New York state’s bishops are suing the state to stop a law requiring companies provide health insurance that includes contraception for women. Republicans who hold the majority in the state senate had seemed willing to include an exemption for the Church, but caved to Democrats as they pandered to abortion and feminist groups.
The only exemption in the law is for purely religious institutions.
- Under the version approved, the state exempts employers only if their primary function is religious, most of the people they serve share that religion, and most of the people they employ also share that religion. As a result, the exemption does not apply to Catholic hospitals or schools.
So the Church won’t have to pay for birth control for the 60-year-old parish secretary. How nice.
This is a bad law all around. I think there should be an exemption in the law for anyone who objects on moral grounds, but as with all liberal causes, it is cast in the mold of good and evil and anyone who opposes birth control is just downright evil and should be allowed to keep his conscience.
So what should the bishops do? I remember hearing back in the 80s, New York City was going to require that all hospitals, public and private, offer sterilization or abortion or somesuch. Cardinal O’Connor refused and said he would shut the hospitals down first and let the city find a place to treat the thousands of patients. It would have thrown the medical system into chaos, but no one doubted his resolve and the city backed down. I think something similar happened with the schools and the city backed down rather than be faced with the prospect of finding a way to educate an extra 100,000 kids (I think that was the amount in the Catholic school system).
New York’s bishops could try the tactic today, except they have no credibility anymore. I’m not sure any politician would believe a bishops had the moral backbone to make good on his threat.
So what will happen if the court rules in favor of the law? The bishops will back down with the excuse that the lesser of two evils is to keep providing the Church’s social services while participating in the evil of contraception. The question is whether it really is the lesser of two evils.
A couple of years ago, the Catholic Church in Germany operated a series of crisis pregnancy counseling centers. The government passed a law requiring that women receive counseling before having an abortion and the counseling centers would to issue certificates that the counseling took place. Most bishops took the position that handing out the certificate was a participation in the procurement of abortion and thus pledged to shut down their centers. Other bishops said the greater evil would be removing the only way for some of these women to hear the Church’s teaching on the evil of abortion. The Pope disagreed and intervened dramatically. I wonder if he will do so again in the US? New York isn’t the only place this problem exists. California already has a similar law and other proposals are being pushed in other states.