10 Most Cited Arguments in Favor of the HHS Mandate

[ed note: This is a helpful write-up of some brief arguments against the HHS mandate that a friend of mine wrote up. She allowed me to share it with you, so enjoy!]

I am a Catholic, unmarried, left-leaning centrist, female, 20-something, law student. Not only does this mean that I enjoy those oft-avoided subjects of religion and politics, it also means that no matter what the topic is, I am sure to be able to point you to an entire circle of my friends that will argue with me to the death. Very enthusiastically, in fact.

The Obama/HHS Mandate is the perfect example. Within my various circles, and across the nation, this mandate has simultaneously sparked debate about religious beliefs, Constitutional freedom, political party divides, and the issue of women’s rights, to name a few. These discussions result in recurring arguments made in support of the mandate which have a tendency to surface regardless of which issue was the catalyst of that particular debate. And so, in light of that fact, I present to you the un-official list of the ten most cited arguments made in support of the mandate, and why every one of them fails.

10.   “The Church is just opposed to universal healthcare!”

I’ve got news for you: the Catholic Church actively advocates for universal health care. In fact, the Church teaches that health care is a right, not merely a privilege, as articulated by Pope John XXIII in Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth) in 1963. At an international Papal conference on health care in 2010, Pope Benedict XVI stated that it is the “moral responsibility of nations to guarantee access to health care for all of their citizens, regardless of social and economic status or their ability to pay.” Want more evidence? Look no further than the Catholic Catechism (n. 2288), or the U. S. Bishops’ pastoral letter, “Economic Justice for All” (1986) (nn. 86, 90, 103, 191, 212, 230, 247, and 286.) The examples are countless, and the Church’s official teaching is clear. The issue is not that the Obama administration seeks to provide access to healthcare, the issue is that it wants to compel religiously-affiliated employers to provide health care coverage that runs counter to core doctrinal beliefs.

9.     “Contraception is used for purposes other than avoiding pregnancy, and sterilizing procedure are sometimes necessary to treat medical illness; therefore the Church has no reason to refuse to provide health care that includes contraception and sterilization for those purposes!”

It is true that the birth control pill can serve the secondary purpose of treating the symptoms of poly cystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, and even moderate to severe acne.  However, there are many medical alternatives to the pill. The Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction specializes in such alternative treatments. The Church is happy to provide health care coverage for these.  As for sterilization, suppose a woman had a hysterectomy to remove a cancerous uterus. The intention of the operation was to remove the cancer, not to sterilize her. The sterilization was an unfortunate but intended consequence. As Pope Paul VI said in Humanae Vitae, “The Church… does not at all consider illicit the use of those therapeutic means truly necessary to cure diseases of the organism, even if an impediment to procreation, which may be foreseen, should result therefrom, provided such impediment is not, for whatever motive, directly willed.”

Unfortunately, the HHS Mandate does not allow religiously affiliated businesses and organizations to provide these procedures only in these limited circumstances of medical necessity. If it did, this conversation might be different. In fact, Catholic universities that exist in states where coverage is mandatory, such as the Franciscan University of Steubenville, University of Dallas, and University of Notre Dame, provide that coverage only when medically necessary. The HHS mandate makes no exception to allow for the Church to freely exercise its religious beliefs by making this distinction.


8. This is more of a category of arguments that all basically say the same thing: the Church is trying to trump the Constitution. Most often phrased:

“You Catholics are trying to tear down the wall between church and state again! THAT is the Constitutional violation we should be concerned about.”


“The Church is trying to force its belief system on everyone in the US and effectively establish Catholicism as the religion of the nation. So much for ‘Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion…’”

First of all, let’s clarify something. The phrase “separation of church and state” does not exist in the Constitution or in any of the nation’s founding documents. Rather it originated in a letter from Thomas Jefferson in response to the Danbury Baptist Association, which was concerned about the implications of the 1st Amendment on religious freedom. Reassuring the Baptist Association, Jefferson explained that the 1st Amendment effectuated a separation between church and state in order to protect religious groups from interference by the government. This foundational purpose of the Religion Clauses of the Constitution continues to be reaffirmed by the courts. In fact, the Supreme Court unanimously echoed this respect for religious autonomy less than a month ago in Hosanna-Tabor v. E.E.O.C..  In their concurring opinion, Justices Alito and Kagan noted that “[t]o safeguard this crucial autonomy, we have long recognized that the Religion Clauses protect a private sphere within which religious bodies are free to govern themselves in accordance with their own beliefs. The Constitution guarantees religious bodies ‘independence from secular control or manipulation—in short, power to decide for themselves, free from state interference, matters of church government as well as those of faith and doctrine.’”

With that said, the Church is not seeking to abolish this “separation of church and state.” In fact, in an essay written in First Things in 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI, he recognized the importance of this dual autonomy. He notes that the United States, “formed on the basis of free churches, adopts a separation between church and state” and hails this as being what the early church had in mind. The Church is not seeking to eliminate the rights granted by the 1st Amendment or somehow attempting to override the Constitution and establish Catholicism as some sort of national religion. Far from it. The Church simply opposes the government’s attempt to cross that line by forcing the Church to chose between obeying the law and violating her conscious. The 1st Amendment prevents the government from forcing citizens to make this choice. Plain and simple.

7.     “Universal, free access to birth control will mean fewer unwanted pregnancies, and thus fewer abortions. The Church should be happy!”

First, birth control pills are potentially abortive in-and-of themselves because one function of several varieties of “the Pill” is to thin and shrivel the lining of the uterus so that it is unable or less able to facilitate the implantation of the newly fertilized egg. Because life begins at conception, pills that prevent a fertilized egg from implanting on the uterine wall in effect cause the abortion of that life.

