Monday, February 06, 2012

Archbishop Timothy Broglio's letter to the Troops

Startling but awfully predictable. Drag Government into Health Policy, you open up big cans of worms.
Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who leads the Roman Catholic Archdiocese for the Military Services, wrote a letter to be read at all Sunday Masses for U.S. military personnel around the world that said that a regulation issued by the Obama Administration under the new federal health care law was “a blow” to a freedom that U.S. troops have not only fought to defend but for which some have recently died in battle.

“It is a blow to a freedom that you have fought to defend and for which you have seen your buddies fall in battle,” the archbishop wrote.

Another line in his letter said: “We cannot—we will not—comply with this unjust law.”
Odd thing is it isn't a law. It's a regulation implementing a law. Policy written by GS somethings somewhere and they've lead the Prez into an awful bind.

12 comments:

Steve Caldwell said...

Bill ... the Catholic clergy are being overly dramatic here. Where exactly are the religious freedom of individual Roman Catholics being curtailed in this situation?

Churches are not required to provide contraceptive benefits for their employees. The US government isn't imposing its will on churches.

Schools and other nonprofit agencies who have ties to churches are in a different situation. For example, a Roman Catholic university may have employees who are not Roman Catholic. They may be Jewish, Protestant, atheist, or Unitarian Universalist. These employees often have duties that are not religious in nature (e.g. teaching literature, sciences, mathematics, etc). Should these non-Catholic employees be penalized when it comes to health care benefits because the sponsoring religion disapproves of contraceptive use? This might interfere with the religious freedom of non-Catholic employees to freely make reproductive choice decisions.

And the requirement to offer a preventive health care benefit does not make this benefit something that Catholics must use. Catholics are free to refuse this health care benefit. And some may do that.

But I suspect that most Catholics will freely choose to use contraceptives (based on what the social sciences tell us about past behavior). Here's the statistic from the Alan Guttmacher Institute:

Among all women who have had sex, 99% have ever used a contraceptive method other than natural family planning. This figure is virtually the same among Catholic women (98%).
http://www.guttmacher.org/media/nr/2011/04/13/index.html

The only "freedom" that is being infringed upon here isn't a freedom -- the princes of the church are being told that they have to play by the same rules that secular nonprofits must play by when it comes providing contraceptive preventive health care.

Given the widespread use of contraceptives by Catholics who are freely making these reproductive choices, it looks like we have plenty of religious freedom for individual Catholics.

Bill Baar said...

Where exactly are the religious freedom of individual Roman Catholics being curtailed in this situation?

They'll have to pay premiums and taxes to cover mandatory services they don't believe are moral.

I know UUs who parse out words they don't believe in when we recite stuff at church. They won't say (much less pay) for things they don't believe in. It's not a hard concept of UUs to grasp. We do it all the time over stuff we don't believe in. What's new is many of us don't wince much when the club turned on Catholics.

Bill Baar said...

PS And the totally odd thing is it's unnecessary. There's no reason for this or at least that's what the Prez told Bart Stupak. There's no reason SSM should have been incompatible with Catholic Charities discriminating against SSM on place ment either.. but damn, progressive just at war with the Church and it was pure spite. Actions totally at odds with respect of beliefs one doesn't agree with.. an unnecessary too boot for the policy goals.

Steve Caldwell said...

Bill Baar wrote:
-snip-
"They'll have to pay premiums and taxes to cover mandatory services they don't believe are moral."


If 98% of Catholics who are sexually active are using contraceptive methods that are not the Vatican-approved natural family methods, maybe they don't believe the contraceptive services are immoral.

Or maybe only 2% of them believe that contraceptives are immoral?

Based on behavior, I don't you can say that a a majority of Roman Catholics view contraceptives as immoral?

Furthermore, there are good public health evidence-driven reasons for requiring contraceptive coverage as part of a complete health care package.

Here's a short passage from Joan Walsh's column on Salon.com:

I was disappointed to see the progressive Catholic E.J. Dionne, whom I really admire, accuse President Obama of throwing his Catholic allies “under the bus” by insisting that federal health insurance regulations requiring contraceptive coverage apply to Catholic institutions, if they employ non-Catholics. Note that the administration is OK with church-run institutions that only employ Catholics prohibiting contraception coverage. It simply won’t let the church impose its teachings on non-Catholics. This shouldn’t be a controversial decision.

