More on the Catholic bishops and the HHS rule

February 20, 2012 | By | Reply More

The Catholic bishops’ caterwauling over the proposed HHS rule on employees’ benefits is just more of the same type of anti-Obama shark hunting on the Mississippi that the bishops engaged in even before Obama was sworn as President. The issue then was the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) and it was “religious freedom” and “freedom of conscience” then too. All the same far right wing quasi-Catholics, pundits like George Weigel, decried the Obama administration then as now. Too bad there wasn’t even any such bill before the Congress at the time. Congress wasn’t even in session but, we Catholics heard it from the pulpits and pews and bishops all across the nation about the evils of Obama.

Thousands, maybe millions, of anti-FOCA postcards were sent to Washington. I sent one but, modified the text because I thought the bill would unconstitutionally usurp some states’ rights to regulate abortion under Roe v. Wade. Then, I found out there was no bill. Imagine my surprise as an Obama supporter.

Now, the Catholic bishops and their piling-on sycophants decry a “mandate” where no such thing exists at all. There is a proposed rule, which isn’t even in effect, that says that if an employer offers health insurance as a benefit to its employees, the insurance must cover contraceptive services. Strictly religious institutions are exempt from the proposed rule. No mandate, law, rule or regulation exists now or will exist that absolutely requires any Catholic employer to do anything against its conscience.

No mandate, law, rule or regulation now or in the future absolutely requires health insurance coverage as a benefit to any employee of any Catholic institution.
If any Catholic employer chooses to opt out of providing health insurance as a benefit to its employees then, there is no problem at all. Even if later requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (not yet in effect) might fine the Catholic (or any other employers) for doing such, the costs of the fines might be some $500 million a year less than the costs of any health insurance costs now paid by the Catholic employers (as religious non-profits they may be exempt). Opt out, save the money, pay the fine as a matter of civil disobedience.

If Catholic employers wish to remain competitive and allow employees to have health insurance, there is nothing to prevent Catholic employers from making a direct, tax equalized cash payment to any or all of its employees for them to make such individual health insurance purchases (or not as is allowed under the ACA, and pay a fine) as their own individual consciences may dictate without any reference to their employer.

So what’s the problem here? Just another round of the neo-conservative Catholic bishops hunting sharks where there are none. The bishops did the same thing over FOCA. As a practicing Catholic I am disgusted and offended. If the bishops put the amount of effort into resolving the clergy abuse crisis in America and abroad that they have expended upon false controversies and anti-Obama rhetoric, the Catholic Church and its members would be a far more faithful expression of the Gospels.

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Category: Health Care Reform, Religion

About the Author ()

imothy E. Hogan is a trial attorney, a husband, a father of two awesome children and a practicing Roman Catholic in St. Louis, Missouri. Mr. Hogan has done legal and political work in Jefferson City, Missouri for partisan and non-partisan social change, environmental and consumer protection groups. Mr. Hogan has also worked for consumer advocate Ralph Nader in Washington, DC and the members of the trial bar in the State of New York. Mr. Hogan’s current interests involve remaining a full time solo practitioner pioneer on the frontiers of justice in America, a good husband and a good father to his awesome children.

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