Disingenuous Dionne

E.J. Dionne writes:

Some conservative Catholics still insist that the relief from regulation that Obama offered is not enough. I hope they reconsider, especially since the Catholic service providers most affected by the revised rule welcomed it. What bothers liberal Catholics about the arguments advanced by some of our conservative friends is that the Catholic right seems so eager to focus the church’s witness to the world on issues such as abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research and, now, perhaps, contraception that they would effectively, if not necessarily intentionally, relegate the church’s social justice work and teaching to second-class status.

That may be what bothers liberal Catholics, but what should bother progressives is the idea that religious doctrines are being used to attempt to limit women's rights and good public policy. Since the beginning of this controversy, Dionne has been willing to sacrifice women's rights and the progressive value of a government engaged in good policy in order to placate religious demands on a secular government.

If Dionne could find it in himself to say 'yes, accommodate religious concerns about public policy if you can, but if you can't, religion cannot dictate secular public policy,' then he can articulate a coherent progressive position. But he seems unable to say this. Dionne writes:

[W]e’d ask our non-Catholic liberal friends to think about this, too. Many of us agreed that broad contraception coverage was, as a general matter, a good thing, and we shared their concern for women’s rights. But we were troubled that some with whom we usually agree seemed to relish a fight with the church and defined any effort to accommodate its anxieties as “selling out.”

What a load of nonsense. I can not imagine anyone relishing a fight with anyone over rights for women that many believed settled by Griswold v. Connecticut. It is amazing that Dionne is so willing to sacrifice these principles, fundamental progressive principles, and to chastise those willing to stand up for them.

Dionne is willing to break faith with progressive principles when it comes to women's health issues and berates those unwilling to do the same. He writes:

As a young politician put it in 2006, “There are some liberals who dismiss religion in the public square as inherently irrational or intolerant, insisting on a caricature of religious Americans that paints them as fanatical, or thinking that the very word ‘Christian’ describes one’s political opponents, not people of faith.” Barack Obama, who spoke those words, finally figured out that a sensible compromise on contraception was far better than a running cultural and religious war. The administration would do well not to lose track of that guy again.

(Emphasis supplied.) It is amazing that in the face of the escalation of this battle by the Roman Catholic Church and Republicans in their championing of the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, which would:

Amend[] the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) to permit a health plan to decline coverage of specific items and services that are contrary to the religious beliefs of the sponsor, issuer, or other entity offering the plan or the purchaser or beneficiary (in the case of individual coverage) without penalty. Declares that such plans are still considered to: (1) be providing the essential health benefits package or preventive health services, (2) be a qualified health plan, and (3) have fulfilled other requirements under PPACA.

Dionne saves his harshest criticism for progressives fighting to maintain progressive values that have been enshrined in our country for 50 years. Yes, the progressives are the bad guys here says Dionne - picking a culture war by insisting that women have rights, and good public policy requires contraceptive care.

Excuse me, but Dionne's words on this matter are truly ridiculous. One hopes Dionne sits out this culture war instigated by religious leaders. He's certainly not helping progressives.

Speaking for me only

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    As a woman, I've grown more than a little (5.00 / 7) (#1)
    by Anne on Mon Feb 13, 2012 at 07:24:01 AM EST
    weary, along with downright testy, at having what should be unqualified autonomy over my own body sacrificed on the altar of someone else's religious beliefs.

    Okay, I get that the Catholic Church doesn't want to pay for even the possibility that a woman in its employ will want to obtain contraceptive coverage, but as an employer of, presumably, people of many faiths, and as entities that serve, presumably, a diversely religious - and non-religious - community, it seems to me that the Church cannot be accorded the right to be exempt from complying with federal law.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but the EEOC has mandated for almost 12 years now that anyone or any entity that employs more than - is it 50? - people, and that offers a prescription drug plan that covers both males and females, cannot refuse to cover drugs that are only prescribed for one gender.  And there are, as I understand it, numerous Catholic-affiliated institutions who have been complying with that for a long time.

    What EJ Dionne misses is that conscience is not the sole province of religion, and it cannot and should not be elevated to a status that allows for the imposition on others of an overarching religious belief to the detriment of one's personal autonomy, and is contrary to both the greater good and existing body of scientific knowledge.

