America's Catholic bishops say they will defy the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services. DHHS has ordered that all employer-sponsored health plans must offer contraceptive and other birth control services (but not abortion) to covered employees. That excludes churches but includes the huge Catholic-sponsored hospital network. It is widely reported that most Catholics ignore the Church on birth control. But the hierarchy is bound by papal decree to oppose artificial contraception. The choice to use artificial birth control rests with the patient, of course. But the bishops take an unyielding position - now refusing to allow Catholic hospitals to insure their employees for such purposes. If hospitals defy the bishops they will be forced to sever their ties with the Church.
On another sexual politics front last week Archbishop Timothy Dolan, addressing bioethics at Fordham Law School, said according to the Times that people who postpone conception with “chemicals and latex” are part of the “culture of death." Such hyperbole is inconsistent with Pope Benedict XVI who has said that one infected with a sexually transmitted disease like HIV should choose to use a condom rather than have unprotected sex. A more considered approach by Cardinal-designate Dolan would have been to distinguish between a condom and an abortifacient like RU-486. According to the DHHS 40 percent of unplanned pregnancies end in abortion. Unfortunately Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the Obama administration's `lesser evil' approach to reducing abortions has not persuaded the bishops to moderate their stance.We now confront an election year in which the Catholic hierarchy is arrayed in battle lines against the Democratic candidate for President. Rigidity on sexual politics will align the bishops against the candidate who on immigrants rights, universal health care, aid to the poor, and peace is more closely aligned to the Church's social ethic than is any of his likely opponents.
On Jan 20, the Obama administration made final a proposal requiring most employer-sponsored health plans to offer women contraceptive services including sterilization without copays, co-insurance or deductibles.
Religious authorities including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops condemned the rule as a violation of religious conscience and the constitutional right to religious freedom."
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