Posted by: SteveInCO · Thermonuclear MAGA | 23 Feb 2012

Catholic Church Hoist by its Own Petard

OK, my regular readers (all one of them, so far, but I will give it time) have no doubt pigeonholed me as the typical left-leaning atheist.  Time to blow that out of the water.


There was recently quite a brouhaha over the Catholic Church’s angst when they discovered that under Obamacare, any employee health insurance would have to include both contraception and abortion.  Catholic churches, schools, and hospitals would have to provide these things with their health coverage.  It would be illegal to offer your employees a health plan that does not include these things.  And the Catholic Church is paying for it, which they claim violates their freedom of conscience.

After an eruption of outrage, Obama put forth a compromise.  Rather than requiring the customer of the insurance company to pay for these mandates… let the insurance companies do it.   Now this is just silly.  Who do you suppose ends up paying for a company’s costs in the end?  That would be, let me see now… I’m thinking, don’t distract me… the customers!  Is Obama really stupid enough to think companies have bottomless pools of their own money they can spend?  Or does he think we are that stupid?  The Catholic Church identified the fact that this is in fact no change from the previous situation, and they are doing what they can to keep this issue stirred up.

Now Let Me Make Myself Perfectly Clear

I believe that the Catholic Church’s position on contraception and abortion is wrong.  Just flat out wrong.  Further, it is manifestly immoral if not criminal to try to impose a ban on either activity, as many Catholics and evangelical Christians tirelessly work to.

I am not going to go into why I think this; it’s beside the point of this post.  But I want to get that out in the open right off the bat, so people do not accuse me of being anti-abortion or (worse!) anti-contraception.  I am sure someone will anyway, when they read what I have to say below, but I had to try.

I will state it another way:  Abortion and contraception are rights; they involve someone controlling her own life without interfering with the rights of another, and without imposing a burden on them.  Attempting to prevent someone from exercising those rights is a violation of those rights.


On the other hand, you do not have the right to a free abortion.  Or to free contraception.  No genuine right can involve forcing someone else to spend their time, money, or effort providing you with something if they do not wish to.  No “right” can be a claim on another person.  Claiming that you have the right to a free abortion, means something must be taken away from someone else to collect on it.  (And that assumes that there will be someone out there who can be looted.  Or press-ganged.  Does such a pseudo-right mean a doctor can be drafted out of retirement, if necessary?)  Furthermore, even if you proclaim yourself willing to pay for the abortion, you still may not require someone to perform it even if they are unwilling to do so.  (If you think about it, this is the way one treats a slave.  Right?)  You have to come to a voluntary agreement with the provider.  A doctor should be free to refuse to perform the abortion, and third parties should be free to refuse to pay for it.

So if you are an employee, and your employer doesn’t want to pay for a health insurance policy that covers abortion or contraception… go buy it yourself.

Thus I think it’s wrong for the government to force insurers to include abortions, or contraception, in their policies.  (For that matter, I oppose all other mandates on what must be in an insurance policy.  Why can’t the customer and the provider decide what makes sense for them?  Would you tolerate this interference in your homeowner’s policy?)

I May Vomit Before I Can Finish Saying This

So in an odd way, I am forced to side with the Catholic Church on this specific issue, not because I like them, or their silly beliefs, or their medieval view of what is OK and not OK for consenting adults to do behind closed doors, but rather because I oppose government interference in health care.  Excessive government interference is in fact the reason the system we have today sucks so badly, and Obamacare, if anything, is likely to force the insurers out of business and bring on calls for a complete government takeover.  I’ve heard anecdotes of 600% increases in premiums due to Obamacare, already.  Government is being offered as the cure to the problems that government caused.

So yeah.  Technically, the Catholic Church is right.  They shouldn’t be forced to pay for abortions.  They shouldn’t be forced to pay for contraception.   They should go blow monkeys out their asses.  (OK, I admit I put the last one in there just to make myself feel better, having to stick up for the Catholic Church.)

Brother, You Asked For It

Obamacare first came to the fore in 2009, as bills were introduced in both the US House and Senate.  As soon as they were introduced, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops issued this letter, calling for the implementation of Obamacare.

