Conscience and the Government

I’ve spent a little time thinking about the current conflict between the Obama Administration and the Catholic church over the mandate for Catholic hospitals and charities to provide health coverage that goes against Catholic teaching on the subject.  Whether or not we agree with Catholic teaching on contraception, we should be interested in the notion that the government can tell the Catholic church when it can follow its conscience and when it cannot.  If the government is allowed to do this, it will not be too long before it is forcing others to do the same.

Linda Greenhouse wrote a blog on the conscience claim for the New York Times (no big surprise there), so I will use her blog as my foil.   She summarizes the whole issue (and goes immediately wrong) by stating:

While the policy grounds are fully persuasive – the ability to prevent or space pregnancy being an essential part of women’s health care, one that shouldn’t be withheld simply because a woman’s employer is church-affiliated.

No one, of course, is withholding anything, the Catholic church does not want to be forced to provide services that it holds are wrong.  They are not trying to prevent their workers from getting contraception; they do not wanted to be forced to provide them.  Ms. Greenhouse is content to overlook this fact because it would make the rest of her column useless, not to mention meaningless.

Her arguments go something like this:

1. Catholic women in general do not follow Catholic teaching in regards to contraception. — So what?  So the church should “adapt” its beliefs to the current trends?  This is a silly argument.

2. The Catholics are saying that their right to conscience trumps the law, but the law does not embrace that principle. —  Duh!  She seems to think that the Catholic bishops are saying that the law says that conscience trumps the law.   They are saying no such thing.  They are saying that when it comes down to conscience or law, they will obey conscience and suffer the consequences.  Meanwhile they are using the law (as they should) to appeal this decision in an effort to overturn it.  All within their rights as citizens of these United States.

What I find interesting is that Ms. Greenhouse’s conscience trumps the law, but that is okay.  Obviously, she feels strongly that contraception and abortifacients should be provided by every employer and she thought this before the directive was announced in which case her own conscience was trumping the current law.  Apparently this is okay because she agrees with it, but when someone else’s conscience trumps the law and she does not agree with it, that is not okay.  An inconsistent position if there ever was one.
Despite many other words, this pretty much sums up Ms. Greenhouse’s poor argument against the conscience claim in regards to this ill-advised directive.

Anyone who is interested in liberty should be disturbed when the government begins mandating rules that would force citizens to act against their faith convictions.  Whether or not one agrees with Catholic teaching on this issue, one should support and encourage their efforts to get this administration directive overturned, because next they will be coming for you and your convictions.

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