Saturday, November 09, 2013

Contraception and the Bishops Conference

The Audacity of Duplicity.

     The Wuerlwind: 43 lawsuits. Thats lots of litigation for a body that is supposed to represent the Prince of Peace.
The Archdiocese of Washington prided itself on picking a fight with the President over not wanting to provide contraceptive coverage in para-church organizations run by religious organizations as non profit corporations on 'freedom of religion' grounds. No, that mis-states the issue- the fight is over whether they have to make it available through a third party insurance coverage. They are not being asked to dispense it through soda vending machines. They are asked to make it available on policies they offer that is paid for by insurance companies essentially. If no one wants it, no one has to pay for it. If all the people the church hires follow church teachings then no one will order it, no one will pay for it.

     This fight has embarassingly gone from the sublime to the ridiculous to the fairly unconscionable.
I think the faithful are entitled to an accounting of what was spent and to whom on this fight. Many including myself believe it was widely misdirected resources to pad the pockets of the republican elite who support this particular Cardinal who turned a Religious Freedom Rally with perfect timing into a
Romney Rally in all but name. To even suggest that got one run off of pilgrimmages.

   First, the issue of contraception in the abstract is clear in terms of the church teaching (from all men) - its out of the question unless, as Benedict clarified about five years ago when the issue of AIDS in Africa surfaced over his trip, you are trying to prevent death by using a condom. Then it is the lesser of evils. Otherwise its just intrinsically evil, say all men.

  Anything in the abstract that contravenes or contracepts life is definitionally anti life and thus not of the giver of life, goes the argument. Its the mentality that also rebukes gay lifestyles because they don't naturally procreate (never mind that they save lives that are already here time and time again)-

    When one looks at the reality of the fact that contraception saves not having to have an abortion, the arguments get less theologically clear because clearly using contraception when you don't want to be pregnant precludes you from having to abort when you are generally speaking as a rule. It doesn't take a woman to figure that out. Sure there are accidents and slip ups and failures of method, but that is the general idea.

   Other harms of contraception are physical-because any sort of foreign substance one regularly takes to alter a natural cycle is bound to have other bad physiological repercussions- and the pill has been blamed on everything from breast and uterine cancer increases to infertility. There have even been massive lawsuits about it and better public education about it would be wise. Choices must be informed or they are not choices. Fair is Fair.
From a women's health perspective the pill is not something you should eat with your morning cereal for kicks. They cause physiological changes, some irreparable. If the pill in various formulas is intrinsically unsafe for womens health it should be banned quicker than transfats- but that is not the issue at hand. The feared health consequences of it is why I, for one, was not on it- the second reason was I never needed to be because I generally by default follow church teaching on sexuality.  The church believes no one should ever need to be - because sex is for procreation and married people should be open to as many children as God wants to bless them with. Unmarried people, like me, shouldn't need it because they shouldn't be having sex to begin with.

   The issue is whether it is Religious Freedom constitutionally to deprive people of something determined to be a medical or psychological necessity by some people and is not an easy slam dunk issue.
Women psychologically believe it is their responsibility to assist in providing for the household and thus have jobs outside a household which they believe precludes their having children.   These are social pressures, they are pressures born of women's desire to be relevant in the world, and also to use their minds to the fullest capacities that God Gave them as a form of worshipping God with all their minds, hearts, souls, etc. Women have talents, brains, genius even and they have a right to express them in the world.  From a practical perspective being open to as many children as God wants to give one means being available to raise them, or having the resources to hire people to help. Some married women, a large number of them, even Catholic women, use birth control. If every family in a parish does not have ten kids and the couple married in their twenties or early thirties chances are someone is on birth control. If you took a poll in any parish I would guess at least half the married women would raise their hands.

  The old Catholic model was that men were entitled to have mistresses because their fertile wives were not on any birth control and they couldn't afford more kids, so they had sex elsewhere- there was a winking duplicity about this- and good catholic women were supposed to just suck it up and tolerate that their husbands had affairs. It destroyed good marriages from a woman's perspective- and killed love under clouds of adultery.  Look at the great catholic political heros- I don't need to name them. Its scandal their infidelities were and are so tolerated.