But, secondly, even if we discount the unknowable number of lives lost in that manner, there is absolutely no evidence to support the claim that an increase in the use of birth control decreases the frequency of abortions. In fact, studies show just the opposite.

58% of all abortion patients were using contraception during the month when they became pregnant. Only 11% of abortion patients have never used a method of contraception. Moreover, studies have shown that once contraception is more widely available, abortion rates may actually rise. In Maryland, for example, the first state to enact a contraceptive mandate, the number of abortions rose by 1,226 the year after the mandate took effect. This holds true in several other countries as well.  A study in Spain analyzed data from 1997-2007. During the study period the overall use of contraceptive methods increased from 49.1% to 79.9%. The elective abortion rate increased from 5.52 to 11.49 per 1000 women.

By the way, this isn’t some kind of secret. Several professionals who promote and administer abortion freely acknowledge this link.  As merely one example, take these statements made by Malcom Potts, former director of Planned Parenthood of England:

  1. “As people turn to contraception, there will be a rise, not a fall, in the abortion rate…”  Cambridge Evening News, 7 February 1973
  2. “…those who use contraception are more likely than those who do not to resort to induced abortion…” Abortion p. 491.
  3. “No society has controlled its fertility…without recourse to a significant number of abortions.” “Fertility Rights,” The Guardian, 25 April 1979

So in reality, there is a link between the use of contraception and the abortion rate. When the first increases, so does the latter.

6.     “The government regulates religion all the time, such as when it outlaws religious practices such as ___________. (polygamy, ceremonial human sacrifice, ‘honor killings,’ etc.) This is the same thing!”

Actually, the government does not “regulate religion all the time.” It actually continuously upholds religious autonomy. In order for the federal government to step in, there is an extremely high standard that must be met: the infringement on the religion must serve a “compelling government interest” and must implement a means that is least restrictive to religious freedom in order to achieve that interest. So looking at the examples in the argument, the Constitution guarantees American citizens the right to life itself. That easily explains how the government can prohibit human sacrifice and honor killings. As for polygamous communities, the courts have recognized indisputable links between polygamous communities and substantial, repeated harms to women and children such as incest, statutory rape and sexual assault. These harms are so egregious that the government is permitted to step in to prevent these physical harms to human life.

5.     “If Obama amends the mandate to provide a religious exemption, that will mean that an employer who is a Jehovah’s Witness could refuse to provide health care coverage for life-saving blood transfusions because doing so would run counter to his religious beliefs. That is absurd.”

Two points. First, blood-transfusions and contraception are not interchangeable. The difference here is that a blood-transfusion is a life-saving procedure, while contraception is not. The Supreme Court has continually upheld the right of the government to step in when it is necessary to preserve life (see #2 below). Obviously, contraception does not fall within this category.  Not only does contraception fail to qualify as “life-saving”, it is an elective intervention that interferes with the functioning of healthy women’s reproductive systems. Additionally, contraceptives have numerous side-effects and risks of serious complications. The side-effects of the pill include headaches, depression, decreased libido and weight gain, and serious documented complications such as heart attacks, cervical cancer and blood clots. An ongoing a class-action lawsuit against three pharmaceutical companies alleges that a form of the pill has caused death, strokes and life-threatening blood clots.

Second, even if the courts were to say blood-transfusions and contraception were equitable, no one is talking about prohibiting/outlawing these things. The Church advocates for a religious exemption from the mandate for religiously-affiliated employers. When applying for jobs, we weigh several factors to determine which job we want. What are the hours? What is the salary? Where is the job located? What does the benefits package look like?  No one is being forced to work for a religiously-affiliated employer. We, as American citizens, have every right to either (1) work for a religiously-affiliated business, and supplement our insurance if we so choose, or (2) chose to work for an employer that provides as comprehensive of a health care plan as we desire.

4.   “The controversy over the HHS Mandate is about contraception, not religious freedom.”

The Bishops have gathered in very vocal resistance to this mandate, and in doing so brought to light the Church’s opposition to contraception, sterilization and abortifaceints in order to explain how this mandate would violate the religious freedom of the Catholic Church.  So while the issue of contraception itself remains at center of the headlines, the issue really is religious freedom. “This is not a matter of whether contraception may be prohibited… [or] supported by the government…It is not a matter of ‘repackaging’ or ‘framing’ this as a religious freedom dispute. It is a matter of acknowledging the basic fact that government is forcing religious people and groups to do something that violates their consciences,” (Bishop Lori of Bridgeport, CT).

In fact, that this truly is an issue of religious freedom is evidenced by the fact that many many non-catholic, pro-contraception groups and individuals have spoken out against this mandate because of the risk it poses to religious freedom across the board. This list includes, among others, Democratsa self-defined conservative with libertarian leanings,orthodox JewsLutheransBaptistsevangelical ProtestantsAnglicans, andnondenominational organizations.

3.     “Religiously-affiliated businesses receive millions of dollars in Federal funding, therefore the government has every right to impose regulations on those businesses.  If the Church doesn’t want to be regulated, it should stay out of the business-sector altogether.”

Bishop Lori responded to this argument best in saying: “We don’t get a handout. We have a contract for services, and we deliver them. … We bring the generosity of the Catholic people, and we bring volunteers. When you contract with the Church, you get a bang for your buck.” If religious organizations, particularly Catholic organizations, were forced to shut down due to regulations such as the HHS mandate, this country would be astounded by the results. The Catholic Church educates 2.6 million students every day, at a cost of $10 billion a year to parents and parishes. If there were no Catholic schools, these same students would have to be educated in public schools, which would cost $18 billion to American taxpayers. In secondary education alone, the Church has more than 230 colleges and universities in the U.S. with an enrollment of 700,000 students. In terms of health care, the Church has a non-profit hospital system comprising of 637 hospitals which treat one in five patients in the United States every day. Every city and town benefits from Catholic organizations. In Chicago alone, there are hundreds of Catholic organizations that serve the needs of that city. One of those is Catholic Charities which provides 2.2 million free meals to the hungry and needy each year. That is 6,027 meals a day, in one city.  Does anyone really have any desire to see what our nation (and our taxes) would look like without these businesses and the services they provide?

