February 10, 2012

Obama to Change Contraceptive Rule

An announcement from the White House:

The White House said Friday it would address the controversial decision that would require religious-affiliated institutions to provide health insurance that includes coverage for birth control.
At 12:15 p.m. ET, President Barack Obama will deliver a statement from the White House press briefing room.
According to a source who has been briefed on the matter, the White House will announce an "accommodation" to the contraception rule. The announcement will try to ease the concerns of those with religious views by not requiring them to pay for contraception.
This effectively means that insurance companies will pay for the contraception coverage directly.
According to The Associated Press, women will still get guaranteed access to birth control without co-pays or premiums no matter where they work, a provision of Obama's health care law that he insisted must remain.
But religious universities and hospitals that see contraception as an unconscionable violation of their faith can refuse to cover it, and insurance companies will then have to step in to do so.
Following an intense White House debate that led to the original policy, officials said Obama seriously weighed the concerns over religious liberty, leading to the revamped decision.

Obama's Kulturkampf

Kulturkampf  (editorial cartoon),  Kladderadatsch,  May, 1875

Here I am on Obama’s contraception mandate again. But this time I suspect I’m going to surprise you. In fact, this is just an invitation to undertake the reading of this thought-provoking post at Fr. Z’s Blog. Well, actually it’s a Guest entry from Fabrizio, a Roman friend of F. Z, but there is also a comment by the blog’s owner and a reply by Fr. Z’s friend. But then again, it all started from this Hugh Hewitt’s statement:

Massive civil disobedience is the only response for Catholics of conscience. That and an absolute refusal to vote for the anti-Catholic president overseeing this Kulturkampf.

What? Kulturkampf? Yes, you didn’t read it wrong, but don’t worry, even though this is a term that takes us to Otto Von Bismarck and his culture wars against the Catholic Church, you have to bear in mind that Bismarck was also, in some ways, the father of the modern European welfare state and, what is more, of the notion itself of socialized medicine, which is not irrelevant to what we are talking about (and to what is at stake here). By the way, Fabrizio complains about the fact that the founder of modern Germany is considered a “conservative” in history books: the truth is that “[he] only rejected revolutionary socialism to institute it through a top-down process instead of a revolutionary upheaval of society.”

Fabrizio is a fierce opponent to everything that might resemble the idea of a state-run medical care system, and this because “it is inherent to the very idea of socialized medicine that the state gets to tell you what to do and what to pay for and how much.” Which inevitably leads to a conflict between state and religion, as the newly issued HHS contraception mandate clearly shows. The outcome of all of this will be that

Sooner or later, because of the inevitable rationing that comes with centralized healthcare, they won’t even need to mandate that you perform abortions or give away condoms. You’ll simply lose all hospitals and schools because there is no way a large independent health provider can survive in such a system. Why do you think so many Italian hospitals, founded centuries ago, with names of saints and popes, are now in the hands of the Sistema Sanitario Nazionale, directly or indirectly? Why do you think there is hardly a Catholic school that is affordable anymore and which teaches anything different from what kids would hear at the Liceo Statale A. Gramsci or what have you?

“Time to get the tough going,” says Fabrizio, because the going is getting tough.

To that Fr. Z’s reply is very interesting, because it shows another side of the coin, and perhaps also an unexpected one:

It is probable that our institutions have already given up their identity and become “businesses”. They have given themselves over to business models so completely that they are hardly Catholic anymore in any real sense.
The mission for which Catholic hospitals and colleges were founded seems to be over. Our universities and hospitals are now for the most part businesses. They are being run on a business model.
Is it time for us to get out?

The rest of the argument is worth reading and meditating. To conclude, read Fabrizio’s counter-reply in the comment section.

What to say? It’s basically a brainstorming session, so to speak. If this whole thread is not thought-provoking, I don’t know what is.

P.S. I forgot. Where do I stand on this debate? Well, I’m still thinking about it… However, in my view, the two approaches do not necessarily exclude each other. On the contrary, they might have been conceived by the same person, in a sort of dialogue with himself. Or at least this is what I like to think.