     Back to the US Constitution where Congress shall make no law abridging the Freedom of Religion or the Free Exercise thereof. The question is - can a non profit corporation attached to a church, run by religious people, but not a church per se, claim to have 'Religious Freedom'- In this century , in particular the Roberts Court, we have seen the Supreme Court define a corporation as a 'person' -some think rather absurdly in other contexts and it has been widely lampooned for it. It has freedom of Speech apparently. It has widespread implications for election finance even-

  But can and does it, as a legal fiction have freedom of religion ever? It goes to the fundamental structure and purpose of a corporation. Individuals wishing to insulate themselves from liability when they form corporations look at various structures to do that, and  raise money in stock issuance. Lawyers tell them the best way they can put their idea and production into the market in a manner that protects them as a sword and shield personally from any downside or risk of failure. So they create an entity that is not them- cannot be taxed personally to them, cannot be traceable to them in a corporate limited liability context. A board is required to have a corporation. Corporations have shareholders often that have powers to vote out directors, founders even. The corporate entity on purpose is not supposed to be merely a veiled individual. Piercing the Corporate veil is what happens when someone sues a corporation that pleads poverty or tries to make itself judgment proof so the litigant can get money from the individual who set up the sham corporation to try to hide their assets. But we are not talking about sham corporations when we talk about parachurch organizations. We are not supposed to be talking about an individual or even a group that sets up a non profit to run an ecclesiastically motivated organization. There is supposed to be accountability to a Board, they are supposed to have voting control over directors.

     Corporations of course do not have souls, do not procreate children, do not have emotional bonds like marriages, and do not go to heaven or hell, although bankruptcy court might feel like it. Corporations don't cry, don't send their kids to school with a lunchbox and a handwritten napkin note, don't wipe tears from kids booboos and don't bake christmas cookies. People Do.

   What is the social benefit of creating such a legal fiction then in the context of Religious Freedom.
That is the constitutional question likely to go to the Supreme Court when the Hobby Lobby case gets there. Hobby Lobby is a craft-toy store run by a deeply christian family who don't want to provide contraceptive coverage for employees. It is not a para church organization- and has a better argument than a para church organization because employment labor laws exempt religious non profits from discriminating in hiring people who don't subscribe to their beliefs- so technically parachurch orgs can get away with not hiring people who would use contraception in the first place. They could even put it on a hire application questionaire and couldn't be sued for it. So there is no reason to think it would cost anyone a penny to merely in the abstract provide it for parachurch outfits if no one orders or uses it.

     The Supreme Court needs to seriously think about what the social benefits at large are to giving all corporations all the rights of individuals when the purpose of establishing corporations is to insulate the individual from personal liabilities and create a distinctly non-personal entity.

  Before I even knew it was catholic teaching, before I was even catholic technically, I followed that great catholic teaching of my presbyterian mother under the chapter of the book titled "Why Buy the Cow if The Milk Is Free." So I am not ranting from any desire to see contraception cheaper than it already is. I am ranting because I have an obligation as an attorney, and every attorney does, to defend and uphold the Constitution. When it is undermined or watered down it becomes not a cohesive social instrument that allows us to call ourselves Americans but something that perverts justice.

   I worked in Wuerl's Cathedral for years as an unpaid volunteer joyfully. I also volunteered in assisting particularly their homeless ministries or social justice ministries or fundraising in several other parishes in Washington DC including Saint Stephens, Holy Trinity, and Saint Louis de France- for all total over a decade.  I know that most of the workers at these churches are volunteers, not paid any benefits. The people actually hired by the churches or parachurch organizations have to follow church teachings on sexuality and contraception (and marriage, and gay non-rights, etc.) So no one has ever shown one case of any person who is complaining that they are going to be given the choice of getting contraception on any policy offered by the church. Who is complaining? Who has standing to complain? That is why I believe there should be a full accounting regarding all this litigation. Who is getting paid, why, and shouldn't those resources be better spent on things like developing affordable non-exploitative housing for people in one of the toughest residential rental markets in the country in homeless ministries? Or feeding programs, or after school programs for kids to learn other skills in the inner city, or sports programs or almost anything else.

    I do believe it completely appropriate for the church to have church teaching about women taught by women who believe in it at churches, and I am all for empowering women attorneys to do it- like Helen Alvare who will be speaking at Our Lady of Lourdes to the Ladies of Lourdes. That is perfectly appropriate, and she has views on where she wants the Constitution to turn. But the Supreme Court has to look at the wider implications of what will happen if the corporate veil is pierced for every civil right and liberty granted to individuals when the point of establishing a real corporation, even non profit ones, is to exempt it from individualism.











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