2.     “The church is trying to interfere with women’s rights!”

As Cardinal Dolan has noted, “the Church hardly needs to be lectured about health care for women.  Thanks mostly to our Sisters, the Church is the largest private provider of health care for women and their babies in the country…. [I]n New York State, Fidelis, the Medicare/Medicaid insurance provider, owned by the Church, consistently receives top ratings for its quality of service to women and children.”

When right are granted to you by your governing nation, you expect them to provide it. Your children have a right to an education, and thus the right to attend public school at no additional cost. You do not march up to the main office at a private school and demand that they let your child in, free of charge, because they have a right to an education. Similarly, if you cannot afford to put food on your table, you have a right to ask the government to provide for you through welfare, but you don’t have the right to walk into a restaurant and demand that they feed you.  The government can and should provide access to health care for all citizens, but that requires actually providing it, not shifting the responsibility to private employers. The Obama Administration has decided that women employees have the right to health care coverage that provides contraception. The problem with the government forcing business-owners to provide that “right” to society is that the scope of governmental authority is limited by the rights and freedoms that protect individual business owners. If the administration really wants to provide comprehensive, universal health care, it needs to do so itself without involving private entities.

1.      “98% of Catholics don’t abide by this core doctrine of the Catholic faith; therefore, it should not be entitled to First Amendment protection.”

First and foremost, that statistic is absurd. Seriously, 98%?  I am with Glenn Back on this one, “I mean, when your poll looks like the results from a Saddam Hussein election, you know you have problems.” Among other issues, the study that touts this statistic doesn’t include: anyone who isn’t a Catholic woman between the ages of 14-44, anyone who is pregnant, anyone who gave birth recently, anyone who hadn’t had sex in the past three months, anyone trying to get pregnant or was indifferent to getting pregnant, anyone having sex and trying to avoid pregnancy without implementing a specific contraception method. It did, however, include self-identified Catholics who listed their church attendance rate as less than once a month, or never. Actually, 2 in every 5 of those polled fell into this category. But I digress.

Even if 98% of Catholics used contraception, that fact would have no bearing whatsoever on the fact that the doctrinal beliefs and teachings of the Catholic faith have never wavered on this issue, a fact that illustrates the strength and conviction of the Church. As one Evangelical Lutheran put it, “That a Roman Pontiff would lead the opposition – often painfully alone – to contraception at the end of the twentieth century is no small irony. Perhaps the Catholic hierarchy model, reserving final decisions on matters of faith and morals to a bishop whom Catholics believe is the successor of Peter, has proved more resilient in the face of modernity than the Protestant reliance on individual conscious and democratic church governance.”

The Church’s beliefs are clear. Whether or not individuals choose to disobey the Church’s directives does not change the fact that “the First Amendment stands tightly closed against any governmental regulation of religious beliefs.” (Stated in the Supreme Court’s 8-1 Johnson v. Robisondecision.)

More to explorer


  1. Denton,

    Do you write for “vox nova’?

    The short answer to every one of the 10 false comparisons and outright lies is, “There you go again.” One of the little machines that plays hysterical laughter would be effective, too.

    2. The Church’s reaction to this government diktat merely interferes with who pays for various mortal sins, not women’s rights.

    However, I think Church is interfering with the regime’s tyrannical power grab.

    If you write for VN, you are the problem not the solution.

  2. Good post, Michael. I do not understand, however, the argument that the Church has always believed universal health care is a human right. Yes, I realize that various Popes have said something along those lines, but that never has settled right by me. I suppose that I have to give assent even if I don’t like it, but my questions on that are beyond the scope of this blog entry, being better reserved for a different discussion.

  3. T. Shaw:

    The idea of me writing for VN would make a certain Minion more than a little queasy. 😉


    As you said, the Church’s teaching here is beyond the scope of this post, but I do think it’s worth noting that the USCCB in particular has advocated strongly in favor of a national health care system. We can discuss whether that goes beyond what is required by Church teaching, but regardless it makes the Obama administration’s position so bizarre. You see, after years of using the USCCB as a moral justification for passing healthcare reform, now the opinions of the USCCB are irrelevant and inconvenient; the true voice of the Church for the Obama administration is Sister Keehan and the CHA. How quickly the USCCB went from Democrat faves to the outhouse needs to be noted and questioned.

  4. Valid point, Michael. Thanks! I do want to have a discussion on whether or not health care is a human right. Life certainly is a human right, but health care is a different matter which I don’t want to use to derail the main point that after years of promoting national health care, the USCCB is the Administration’s whipping boy because it won’t countenance financing abortifacients nor contraceptives. Nevertheless, it’s not govt’s job to care for the sick; that’s our job as members of the Body of Christ. Giving govt that kind of power has resulted in the current situation. 🙁 On the other hand, for an individual community to make health care provisions for its inhabitants consistent with the principle of subsidiarity is something I would fully support. Keep it at the city or even State level, and maybe it’s OK. But a Federal govt that has this kind of power over the entire nation is a govt to be feared, not respected – hence the HHS mandate and that promiscuous girl testifying before the Senate.

  5. Paul:

    We should note that one can say “healthcare is a human right” but not have to agree that that right ought to be provided by the federal government (or provided in particular forms, such as universal healthcare). The latter is based on considerations of prudence & subsidiarity.