Catholic Bishops, you not only asked for it, you got it hard.  Furthermore, in getting it, you managed to inflict it on everyone else as well, not just yourselves.  Then, after going to all this effort to make everyone’s medical decisions a political rather than a personal matter, you have the infernal gall to complain when you don’t like the political decision that was made?!?!

You did this to yourself.  You did this to us.  Now, Catholic Bishops, you can go rot in hell.  (There.  I feel so much better.)

OK, Pro-Choicers.  Now You Take Heed

But as much as the pro-choice contingents may be chortling with glee at the Catholic Church’s self-administered bullet wounds, this is a warning.

Many, if not most, pro-choicers are politically “liberal” and probably think it’s just peachy-keen that the government is stepping forward to ensure health care coverage for everyone, and that that health care coverage will include abortions and contraception.  I have a question for these people.

What happens if Rick Santorum, or someone like him, ends up in the Oval Office next year?   Do you want to bet that the government won’t refuse to pay for abortions?  Or mandate, perhaps, that insurers not cover them?  What will you think when the shoe goes on the other foot?  One man, in the White House, can dictate what your health insurance looks like.  You fought so hard to give the man in the White House the power.  Why were you so certain he’d have your best interests at heart?  Why were you so certain it would always be someone who is pro-choice?

Remember HillaryCare?  If that had passed, it would have been a felony to get medical care outside of the system–even entirely with your own money.  What if the system won’t pay for your abortion, per a guideline put down by presidential appointees?  Or your contraception?  Rick Santorum and his buddies would not have to overturn Roe v. Wade to make abortion de facto illegal.  And back in 1993-1994 we almost gave them the tool they could have used to do it.

Do you think Rick Santorum would hesitate, given the chance?  And are you confident that the Supreme Court will always back you up on this?

Government control over health care is a double edged sword, to be wielded by whoever is in power, and there are more fundamentalist votes out there than there are atheists, humanists, etc.

Think about it.



  1. Wow. I really can’t disagree with most of what you said here. Could it be that there’s another sane person on teh Intrenetz? Well, shut my mouth and call me Emily Dickinson.

    One area where I think you’re just wrong, though. All rights involve claims against others. Any negative rights I have make legitimate my claim to noninterference regarding that right (e.g., speech, religion). If I have the right to worship how I damn well please, then an integral part of that right is that I am entitled to tell you to keep your nose out of my religious affairs. Well, not YOU specifically, of course. You seem like a reasonable person. But whatever busybody there is around. You know the type. They’re either wearing a pinstripe suit or a pinstripe bonnet.

    And we do have such things as positive rights. The key is that those are conditional rights…they can only be granted with consent. On the view you’ve put forward, when completely unrestricted, a child would have no right to claim that its parents should provide for it. Better to say that they had assumed the obligation when they shot the kid out, and so the kid has the right to demand such luxuries as food, shelter, etc. Similarly, you have no obligations to me until and unless we enter into a contract together. Then you’d better believe I have the right to demand certain things of you, and vice versa.

    • I think our differences over what rights are might be entirely semantic, and I’ll take them in reverse order. When I am talking about a right in this context, I am referring to expectations we have of others regardless of any agreement we may have made. So obligations I have taken on due to a contract with you aren’t in this category. Sure, if I have already signed a contract with a doctor to get health care, he has to provide me health care or he is in breach of contract and I can sue him. (You actually identified this sort of thing as an obligation; I am suggesting that that’s different from a right.) So basically, what you call a “positive right” I call a contractual obligation, freely agreed to as part of an exchange. (I also agree that in having a child, you undertake obligations to that child. In addition that child has rights that you must respect. But that is a very specialized subset of the whole subject of rights.)

