Wednesday, February 29, 2012


That the HHS mandate is unconstitutional, a breach in general rights that could have significant ramifications for everyone in the future, is the grounds upon which the Catholic Church and its supporters in this issue fight against it. It is not about birth control or women’s rights or abortion or forcing people to be Catholic or any other of a number of side issues.


That being said, just who is this mandate good for? Is it good for women? Let us be honest, women already bear the fuller load of responsibility for the consequences of sexual encounters by way of the construction of our bodies. We are told that “reproductive health” services will greatly enhance her freedom. I argue that it will erode it further. With this mandate the responsibility for the consequences of sexual activity now will fall more heavily and officially on the woman’s shoulders. “It’s your problem,” she might hear when facing the possibility of pregnancy. “Didn’t you protect yourself? Don’t look at me. Do ‘something’ about it.”

As we further and further destroy the social structures that would have supported her – structures that said, “Men, take responsibility for your actions,” she becomes more and more autonomous and alone – an object for men to use. She as a person will become more periphery to men’s lives other than what she can do for them.

Further, the Catholic Medical Board (CMB) Women Physicians state, “OCPs (abortifacients, oral contraceptives) contribute to significant disease and dysfunction, such as increased rates of blood clots, strokes, and heart attacks (especially in smokers); increased rates of HPV transmission; and increased incidence of cervical cancer and liver tumors. The same synthetic hormones in OCPs that make a woman’s body behave as if pregnant all the time also change her body chemistry, rendering her more susceptible to STIs. As physicians, we frequently must care of women suffering from the unanticipated side effects of OCPs.”

So is this good for men? We can’t expect to teach men starting in grade school about every aspect of sex, tell them how to “protect” themselves, and then how to get out of it should something go wrong, and expect that to make them more responsible human beings. As men continue down the path of seeing women as an object they can use like a magazine or computer image, something that can be done away with when it is no longer as pleasurable as it once was, then men become less too – they become untethered, lone cowboys that are taught that when the going gets tough, the tough get going on to the next woman.
So is it good for children? We already see the breakdown of the family in modern culture. Do we wish to see it erode further? That divorce does not affect children is a fallacy. Ask any grade school teacher after one month of school who has a parent at home and who comes from a divided family and they will point them out.

Again from the CMB, “A child is not a disease, nor are fertility and pregnancy. They are physiological states of healthy individuals.” Children also are not objects or accoutrements to our lives but unique human beings formed by the actions of two other humans who hopefully take responsibility for this miracle they helped create.

So is it good for our pocket books? Once more from the CMB, “With regard to “cost savings” in health care, the Guttmacher Institute’s own data show that increases in contraception use lead to increased demand for abortions, and that women are more likely to have unplanned pregnancies when using contraception. There are no valid statistics demonstrating that use of contraception and abortion have improved the health of women and children. In fact, the rates of premature and low birth weight infants have been rising precipitously since rates of abortion and OCP use have increased. One in 8 babies is now born prematurely. NICU care now accounts for 25% of the entire maternal/newborn budget!

"Finally, it is important to realize that mandating “free contraception” is not free—it will mean higher insurance premiums for everyone and/or less money for the treatment of real diseases.” Think of it this way; before there was a manufacturer of OCPs, a distributer, a seller, possibly a doctor and you involved. Now with this mandate we will add government officials to oversee that it is being implemented and paperwork being sent to insurance companies who in turn must then have more staff to send out money to the sellers of these products who have to have staff to keep track of it all. It is not a less expensive process, it is a more expensive process.

Lastly (really) the woman who most needs this service is probably among the least likely to receive it. The truly poor will not have the full time job long enough that it will even pay business provided insurance. She will most likely continue to do without while the rest of the nations continues to train itself that it is her problem and that she should be able to take care of it.

So ask yourself the question:
If it isn’t good for women
If it isn’t good for men
If it isn’t good for children or families
If it isn’t good for your wallet
If it won’t reach the poorest of the poor who might actually need it
If it isn’t healthy for women’s bodies
If it isn't good for religious freedom
Who is it good for?

There’s a question worth pondering.


Anonymous said...

If this is about religious freedom and not birth control, then why does your post go on ad infinitum about birth control? Religious freedom means freedom from religion as well as freedom of religion. The Church is not required to pay for contraception coverage, so what's the point? Does the Church want contraception banned nationally? Not everyone is Catholic, or obligated to obey Church teaching. Whether this law is constitutional or not is for the courts to decide, not the Church. Sorry Father, the country is n

Pat said...

The issue IS about religious freedom. All of the information Father presented shows WHY the Church teaches what she does.

The Church must be free to continue teaching and acting upon all her teachings.

Most people do not know WHY the Church upholds this particular one. Same for why "same sex marriage" is not good for our society or for children. People don't understand this teaching either.

The Church must be free to uphold all of her teachings.

