HHS Mandates, Families, and Sometimes Strained Friendships

"The Kiss of Judas" is a traditional...

Jesus told us that, should we choose to follow after Him, that many of those most vociferously opposing us would be those we are closest to, whether family or friends. While far from experiencing what Jesus went through, I have learned more and more of late the truth of this when attempting to fight in some small way the culture of death and jeopardy to religious freedom that we live in today.

Below,  in context, is an example of what happened to our own Lord Jesus Christ when He “went home” after becoming well-known and arguably the most powerful spiritual leader within Judaism of his time or thereafter. The passage is Mark 6: 6-7, and the translation used is the Revised Standard Version, considered by many scholars,  both Catholic and Protestant, to be one of the very most accurate available. The bold print is added by me.

1 He went away from there and came to his own country; and his disciples followed him. 2 And on the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue; and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to him? What mighty works are wrought by his hands! 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4 And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.” 5 And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them.  6 And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.

While this passage is dealing with the preaching of the Gospel in general, it with certainty applies extremely well to the recent HHS Mandate which will potentially force all religions (not only Catholic) to follow government guidelines on women’s healthcare or to be heavily fined or possibly even shut down if not. Since the Catholic health care system is the largest in the world, and Catholics make up the largest religious group in the United States, the effect on health care for both women and men could be staggering.  The effects on religious liberty even more so.

Others have written more eloquently than I could hope to on this issue, and I would not waste your time or mine in repeating their words here (I have linked to some of them at the end of this post however). But what has prompted my post today is a series of comments made by Rush Limbaugh, who arguably made a rather rash and hasty judgment of the motives behind one Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University law student who appeared before Congress earlier this week to state her case about the “needs of women” to have access to birth control during college.

Rush Limbaugh Cartoon by Ian D. Marsden of mar...
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I am not into name-calling. I do not agree with Rush or his attitude in how he presented his views here. He referred to her as a “slut” and has refused to apologize. His words have not helped the case in any way, but rather have simply lost him advertisers (ironically one has been Select Comfort, a bed company!!!). But Limbaugh for once makes a daring but valid point. A good friend and colleague of mine had a rather heated exchange with me on this whole thing last night, particularly in regards to the definition of “slut.”  I think it may be partially a generational thing, as my colleague is younger than I, but to me “slut” and “prostitute” are pretty much interchangeable. To him they are not. Rather than wrestling about the words here though, the argument Mr. Limbaugh was actually making has some validity in my opinion. Asking the government to force payment for women (or men) to have sexual relations is “slutty” on many levels.   At one point he (Rush) likened government involvement to prostitution for that very reason, and he does speak an element of truth here. By forcing payment for universally free contraception, “we the people” become the “pimps” of both men and women who choose to become sexually active, when, at least in most cases, no gun is being held to their heads to do so.

My friend rightly brought up two seeming inconsistencies, however. One is that insurance should not be forced to pay for Viagra either, since it would be doing the same thing for men. I think he is right to a large extent. We hand out “pleasure candy” to both genders and then wonder why they “eat and enjoy.” As I wrote earlier and reference below this article, we have become very good at “enabling” bad behavior in the United States and beyond. There is one difference between Viagra and contraceptives, however, and it is a “huge one” (please pardon the unplanned pun here!). Viagra can be used to create life, at least indirectly, in an otherwise infertile couple who is not able to have sexual intercourse and thus become pregnant.  Part B of that difference is that Viagra or its other forms such as Cialis do not ever remove life from this planet, however tiny. Birth control pills on the other hand do, as does the IUD(inter-uterine device) and even more true with the infamous “morning after pill,” now becoming available in many cases over the counter for anyone over age 17! Each of those ingestible or otherwise invasive contraceptives have the potential of working after fertilization, and science and medicine have proven clearly that it is at that moment of fertilization where a new life technically begins. Not even an atheist can disprove that point, nor do they try.

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The other inconsistency, which is the one Ms. Fluke spoke of, are the rare times when a woman really does have a health issue such as endrometriosis that can be helped or greatly aided by using a contraceptive such as the Pill. What interestingly appeared in a very passing way during her conversation with Congress was that Georgetown University already covers such use of those particular medications under their insurance in such cases!  While it quite apparently true that she had a good friend who was denied this by the college’s insurance administrators, that would then be the insurance who is at fault in their processing of the claim, not the college or the Church. I do not think there is a person, Catholic, Protestant, or other, who would disagree that this was a terrible injustice done to her friend. And without putting words in His Excellency’s eloquent mouth, that would most surely include Cardinal Timothy Dolan, head of the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops).

