Is covering up pedophilia a matter of conscience?

There is no law requiring the Catholic Church to report pedophile-priests to the police. If there were, it’s likely the Catholic hierarchy and its supporters would denounce it as “a stunning assault on freedom of conscience and religion.”

With those words, a Chicago Tribune columnist lays out the case that requiring insurance coverage of birth control for workers in Church-run secular businesses also amounts to a “gross violation of a civil liberty” on Catholics.

Let’s get this straight: The law does not require practicing Catholics to use birth control. But that’s not good enough for the godly. They object when anyone uses birth control.

Catholic authorities are not alone in this stance; it’s shared by Protestant fundamentalists.  It’s not a view shared by most Americans, including the large majority of American Catholics who use birth control.

The important word here is “control.” This isn’t about freedom of religion or conscience, despite the Church’s attempts to frame its resistance in those high-minded terms. It’s about the Church’s furious efforts to maintain control over its members (especially its female members), even though in this case the horse has already left the barn.

If the Church wants more control over its members, it ought to start by exercising more control over the shepherds of its flocks. It sacrificed the moral authority to preach about matters of conscience when it chose to protect the pedophiles among its priests and to cover up their crimes.


Public policy: If you want to play, you must pay (taxes)

Once again, the Catholic Church is seriously out of step with its parishioners and with mainstream Americans – far enough so that it has crossed the line into conduct of dubious legality.

In sermons all over the country, priests and bishops are urging opposition to a rule requiring no-copay insurance coverage of contraception for employees of faith-based organizations. Part of the Affordable Care Act, it covers millions of people employed in church-affiliated hospitals, social service agenies, charities and universities.

According to the dire pronouncements thundering from pulpits, this narrowly crafted rule constitutes a massive assault on the separation of church and state, and that all church-run organizations ought to be exempt from the contraceptives rule. In fact, many critics say any exemption from the coverage rule is too broad. Here’s how the American Medical Association’s journal of ethics puts it:

“Expanding the exemption would affect millions of teachers and guidance counselors, doctors and nurses, clerks and janitors, by interfering with their access to preventive health care that they deem necessary and in line with their own religious and moral beliefs. For those employees who do adhere to their employer’s religious position on contraception, providing coverage of contraception would not in any way force them to use it in violation of their beliefs.”

This is another example of extremism on the part of those who insist that their religious rights include foisting their particular notions of right or wrong on all people, regardless of their beliefs. 

And using their pulpits to urge followers into opposing public policy decisions approved by publicly elected officials appears to violate the no-electioneering rule required of tax-exempt organizations.

If church officials want to lobby for or against acts of government, let them first agree to pay taxes. Tax exemptions ought to be swiftly yanked from churches trying to influence public policy. There is no good reason for American taxpayers to subsidize those who seek to impose their beliefs on everyone.