Let’s make a couple of things clear here. Obviously, the law won’t force Catholics to use contraception. And 98 percent of Catholics already practice birth control (and not the “natural family planning” kind), according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute. It’s not as though Catholics are an endangered minority of true believers being forced to transgress a fervently held and widely practiced church rule. This battle is over a Catholic Church teaching that even Catholics ignore almost unanimously.

The administration’s requirement comes from the Institute of Medicine within the National Academy of Sciences, which considers contraception access part of a total healthcare plan that brings down maternal and infant mortality rates. The government sets minimal basic standards for the benefits and safety conditions employers must provide to employees. What if Catholic hospitals and universities and public agencies objected to occupational safety rules for doctrinal reasons? Child labor laws? Would people argue they should be exempt from those regulations? Of course not.

http://www.salon.com/2012/02/02/catholics_need_to_preach_what_we_practice/singleton/

By the way, Joan Walsh is Catholic who disagrees with Catholic clergy efforts to fight contraceptive coverage.

Bill Baar said...

Based on behavior, I don't you can say that a a majority of Roman Catholics view contraceptives as immoral?

The hypocrites or minorities of believers don't count no defense Steve, at least a liberal defense respectful of Religious Freedom.

Look up the Liberal Catholic E. J. Dionne's take on this.

I know many hypocrites and I can tell you they damn well resent the Government (or Unitarian Universalists) serving their hypocrisy up for them. They'll vote....

Steve Caldwell said...

Bill Baar wrote:
-snip-
"The hypocrites or minorities of believers don't count no defense Steve, at least a liberal defense respectful of Religious Freedom."

Bill,

I'm respectful of religious freedom.

But "religious freedom" shouldn't be an ethical blanket exemption from the secular rules in a secular society. If a secular organization said that it didn't want to offer contraceptive coverage due to philosophical objections, would we even entertain their objections in light of what we know empirically?

An integral part of comprehensive health care is offering a full range of preventive health care options with no out-of-pocket cost for the insured party. That's why my health insurance offers colonoscopy screening for me after age 50 with no out-of-pocket costs. That's why my insurance offers flu shots with no out-of-pocket costs. It all comes down to preventive care being a better allocation of scarce health care resources.

For a non-profit business operating in the secular world, there are very good empirically grounded reasons for offering contraceptive coverage as part of comprehensive health insurance. Here's the reasons for this as summarized by a Guttmacher Institute report:

Government bodies and private-sector experts have long recognized contraceptive services as a vital and effective component of preventive and public health care. A strong body of research shows that contraceptive use helps women avoid unintended pregnancy and improve birthspacing, resulting in substantial benefits for the health and well-being of infants, women, families and society.

Making contraceptive counseling, services and supplies—including long-acting, reversible methods (the IUD and the implant), which have high up-front costs—more affordable acknowledges the reality that cost can be a daunting barrier to effective contraceptive use. The evidence strongly suggests that insurance coverage of contraceptive services and supplies without cost-sharing is a low-cost—or even cost-saving—means of helping women overcome this obstacle.


Now ... if a non-profit wants to exempt itself from these common-sense recommendations in the health care coverage that they provide their employees, I would say that they have this freedom. It's called being a church.

Otherwise, they need to follow the same rules that other businesses follow when it comes to providing health care benefits.

I guess it all comes down to the Catholic Bishops feeling that their theology is more important than the health and well-being of women and children. Now that we know what their priorities are ...

Bill Baar said...

If a secular organization said that it didn't want to offer contraceptive coverage due to philosophical objections, would we even entertain their objections in light of what we know empirically?

The pronoun "We" refers to whom? Who's the "We" calling the shots here? Contraception's legal in the US for decades. It should remain so. I don't want some "We" telling me, the Church or anyone else they have to buy or use it though.

Bill Baar said...

Now ... if a non-profit wants to exempt itself from these common-sense recommendations in the health care coverage that they provide their employees, I would say that they have this freedom. It's called being a church.

You don't understand the HHS reg then. All plans have to over this coverage. No exceptions. No one has this freedom now with ObamaCare.

Steve Caldwell said...

Bill Baar wrote:
-snip-
"The pronoun 'We' refers to whom? Who's the 'We' calling the shots here? Contraception's legal in the US for decades. It should remain so. I don't want some 'We' telling me, the Church or anyone else they have to buy or use it though."


