MY WORD: Catholics can’t have it both ways

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By Linda Allewalt

Phyllis Sower really threw down the gauntlet on the Catholic position on contraception and the HHS mandate (My Word: “Clarifying Catholic issue,” Aug. 8). I don't mind picking it up because it struck at the heart of a couple of topics that are near and dear to me.

Of course, along with the gauntlet, there was a kitchen sink full of theology, biblical texts and claims to the absolute “truth” concerning morality. I found all that extremely frustrating in the light of reality and history and institutional behavior, particularly in terms of the Catholic Church.

So I won’t touch that stuff beyond saying that blind arrogance surely should be named the Eighth Deadly Sin. What I will touch on is the issue of the morality of contraception.

Since the advent of medical devices and medications for prevention of pregnancy, millions of women have had their overall health improved and death rates lowered, not only from pregnancy but also from disease. Millions of families all over the world have seen their financial status improved when they have taken advantage of the ability to manage their fertility. I would like to see Ms. Sower explain how this is not a social justice issue, and how in the world it is not moral and a service to “the common good.”

It seems that an overwhelming percentage of Catholic women and their families have figured this out, because the use of contraception and abortion services is no different for them then for any other group in the United States.

What the Church and Ms. Sower have not apparently figured out is that threat of excommunication (or hell or whatever) is not working. So now the strategy seems to be to use the federal government as a whipping boy for their failures.

This brings me to the glaring issue of hypocrisy, and one that Ms. Sower neglected to mention. It was also conveniently skipped over by Archbishop Kurtz and his various dancers on the stage at the “Freedom of Religion Rally” in Louisville.

I watched it on video and couldn’t get past the humor of using that as a title. Every day all over the country, Catholic-owned hospitals are allowed by law to prohibit patients from exercising their religious (or non-religious) rights to contraception and related contraceptive services and procedures.

Physicians also are prohibited from practicing what they take an oath to do – provide best care. It doesn’t matter what your faith or non-faith status is, the hospital has the right to impose its own mandateon you. Just for walking through the doors or being affiliated with their system. And in many communities and even cities, the only choice is a Catholic-owned hospital. Too bad for those patients’ religious freedoms, and those of the doctors and nurses, too.

Ms. Sower was also not happy with just coming to the defense of the poor defenseless Church. She had to add to the list of people who are being wronged by being told they have to include birth-control pill coverage along with the Viagra coverage to grocery store and department store owners. And don’t forget the pharmacists. They allshould be able to write their employees’ coverage based on their personal religious tenets. Just hope your employer isn’t a Christian Scientist or a Jehovah’s Witness. You don’t need that operation or that blood transfusion, do you?

In case you didn’t notice it, Ms. Sower, the Catholic Church has served two masters for a long time now. It started when its leaders decided to ask for tax dollars to prop up their parochial schools in the 1940s. Since then, the Church has made sure to take every tax advantage, grant dollar money and any other assistance that they could glean from our government.

Of course, they are not alone in this, but that’s another topic. More than 60 percent of the budget for Catholic Social Services comes from government grants. Yet the U.S. bishops had the temerity to cry fowl when the State of Illinois withdrew its funding of Catholic adoption services because they wouldn’t follow the lawon allowing gay families to be foster parents or adopt.

In my view it was about time. You can’t have it both ways. If you take a dime of federal, state or local monies that flows from taxpayers’ pockets, you should have to play the game. If the government wisely decides that providing coverage for contraception is good for the overall health and well being of this country, and is cost effective, then you should have to ante up. Or get out of government connections altogether. Take your “moral stance” to the max – refuse Caesar’s money!

The country I live in is not subject to any religion’s authority, moral or otherwise. I also do not care what the Catholic Catechism says in sec.1923, our political representatives are bound only to our secular Constitution and our laws.

If we lose sight of that, then we might as well pack up and go back to pre-revolution Europe. But then, that may be exactly what Ms. Sower and many in her church are hoping for.

Linda Allewalt lives in Shelbyville.