  6. This is an excellent rebuttal to the common arguments.

    My view is more in line with Paul’s. Access to healthcare is a right. Healthcare is not a right.

    From what I understand, rights are not “provided.” They are innate and inalienable. Principle of subsidiarity also does not apply because rights must be honored at all levels of government.

  7. “We should note that one can say “healthcare is a human right” but not have to agree that that right ought to be provided by the federal government (or provided in particular forms, such as universal healthcare). The latter is based on considerations of prudence & subsidiarity.”

    Not to mention Catholic Social Teaching requires that persons and institutions not be made dependent on the govt. As is seen now, nationalized health care has the potential to eliminate Catholic healthcare either by requiring hospitals to compromise Church teaching or to close or be sold. This is clearly a case of institutions’ existence being made dependent on govt. fiat and control of healthcare dollars.

  8. Kyle:

    Principle of subsidiarity also does not apply because rights must be honored at all levels of government.

    Yes, but subsidiarity would dictate how those governments must honor those rights. For example, right to life means all levels must not kill, but may have different levels of responsibility for securing that right to life. Local governments would handle police protection & murder investigations; feds handle military & intelligence work. So subsidiarity still has a role to play with rights.

  9. I like Michael Denton’s analogy. In the case of health care, Federal Agencies such as the EPA and the NRC may set regulatory limits on harmful emissions to the environment as a preventative measure, and the FDA may set guidelines for the safe manufacture of pharmaceuticals. But the local or State govt may set up provisions to actually care for the sick who don’t have medical insurance coverage. That’s subsidiarity in action. Things that can affect the health of all of us – fossil fuel emissions and radiological emissions from nuclear power plants – are regulated at the top where the regulation can have the most benefit. But things that need to be directed at the ground level – providing hospitalization for a sick or injured homeless person – is done at the ground level.

  10. Enjoyed the article, and agree with most of your points. However I wonder why on #5 you, as well as so many who weigh in on the matter of the government’s coercive contraception policies, don’t stress more strongly the adverse health consequences of oral contraceptives, and therefore how bogus the ” it’s all about women’s health” argument is. How many know that oral contraceptives are a class 1 carcinogen? Right along with asbestos, tobacco and numerous other proven cancer causing products. DDT which has been banned for 40 years is only a class 2 carcinogen, suspected but not proven to cause cancer. The freedom of religion argument is important and must be made. But telling Americans that providing contraceptives is necessitated by health concerns is a flat out lie. The proven connection with cancer, as well cardiovascular complications, about which I suspect few truly understand should be enough to blow a huge hole through the Obamacare supporters arguments regarding “health care needs trump religious freedom” .

  11. Phillip says:
    “We should note that one can say “healthcare is a human right” but not have to agree that that right ought to be provided by the federal government (or provided in particular forms, such as universal healthcare).
    Healthcare is an act of charity and as such is an act of religion. Charity is the giving and the receiving of Divine Providence. What does the HHS mandate (not at all explicit, nor explained as healthcare) return to the giver in the way of Divine Providence through an act of charity or as an act of religion? And for that matter, what does the HHS mandate return to the giver in the way of citizenship, patriotism and freedom?…that is, besides the government imposing its will on us without the consent of the governed? A people whose conscience has been silenced does not have consent to give. Pelosi’s “Pass it, so we can learn what is in it” is coercion, not consent.

  12. Can anyone point to a solid and reputable explanation on the Church’s position on nationalized healthcare. My read on this is the Church advocates the govt. stepping in when local or private sector has not afforded access to care ( subsidiarity) and then only if the provisions are true cost saving and not immoral ( HHS mandate ). Obamacare fails on all 3 counts!
    The USCCB mistakenly conceded to this or consists of too many who have Socialistic views

  13. I’m a convert of less than a year and while I hate to derail the post, I actually do need someone to explain to me what we mean by universal access to health care. Because access, in plain language, means that you are able to get care when you *need* it- in other words, it is accessible. In the US we currently have laws that make it illegal for someone to be turned away if they are truly in need (sick or hurt). Doctors must treat these patients regardless of ability to pay. So while you may not be able to get care for things that aren’t necessary or are purely elective, if you truly need care you will get it. How does that not classify as access? Does the Church really mean we need free healthcare or universal insurance coverage? Because it seems to me like that’s the underlying intent of the language of the bishops, etc, but it’s not what they’re actually *saying* when they advocate for ‘access.’

  14. “That these are paid for with the loss of individual initiative and personal freedom is not at all a worry. . .Big Government has our best interest at heart.” Fr. Powell 12/22/2009

  15. Fact: The policy problem of the health uninsured was not as large as 2008 election-year opportunists made it. Census reported that 254,000,000 (85% of all Americans) Americans had health insurance coverage. The number without insurance improved to 45.7 million people, or 15% of the population, from 47 million in 2006. About 54% of uninsured are aged 18 to 34, and many of them voluntarily chose to forgo health coverage.

    So, the crisis was that one-in-eight had lousy health care.

    The big government solution: seven-in-eight gets lousy health care. The one-eighth is the Congress and select Obama-supportrs who won’t get caught up in the mess.

  16. I just stole-and-pasted part of the response to #7. This article is a good resource. Thanks for posting it.

  17. For #9, I think it would be helpful to emphasize that the Church does not oppose theraputic use of contraceptive hormones, and that existing plans from Catholic organizations have exceptions for them, rather than starting with alternative treatments.

    The current phrasing can to easily be bent to Catholics inserting themselves into medical decisions regarding women’s health.

    I say this because I think #9 is the one most likely to resonate with people on the fence on this issue — they may not like the government telling the Church what to do, but they certainly don’t like the bishops telling their doctors what they can prescribe to treat PCOS. Underscoring that this is not what we want, nor what we in fact do under the current rules, is helpful.

