My mother died a devout Catholic. My father’s sister, my Aunt Bell, was devoted to Mother Church. I have many loved ones who are comforted and succored by the Church of Rome. I have personally seen the good works – the schools, orphanages, hospitals – that Catholics provide for the poor.
In some ways, I remain a Catholic. Not a Roman Catholic but a Catholic nonetheless, a member – as the Apostles’ Creed puts it – of the Holy Catholic Church. I was baptized and confirmed in the Anglican Church, which is not a truly Protestant denomination – and as I wander through my garden and pass the Madonna statue my mother gave me, I pause to say my Hail Marys.
Having conceded all that, I have to confess to intense disappointment in the Catholic hierarchy.
How can so much good be combined with so much wickedness?
I am not just talking about the sadistic sexual abuse of helpless children and the complicity of the highest orders in covering it up. And I am not talking about the burning of Protestants at the stake or the Spanish Inquisition or the vicious Borgia regime or so much in the church’s history that is undeniably Satanic. That is in the past, and as a Christian I must forgive.
What disgusts me today is something much more mundane – the Catholic bishops’ claim to a religious motive in rejecting President Obama’s compromise on that spurious birth control issue.
Here is the news report from Reuters:
U.S. Catholic Church leaders said they will fight President Barack Obama’s controversial birth-control insurance coverage policy despite his compromise that religious employers would not have to offer free contraceptives for workers, shifting the responsibility to insurers.
In an abrupt policy shift aimed at trying to end a growing election-year firestorm, Obama on Friday announced the compromise.
But the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said its concerns were not addressed and cited “serious moral concerns.”
In a statement issued Friday evening, the bishops said Obama’s proposal “continues to involve needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions, and to threaten government coercion of religious people and groups to violate their most deeply held convictions.”
“We will therefore continue – with no less vigor, no less sense of urgency – our efforts to correct this problem through the other two branches of government,” the bishops said in urging Congress to take action to overturn the rule.
The regulation at the center of the controversy requires religious-affiliated groups such as charities, hospitals and universities, but not churches themselves, to provide employees with coverage for birth control as other health insurance providers must do.
Catholic Church leaders and Obama’s Republican opponents previously led the fight against the rule requiring coverage for contraceptives as a violation of religious freedom, making it a potential big issue in the 2012 presidential race.
Obama’s compromise sought to accommodate religious organizations, such as Catholic hospitals and universities. But the reaction from the bishops and other Catholic leaders made clear the battle would continue.
It may not seem like much of an offense when viewed alongside such horrors as child abuse and torture, but I see it as blasphemy. To use Christ’s sacrifice as a political weapon is patently sacrilegious. And there is clearly no longer a moral issue here – if there ever was one. This is nothing but politics.
There is no contesting the fact that the Catholic leadership is anti-Obama. They are pawns of the far right not only in America but throughout the world. They use their position in the church to pursue political power when they should be illuminating the path to salvation.
There is no religious “issue” here. Only the naked abuse of power – the power these priests claim to derive from God.