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Public Theology: Lay Catholics: It's Time to Organize against the Bishops
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Lay Catholics: It's Time to Organize against the Bishops
Action is needed inside the Catholic Church and ecumenical organizations against bishops now badgering President Obama about contraception services in health care.

By Ed Knudson

It is to me outrageous that Catholic Bishops are now trying to force the Obama administration to adopt restrictive access to contraceptive services through guidelines to the new health care legislation.

These bishops are trying to force their narrow views on the rest of the country through the power of the state. And they are now using the argument that this constitutes "religious liberty," that the bishops have a "right" to force their views on others.

The Roman Catholic Church is a hierarchial organization, the state does not have an obligation to help these bishops force their views on others within their organization and certainly not on others who are not Catholic. The fact is that 98% of Catholic women use birth control, so the state should not use its power to force Catholic women to obey their bishops. Real religious freedom means that Catholic women should be free, insofaras they are members of a democratic society, to disobey their bishops when they believe these bishops are morally wrong.

For more background on this issue right now see this article by Katha Pollitt in The Nation entitled "Bishops vs. Women: Which Side Is Obama On?".

I strongly encourage lay Catholics to actively organize against their bishops now on this issue and others to support such anti-bishop organizing. Start talking with others in your parish, sponsor a potluck at your home to discuss how to influence your local priest to begin questioning the bishops, join the Catholic groups which are organizing opposition.

President Obama should not use the power of his office to help these bishops dominate and terrorize the hearts and minds of Catholic women or other women. One of the best resources for such organizing is Catholics for Choice where you can find the following statement:

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The following is a joint message from Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, and Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

The overwhelming majority, 98 percent, of sexually active Catholic women use a form of modern contraception.

Two-thirds of Catholics, 65 percent believe that clinics and hospitals that take taxpayer money should not be allowed to refuse to provide procedures or medications based on religious beliefs. A similar number, 63 percent, also believe that health insurance, whether private or government-run, should cover contraception.

A strong majority (78 percent) of Catholic women prefer that their hospital offers emergency contraception for rape victims, while more than half (55 percent) want their hospital to provide it in broader circumstances.

These are the facts that Archbishop Timothy Dolan probably didn’t share with President Obama last week.

Despite these facts, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is lobbying hard to take reproductive healthcare options away from everyone. It is clear that the bishops have failed to convince Catholics in the pews. But it’s not just Catholics who support access to family planning. Public health advocates and reproductive rights groups have been pushing for this as well because it is sound public policy to enable women and men to plan their families.

Providing no-cost family planning is good public health policy and an important advancement under the Affordable Care Act. But the bishops want to grant a broad refusal clause that will enable them to discriminate against millions of Americans, both Catholic and non-Catholic, simply because of where they work or go to school.

Expanding refusal clauses to allow some institutions and universities to refuse to provide coverage for contraception is not what the president promised when we initiated the health-care reform process. Giving in to the bishops’ demands will mean preventive health care will cost more—not less—for millions of employees, including those who work as nurses, administrative staff, janitors, and teachers.

The Catholic bishops’ opposition to birth control is not the majority view among Catholics, to say the least. We should remember that it was not that long ago, in 1968, that a majority of the pope’s hand-picked advisors agreed that there was no moral, theological or pastoral reason to ban Catholics from using contraception. The representatives of the bishops talking to the press today, however, would like us to forget that moment in Catholic history.

So, as we counter their anti-contraception campaign and fight to ensure that all voices are heard in this debate, there is one especially important person who needs to hear the message about Catholics and contraception: President Obama. Contact him via Twitter, email and phone to tell him that all women should have access to family planning, no matter where they work.






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Date Added: 12/1/2011 Date Revised: 12/5/2011 2:20:11 PM

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