  18. He missed one:
    “The Catholic Church is full of perverts, so anything they say should be discounted.”
    That one always seems to crop up as soon as I try to have a serious discussion on the subject. As though the Church having screwed up in one area decades ago means they have to be wrong on an unrelated matter today. But it’s most often used as a way of shutting down the debate and making sure the Catholic can’t make the cogent points.

  19. I think it’s a question of absolute rights (which is the American way of thinking) versus feasibility. As human beings, we’re entitled to speak our minds. As a practical matter, however, there are reasonable restrictions on that right, such as the laws against slander or disturbing the peace. Similarly, as human beings we have a right to our natural lifespans (ie health care), but we must recognize that there are limited resources and that right cannot be fully actualized. Ooh, I like that: fully actualizing a right. We have a right to the free exercise of religion, but we recognize that that right can’t be fully actualized for polygamists or cannibals.

    There are a lot of problems that arise when we throw around words like “right” and “health care”.

    You know, one thing we never, ever talk about is the notion of responsibility in health care. If you’re overeating in front of a starving person, it’s a sin. Is it similarly sinful for a 78-year-old to spend money on knee reconstruction instead of donating that money to a third-world hospital? I think it has to be considered a sin. I’m not recommending any sort of governmental rationing at all, but it does seem like something that an individual should consider. Or am I wrong on this?

  20. “. . . it’s a sin. Is it similarly sinful for a 78-year-old to spend money on knee reconstruction instead of donating that money to a third-world hospital? I think it has to be considered a sin.”

    I sort of agree.

    The money Obama wants to spend to faciltate fornication could be sent to third world hospitals. The money the health system COULD save if the democrats allowed reform of the trial lawyers situation (minimum $120,000 a year malpractice insurance, plus huge judgments every day) could lower health care costs here and some sent to poor people around the world.

    But, here you have the rationale for Obama’s Death Panels and euthanasia. The pagan Eskimos would abandon sick and elderly on the ice.

    I was 57 years-old when I had both knees replaced in 2007. Pinky would have sent the money to someone else. Hey, at 57 Shaw don’t need to be able to walk without excruciating pain.

    PS: I think voting democrat is a mortal sin. And, there are not enough bullets.

  21. Obama wants all of you to have your knickers in a bunch over condoms!

    Old news for April 2010: And, Grandma dies.
    The rgime “covered up the HHS report until after the vote on health care reform. Not one of its major programs has gotten started, and already the wheels are starting to come off of Obamacare. The administration’s own actuary reported on Thursday that millions of people could lose their health insurance that health-care costs will rise faster than they would have if the law hadn’t passed, and that the overhaul will mean that people will have a harder and harder time finding physicians to see them. . . . This is an objective report by administration actuaries that shows this sweeping legislation has serious, serious problems.”

    All that money could be sent to poor people somewhere else.

  22. Pinky:

    I think the Church’s teachings with regards to gospel poverty and avoiding waste would apply in the healthcare setting, but I think it would be difficult to come up with many uniform rules. Even in your example, while it may be heroic to give up such a surgery, I don’t think the Church would say that walking is a luxury that you are expected to give up. So I think that while on an individual level one should consider whether x surgery is really necessary or worth the money it will cost both to the individual & the insurance company, once we try to apply the rules on a general level it gets extremely problematic.

  23. I don’t think I’m calling for anyone to forgo knee surgery, and certainly not at age 57. And Michael’s right that this line of thought gets problematic. But there’s got to be a point where spending $100k on your own comfort, or even the continuation of your life, becomes morally wrong. It sure is a lot easier to ask such questions when you’re in your 40’s, though.

  24. Transgenderism, cloning, IVF, sterilization, abortion, face lifting, cosmetic surgery, hair transplant and contraception eliminated, there would certainly be enough money to send to the poor, third world. I have been told that the $99.00 paid monthly for Medcare will rise to $247.00 monthly by 2014. The line is drawn between vice and virtue. And then there is transhumanism, I want a new mechanical arm. “Pass it so we can learn what is in it” Pelosi. The HHS mandate will cover everything but sick people.

  25. “Universal, free access to birth control will mean fewer unwanted pregnancies, and thus fewer abortions. The Church should be happy!”

    Right…there are about 1 million abortions per year in the US, so by forcing Catholic institutions to offer birth control, this figure will decline to what? 100K per year? 500k abortions per year?

    I think the answer is obvious.

  26. Pinky,

    Sorry if I came across harshly.

    My (I hope never to see him again) surgeon travels to Africa each year to do knees and hips replacements pro bono.

    I have seen both my parents in hospital for several months each before they went to Heaven. Every night we left my Mom (on a ventilator) with her Rosary and she prayed them every night. We thought she would recover until the rapid decline right before her death.

    My wife is an ICU RN for 40 years. Don’t tell her I told you. She’s a professional caring for dying people. I’m not sure you or I understand end of life “issues.”

    I would give everything I own to have five more minutes with my Mom.

    Regarding Gospel “love of neighbor”: We need to do what we can do. We need to meditate on the parable (maybe it’s not a parable) of the widow’s mite. We need to do the corporal works of mercy from what we have and from our hearts. Doing it with other people’s money doesn’t count.

    And, we can walk (or drive) down the street or ride the bus/RR and pray from those around us. We can sit in meetings and pray for those around us even if we are competing against them for the deal. We can say a quick prayer asking for the Divine Assistance for those in need when we see or hear an ambulance or fire truck running to an emergency.

    And, we need to do what we can to ensure Obama does not get four more years to wreck the Church, the country, nor ruin any more souls.