But to change the entire way in which the contraceptive issue is dealt with by every single Catholic or otherwise religious institution in the nation due to the “fluke” (pun intended this time) of the Georgetown insurance providers is not only ludicrous, but was not seemingly her main reason for speaking on the issue at all. While extremely important, is nonetheless a side issue, albeit one that arguably must be included in the protection of women’s health on any final bill in regards to this whole complex set of issues. It, in fact, would be the only time that contraceptives ever even become a health issue. And as such, this has already been the long-standing policy of the Church on that topic. And that is no “new news.”

The late and great Father John Hardon of happy memory wrote on this exact thing a number of years ago (he passed away in December of 2000, almost 12 years ago ). In his highly informative Modern Catholic Dictionary, he writes the following on other uses of contraception rather than birth control: Again the emphasis is mine.

ENDOMETRIOSIS

A gynecological illness caused by the abnormal presence of tissue that more or less perfectly resembles the lining of the uterus (endometrium) but growing outside of the uterus itself and distributed in other pelvic areas. Since this aberrant endometrial tissue responds to the hormone-induced changes of the woman’s menstrual cycle but, unlike the true endometrial lining of the uterus, is entrapped in other tissue such as bone and muscle, its cyclic changes of menstruation, causes the problem to repress, and even after the pregnancy improvement is sometimes sustained for a period up to three or four years.   

Since a surgical approach to the problem is not always practical or successful, the so-called “contraceptive pill” has been recommended for use over prolonged periods to eliminate the cyclic changes of the menstrual cycle and thus eliminate the periodic pain of endometriosis. It should be noted, from a moral viewpoint, that although this progestational-estrogen type therapy is, in itself, essentially the same as that used in the “contraceptive pill,” it is not used in theses cases as a contraceptive. the purpose of the therapy is to ameliorate a seriously abnormal and indeed pathological condition insofar as it is aggravated by hormonal changes of the menstrual cycle. Although temporary sterility is a side effect of the treatment, contraception is not the purpose, and thus the treatment in no way conflicts with Catholic teaching.

The point of this whole thing to me is simple:  none of this has been hidden away in the proverbial “closet” somewhere. Taking certain contraceptives, if done primarily for health reasons and not reproductive ones, has not been and is not the issue here, nor will it ever become such. But when my friend’s Wisconsin Synod Lutheran minister is one day arrested for speaking out against homosexuality, just for an example, which he apparently frequently does, my friend may wish he had opposed what is the biggest affront to overall religious liberty in our time. The other point, more subtle but still serious, is that such invasiveness is pitting people against one another.  My friend and I will do just fine–but some will not. And the idea of using such difficult and divisive issues to “divide and conquer,” as it clearly appears the Obama administration is expert in doing, is reprehensible to me. I have begun to believe it is his hallmark.

Last but not at all least, I would like to share Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s official letter, as of just yesterday, on this ongoing battle. If you are Roman Catholic, you are obligated as part of your Catholic Faith to be in willing submission to what he shares here. The Bishops, particularly the Bishop of Rome (Pope Benedict XVI) are the legitimate leaders of the Catholic Church. And that is not negotiable.

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http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/Dolan-to-all-bishops-HHS.pdf

Much has been made about the fact that a significant number of Catholic couples ignore the prohibition on contraception, as if that somehow justified it. But as my dear, dear friend and brother in Christ the late Angel Cruz used to often say (and Angel knew, first-hand, having been a former heroin addict and dying of HIV/AIDS as a result in 1986, at age 33) “If the whole world decides to go to hell, that does not mean I have to.” I am with Angel.

I do not ever recommend for anyone to leave the Church.  But if you truly cannot abide by her principles and precepts, then it is far better to leave in honesty than to stay and attempt to deliberately undermine the entire leadership as some have done in this fight. Perhaps Sister Carol Sheehan, Kathleen Sebelius, and Nancy Pelosi, among others, need to be reminded that they are neither practicing Catholics nor leaders within her sacred ranks. And pretending that they are is unbelievable hypocrisy and arrogance at best, and endangering their very souls at worst.

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NOTE:  After I released this article Mr. Limbaugh did indeed apologize to Ms. Fluke.  I will leave it to the reader as to his reasons or sincerity, but at least it was not a “oops it was a wardrobe malfunction” type of apology.   Here is a link to it:

http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/daily/2012/03/03/a_statement_from_rush

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20 Replies to “HHS Mandates, Families, and Sometimes Strained Friendships”

  1. Rush is a total jerk if you listened to his day after day verbal abuse of Fluke. He degraded her and all women. Rick Santorum even called him on it. As for the differences in the pill and Viagra I’m well aware of what each does. During our conversation you were stating paying for Contraception leads to more people having sex compared to when you grew up in a more conservative time where people had to find there own forms of birth control. We were talking about people having sex and I brought up Viagra’s only purpose was for having sex and it’s paid for. It’s such a double standard. You also know I think it’s pretty pathetic my own Church and others in 2012 still treat women as second class status not worth even casting votes in Churches they dedicate their faiths to. It seems every woman who has disagreed with the Bishops have been vilified and I have always felt the Bishops are more on a Political agenda, because their biggest Colleges and other foundations already cover contraception in their insurance plans. I think they are mostly in the New York area.

