The United States has a complicated history regarding Catholicism. Much of this is actually systemic. The Founding Fathers were not Catholic, and England at the time was Anglican, not Catholic. This is not to say that the Founding Fathers were actually anti-Catholic. But they certainly weren't pro-Catholic, either. Some of them were Deists, some were Christians, others were Secular. Many of the early European immigrants were of the English variety, not Irish or French, which traditionally tended to be Catholic. Those in power again were typically white, male, land-owning Protestants. With this came certain assumptions about how the world should operate--and following the Pope wasn't one of them.
Black slaves were encouraged to become Christians, just like their slave owning masters. To this day, Blacks in America are generally more Protestant than not. In the South, the KKK was fiercely anti-Black, but also anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic.
Economic troubles during the late 1800s and early 1900s brought hatred toward immigrants, many of whom happened to be from traditionally Catholic areas, such as Ireland and Poland. Growing up in the 1930s and 1940s, my own Irish-German grandfather recalls tales about how he was called a "fish eater" by school officials and how the KKK had an office in town.
The large influx of Catholics and the economic strength and development of Catholics in America over the last fifty years has changed the demographics of power in America. The Supreme Court has more Catholics on it than any other religion. Catholics hold power in the government and in local politics as well.
Despite all this, however, being Catholic is only acceptable in America so long as you don't challenge the interests of the power elite who run this country. John F. Kennedy was acceptable because he didn't act like a Catholic. He served the interests of the moneyed elite and the power brokers, so he was fine. So long as he supported the war in Vietnam, which served the interests of the military manufacturers, he was fine. So long as he supported terrorist operations in Cuba (aka Project Mongoose), which involved the bombing of civilian installations and generalized terrorism against the Cuban population which needed to be punished for supporting Castro, he was fine. Never mind the Bay of Pigs fiasco.
But when Catholics get too uppity and start supporting interests which hurt the power of the elites, then Catholicism is not okay and must be wiped out. Pope John XXIII organized the Second Vatican Counsel. He wanted the Catholic Church to support the rights of the poor and the marginalized. Catholic theologians began developing the notion of the "preferential option for the poor", which meant supporting true democracy and people instead of moneyed interests. Now this would not be tolerated. This was played out in Latin America. When Archbishop Oscar Romero witnessed the murder of a priest by U.S. backed goons (because the priest had supported the poor and the democratic political forces there), he began to question the U.S. backed forces and their death squads. Shortly after writing a letter to Jimmy Carter asking him to stop funding these thugs, he was assassinated by the U.S. supported killers. In Nicaragua and other countries the same dynamic was played out. Any time Catholics supported the rights of the working people against the moneyed interests, Catholics were the enemy and murdered. That's also why priests and nuns were targeted by U.S. backed forces and murdered. During the Vietnam War, Jesuit priests and nuns were arrested for protesting against the draft and the war.
The Wall Street Journal is the voice for the power and moneyed elites in America. It is designed to serve their interests. It is also owned by Rupert Murdoch, the right winger owner of Fox News. In an article yesterday by Peggy Noonan, she asserts that Obama essentially has contempt for Roman Catholics because of his position that Catholic employers must provide health insurance coverage that includes contraceptive coverage. She asserts that this is essentially declaring war against Catholics and that Obama's contempt and arrogance toward them will come back to bite him in the next election.
This is a perfect example of the moneyed interests using class warfare and propaganda to turn the interests of Catholics against themselves. It is convenient that the Wall Street Journal supports Catholics so long as it is in the interest of their moneyed readers. Pope John Paul II wrote against rampant capitalism that puts money and greed ahead of people. Yet the Republicans supported this type of capitalism all the way through the last thirty years. The Wall Street Journal was all for the deindustrializing of America for short term profit in the name of "globalism." It was all for the Reagan policies of choking unions and cutting assistance for the poor and disabled. The evil genius of Reagan was to manipulate the good intentions of Catholics by parroting language about morality, family values, and being pro-life while doing everything possible to economically cut the throat of the American family. You can't actually be for family values if you cut food stamps that help keep children from being hungry. You can't be pro-life when you support death squads and regimes that murder priests and nuns, or if you support foreign wars of aggression that happen to be economically profitable for the stock market.
Obama is no Catholic hater. He is a traditional politician obsessed with enhancing his career. He has done very little to advance the abortion issue one way or another because he knows that politically the issue might hurt him. On the one hand his administration vetoed the ability for the morning after pill to be available over the counter. On the other, it supported this new legislation that orders Catholic employers to provide health coverage that includes contraceptives. He is certainly no pro-abortion zealot.
The more likely reason for his support of this legislation is that it supports the underlying rationale of the Obama health reforms--that the government is to ensure a minimum level of health care coverage is provided to all Americans. This rationale is actually a very Catholic one--health care for all serves the well being of everyone. As it stands now, most, if not all health insurance plans cover contraceptives. This is just a normal part of how things work. By providing health insurance to its employees, the Catholic Church isn't forcing anyone to use contraceptives. It simply remains an option made available by nature of the coverage. It is just like the Catholic notion of double effect. For example, abortion is considered the immoral taking of life in Catholic teaching. Yet say a woman is faced with an ectopic pregnancy that will certainly lead to the death of the mother and the fetus if not surgically corrected. The Catholic surgeon may remove the fetus for the sake of the mother's life, which has a secondary effect of aborting the fetus. This is considered moral by the Catholic Church although technically an abortion is committed. The same should go for the notion of providing health insurance coverage that just so happens to provide contraceptive coverage. The importance of providing quality health insurance to everyone without enabling loopholes which could harm everyone is important. If we allow the Church to avoid providing coverage for contraceptives, then other religious groups might stop providing coverage for other, non-legitimate reasons, which could end up being more about politics and economics than legitimate religious conviction.
It is also important to remember that not all Catholic employees are Catholics themselves. Many aren't. And limiting their health coverage doesn't serve them fairly. Mandating health coverage to provide contraceptives is indirect. It is totally different from ordering Catholic hospitals to perform elective abortions, which would be a direct offense to Catholic teaching.
The Wall Street Journal doesn't give a rats ass about Catholics and their beliefs. It cares about electing its Wall Street darling du jour, Mitt Romney. The fact that it would stoop so low as to try and inflame Catholics to serve its ends isn't surprising. But it is surprisingly disgusting. But I am the naive one. After all, the Wall Street Journal has been cynically trying to play Catholics like a fiddle for the last thirty years, so why should I expect them to be any different now?
Catholics who care about family values are smarter than the Wall Street Journal might otherwise claim, and hopefully the next election will show it.