Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Catholic Hypocrisy: "Religious Freedom?"

"My house will be called a house of prayer, but you have turned it into a den of thieves!" 
                                                                                                                  --Matthew 21:13

"Then Jesus asked them, "which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" but they remained silent."
                                                                                                                   --Mark 3:4

Having been raised Roman Catholic, gotten a master's degree in religious studies from a Catholic institution, and having taught high school religion at a Catholic school, I am terribly disappointed and ashamed of Catholic institutions suing the government over the HHS mandate with respect to the provision of birth control.  Instead of standing up for the health needs of all people, it has myopically become obsessed with a Pharisee-like legalism regarding the contraception issue.  The bishops and the religious in charge of so-called Catholic institutions have lost their way.   

Before World War II, the founder of the public relations industry, Edward Bernays, was asked by the head of an American tobacco company to help increase the cigarette smoking market.  It had been considered unfeminine for women to smoke.  Men would not let their wives or girlfriends smoke publicly.  So Bernays spoke with a psychoanalyst to see how to get more women to smoke.  

Bernays devised a plan.  First, he told women that cigarettes were "torches of freedom," and that anyone who told you not to smoke was actually opposed to you having freedom.  In reality, smoking cigarettes has nothing to do with being independent.  Then he told suffragette women to light up their torches of freedom during a parade, where the media would be present.  The women did so, pictures of them smoking went around the world, and anyone who opposed women smoking was subject to the rhetoric that their freedom was being denied.  Cigarette makers were happy, and smoking among women skyrocketed.  20 years later, so did the incident of lung cancer among women.

The Catholic bishops and the religious leaders of Catholic institutions have their own "torches of freedom", it's called "religious liberty."  What it really means is allowing employers to deny certain forms of health coverage to their employees under the guise of religious freedom.  The problem with this is that there are a number of religious employers in the United States.  To allow the Catholic Church an exception would be unfair not only to non-religious Catholic employees who were being denied low cost contraception, but also to other employers.  Any employer can claim that they must be able to ignore the provisions of the health care mandate because of any number of religious convictions.  Does a Jehovah's Witnesses employer have the right to deny blood transplant coverage to its employees?  Under the Catholic Church argument, the answer would be yes.  

The other issue is that of Catholic hypocrisy.  It's interesting how they can be filled with such conviction over such a small issue as contraception, while not seeming to raise a fuss about how the poor and the working class are taking an economic beating at the hands of the Republicans.  These bishops should have been rioting in the streets when Paul Ryan proposed his budget that made dire changes to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and food stamp assistance to the poor and elderly.  Who cares about the disabled man down the street who would go hungry without food stamps, or the woman who would die without dialysis treatments?  Instead, the bishops are silent.  Apparently the lives of the already born are worth less than those of disjointed sperm and eggs.

Never mind the issue as to why some people use contraception.  There are some women who have endometreosis, a painful condition that is treated by the prescription of birth control pills to regulate the body.  This has nothing to do with preventing conception.  Or consider the case of married couples where one of the partners is in danger of dying from becoming pregnant.  Or the use of contraception to prevent serious birth defects in cases where the mother or father is taking drugs like Accutane that would cause extreme disability to potential offspring.

The Franciscan University of Steubenville, a place that likes to think of itself as pious and faithful, recently announced it would be dropping health coverage for its employees out of spite because of the health care mandate with respect to contraception.  This means Catholic employees with Type I diabetes will no longer be able to get the life-sustaining insulin they need to survive.  A number of families with sick children and sick parents are going to suffer now in real and concrete ways.  I suppose they think this is what Jesus must have wanted.  If Jesus were around now to see what is being done in his name, he would have been filled with righteous indignation and driven them out of the temple.

 The Catholic Church is acting like a spoiled child and a bully.  It is convenient for unmarried bishops to deny health coverage to others while they comfortably get to keep theirs.  If they wanted to avoid hypocrisy, they could give up their health insurance in solidarity with those whom they are denying coverage by virtue of their self-righteous "principles."  Right now, the cost for them is too cheap.

Catholics who attend church and attend religious institutions need to make their voices heard against the bishops.  They need to let them know that the collection baskets will be empty until they open their eyes.  These bishops and religious leaders live an incredibly privileged existence.  Just like major banks, they get bailed out when they mismanage things.  The average churchgoer pays the cost.  Remember the pedophile priest scandal?  The bishops concealed, hid, and covered up thousands of cases of abuse.  After the truth came out and the lawsuits were filed, many got to keep their jobs while parishes were closed.  Money acquired from churchgoers was used to help pay the lawsuit damages.  The bishops were bailed out.  All of the offending cover up artists should have been fired after the truth came out.  That never happened.  The moral authority of the U.S. bishops and religious leaders, such as those at Notre Dame and The Franciscan University of Steubenville is exhausted.

The current Catholic position by the bishops and religious leaders shows just how morally bankrupt they have become.  It is time for a renewal by the body of Christ--the actual members of the Church, to demand that the Church start acting Christian again.  Every Catholic who remains silent on this issue remains morally culpable for the eventual erosion of health care coverage for all. 


  1. Religions need to adapt and accommodate.
    Jehovah's Witnesses blood transfusion confusion

    Jehovahs Witnesses take blood products now in 2012.
    They take all fractions of blood.This includes hemoglobin, albumin, clotting factors, cryosupernatant and cryopoor too, and many, many, others.
    If one adds up all the blood fractions the JWs takes, it equals a whole unit of blood. Any, many of these fractions are made from thousands upon thousands of units of donated blood.
    Jehovah’s Witnesses can take Bovine *cows blood* as long as it is euphemistically called synthetic Hemopure.
    Jehovah's Witnesses now accept every fraction of blood except the membrane of the red blood cell. JWs now accept blood transfusions.
    The fact that the JW blood issue is so unclear is downright dangerous in the emergency room.
    Danny Haszard

    1. Thanks for the additional information, Danny.