This week's dropping from the Catholic birdcage comes from the Most Reverend William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Connecticut, head of the U.S. Catholic bishops' "religious liberty" initiative, who opened his Congressional testimony about "religious liberty" two days ago with the following statements:
For my testimony today, I would like to tell a story. Let’s call it, “The Parable of the Kosher Deli.”
Once upon a time, a new law is proposed, so that any business that serves food must serve pork. There is a narrow exception for kosher catering halls attached to synagogues, since they serve mostly members of that synagogue, but kosher delicatessens are still subject to the mandate. . . .
This story has a happy ending. The government recognized that it is absurd for someone to come into a kosher deli and demand a ham sandwich; that it is beyond absurd for that private demand to be backed with the coercive power of the state; that it is downright surreal to apply this coercive power when the customer can get the same sandwich cheaply, or even free, just a few doors down.
So the right of people (in the cases under discussion by the bishops and Congress now, the right of women) to basic healthcare is being compared to a once-upon-a-time fantasyland demand that all kosher delis serve ham sandwiches!? And the bishops really want to demand a "conscience exemption" for anyone who indicates that his religiously based conscience commands him to deny someone else basic and fundamental needs and rights!?"
"I'm so sorry, but my bible tells me I can't possibly allow you to have this hotel room, since you're an interracial couple and God clearly tells us to keep black and white separate the same way we keep milk and meat apart."
The U.S. bishops really intend to push this embarrassing, anti-intellectual, and entirely false analogy even when contraception has been provided to women by national healthcare systems in one predominantly Catholic nation after another including Italy as a basic, fundamental aspect of healthcare for some years now, with never a peep from the Vatican or bishops in those nations that someone is trying to ram pork sandwiches down their throats?
And even when the very people now screaming about contraceptive coverage for women in healthcare plans signed laws mandating such coverage some years ago, with never a peep about pork sandwiches from the U.S. Catholic bishops as long as those gentlemen signing these laws were Republicans?
Now all of a sudden, it's all about pork sandwiches being rammed down sensitive episcopal throats. It's suddenly all about, as Jodi Jacobson observes, the emergence of the "ham sandwich defense" of the tender conscience of the U.S. Catholic bishops.
But here's a Catholic woman not buying the ham sandwich defense:
Yes, a women wanting available and affordable access to family planning is just the same as someone wanting a pork sandwich from a kosher deli. So comforting to know that the Bishops know and care about women's issues.
I suspect what's on offer in the Catholic clerical deli might be a tiny bit more wholesome and savory if a few female hands were involved in preparing and dishing out the food. What the current crop of gentlemen running the church have to dish out seems more than a little rotten to me, and, it seems, to an increasing number of Catholics. Not to mention, to thinking and conscientious people in the culture as a whole.
I doubt that the fare offered by female priests and bishops would be anywhere near so porcine, either, for that matter.