Anonymous said...

Pat, the last time I checked, this country is NOT a theocracy. The government has the final say in what's legal and constitutional, NOT the Church. And who said anything about same sex marriage? That has nothing to do with health insurance. You might try sticking to the subject, and leave the conservative talking points out - just a suggestion.

Pat said...

The Constitution, interpreted by the Supreme Court, has the final say on what is legal and "constitutional," not a particular administration, which changes every 4 to 8 years.

If you now wish to go off topic by bringing up the concept of a theocracy, the first two clauses of the First Amendment speak of religion, protecting religious freedom from government interference, not the other way around.

The "separation of church and state" is a phrase not found in our Constitution. The phrase was used by one of the authors of the Constitution (T. Jefferson), to reassure the Danbury Baptist Association that the First Amendment protects religions from government interference. The phrase "separation of Church and state" should be read in its original context, to understand how it has always been interpreted.

Regarding same-sex "marriage," I was merely illustrating that the Church has many teachings, in addition to the one under discussion, that go against popular culture. The Church must be free to uphold and practice her teachings. Her hearers are free to accept or
reject them.

It is HHS that is trying to force acceptance of their teachings that these things are "good" for "women's health."

Fr. Valencheck has asked an exellent question: what are contraception/sterilization/abortifacients good for, considering the evidence that he has presented?

Fr. V said...


This was not about the mandate as stated in the first paragraph. And instead of once again attacking people I challenge you as you did to Pat to come up with a counter argument. Attacking people and positions is very easy. Is it because you cannot anwer the question of the post? Give me something with which to work. You have provided nothing.

Please don't write back how dissappointed and hurt you are. I will accept that as a given. Address the issue. Give me an argument to engage you with.

Anonymous said...

It is quite a stretch to say that religious freedom is being attacked when the Church is still free to teach as it does, and Catholics are free to obey such teachings. This is a requirement for insurers to provide certain coverages, which the Church does not have to pay for. No one is required to use these services, Catholic or otherwise. Whether or not practicing Catholics obey the Church's teachings, is not a factor in this law, and neither is the Church's right to teach them.
In all honesty, Father, your rather investing reaction to this insurance mandate and defense of the Church's supposedly violated rights borders on zealotry. I find it disturbing.

Colleen said...

I don't think the Church (big C, not isolated parishes)will be considered a very trusted teacher if She speaks one way yet Her money says something different (forced or not). It's not a free Church to make Her pay for something She believes violates a natural law and hurts a woman, marriage, family and society. Or, with the revision, to have my insurance premiums cover things that I as a wife, and mother, and woman, and voter absolutely disagree with.

How am I free if I MUST? I am not saying I want contraceptives banned by law, nor do I read anything that suggest the Church wants such a thing; I am saying that the law should protect me from supporting something that every ounce of me recoils against.

If I am to let you be you and have your opinions, exercising your freedoms, why get so angry when I wish the same treatment?

I think the Church already offers people huge freedom to choose to listen to Her or not, and always, always, always grants just mercy when asked for it.

But to be asked to change, to lessen standards, to say that a lower mark is what we are now capable of for the sake of You don't want that for yourself and your beliefs. We don't want that for ours.

lgreen515 said...

Anon: Regarding your comment that insurance companies will be paying for this coverage: insurance companies are profit-making institutions, not welfare programs. Any increase in costs that they experience due to having to cover women at Catholic institutions will be passed on to the institutions in the form of higher premiums. Our rights of conscience are still violated.

Anonymous said...

Whose conscience is being violated here - Catholics who obey Church teachings? I fully expect this to be upheld, eventually. by the courts. because this law IS constitutional. The Church will lose this battle, because its claim of religious rights violation is ridiculous. It CANNOT tell the government, and the rest of the country what it can and can't do.

lgreen515 said...

Anon: the Church is not telling anybody what to do. The Church teaches against birth control and abortion, for reasons which Father V. has explained. People are free to disregard Church teaching and behave as they please. However, the Church will not pay for something that goes directly against her teachings. That would be a contradiction at best, but really more like a betrayal of her deepest values.

Anonymous said...

Father V.,
Good post. You sound like a Roman Catholic priest...which is a good thing :) I agree with you. You have stated indisputable facts. I am pro-life. That being said, i use birth control pills, as do many other women to treat real disease (endometriosis, ovarian cyst disease, anemia, and bleeding disorders...all due to or aggravated by a hormonal imbalance). I am completely celibate/chaste. It is not ideal, and is used as an absolute last resort (after having tried every natural remedy known to man). I hardly hear this mentioned in the debate, so I just thought I'd bring it up.

