If I were a practicing Catholic I’d have to find a way to formally request a sabbatical. The church has done some zany things in the past and while its recent action doesn’t rank up there with religious persecutions and scandalous cover-ups, it’s just one more reason for me to question my membership. Fortunately, my lapsed status allows me to back even further away without the formality of complete disassociation.
Yesterday marked the first day of the church’s Fortnight for Freedom. The campaign is a call from the Catholic church’s bishops to its nearly 80 million members in the United States.
Bishops want their flock to spend the next two weeks — culminating on July 4 — praying, discussing and presumably protesting what they find an unacceptable aspect of President Obama’s healthcare law.
The U.S. Conference of Bishops has gone so far as to liken the particular mandate to religious persecution by the government.
On its website, the conference has posted the following:
“Across America, our right to live our faith is being threatened — from Washington forcing Catholic institutions to provide services that contradict our beliefs...” (You can read the entire PDF by logging onto the website: www.usccb.org).
The threat to religious freedom, the bishops contend, is the law’s requirement that employers offering health insurance benefits make birth control available to its employees.
The law doesn’t force employees to take birth control. It doesn’t force them to even buy birth control. It simply makes the option available on healthcare plans.
While devout Catholics employed by Catholic-sponsored organizations like hospitals and shelters might have religious reasons for not using birth control, presumably the non-Catholics employed by Catholic charities, for example, might find the option a welcome development.
But the bishops are depicting the requirement as an assault on religious freedom.
The bishops are wrong.
Providing a health benefit to employees who do not share the same religious beliefs is not an attack on Catholicism. It does not undermine or threaten the faithful’s ability to worship or practice how they see fit.
Instead, it’s an attempt at providing a much needed health benefit to everyone. Equally. What’s wrong with that?
If I wanted to listen to political hyperbole and distortions of truth, I’d watch any number of super PAC-funded commercials.
If I were a practicing Catholic, the last place I’d want to be subject to political propaganda is at mass on Sunday. But that’s just me. Maybe it’s time I start exploring a permanent sabbatical.