    Dionne isn't the only problem here - a lot of this has to rest at the feet of the president, who clearly is not comfortable drawing a secular line in the sand, which means that he will once again be doing battle with the bishops.

    And, if we can go by Obama's pattern, I'm guessing it will be women, once again, who come out of this the losers.

    If these women do not like the Catholic church's (none / 0) (#7)
    by JeriKoll on Mon Feb 13, 2012 at 12:11:29 PM EST
    actions and wishes, then they should simply get another job.

    No one forces these people to work for the Catholic Church.


    just as no one (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by The Addams Family on Mon Feb 13, 2012 at 01:35:01 PM EST
    forces Catholic schools, hospitals, etc., to accept federal funds, Medicare reimbursements, and so on?

    This isn't just about the Catholic Church (5.00 / 2) (#10)
    by esmense on Mon Feb 13, 2012 at 01:40:25 PM EST
    The Church, which does have a long history of codified objection to contraception, is just being used as a foil to press the real issue -- conservatives' desire to allow ALL employers to refuse to provide coverage. Republicans are in fact introducing legislation to allow ANY employer to refuse on grounds of conscience.

    Liberal Catholics like Dionne, who saw the demand for an exemption as only applyind to the Catholic Church and perceived those who defended the mandate as attacking the Church, and furthermore, somehow convinced themselves that only a few people employed by the Church would be affected have been played (by conservatives both Catholic and otherwise). The Church may have a codified policy against contraceptives, while Protestant sects do not, but, Protestants don't need to rely on Church authority to make their claims of conscience -- they believe in a personal relationship with God and direct revelation. There is no way to exempt Catholics without providing an exemption for any "born again" (or otherwise) employer who claims he is following the personal guidance of his Savior.


    You're missing the point, which is that (5.00 / 3) (#12)
    by Anne on Mon Feb 13, 2012 at 02:09:10 PM EST
    many Catholic institutions have been in full compliance with EEOC regulations for over a decade, regulations that do not allow them to discriminate by gender within a prescription drug plan that covers all employees.

    And the further point, that it isn't the job of the government to help the Catholic Church - or any religion - enforce religious doctrine through exemptions to secular legislation; if the Church can't get compliance to doctrine on its own, I think that's just too damn bad.

    Finally, these institutions hold themselves out as serving a religiously diverse public, avail themselves of public utilities and public roads and participate in numerous government-sponsored programs; they can't have it both ways, breaking down the wall between the secular and the religious when it is to their benefit and insisting on inviolable barriers when it doesn't.

    In case you didn't notice, we have an unemployment problem in this country; no one is leaving jobs on principle without having another job lined up.  And really, should the health care options one has depend on the religious beliefs of one's employer?  I don't think so.

    The reality is that an institution that has shown itself to turn a blind eye to church doctrine at will is now acting from politics and power, and the way to deal with that is not to accommodate it but to expose it and refuse to play along.

    "simply get another job."  Sure - it's these damn women's fault for having a reproductive system, right?


    Many hospitals (5.00 / 4) (#14)
    by Zorba on Mon Feb 13, 2012 at 02:31:02 PM EST
    which were previously non-sectarian, have been acquired by the Catholic Church.  Some in areas where they were the only hospital.  So the nurses, social workers, nurse's aides, orderlies, clerks, food workers, janitors, and so on and on, should just quit and go look for another job?  In this economy?  The Catholic hospitals are happy to accept federal funding (Medicare, Medicaid, not to mention patients who are federal employees, or retirees, who carry federal health insurance plans), but they don't want to play by federal rules?  You accept federal funding, in any way, shape or form, then you play by federal rules.  For that matter, if you accept patients and employees who are not Catholic, you play by federal rules.    

    Because after all (none / 0) (#8)
    by sj on Mon Feb 13, 2012 at 01:30:18 PM EST
    jobs are so easy to come by these days.

    I have numerous moral objections... (none / 0) (#15)
    by kdog on Mon Feb 13, 2012 at 03:21:46 PM EST
    to how my federal income tax dollars are allocated.  Are you saying I can tell Uncle Sam to find another sugar daddy?