Really, birth control pills, are simply hormonal therapy, which alters a woman's hormonal balance...a *secondary side effect* of "the pill" is that it makes pregnancy less likely to occur and can have an abortifacient effect, however if a person remains celibate/chaste during treatment, would the Catholic church have a problem with this? There are many other medical treatments that are commonly used that can harm an unborn child: x-rays, chemotherapy, to name a couple, but it is expected that the patient not be pregnant and abstain during the treatment, and so the ethical dilemma is eliminated.

Just my two cents!
God bless! You're doing a great job!
--Baby Catholic

Fr. V said...

Actually last anon. You stated our position rather well. There are indeed legitimate reasons for using the "pill" as prescribed by a doctor - but not for the sole purpose of contraception. If it is a side effect of its use due to the treatment of a serious medical issue, then it may be used.

Anonymous said...

"There are indeed legitimate reasons", and yet the Church still feels its rights are violated if these medications are covered in the policies - sounds like doublespeak to me. Sounds to me likw the issue is really how birth contrl pills are used, not who paya for them. If only the Bishops had been so vigilent regarding sexual abuse by priests as they have been about this non-issue, the Church wouldn't be as damaged as it is. If the Supreme court were to uphold this mandate, would the Church really have the right to disobey it? The world is an imperfect place, and sometimes compromises have to be made. In a democracy, Church doctrine cannot trp civil law. Just because the first amendment says Congress can't pass laws restricting the free exercise of religion doesn't mean that religion can do anything it wants to. And since there are many religions wirh different beliefs and doctrines, preference cannot be given to any one just because it has a particular teaching it thinks is being required to go against - not even the Catholic Church. It's this attitude of superiority that makes me want to leave the Catholic Church for something a little more enlightened.

Fr. V said...

Well . . . yes. It is about how those particular pills are used. It's like rope. You may use rope all you want as long as you use it for legitmate reasons but if you are going to hang someone with it - well - then no. And don't expect me to pay for it.

And yes, I agree - I wish the bishops HAD been better at combating child abuse. WHat has that got to do with this issue? Because they were bad at that then they must also be bad at this?

And I agree with your idea that a democracy is place where we should compromise - but not in core beliefs of a long established religion. Why not make the compromise go the other way? It's not like it would be impossible or even all that terribly difficult - or without precident. Is the Catholic Church saying, "Nobody in the United States may use any of these things?" No. It says, "Don't make us pay for something that is against our core beliefs because a Catholic instution that does pay for these things begins to cease being Catholic.

In what way is this an attitude of superiority? Since when is demanding ones essential constitutional rights a superior attitude? That seems to be to be very dangerous talk. Because so many people believe one way everybody must be forced to believe the same? That is NOT a democracy.

Anonymous said...

Do you think it's a democracy that would give preferential treatment to the Catholic Church because it's long established???? What on earth does that have to do with anything? The 1st amendment clearly states that the goverment cannot favor one religion over another. And most religions do not oppose birth control. The Catholic Church can't have its way just because it wants to. And the minutes-ago defeat of the Senate bill that would have done so proves it.

Fr. V said...

Well . . . as opposed to saying I am starting a religion today and it says I don't have to pay taxes or I can use illegal drugs. What the Catholic Church teaches has been around for centuries. So in that way - yes, I am saying that it has something to do with it.

I think you need to go back and ready the consitituion and not cherry pick the parts that bolster your position. It also says that it will pass NO laws that inhibit the practice of religion - not except those that are popular - not those that MOST churches hold on to - not ones that only effect the Catholic Church - but NONE _ NADA _ ZIPPO.

And that a law proves the morality of anything is just a silly concept.

lgreen515 said...

I would like to point out that the Catholic Church (as Jesus commanded)abides by the laws of the land. Render unto Caesar etc. If this mandate is successful, the Church will not disobey. But the Church will shut down schools, hospitals, homes, and charities in order not to participate in this immorality.

Anonymous said...

Interesting perspective. I respectfully disagree with Fr. V's premises including, but not limited to, the costs associated with prevention and the impacts on maternal/infant care pertaining to a rise in NICU usage rates as a percentage of care. There are a number of factors that influence these heath care usage markers, not the the least of which are poverty, access to care, quality of care (The U.S. ranks poorly on many many important measures), and the presence of any number of other interconnected social ills including obesity, poor education (regarding medical choices and otherwise) and barriers to effective political and medical policies.
The last item is particularly significant because this is most definitely a matter of religious freedom. The notion that an employee's private medical choices should be subject to the scrutiny of their employer's religious beliefs is completely antithetical to the principles of individual religious freedom and right to privacy. In the video, Fr. Barron posits that Catholic Hospitals and Universities now have to choose between faith and fines, and that the Obama administration is seeking to impose secular totalitarianism as governments are often wont to do. I find this utterly duplicitous, as one could easily and justifiably claim that the church is seeking its own flavor of totalitarianism, predicated on sound history. Moreover, it in itself seeks to limit the religious liberty of others. The difference is individual liberty versus institutional liberty, and it is the former that the constitution is intended to protect.
Additionally, as a man who has been faced with the choice to "flee my obligation" when a sexual partner's birth control failed, I object to the slippery slope of male moral degeneration that is implied. The presupposition that a woman's choice to use contraception, to prevent unwanted pregnancy or otherwise, diminishes the perceptions of a man's responsibility is absurd. If this argument is to be accepted, then it should be acknowledged that it operates from the same framework that supports arguments placing blame on victims (i.e. rape, domestic violence). It draws into question man's capacity to control "primal urges" and subverts the primacy of free will. I am uncomfortable with its deterministic nature. I understand the challenging nature of sexual urge as well as any other. Yet I reject the position that others' access to personal medical choices must be infringed upon so that I might not be led in to temptation, or removed from responsibility for my actions.

