When one thinks about totalitarian dictatorships, one’s mind never fathoms the infringements of the most basic human rights happening in North America – but the most blatant violation of religious freedom is being fought in the United States right now. The department of Health and Human Services is requiring all employers, including religious employers to pay for the free dispensation of contraception, abortafacient medication and sterilization. This readership doesn’t need to be reminded on the grave attacks on life all these “health care options” represent.
The remarkable thing about this new guideline is that it has united Catholic leaders against the policy, including those who publicly dissent with the Church on life issues. Catholics with all points of view recognize the attack on the freedom of conscience that this represents. It was very clear that President Obama would have a problem with Catholic supporters. His staunchest allies suddenly became opponents.
The White House was under the impression that the rank and file would support this because allegedly 98% of Catholic couples use contraception. Being in favour of pro-contraception is quite a different matter entirely and Obama’s seemingly relativistic “might makes right” values blinded him to the principles of moral reasoning.
Fast forward to a few days ago and he reportedly came up with an “accommodation”. The Obama administration would not require the employers to pay for the coverage of services opposed by the church, but would require this of the employers’ insurers. Many of his opponents on this issue who have a tendency to dissent from the Church are suddenly warming up to this accommodation. I’d urge all to realize the duplicity in this feeble attempt to restore the freedom of religion. This is not it. The shell game of shifting the blame seems to put certain minds at ease, as if forcing anyone to provide such products and services can ever be acceptable. There certainly is, in moral theology, the idea of “remote material cooperation” (often brought up when discussing immunizations based on fetal tissue) and perhaps this is being invoked by those who are warming up to the President’s overtures. I can’t see how such an accommodation can be accepted when the option to reject any attempt this mandate is on the table. I can’t say that this is what some Catholics are using to justify their position but only an attempt to understand it. All I see ultimately is a cynical attempt by the President and the Secretary of Health and Human Services to simply divide the united opposition.
At the same time it is encouraging to see the leadership in the American bishops engaging with the Administration and working tirelessly to build up a united front with other religious leaders and the average voter, and to see the opportunity to remind Catholics why abortion, contraception, sterilization are morally grave matters. Please keep the United States of America in your prayers during this time.