    Of course not, this is America jack, moral objections and $2.50 will get ya on the subway;)

    I'm tired of the Catholic Church thinking they're special...they already got the tax break, they should count their many blessings on that end and stfu.


    Way back in 1960, when Catholic Jack (5.00 / 7) (#2)
    by caseyOR on Mon Feb 13, 2012 at 07:54:13 AM EST
    Kennedy was running for president, there was fear in the land that having a Catholic in the White House would result in U.S. policy being determined by the dictates of the Vatican.

    Kennedy gave  a speech that spoke directly to that fear. As an indication of how far backwards we have slipped in our national discourse, this speech, delivered 52 years ago, is stunningly relevant today. I find the following passage particularly relevant.

    I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

    I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials; and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

    I know that Obama prefers to look forward, not back. Still, it would serve us all if he took the lessons of Kennedy's speech to heart.  

    As for Dionne and others, like Chris Matthews, well, they are all worshippers at the altar of Jack Kennedy. If I remembered that speech, they certainly must  remember it. Perhaps it is too great a break with the culture of Versailles for them to acknowledge it.

    And that is just so sad.

    during JFK's presidential campaign (none / 0) (#11)
    by The Addams Family on Mon Feb 13, 2012 at 02:01:01 PM EST
    Jackie Kennedy just had to laugh at all the fearmongering around her husband's Catholicism because, as she said, he was such a lousy Catholic

    I'm so sick of the rights of the (5.00 / 3) (#3)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Feb 13, 2012 at 08:03:39 AM EST
    religious conversation that the wingnut wedgers  have introduced to the dialogue.  It puts sooo many flaky pastries front and center with a microphone in their hand turned on.

    Seriously, some people during their religious practices eat peyote to commune with God.  Some people used to extract the beating hearts of others as a show of respect and a gift to God. Magical thinking has no business in my life and death decisions!

    Dionne writes (5.00 / 4) (#4)
    by DFLer on Mon Feb 13, 2012 at 08:34:24 AM EST
    ...the love many of us have for the church -- despite our frustrations over its abysmal handling of the pedophilia scandal and its reluctance to grant women the rights they are due...

    1.How about frustration (or better yet ANGER) over the acts of sexual abuse themselves, not just the "handling" thereof ?

    2.How about saying the "REFUSAL" to grant women equal rights, not the gentler characterization of "reluctance"

    His whole trip is BS as BTD points out.

    All Doctors Should Become Christian Scientists (none / 0) (#5)
    by Dan the Man on Mon Feb 13, 2012 at 09:34:41 AM EST
    According to the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, a doctor, nurse, etc (ie provider) can reject any procedure that violates his religion, and all health insurance plans must still accept him.

    "Declares that nothing in PPACA shall be construed to authorize a health plan to require a provider to provide, participate in, or refer for a specific item or service contrary to the provider's religious beliefs or moral convictions."

    Becoming a Christian Scientist would be a bonanza for a doctor because he can just sit around and pray for his patients.  Anything else would violate his religious freedom under the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act.

    More to this than you think (none / 0) (#6)
    by SeeEmDee on Mon Feb 13, 2012 at 10:56:14 AM EST
    Predominantly (ostensibly) 'Christian' Western nations populations are not replicating themselves sufficiently to replace those dying off. Rightist political entities in those nations see a rise in immigration from Muslim countries which largely do not practice contraception, and usually have more children per family, as being a rising threat to their respective nations and culture.

    This is in no small part what's behind the Catholic Church's attempt to limit women's choices: a culture war based on population, not so much amongst Westerners but between West and East.

    Western women, against Enlightenment principles, are being politically maneuvered by religious organizations such as the Catholic Church to be unwilling producers of future bulwarks against encroaching Muslim immigration.

    In this case, it's "Onward, Christian Bree-ee-der-erss, f-ing like a whore, with the cross of Jee-zus going on before!" instead of the usual; the 'marching as to war' part will be shortened to remove the 'as' because the real warring (against Muslims) is expected to come later when the kids are grown. Women are to become little more than chattel for breeding purposes; The Handmaid's Tale made flesh.

    These sick people think long term...very long term.