the majority.

    I know that you are upset, and I know why… opposing the pill does not make any sense at first glance. However, I challenge you to read Humanae Vitae (that you reference) and the Theology of the Body by Blessed JPII, You may be suprised to find your heart softened by truth that will actually liberate you and show you the key to sexual freedom that is truly freeing.

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