The Dispatch: More from CWR...

Everything you need to know about the New York Times…

… is summed up in this short paragraph from the newspaper’s February 1st editorial:

It was a reference to the Obama administration’s requirement that large religious institutions, like hospitals and universities, provide insurance coverage for birth control. He was promising to defend the Roman Catholic Church’s “religious liberty” to deprive its tens of thousands of employees and university students of their own liberty.

“Those scare quotes”, wrote James Taranto in the WSJ, “around religious liberty constitute the most shocking act of punctuation since the early days of what Reuters deemed ‘the ‘war on terror.'” The cynical use of scared quotes is fitting enough considering the New York Times is convinced that serious, loyal Catholics and the allegedly “theocratic” religious right represent all that is backward, narrowminded, and hateful in the U.S. A similar approach is taken by Boston Globe columnist, Joan Vennochi, who wrote the following in her column today:

But not all employees of Catholic institutions are Catholics. Why should their employers impose their religious beliefs on them and deny coverage for birth control and other medical care? As long as those Catholic institutions are getting taxpayer money, they should follow secular rules. That’s the Obama administration’s argument, and it makes sense. …

On the larger health care reform issue, this president has the moral high ground, if only he would take it. A church that is supposedly dedicated to feeding the hungry and clothing the naked wouldn’t want to leave it to insurance companies and free markets to decide who gets to see a doctor and who gets care – would it?Obama isn’t trying to regulate religion or undermine Catholicism. He’s telling Catholic leaders they can’t regulate the beliefs of those of other faiths. That’s fitting in a country that treasures religious freedom, but also values separation of church and state.

People of good faith, in other words, should put their faith first in the federal government and those knowledgeable and objective technocrats who hold the power to tax and, if desired, coerce through financial and political pressures. Perhaps, to pick just one notable example, Vennochi is not aware that Belmont Abbey College does not receive federal funds, and yet is having to go to court against the federal government to protect itself from being forced to purchase Plan B (the “morning-after pill”) and ella (the “week-after pill”) for students, as Mark L. Rienzi of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty explained in this November 29, 2011, NRO interview:

These drugs likely cause abortions, which is a grave sin to the monks. It is one thing for the government to decide it should distribute these drugs itself, which of course is not part of this new law. But it is quite another for the government to mandate that religious Americans with conscientious objection purchase these drugs and participate in their distribution.

The law also forces the college to pay for “related education and counseling” about these drugs. The monks may preach to their students against abortion and contraception on Sunday morning, but on Monday the feds will make the college pay for a counselor to send the exact opposite message to its students. The First Amendment forbids this type of forced speech and burden on religious exercise.

As for denying anyone else the right to buy or use these drugs, the lawsuit seeks nothing of the kind. This lawsuit is not about forcing others to believe and act as the monks do, but rather about preventing the government from forcing these monks to act as the government imposes. Nothing at all prevents employees of the college from purchasing contraception — the monks just shouldn’t be coerced by the government to be the ones to provide them. And if students or employees need or want insurance plans that pay for these items, they are free to go to any of the vast majority of other employers and schools that have no religious objection to them. But everyone at Belmont Abbey willingly came there knowing that their diplomas and paychecks would be signed by Catholic monks.

One of the big lies here is that this is all about “health care”, when in fact it is about a commitment to a contraceptive mentality and an abortion-obsessed ideology. And that in turn reflects a particular view of human nature and human ends, one that can fairly be called statist and radically secular. The New York Times believes if an employer doesn’t pay for contraceptives and abortifacients, that employer has somehow denied “liberty” to employees. But as more and more such “rights”—to pursue a life without responsbility or consequences for moral choices—are bequeathed by the heavy hand of government, the fundamental right to religious liberty is not only being pushed aside, it is being actively attacked and gleefully mocked. Which makes Vennochi’s reference to “moral high ground” all the more perverse, because the more ground that is taken up and taken over by the current administration, the less room there is for moral stances to be taken and moral voices to be heard.

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About Carl E. Olson 1233 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.