      As for whether or not my insisting that you not interfere with my free speech is a claim on you, again it’s semantics. I was trying to convey more than just a requirement that you not do something to someone else as being a claim. You used the term “positive right” later on when discussing obligations; I’ll run with that here and state that a claim on someone (without benefit of contract) is the same concept. A claim on someone or (alleged) positive right is specifically a claim on their resources: their money, time or effort, not because of a contract you made with them, but simply because you exist. An alleged “right to health care” is precisely this, as would be a “right to housing” or a “right to food” or a “right to cable TV”. I reject these so-called “rights.” They not only aren’t rights, but any attempt to legally enforce these so-called rights itself violates genuine rights. (It’s not the only way to do so. If I am the government and I tell you that you may not work more than forty hours a week regardless of what you and your employer agree to, or if I tell him that he may not pay you at a certain rate, regardless of any agreement between the two of you, I have violated your rights, even if I don’t personally benefit from what I am telling you to do.)

      A more concise way to put it is that a right is a right to act, it is freedom of action, free of compulsion, coercion or interference by other people. But since other people also have rights, it also implies that your action cannot do those things to other people.

      (Hmm, if I can write this more coherently someday, it should go over under “essays.”)

      • I disagree with how you’ve phrased some of your definitions, but since we seem to end up in the same place regardless, that’s cool.

  2. What you seem to be arguing has nothing to do with abortion or the church, and has everything to do with your stance against socialized medicine. Find me one good reason that the church should not support ‘obamacare’ based on the abortion and contraception facet, because that is the central issue in the debate.

    Every industrialized nation in the world save ONE has a socialized medical system. The arguments are long and rational as to why it is better that way. But I would be more keen on arguing those points in an article that properly cites its disagreement with socialized medicine, rather than saying the church has the right to deny insurance on certain medical procedures to its female employees because you don’t like the insurance legislation in general.

    • This wasn’t primarily intended to be a critique of Obamacare; there are plenty of places better qualified to defend a true free market health care system (which we do not have, despite what many may claim) than I am; for example:

      [By the way the US _government_ spends more per capita on health care than all but two other countries. in spite of our system not being fully socialized. Right now it’s basically half way there already.]

      The main theme of this post was the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church.

      You said: “…rather than saying the church has the right to deny insurance on certain medical procedures to its female employees because you don’t like the insurance legislation in general.”

      Actually you have cause and effect reversed here. I don’t like insurance coverage mandates because they deny people the right to refuse to insure certain procedures. I should be free to buy for myself or my employees a policy that does not cover certain things, to save money, or according to the dictates of my conscience. For instance, in my case alcoholism treatment coverage would be superfluous because I do not drink, yet I must buy it for myself, or have my employer buy it for me, because of mandates. Why? I don’t think anyone should be _forced_ to buy certain forms of coverage, for themselves or others. Now you might correctly point out that many people cannot afford to buy their own insurance if they are dissatisfied with what their employer offers. But that situation is due entirely to government intervention in the marketplace via the tax code and other regulations. So we end up with a perverse situation where we do not own our own health insurance, and it is tied to our jobs–it sucks, but people somehow blame industry rather than government for this mess. If the tax code allowed individuals the same freedom to deduct the cost of their insurance that employers have, then perhaps people could sign up with an insurer early in life and keep that policy for their entire lives, and there would be no “pre existing conditions” issues later in life. Instead of that, we have a situation where we have to switch insurers every time we change jobs, people are reluctant to leave jobs solely because of the health insurance implications, and “covering pre-existing conditions” becomes an issue. And don’t even let me get started on the ridiculous amounts of paperwork doctors have to do because absolutely every visit to the doctor is expected to be covered by insurance. (Does your auto insurance pay for oil changes?) But I’ve gone on long enough about things that the FIRM website I linked to above can address much more thoroughly and competently.

  3. The exact nature of selectivity towards women’s reproductive rights is the issue at hand. The idea that an institution could opt out of giving its employees fair and equal treatment from the guarantees given to all people. Based on backwards religious ideals concerning the control of women’s health and body.

    I agree that the insurance policy compromise is a dangerous and ill thought out half-measure to appease the republican resistance to the original health care plans. The republican resistance to democratic governance is fairly central to the inadequacy of the legislation passed, and heavily used the average American’s misunderstanding and fear of the word ‘socialized’ and ‘communism’ in their attempts to breed fear and misunderstanding of socialized medicine. I imagine the same fear mongering and misinformation would be made today if a socialized education system would be proposed, like the one currently in place.