  27. Jesus’ Mother is the Patron of our country and at Fatima, where there was witnessed a miracle with the sun. Prayer through her Son is what she urged. So, yes T. Shaw, you have to be right about what they call spiritual works of mercy. Also, we can’t give away the US to this admin for another term. There’s an insidious word campaign going on for everything from ‘health’ to Iran to put responsibilty for trouble on any other party. All the rhetoric is probably designed to sicken and weaken people to the point of easy ruin. Like pulling the rug out slowly from under basic rights and freedoms. Not an easy Lent for me anyway. Everyday is another some thing to force a reaction to then attack.

    Prayer, fasting, almsgiving and staying close to God and keeping an eye on good and bad.

    Pinky, my mother was almost nonstop crying in pain when she needed a knee replacement in her 70’s – she’s 87 now and gets around with cane or walker with a not quite right new knee. I would have sold my house so she could move again rather than donate its value elsewhere. Your example of spending money on medical things would have been stronger with other cosmetic or gender electives coupled with eating in front of the hungry. But, yes, some form of almsgiving is what God says He sees and rewards.
    Anyway, I hope and pray the whole issue gets repealed as a result of November election results. It will take a lot of patience, good digestion, sanity, and a good prayer. Maybe helping other people recognize words v. words could be almsgiving? Like what happens here at the American Catholic.

  28. “Does anyone really have any desire to see what our nation (and our taxes) would look like without these businesses and the services they provide?”

    The government, especially with Mr. Obama at the helm, would—if they could, they’d eliminate everyone but themselves as the provider of services so that the public would be entirely and exclusively dependent on them, it’s a socialist dream.

  29. Great points. One additional point to iterate is that this isn’t just a religious freedom issue for religiously affiliated employers like Catholic schools and hospitals. EVERY INDIVIDUAL has the Constitutional protections of the first amendment. So the Catholic owner of a newspaper empire has the the same right to not offer these things, the Catholic employer of an auto dealership has these very same rights.

    Just want to make sure that it is clear that all Catholics whether they own business that are “Catholic” or not have the same first amendment privilege to not offer contraception.

  30. Is there a one stop shop someone can go to to monitor the status of all initiatives to rectify this situation? A list of all legislative bills, court filings, petitions, etc.

    Enough hand wringing from the laity and bishops, as great as it is, what pragmatic efforts are taking place? Waiting on Congress? Good luck with that.

  31. Universal Health Care should be utilized only for the basic necessities, doctor and hospital visits, surgeries, medications needed to sustain life and treat illnesses. Once astronomical medical bills are paid for under UHC there is no reason why a person couldn’t take the costs they use to pay out and put it into paying for optional care (like birth control) or obtain it at any one of the numerous clinics that dole it out for free like it’s candy. It’s not like employees didn’t know the churches stance BEFORE taking a job with them and if they are that against them not paying for these things maybe they should have looked for a job elsewhere and left those positions open for true believers who have no issues with following the churches teachings? The whole argument that the church is trying to break down the division of church and state is BS, if they want to go at it like that it’s more like the government is trying to tear down the wall, supposedly church and state is supposed to be separated so if that is the case why is the government stepping inside the church to tell them what they can and cannot do? If the church is supposed to stay out of government affairs the government also has to stay out of the churches which means they can not demand they go against their beliefs and provide these services. A “wall” separates two side, not one, so you can either have it that they both stay out of each others business or neither, they can take their pick, but if they choose that the government has the right to dictate what the church can and cannot do the church should be able to jump into their house and do the same.

  32. Michael- Thanks for the honor of posting this on my behalf, and for doing the majority of the heavy lifting responding to comments. And congratulations, again, on the birth of your beautiful little girl 🙂

    Mark Frederick and Kyle Miller-
    Bishop William Murphy, chair of the U. S. Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, gave the essence of the Church’s position in a letter to members of Congress: “Reform efforts must begin with the principle that decent health care is not a privilege, but a right and a requirement to protect the life and dignity of every person. … The bishops’ conference believes health care reform should be truly universal and it should be genuinely affordable” (italics in original).

    “He missed one:
    ‘The Catholic Church is full of perverts, so anything they say should be discounted.'”
    Unfortunately, the people who resort to that argument are clearly not open to an open-minded, rational discussion on the merits (or rather lack thereof) of this mandate. But you are right, it does come up. I added it to the list of additional arguments that I’ve addressed below. Thanks!

    Linda C- “The government, especially with Mr. Obama at the helm, would”
    an unfortunate truth

    DN: Point well taken. Yes, absolutely the 1st Amendment protects the rights of all Catholic business owners and employers, and you are absolutely right that this should be made crystal clear. And it goes back to the second paragraph under #2. There is an inherent problem with government entities trying to compel employers to provide a “benefit” to society: its ability to do so is limited by the rights afforded to those business owners and employers.

    Kyle Miller-
    “Is there a one stop shop someone can go to to monitor the status of all initiatives to rectify this situation? “
    Unfortunately, I have yet to find one. If you happen to stumble across one, please let us know, and I will do the same.

    Chris C- Great point. Believe it or not, I remember thinking about that while I was writing up the post, but I suppose it got lost in my head while discussing the other, less egregious risks it poses to health. Forgive the unfortunate oversight. I’ve included it additional arguments below. Thanks!

  33. Thanks to everyone who has been suggesting additional arguments in this combox (and on threads that link back to this post). So here is my addendum with 5 more arguments for you.

    11. “The Church should be ashamed to come forward on any issue of morality after the recent scandals. No one should listen to anything they say”

    There is no denying that people who abuse children and those that cover it up should be brought to justice. There is absolutely nothing that justifies such horrible harms to children, particularly from men in a position of trust. As Pope John Paul II stated, “there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young.” However, to imply that a major function of the Church is to facilitate pedophilia, that Catholicism is intrinsically evil, or that everything the Church does or says is without value is ridiculous.

