Sunday, February 19, 2012

Family Planning and the Bishops

     I realize that the matter of Obama and the Catholic Bishops has been overworked lately, but I can't help weighing in with some thoughts on the subject.
     In the first place, I can see both sides of the argument: freedom of religion vs. insurance-paid family planning.
     But some columnists have been throwing around assumptions that appear to me to be a misuse of the English language. Recently I have read several columns in which the government, President Obama in particular, was accused of requiring the church to go against its “conscience.”
     I do not believe that the Catholic Church or a corporation or a high school class or any other organized set of people can have a conscience, Organizations are groups of human beings; each member of the group has a unique conscience. There may be an average of individual consciences of the members, but such an average is as different from a true conscience as an average bird is from an ostrich. Calling an organization's teachings, rules, bylaws, etc. a conscience is like calling the rules of grammar creative writing.
     A fundamental principle of Catholic morality is that you must follow your conscience, however, a well-formed conscience will never contradict the objective(?) moral law, as taught by Christ and his Church. In other words, if one's conscience does not agree with the rules of the Church, it is not a “well-formed” conscience. It reminds me of the Sunday School teacher who stated, “Today we are going to have an open, honest discussion of the world's religions, and discover that Christianity is the best.”
     Recent polls suggest that a majority of Catholic women do not have a “well-formed” conscience with regard to birth control, and I believe that is what has always had the hierarchy so gravely concerned. If an individual has to depend upon an organization's oversight to see that his or her conscience is being followed, then that conscience is useless. Shades of 1984; the church is doing Big Brother's work.
     If each individual in the flock believed in following the rules, the Bishops should have no hesitation in allowing their employees to choose for themselves whether or not they want their health insurance to cover family planning. Possibly allowing each employee to opt in or out of the requirement would be a reasonable compromise, reasonable, that is, for everyone but the Bishops.
     Much has also been made of the requirement that uninsured individuals must purchase health insurance or face a fine. There is nothing new about this; for example, drivers are required to purchase liability insurance or else provide proof of financial responsibility. In order to protect innocent accident victims from liability, the insurance must contain certain minimum provisions as specified by law.
     The healthcare insurance requirement does not sound much different from the accident insurance requirement. Substitute “the public” for “innocent accident victims,” and there is no difference.
     But in the real world, I fully expect the Supreme Court to declare the insurance requirement of the Healthcare Act to be unconstitutional.
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     My books, “There Are Only Seven Jokes” and “The Spirit Runs Through It” are available in paperback, or at the Kindle Store.

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