Anonymous said...

Lastly, the assertion that contraception will be more expensive ignores dozens of studies associated with the costs of unwanted or unintended pregnancies and associated social and women's health issues. The fact that the women who would benefit most, the poor, do not have access to it, is precisely the problem that this mandate seeks to address; albeit with an instrument that is fundamentally flawed not in its intent, but by the infrastructure it seeks to correct. The flaw that the Catholic Church and other religious institutions should be addressing is the fact that our health care paradigm is predicated on a profit-driven model (as indirectly indicated in the post) where the bottom line reinforces and perpetuates an inequitable stratification of wellbeing predicated on wealth. This is, in my opinion, reprehensible by any conception of morality or community, and threatens to tear our society apart.
I appreciate that the church is striving as a moral actor to improve our community and I recognize the good that it serves for many, although sadly many do not. I simply cannot find agreement with its methodology or its rhetoric in this regard. It certainly does nothing to repudiate characterizations of its being out of touch and exclusionary towards certain demographics (including 98% of Catholic women). I also appreciate Father V's willingness to take the time to articulate aspects of the church's position, and as a first time reader I am glad to say I will be returning for another cup.

Fr. V said...


I was so excited at your writing! You gave me something to sink my teeth into and think about! The part that really made me sit back on my heels and think was your concept of reverse totalitarianism. I literally opened my mouth and thought, “Oh.” Thank you.

There is a fundamental flaw with that idea however that did not occur to me until later. Take this as an example: Growing up our next door neighbors had a rule that stated, “No singing at the table.” I never understood it but we did abide by it when in their house. That was completely acceptable. What would not be acceptable is if they came into our house and made us abide by it.

The Catholic Church is not forcing anybody to do anything. If you want to teach, can you still teach somewhere other than a Catholic school? Yes. If you want to be a medical professional, can you do it somewhere other than a Catholic hospital? Yes. If you want to be a social worker can you work somewhere else other than Catholic Charities? Yes – most probably in the same city. But, if this mandate is upheld there will only be two possibilities for you to work for a Catholic institution that is Catholic in more than just name: work for a Catholic institution that has fired all non-Catholic workers and will no longer offer services to anybody save for Catholics – OR – leave the country for a place where this is not a problem. Hardly a fair comparison of totalitarianism.

As to men not slipping morally – I do not understand how, looking just about any statistic you want by just about anybody and not think that there has not been a great lessoning of moral responsibility. I think this is your weakest argument. Look at anything from anything to do with marriage to porn to prostitution . . . Is a man an animal that cannot control his urges? Of course not. But is he succeeding statistically? No. He is falling behind. And we continue to erode anything that would inspire him to do otherwise.

I agree that the profit driven model is not great for medicine. I think, however, that you inadvertently proved my point. It is indeed not going to reach those who need it the most and as for all those other factors you present, that merely compounds the problem and makes it worse and worse. It isn’t fixing more than it is harming. You mention the cost of unwanted pregnancies and the physical and mental costs they cause. YES! The point of my last comment was that as many rely more and more on these things as something that will always work (even if they only fail 1 out of fifty times) that false security is itself a cause of these unintended pregnancies adding to the very cost we are trying to illuminate. Who is most at risk here – those who fall into the very categories you mentioned: poverty – education – etc . . .

It is the same with AIDs. Condoms give a false sense of security. They are not the least reliable for a sexually active person to protect themselves or others. THAT adds to people getting the disease and adds to the strain on the American medical resources.

Finally – that it is not well practiced among Catholics has nothing to do with the issue at hand. We are also not good at charity but that doesn’t mean we stop preaching it. Further, the 98% of Catholic women is a false statistic. Go read the methodology used for obtaining the figure in the very document that sites it. It only focused on a very limited group of women – those who felt “in danger” of pregnancy (if you did not consider yourself “in danger” you were excluded), it also excluded pregnant women, women who recently have birth, and women trying to get pregnant. It also did not ask if those who claimed to Catholic even went to Mass.

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for making me think!!! Please come back!