    One of the major problems currently associated with healthcare in the United States is that it costs a lot, too much in fact in comparison to other countries. The problems are run away profiteering, and salary inflation of MDs (50%- 200% higher than doctors in other industrialized nations such as Sweden, the UK and Canada, depending on specialty), take into consideration additional profit generation needed in insurance companies (even patient defrauding aside) make for an exploitative industry.

    The worst part is that the American public isn’t even paying for the best in the world. They rank 37th by the World Health Organization in 2000 (last time the assessment had been completed), 7 places behind oft compared Canadian healthcare system, 19 places behind the UK, with France being number one. The reason ‘obamacare’ was originally pushed was two-fold: 1) Everyone deserves access to medical care 2) the American health care system is broken and needed fixing. However, the increasingly radicalized republican party has done nothing but attempt to sabotage the democratic government regardless of its intent.

    Regardless of America’s infuriatingly corrupt political system and its inadequate medical system, no one should be denied equal rights due to religious reasoning, or very many other types of reasoning for that matter and that is what this is about.

    • Again it is not my purpose here to argue about the health care issue; I’ll again point you to which specializes in discussing how our system has become so messed up today. Hint: your proposed medicine is more of the stuff that caused the problem in the first place.

      I just exchanged emails with one of the people at FIRM and he gave me a couple of quick links for you (and anyone else reading this) here: I find it interesting that one of your survey’s criteria for judging a health care system is basically how socialized it is. In other words you are telling me the health care system here needs to be socialized because it scores poorly because it isn’t socialized. That’s a circular argument.

      And also:

      And I will again challenge your premise that health care is a “right” and that therefore the Catholic Church (or anyone else) can properly be required to supply it to others, particularly on terms not of their own choosing. My gripe du jour with the Catholic Church is that they advocated for such a “right” (thereby helping to violate every American’s actual rights) and then they have the infernal gall to bitch about the result, and that, despite your attempts to tell me it isn’t, actually is the point of this post.

  4. Raymond, I’ve told you twice that it’s not my purpose here to argue about socialized health care. You’ve twice tried to tell me it should be–don’t try to tell me what I should be doing.

    You had two chances, and I come here again and there is more of your shilling for socialized health care. I’ve deleted your comments.

    Go away.

  5. […] Catholic Church Hoist by its Own Petard ( […]

  6. This is slightly off-topic, but not entirely – I’m not clear as to how the Catholic – or any other – Church should be allowed to have any influence (though we both know it does) on politics of any kind until they start paying taxes like everyone else. And that goes for institutions of any religion.

    pax vobiscum,

    • Yeah it’s partially off topic, and shades into the entire issue of campaign finance (which is quite off topic, so I’ll try to steer clear of that).

      The current tax exemption (but only if you don’t engage in politics) creates a ton of gray areas in the law; someone ultimately has to decide whether a specific act crosses the line, and that decision process could be subject to abuse. Imagine a fundie judge (or administrator) letting any and all acts pass for his favorite churches. This is yet another way to turn an ordinary endeavor into a political football. At this point, as I understand it, “issues advocacy” is suppsoed to be OK but “vote for Job Lowe” is not. But then you can put up an ad that says A, B, and C about a candidate (all bad, say) but NOT actually say “don’t vote for Jean D’eau” and even if everyone watching the ad with an IQ over 30 can tell what the message really is, it’s OK because they didn’t say the magic words. What a snarled mess. It’s the opposite of clarity in law. (Fundies rightly complain that the current case law on things like prayer or references to god by valedictorians at graduation ceremonies is a bit of a minefield, not being able to figure out what is and is not acceptable. I on the other hand find it too permissive.)

      I’d just as soon get rid of the tax exemptions entirely (they also involve the IRS et. al. in decisions as to what is or what is not a legitimate church!); lower everyone else’s tax rates accordingly to make revenues come out the same, and allow the churches the exact same rights in the political process as any other organization. (What those rights actually ought to be is another question of course.) I don’t think churches should be treated any better or any worse than any other organization, from a legal standpoint. I don’t want them to have any privileges OR restrictions.


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