Bill,

My longer reply on this topic is on my blog:

Contraceptive Health Care and "Religious Freedom" Arguments ... Or Facts Trump Theology
http://liberalfaith.blogspot.com/2012/02/contraceptive-health-care-and-religious.html

Here's a quote from the Guttmacher Institute's testimony before the Institute of Medicine's panel which helped gather information used by the Health and Human Services Department to develop women's preventive health care guidelines:

Contraceptive use helps women avoid unintended pregnancy and improve birthspacing, which in turn have substantial positive consequences for infants, women, families and society. Moreover, although cost can be a daunting barrier to effective contraceptive use on the part of individual women, the evidence strongly suggests that insurance coverage of contraceptive services and supplies without cost-sharing is a low-cost or even cost-saving means of helping women overcome this obstacle.

So ... what we have here is a balance between religious freedom and improved health outcomes for children, women, families, and society as a whole.

Churches and other non-profits who have a totally religious mission are exempt from the requirement to offer female employees contraceptive preventive care with no copay/deductible. Even though this decision will cause negative health outcomes, they have this religious freedom.

However, non-profits that are affiliated with churches but have a mission that secular in nature and also employ people who are not church members should be required to offer this preventive health care for female employees. If they want to play in the secular area of life, they should play by the same rules that other non-profit and for-profit groups must follow.

This is better for children's health.

This is better for women's health.

This is better for families.

And this is better for society as a whole.

The research backs this up (go to the link on my blog for the details).

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops response to this has been very light on facts but very heavy on emotional bombast.

Steve Caldwell said...

Bill Baar wrote:
-snip-
"You don't understand the HHS reg then. All plans have to over this coverage. No exceptions. No one has this freedom now with ObamaCare."


Bill,

You're breaking at least one commandment here (bearing false witness against one's neighbor).

The HHS guidelines exempt churches.

They don't exempt religiously-affiliated non-profits like hospitals, schools, colleges, social service agencies, etc.

Given the public health benefits that comes from having contraceptive available without copay/deductible, this seems to be a fair balance between private and public interests.

Frankly, it sounds like your disdain for the current President has blinded you here. This is a reasonable public policy decision that supports the needs of children, women, families, and society. The recommendations for this came from the Institute of Medicine and sound very fact-based.

Would you prefer a public policy that reduces infant and maternal mortality by offering preventive care that allows parents to plan and space their pregnancies apart?

Or do you agree with and support the church's position that increases infant and maternal mortality?

Bill Baar said...

Yes, it exempts Churches, with a pretty narrow and protestant definition of a Church, (does it exempt a Diocese? Or the Islamic CENTER where I study Arabic?)

What HHS isn't exempting is every tax paying Catholic's obligation to pay taxes to support the Medicaid Program which will indeed offer these services. It breaks a committment Obama made Bart Stupak and offends a great many Catholics. That's why I pointed you to the E.J. Dionne column.

Your Church Steve, will shortly have to make a decision on mandatory health coverage for your Staff and Minister, or paying the penalty and pushing your Minister/Staff into Medicaid.

That's the reality and this exemption is meaningless because there is no market for niche plans that would accomadate dissenters here. Private insurance is drying up as our many Hospitals and Practice plans as the industry moves into this immense consolidation Obamacare's wrought.

We've got a small exemption to purchase something that won't exist, and Catholics still obligated to support financially the Medicaid Program that will offer contraceptive services with their tax dollars. The program most of their institutions employees will be in.

As for the balance of your arguments that the Government should compel people of faith to violate their faith because it improves Health outcomes.

Our Church supported CO camps during the WW2. I consider the outcome of that War to have been grave thing. A consequnetial outcome. But I'm proud our Church supported an option for people of concience opposed (and very few of them were Unitarians considering Fritchman's bellicose support of the War in our Journals).

Similarly, regardless of outcomes, I support the right of people of Faith to object to contraceptive services and having to pay for them as employers or taxpayers.

Bill Baar said...

PS disdain, really? I've worked with Barak's staff and he was instrumental in getting my released from my job to serve in Iraq. I have a letter from him on that one.

I supported his AfPak surge. Do you disdain the Prez on that?

I think he and David A. would get quite a chuckle to think anyone would accus me of "disdaining". The three of us quite Chicago, and we simply don't talk politics that way....