    As an analogy, the United States has established guiding principles by which its citizens must operate. When an individual citizen chooses to violate those laws and murder someone, you do not attribute the choices of the person to the President, Congress or Justices. Even if a police officer (or judge, or congressman, or even president) aids and abets the murderer, we as citizens would demand justice to be done because U.S. laws were violated, and there was corruption in an office that we trust. We would not attempt to claim that because someone in the country did a terrible thing, the laws of the United States had lost any credibility.

    The same is true with the Church. The priests that chose to violate not only United States law but also core teachings of the Catholic faith must be brought to justice. Any officials who knew of a particular abuse and covered it up must similarly be brought to justice. But their choices do not nullify the teachings of the Church itself. Frankly, to claim otherwise is intellectually lazy, and merely an attempt to silence the Church on any hot-button topic without regard for the merits of the Church’s stance on the subject.

    12. “The Church is being partisan and picking a fight just in time to try and sway the vote for the November election.”

    President Obama has been in frequent communication with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops throughout the process of creating health care reform. During a Health Reform Summit, the Bishops expressed concern that freedom of conscious would be violated. Cardinal Dolan states that “[President Obama] assured[ the Bishops] that he would do nothing to impede the good work of the Church in health care, education, and charity, and that he considered the protection of conscience a sacred duty.” Obama knew exactly what would happen when he introduced that Mandate. The Bishops had been clear with him from the start.
    Cardinal Dolan explains: “This has not been a fight of our choosing. We’d rather not be in it. We’d prefer to concentrate on the noble tasks of healing the sick, teaching our youth, and helping the poor, all now in jeopardy due to this bureaucratic intrusion into the internal life of the church. And we were doing all of those noble works rather well, I dare say, without these radical new mandates from the government. The Catholic Church in America has a long tradition of partnership with government and the wider community in the service of the sick, our children, our elders, and the poor at home and abroad. We’d sure rather be partnering than punching.”

    The bishops did not pick this fight in an election year—others did. Furthermore, the Bishops form their positions based on the principles of the Church, not on polls, personalities, or political parties. Bishops are duty bound to proclaim these principles, in and out of season. You can find these in a publication called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship

    13. “Catholics aren’t forced to use contraception just because it is provided in their health care plan. If you are Catholic and don’t agree with contraception, don’t use it; and if you think abortions are murder, then don’t have one.”

    If the Obama administration was seeking to provide access to health care by using the same model as say, Canada or almost anywhere in Europe, you may have a better argument. In those models, every individual is able to make their own choice about these issues. The problem with the Mandate is that by forcing Catholic employers to provide the health care plan, the Catholic employer is actually forced to subsidize things that he or she cannot in good conscious support.

    14. “I pay for stuff I don’t agree with all the time such as war. I don’t get an exemption, neither should the church.”

    If the health care plan were provided by the government (and generally funded by taxes), I agree that the Church would have a much more difficult time making its case in light of the current position of the Supreme Court on that very issue. The courts have held that the government has a right to levy taxes on all persons, regardless of religion, in order to serve the governments compelling interest in the proper functioning of the government generally, and that the tax system is not set up in a way that would facilitate fragmenting federal taxes for religious exemptions. (It should be noted, of course, that simply because something is legal does not mean that it is moral.)

    But we need not reach that discussion on this topic because the Obama Administration, for whatever reason, chose not to provide health care itself through taxation, but rather chose to force employers to provide it. By doing so, it subjected itself to the restrictions created by First Amendment protections.

    15. “Studies have proven that birth control pills reduce the risk of ovarian cancer! The health care needs of women trump religious freedom!”

    Yes, studies suggest that people who regularly take birth control pills have decreased risk for ovarian cancer. You know what else they show? That those same women now have an *increased* risk of breast cancer, cervical cancer, and liver cancer.
    And speaking of that reduced risk of ovarian cancer, know what else reduces that risk, and by a greater percentage than birth control pills? Pregnancy and breast-feeding. Don’t you just love the irony? Something else that decreases the risk is a healthy, low-fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Shocking, I know, that we should take care of our bodies and allow them to function properly in exchange for healthy, properly-functioning bodies.

    And while we are discussing health risks, not only have oral contraceptives been listed as Class 1 carcinogens (along with tobacco, asbestos, and radiation), I’ll just go ahead and mention again that studies show clear links between the pill and all kinds of other health problems such as stroke, blood clots, and cardiovascular disease, So even if you wanted to say that health care needs trump religious freedom, no woman’s health is being served by ingesting these pills.

    Ok, now it is my turn: I’ve addressed 15 arguments that are regularly made (and countless variations of the same arguments). What I want to know is why no proponent of the mandate has made and supported the only argument that matters: “The HHS Mandate doesn’t infringe on religious freedom.”
    The reason no one has been able to make this argument is because it is patently false. And everything else fails because of this truth: the mandate does violate religious freedom, and all of the arguments in response that fail to address that fundamental truth are just distracting noise.

  34. I don’t think you’ve refuted this one:

    “Catholics aren’t forced to use contraception just because it is provided in their health care plan. If you are Catholic and don’t agree with contraception, don’t use it; and if you think abortions are murder, then don’t have one.”

    The exemption works, as I understand it, to allow the Church to opt out where it is performing primarily religious functions to primarily Catholic employees. When freedom on conscience is at the center of the mission, and the employees are futhering the Church’s teachings, they are exempt.

    When the Church is not functioning as a Church, but rather as a general employer with a secular function, it is not exempt. If the Church, for example, operates a grocery store, it does not perform a religious function, or express its religious conscience. That would be true even if the grocery store had a charitable function as well. A Catholic bookstore, in contrast, is an expression of the Church’s religious mission.

