Catholics hatin’ on Obama? That can’t stand. So Captain Kmiec, Obama apologist, flies in to the rescue in the pages of the National Catholic Reporter.
Sometimes one is tempted to say a plague on both your houses. We’re not even close to the 2012 election season and already there are overheated claims that the Obama administration is at war with Catholics.
It is not.
Kmiec knows better than the bishops. Kmiec knows better that the presidents of Catholic college. He seems to be saying that Obama couldn’t be at war with Catholics mainly because Obama, is a man of faith. But that hardly refutes the facts of the case.
Kmiec seems to be saying that forcing Catholic institutions to pay for coverage for contraceptives (including abortifacients) and sterilization procedures isn’t asking them to act against their religious beliefs at all.
That the law may specify that abortion or contraceptive coverage be included as choices for employees ought not be seen as making the employer contributing to the legally imposed medical premium complicit in the act itself. To think that an authorizing statute or executive decision violates principles of religious liberty or free exercise merely because it allows a choice contrary to faith is to misunderstand the nature of democracy and individual freedom. It also vastly understates the responsibility of the church’s own obligation of moral formation — including effectively revealing to married couples the sublime joy and significance of intimacy that is total and ever open to new life.
At present, however, both political parties are remiss in not reminding the body politic how the principle of religious liberty actually operates. This has permitted some media voices, like the Washington Post’s Michael Gerson, to perceive religious hostility where there is none. There is no violation of religious liberty when HHS announces a temporary (or permanent) regulation requiring all employers — religious or nonreligious, Catholic or not — to provide employees with an insurance benefit for artificial contraception. Yes, it would be more congenial if the HHS administrative process adopted the Catholic view of contraception over that of other churches, but that declination was a choice the church herself since Vatican II has conceded belonged to Caesar. Had the HHS regulation gone farther and demanded a religious employer to affirmatively endorse or require the use of artificial contraception or any other choice contrary to its own teaching or face a penalty, that would violate the principle of religious liberty.
So making Catholic institutions pay for abortifacients isn’t forcing them to act against their conscience, but asking them to say they liked it, would be?
Huh? I’m not sure where the distinction lies?
This leads me back again to the shift in language from this administration to “freedom of religion” to “freedom of worship.” It’s a subtle shift with big implications. The freedom to worship seems to me to be a bit narrower. It says you can worship in your mind and sing whatever you want in the place of your religious tradition but don’t you bring your religion out into the real world. This HHS mandate seems to say that you can believe what you want as long as it doesn’t have any real world application.
It just reminds me a little too much of the short poem by Russian poet Tanya Khodkevich who was sentenced to ten years in the gulag by the Soviets for writing this:
You can pray freely
But just so God alone can hear.