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In Catholic masses all over this country, priests are injecting politics into their sermons, condemning the Obama administration for the new Health and Human Services regulations that religious institutions must offer contraceptive benefits to its members. It doesn't require members to violate their personal beliefs by taking advantage of the benefit, mind you. But this new regulation acknowledges that there are some who may work in a Catholic hospital who may not have the same stricture against contraceptives and want it to be part of their health services. But that's perhaps a too nuanced view:
The Catholic Church reacted strongly Friday to a White House defense of new rules that will force many religious employers to provide contraception to their workers in government-mandated health insurance plans.
"The White House information about this is a combination of misleading and wrong," said Anthony Picarello, general counsel of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He said the bishops would "pursue every legal mandate available to them to bring an end to this mandate. That means legislation, litigation and public advocacy. All options are on the table."
The new regulations were announced last month by the Department of Health and Human Services as part of an effort to guarantee that women receive free "preventive" healthcare services, including cervical cancer screening, breast pumps — and contraception. They require employers to include those services in their employee health insurance plans by August.
Religious institutions can qualify for an exemption if the services violate their beliefs, but not if they employ large numbers of people who do not share those beliefs. [..]
In a blog post Wednesday, the White House responded that the new rules won't force anyone to buy contraceptives. Cecilia Muñoz, director of the Domestic Policy Council, wrote: "Over half of Americans already live in the 28 states that require insurance companies [to] cover contraception." These include such large states as California and New York, she said.
The Catholic bishops shot back Friday, saying it was misleading to say that no one would be forced to "buy" contraceptives, because everyone who contributes to an insurance plan will be paying a portion of the subsidy that provides for free contraception.
Alex Castellanos and David Brooks are only too happy to pick up the bishops' mantle and further the meme that this is a solid shot across the bow of religious liberty in Obama's war on religion. How nice of them to legitimize Newt Gingrich that way. Rachel Maddow and Xavier Becerra try gamely to point out that refusing contraceptive benefits in the twenty first century is beyond ridiculous, but of course, host David Gregory gives Alex Castellanos the last word.
Out of curiosity, are the bishops equally against ED drugs like Viagra? Why do I hear no denouncing of working against "God's plan" there? The reality is that despite the church's teachings, as much as 98 percent of Catholics admit to using contraception. Would that the church elders focus their efforts on dealing honestly with issues that are in line with the priorities of their members: poverty and social justice, labor unions, climate change and dealing honestly and ethically with their own sex scandals rather than plunge into politicking within homilies on Bizarro World accusations of violations of religious freedom.
Worth reading: Bishop should not insert politics into Mass