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Church and State Spar
Posting Date: 02/13/2012

Terry Donnelly

Ladies and gentlemen, today’s main event pits the Catholic Church wearing white trunks with a gold cross in the right corner of the ring against the Federal Government wearing red, white, and blue stars and striped, trunks in the left corner.

The problem: Provisions in the Affordable Care Act mandate that all employers provide a full variety of birth control means, free of charge, to all employees through their group medical coverage.

The Catholic argument: It has been Catholic tenet for centuries that members of the church not practice birth control. The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees a separation of church and state, therefore the state cannot set religious doctrine or practice.

The Catholic Church, which in and of itself is exempt from the law, none-the-less has thousands of related businesses including great universities like Georgetown and Norte Dame as well as hospitals, food banks, orphanages and tons of other humanitarian institutions, many designed to help the poorest and most underprivileged among us.

Although the health care mandate is not directed at Catholic teachings, it does force the church to violate its birth control tenet by forcing them to pay for actions that contradict what is taught in church. In politics, such actions would be deemed hypocritical. Many contend they shouldn’t be forced to follow the law within any of the Catholic sphere.

The Government argument: Everyone deserves equal treatment under the law. Many of the employees of the Catholic complex are not Catholic and not bound to follow the church’s teachings. Studies show that 99 percent of sexually active women have engaged in some form of birth control. Not only that, 98 percent of Catholic women have done the same.

Twenty eight states already have similar laws on the books and 11 of them have no exceptions, including the church, forcing all employers to provide birth control within group medical coverage plans.

DePaul University, the largest Catholic college, already complies with the mandate. Just because an employee is a professor at Notre Dame or a cook in a

Catholic soup kitchen they should not be denied coverage afforded to all other working Americans.

In a nutshell, the government can’t force the Catholic church to take actions that contradict their constitutionally protected teachings and the church cannot force the government, according to labor laws, to create a group of second class citizens who are ineligible for specifically mandated care.

As is the case with most conflicts, there is right and wrong on both sides of this argument. Resolution of this argument calls for an extreme bout of compromise. Let’s see if our government and the powerhouse that is the Catholic Church can come to an agreement.

There are lots of solutions and it's likely none of them will make everyone happy. One such compromise is that all employees of Catholic employers be given a government subsidy to add birth control coverage to their employer-provided health care program. This will infuriate the small government advocates as more spending and bigger government.

The government could cave in and extend the exemption already allotted to the church to its satellite industries. This will infuriate the progressives, as it will be creating the large second-class group of citizens mentioned above.

The church could close all of its affected holdings. This action is drastic, as it would leave millions without part of their support system.

The Catholic Church could cave and agree to the provisions of the mandate. That isn’t likely, as it would draw the ire of hard line believers. The normally calm Rick Santorum, a Republican candidate for president, was openly angry when denouncing the mandate in speeches during his stumping for the nomination. There are many more like him.

There doesn’t seem to be any half and half compromise here.

There is, however, one solution staring us directly in the face. This one isn’t going to make everyone happy either, but it completely solves the problem at hand and many more health care problems plaguing our current program.

That solution is a universal, government controlled, single payer health care system–Medicare for all. Problem solved. Next question please.


  • Posted Date: 02/13/2012
    I have been a Catholic for 65 years and the church refuses to listen to its followers. It is run by a bunch of old guys who live together in their own world. Take for example, its refusal to allow women to be priests even though there is a critical shortage. But finally the bigger problem is mixing church and state. For example these Republican candidates running a circus about social issues and not dire issues like jobs and the economy. The government, namely hypocritical Republicans, need to stop worrying about birth control, abortion, smoking, etc and get busy handling real problems, like war, poverty, jobs.
    By: Kenneth
  • Posted Date: 02/13/2012
    When our presidential candidates can only talk about birth control and abortion while thousands are dying in unjust wars, people are losing their homes and jobs, we are just hypocrites is we call ourselves "religious."
    By: Larry
  • Posted Date: 02/17/2012
    Thatís OK, Kenneth. President Obama will simply circumvent Congress and the Constitution while continuing to shamelessly point fingers and blame others. And, those 25+ job bills sitting in the Senate following Congressional approval will continue to sit along with an eternal, unapproved budget. I seem to recall that Dems had control of both Houses for the 1st 2 years of his term, so letís not forget that fact. Sadly, Republicans will continue to be blamed for doing nothing regarding job creation irrespective of reality. However, it is a false claim by uninformed liberals that has been proven false by Politifact, a liberal leaning, fact checking organization. Do your research if you dare.
    By: Reality
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