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Violated Consciences

By The Reverend Published: February 6, 2012

It seems as if the American Catholic Bishops are oh-so-upset with President Obama's decision to mandate all employers to cover contraception in all health plans, even those provided by religious institutions to employees.

“In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences,” said Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

No Cardinal-designate Dolan......Catholic Bishops burnt out their consciences when they decided to participate in covering up for child rapists under their employ. So, Obama isn't giving Catholic Bishops a year to "figure out how to violate" their own consciences. That steamboat done sailed. Obama is giving Catholic leaders a year to....comply with the laws of the nation......secular laws that those Bishops have been ordered by their Messiah to obey. Render unto Ceasar what belongs to Ceasar.

Through our nation's democratic process, Congress and the President passed into law a new national health care insurance program conservatives lovingly labeled ObamaCare. Health insurance exchanges are being structured right now....and so the details of what would and wouldn't be required to be covered by insurance companies to qualify for those exchanges are being ironed out.

Obama has ordered HHS Secretary Sebelius to include contraception coverage, without co-pay, as a requirement to qualify for the exchanges. All of the insurance plans made available on the exchanges in 2014 will include coverage for contraception. Contraception is legal to purchase in the U.S., and has been for decades.

The problem Catholic Bishops are having.....not Catholic parishioners, because 3 out of 4 Catholics simply ignore their Church's directives on the evil of contraception......is that Obama has ordered all employers, except for 100% sectarian employers, to make those contraception-including health care plans in the national exchanges available to all employees. The Catholic Church in America employs a lot of people. Many of whom are not Catholic. The Catholic Church in America also receives a lot of tax dollars from the federal government to assist them in their charitable operations.

All that said....here is where Catholic Bishops, most conservatives and even a few misguided quasi-progressives miss the mark on this alleged controversy....under the title "U.S. Bishops Vow to Fight HHS Edict", we find...

At issue, the U.S. bishops and other religious leaders insist, is the survival of a cornerstone constitutionally protected freedom that ensures respect for the conscience of Catholics and all other Americans.

Compare that claim with this...

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

Did the Founders use the words "respect for conscience" in the first amendment? No. If the Founders would have included a provision in the 1st which stated that all citizens could disobey federal mandates which they deemed didn't "respect" their individual "consciences".....Americans would be able to withhold their tax dollars from Washington on the basis that the use of those tax dollars violates their consciences. Do American citizens have the legal right to withhold their tax dollars from the federal government because, for example, their consciences are violated through the use of those tax dollars going for the wholesale killing of Muslims in Muslim lands? Of course not.

What U.S bishops claim as their right is not a right at all.....and that non-right is certainly not found in the 1st amendment. Congress is ordered by the 1st amendment to NOT make any laws which "establish" religion. The word "establish" means "institute, build, or bring into being". The U.S. Congress is prohibited from passing laws respecting the "building or bringing into being" of religion.

At the same time Congress is prohibited from respecting the establishment of religion through legislation.....religious citizens are guaranteed that government will honor the "free exercise" of religion without interference.

With Obama's new order to include contraception in all employer health plans....how are Catholics being denied their "free exercise" of religion? Catholics are not being forced by government to buy or use contraception. Catholics can still practice their religion as they wish. What Catholics cannot do....under Obama's order....is compel those who do not practice Catholicism....to practice Catholicism against their will.

The noise conservatives have been making on this Obama order has nothing to do with some Mother Goose version of a non-existent "protected freedom that ensures respect for the conscience of Catholics." Nothing could be further from the truth. The whining we're hearing is all about a misplaced sense of entitlement which many religionists are confusing with the 1st amendment.

When religious groups decide to enter the public arena, secular-government laws apply. Not religious laws, not conscience laws....secular-government laws. Religious groups are not forced into the public arena. Government does not compel religious groups to do charitable work for the public. They choose to do that work voluntarily.

But when Catholic groups enter the public arena.....offering health services to the general public while employing non-Catholics.....Catholic leaders insist that THEY still get to make the rules, or disobey any rules that government has imposed. That is a misguided sense of entitlement which the 1st amendment knows nothing about.

Question: Under Obama's recent health insurance plan order, are Catholics forced to buy, or use contraception?

Answer: No.

How, then, are Catholic "consciences" being "violated"?

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