Enjoy re-reading Fr. John's weekly bulletin letters for the past year.
I think we have a new psychiatric condition: Hobby Lobby Hyperbolic Hysteria Disorder. The campaign of disinformation that has followed the Hobby Lobby/Conestoga Woods Supreme Court decision is both astonishing and disingenuous. The fact that the families who run these companies are not Catholic but Evangelical Christian hasn't stopped their opponents from fomenting all sorts of anti-Catholic bigotry. I originally thought it was a good thing that the Court did not take for review one of the lawsuits from a Catholic business owner as it would open the Justices, six who are Catholic, to all sorts of accusations of imposing Catholic teaching on the country. Even though the case did not involve Catholic business owners Catholic bigotry has been on full display.
The hysterics I have heard include: women will have lots less sex and lots more babies or the 5 men on the Supreme Court are denying women access to birth control. No such thing happened. What the Court did was retain the status quo, the way it was before some government technocrat issued the "contraception mandate".
I also heard Sen. Barbara Boxer from California bitterly complain that Hobby Lobby denies women contraception but provides men with Viagra. Is this Senator dumb as a bucket of spit? Someone needs to let her know that Viagra is not a form of birth control but is prescribed to treat a legitimate medical condition. While contraception actually does not treat a medical condition in fact it shuts down a women's otherwise healthy functioning fertility. Then there was Sen. Reid from Nevada castigating the 5 "white" men on the Supreme Court, which was certainly news to Justice Thomas. And Rep. Nancy "I call myself Catholic but should be Episcopalian" Pelosi who warned us all to be "very afraid of the men on the Supreme Court".
There also appears to be a lack of understanding as to how birth control works. Hobby Lobby was ok with paying for 16 of the FDA approved forms of contraception but objected to paying for 4 types that are actually abortifacients. What's the difference? Well most forms of the pill shut down a woman's ovaries, essentially tricking the body to think it is pregnant. Some of the other FDA approved devices and pills allow fertilization to occur but prevent implementation in the uterus and thus destroy a fertilized egg or zygote, which essentially is an abortion.
Despite all the hysteria about denying women birth control the actual case was not really about contraception. The Court's ruling was a defense of religious liberty. Ironically it seems that so many forget that it is the first right listed in the Bill of Rights. Besides if you really understand democracy you would understand that religious liberty is essential to a free society. Sadly many people today in our country seem to be happy to have religious liberty take a back seat to government issued morality. At this point in our history it seems that many would prefer that sexual rights silence freedom of conscience.
The Court reviewed this case in light of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act which requires the government to demonstrate that any restriction on religious practice be in furtherance of a compelling governmental issue and done in the less restrictive way possible. The Court did not answer the first part but did rule that the mandate was not the least restrictive means. One way to get around this conflict is to simply treat health insurance like car insurance. An employer can give the employee a salary that includes funds to purchase health insurance and the government can decide if that will be tax-free. This way everyone can purchase the plan they want, with the services they think they will need in the same way that one purchases car insurance.
This is just one issue that our society faces as it debates the implications around sexual morality and religious freedom. The way forward will not be easy but it should be honest. After the hyperbolic hysteria that came forth from the Hobby Lobby Decision I wonder if that is even possible.
We should keep in mind Pope Francis' words as we seek solutions to this very issue:
"A healthy pluralism … does not entail privatizing religions in an attempt to reduce them to the quiet obscurity of the individual's conscience or to delegate them to the enclosed precincts of churches, synagogues or mosques. This would represent, in effect, a new form of discrimination and authoritarianism" (Evangelii Gaudium no. 255).
Love, Fr. John B.