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    1. I am assuming this is my friend “B” and so I will just say I think you and I have discussed this thoroughly. I think if you re-read my article you will note I did NOT agree with Rush in all of his ways that he speaks or things he says or does. What I said was that, in this case, there is more than contraception at stake. Religious liberty is. That was and is my issue. See you later in the week!

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    2. I would also add one other point…I never suggested that you do not know the difference between Viagra and contraceptives. What I said then and now was that Viagra is actually used to treat a medical condition. And also I said that, when contraception is used as such, then yes it should be covered. That has never been the issue. This is not a man versus woman thing, at least for me. I would feel the same if it was any other elective procedure such as a facelift. Normally, not always but normally, contraceptives are elective. And I stand with the fact that sexual activity as well as unplanned pregnancies have skyrocketed, as well as abortions at times when the contraceptives fail, since the sexual revolution in the 1960s when I grew up. There is not even a comparision. I suffered along with my former wife when she miscarried 4 times, and we had no insurance–none–at the time. It affected both of us pretty equally, at least in our case. And if you read the comment from my friend Teresa Rice you will see a first-hand example of endometriosis as well as the fact that neither the Church nor the insurance companies refuse to treat it. The Georgetown U insurance policy already covers it. So Ms. Fluke is fighting a deceptive battle here. Well over 90% of the issue is paying for sex. The few cases that are not can be worked with. And should be.

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      1. I understand what you are saying. And I know this is supposed to be all about the Government assault on Religion in your view and many others. Just like I think the current faction of the GOP is on a Religious assault on women and contraception with the personhood bill and trans vaginal probes. I believe in JFK’s stance and not Rick Santorums. Anyway, this article pretty much sums up everything for me.

        We just think differently.

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      2. You are certainly right, we do think differently. I think that article for example is more than a bit disingenous in that it implies that Rick Santorum has some type of imagined sexual hang-up, and by association, so do I apparently. Even if that was true, which I do not think it is, it is missing the point totally and I would daresay deliberately by the author.

        Don’t forget that you knew me when I thought very differently about many of these things (never the pro-life issue however) but at least about the authority of the Church and also a more literal understanding of the Constitution and how to apply it. So I am not unaware of the “other side of the coin” here.

        I lived the sexual revolution and participated in it. And I do not see that it improved the stability of the family nor the strength of our nation. Nor did it improve my life personally. It would be far easier and more popular for me to say that it did. But it did not.

        And there is really no “supposed religious assault here”–there is an actual one and it is a reality that is pretty hard to deny. Nor do I think it is necessarily a deliberate conspiracy to assault religion either. But the effect is still the same. That is what I am looking at. It is the effects, not the intent, that we must live with in the long run.

        And in the long term, the effect is destructive to the nuclear family, to the lives of both the unborn and the born. And while we may never go back to the 1950s, there was a stability in society then that simply does not exist today. Some of it at least was right.

        The author makes it sound as though Santorum just found out about sex last week by sneaking some Playboy magazines into his bathroom or something. He has 7 children for God’s sake–I don’t think he views “sex as dirty.” And Karen his wife had a 6 year relationship with another man outside of marriage before they met. So it is not as if he looks down on others who have lived differently than he has. I think the man’s manner of writing about him is a tad degrading and below the belt.

        And, as I said, I lived it too–I am divorced and had my “free” years–and I am still paying for them. Freedom is never free. Also quoting Madision’s post Constitutional writings in the 1800s is not the same as quoting the actual Constitution. He seems to miss the entire point of separation of church and state. It was never meant to eliminate religion from the public square.

        Our friendship in any case is more important than our differences on these or any other issues. But my thinking is not going to reverse back to what it once was a number of years back.

        And we are not going to change one another’s minds on this, so perhaps best not to try any further. But I hope you do at least see where I am coming from and respect it. I want you to know that I respect your views as well. as I have told you many times. Talk to you soon.

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  2. I think this goes back to the argument that most pro choicers use in abortion..That it must be around in case of rape or incest and stand behind that mantra as their cry to arms. Yet we all know those cases are rare to none. Same thing with the contraception pill which most of the time used for it’s given purpose and a very small amount of the time used for true medical reasons(which if people really read into it would find much better/safer alternatives)

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    1. Good points all the way…but even with those who do use the Pill for non-contraceptive purposes in any case are covered already by the Church, so those exceptions could be built into any insurance regulaions without violating anyone’s conscience either way. If you note another one of the comments on this thread, my good sister in the Faith Teresa, shares her own experience with this very issue. It is not actually considered to be contraception when used for other medical conditions and that has been clearly decided already by Church teaching. So it is a straw person argument at best and one that Georgetown U covered already. The news tends to fail in mentioning that part.