    In other words, the exemption isn’t based just on owning the building or running a business. It is based on being a Catholic institution, expressing Catholic teachings, not just chartible values.

    This makes sense to me. People who apply for work at a Catholic hospital frequently have no connection to the Church. They are not applying to the hospital because it is Catholic. The same applies, with a little less force, at universities. The government is mandating a uniform benefit. A non-Catholic nurse should be able to apply at any hospital, and receive the same mandated benefit.

    To rephrase:

    “The Church should only have an exemption for conscience when it is furthering its teachings, not when it is operating as a secular employer and providing benefits to non-Cathoic employees.”

  35. Carrying out the Works of Mercy aren’t furthering Christ’s teachings?

    We may need to amend the apocryphal St. Francis quote — “Preach the Gospel always, and you can only use words.”

  36. —Carrying out the Works of Mercy aren’t furthering Christ’s teachings?

    Living the teachings isn’t the same as teaching. Buddhists and atheists can carry out works of mercy. To reiterate, the question is not only the employer, but the employee. The employee of a hospital does not necessarily seek out a Catholic hospital. There isn’t any difference between most services at Catholic hospitals and other hospitals. Since the employees see the mission as secular, and the environment is no different than a similar secular instituton, the employee’s expectation is to receive all federally mandated benefits.

  37. What do you call a government that “Federally mandates”?

    PS: The government can’t do coproral works of mercy for you.

    News: Obamacare will result in reduced access to medical care: unintended consequence, maybe.

    Anyhow, none of the is about corporal works of mercy, health care access, or birth control. It’s about government CONTROL.

  38. Kelly or Michael: could you cite where the stats about the Catholic schools and number of persons helped came from and the cost to tax payers if they were to disappear came from? That seems to be the biggest argument I hear, “the church takes federal money so it has to follow fed rules.” i know that thinking is flawed, thinking of the bailouts as GM (no loan to repay) and AIG (loan to repay) were both given federal monies but are not treated as gov’t entities like HUD or the EPA. Thanks!

  39. I think the perception that there is no difference between services performed at Catholic institutions and those performed at secular institutions is part of the reason many feel so strongly that this mandate must be opposed. If the Catholic organizations must provide services exactly as secular organizations would, then we may as well not bother. The salt cannot lose its flavor.

  40. @Kelly Ferguson, This is a pretty good one stop shop for all things we can do to stop the Chairman’s order. http://www.phatmass.com/action/

    @Karianna, The Church enters into contract for services with the federal government. As Cardinal Dolan put it, “Our Church has a long tradition of effective partnership with government and the wider community in the service of the sick, our children, our elders, and the poor at home and abroad, and we sure hope to continue it.” The feds get a very good bang for the buck. Of course, enemies of the Church will portray these contracts as federal give aways, i.e. the feds pouring free money on the Church. The Church is not profiting from these acts of charity.

  41. —I think the perception that there is no difference between services performed at Catholic institutions and those performed at secular institutions is part of the reason many feel so strongly that this mandate must be opposed.

    But it isn’t a perception. It’s a fact. There’s only one flavor of heart surgery.

    And, again, most importantly from the standpoint of the non-Catholic employee, the flavor is the same.

  42. As a Canadian, I am utterly amazed at this debate. Universal/Accessible Government funded Health Care is the right answer. Those who need health care, including preventitive care and regular medical evaluations get those services, without any fees. Services are provided to those who need immediate care because of a sudden illness or injury AND as part of regular care. Sometimes we have to wait, but no one has to mortgage their house to pay for medical expenses. Private insurance companies provide for the “extras” such as prescription medications, vision care, dental, orthotics, hearing aids, etc. and plans are negotiated by the employees with the employer. There are not laws which regulate which services must be included in employee benefits – many employers do not even have private insurance plans. As a Catholic employee of a “non denominational” employer, that has medication coverage, I decide which prescriptions to have filled – my premiums do not change if I accept or reject certain prescriptions. I can also choose to have prenatal/maternity health care provided by a physician or midwife who do not perform abortions. Not sure why Americans are opposed to this kind of system – it baffles me completely. This upholds the principle of separation of church and state – and provides for religious freedom by making access to HEALTH services independent of private insurance companies – which, incidentally, seem to be making a huge profit south of the border.

  43. Since when, Vickie, are we told in Sacred Scripture to sacrifice our God-given duty to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, care for the sick, etc., to nanny government? If every truly Christian person would do what Sacred Scripture says, then we would not need to abdicate our responsibility and evade our accountability to Caesar Augustus. Yet some want Caesar as Godhead instead of the God-man Jesus Christ.

    Universal health care provided by a universal government sacrifices on the altar of political expediency the freedom we have as children of God. (BTW, the Greek word for universal is Katholikos – get it?) A government that can give you anything you want can take away everything you have. Indeed, I tremble at the thought of entrusting my health care and that of my family to a government that legalizes abortion and mandates contraception coverage as health care (as Canadian health likewise does). But I understand that you Canadians are much further down the road of socialism – dependency on nanny government and worship of Caesar Augustus – than we Americans, though with Obama we aren’t far behind.

  44. Paul W. Primavera: Ha That’s Caesar Augustus. Glad I got that cleared up. Now, I do not have to worry about you.
    Vickie: Sin separates man from his sovereignty. Man cannot consent to sin without losing his sovereignty. The ancient dragon is chained by America’s founding principles and he rails against his shackles, roaring hideous shrieks about “political points of view”, imposing the immorality of the damned upon the elect. There is no “good will” in hell, where one person is climbing out on the corpses of others only to fall back again when he reaches the top. The wait in Canada for heart surgery is two years. Canadians come to America where they at least can buy their own surgery. A two year wait is not exactly “accessible health care” and why are they coming to America, if it is so good?

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