      And, as I stated, as tragic as rape or incest is, I personally know of a woman who had a child by her own father, and I know she loved that child. Had she aborted him she would have been forever denied that love. It is never right to do wrong.

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    1. I was just looking for this exact article Wagz, although slightly off-topic it relates to it in many ways. Thanks so much for the timely post!

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  3. Oh I agree with you in the case of rape. Maybe I did not make myself clear. What I meant by that statement, the option of “no” in a rape case is quite different. I stated that, because everytime i leave a comment saying to say “no” I get jumped on because of rape. So I wanted to put that in there, before anyone started bashing me on it:>) Thanks for reply. God Bless, SR

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    1. I get that, SR. I just expanded upon it a bit. But you are right all the way. I get that one too. Constantly.

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    1. Thanks Matt. I really liked what Rush said in this apology. He did not do as so many “sorry IF I hurt anybody” or something equally half-assed. He said it clearly and strongly, as an apology should be said.

      As to the sneakers, I wonder if I could get the government to pay for my jazz records collection? Seems Constitutional to me…pursuit of happiness and all. LOL. Thanks again Matt. You are a gem and a friend. God bless.

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  4. Yes, Plan Parenthood is jumping for joy on this one. I am with you as to why if this is happening then why are not meds given freely like my parents who are in their 80’s and my Dad still has to work to pay for their medicine they need to keep them alive. I will say over and over, pregnancy nor birth control is something one needs medicine for. As far as birth control it as simple as saying, “No.” Unless of course there is rape involved. Thanks for sharing. God Bless, SR

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    1. Thanks SR–and even with the issue of rape, I would contend that it is never fair for the child to pay for his or her father’s (not mother’s) sins. So many rape victims who have chosen to go ahead and bear their child have testified that this was the very child who blessed their lives in great ways. We should deeply care about rape victims and never minmize what they are going through. But that does not give us license to “play God” when HE has allowed a conception to take place. Good point.

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  5. Father Hardon was spot on! I have had endometriosis for about 15 years now, took the pill for medical reasons until I was married, and have had a number of surgeries to combat it. Before I took the pill I consulted a priest at Franciscan, and that is when I was told that the Church says it is legitimate to take the pill for medical reasons, true medical reasons. I touched on this topic briefly in one of my earlier posts – http://catholibertarian.com/2011/11/25/a-question-on-contraception-catholic-health-insurance-and-a-dilemma/

    God Bless.

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    1. Teresa great solid reply, and it confirms what I already knew was true but which somehow people are missing…our Church does care deeply about the health care needs of women. AND men. Thanks for sharing your link and your own experience.

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  6. Honestly Rush said out loud what I have been saying for years! Paying for people to have “safe sex”….removing their responsibility for buying their own protection!

    The Church is not blind to knowing that there IS medical necessity for SOME women (honestly a FRACTION of all women) to take the pill for hormonal reasons…the Church also understands that a tubal pregnancy is not viable and is a danger to the mother…and can be medically dealt with.

    In many states insurance companies already have to cover contraception…WITH a co-pay, as for most meds. This law mandates that they be covered 100%. Why, when heart meds, diabetic meds, LIFE OR DEATH drugs are still under a CO pay? This is far more insidious than just a “woman’s” issue….it is about a president who commands things be done according to HIS word….circumventing any authority…negating any state’s mandates or religious exemptions. There are many states that DO allow for religious exemptions to such coverage…my state, however doesn’t allow for the religious exeption and requires all insurance companies to include artificial BC in their normal prescription plan (as I said before with deductible.

    Planned Parenthood is jumping for JOY with this one! Now THEY WILL BE PAID 100% for all prescriptions they dispense, where before if a woman couldn’t afford the co-pay. they’d waive it. I bet that will bring in a few million more $$$ for them.

    This whole issue has gotten me so weary, I love that you quoted Fr Hardon…I have been praying for his beatification since his passing…I had the privilege of attending a few of his talks and receiving a Blessing or 2 from hi
    m!

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    1. I think Father Hardon is on his way towards sainthood too, Cathy. And your point regarding true life and death meds is very well taken. I know a young man, 17, just diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. He is close to college age. If anyone deserves “no co-pay” it would be him.

      Better still would be a system that is consumer driven and not government driven in any case. Yes, there need to be some regulations, because insurance companies are, well, pretty crooked at times. But the solution is not bigger government, rather better government. And that is not what is happening here to say the least. Cathy thanks.

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