The U.S. Catholic bishops have not spoken as a body about the concessions the Obama administration has just offered them regarding the HHS guidelines for coverage of contraception in healthcare plans in Catholic institutions. The archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles Chaput, has, however, now spoken out. At America magazine's "In All Things" blog, Tim Reidy offers the text of Chaput's response.
No olive branches from Chaput, though leading Catholic commentators are applauding the administration's irenicism and the bishops' "victory" in the battle over guidelines for contraceptive coverage by Catholic employers: he continues the drumbeat for Taco Bell exemptions for private for-profit employers who have scruples about covering contraception, and then he concludes,
One of the issues America's bishops now face is how best to respond to an HHS mandate that remains unnecessary, coercive and gravely flawed. In the weeks ahead the bishops of our country, myself included, will need both prudence and courage—the kind of courage that gives prudence spine and results in right action, whatever the cost.
Meanwhile, a clutch of Catholic commentators who aren't on the steep path to ecclesial careerist preferment and red hats wonder what in the Sam Hill is up with Catholic "pastoral" leaders who drone on endlessly about abortion, same-sex marriage, and contraception while the big news right now is the abysmal story from Los Angeles: another day, another trove of documents showing ongoing cover-up for decades of cases of child rape at the highest levels of the church. At National Catholic Reporter, Morna Murray writes,
The contraceptive mandate is an issue, yes. The administration and the church and other leaders have worked to resolve it. The proposed exemption is not meant to apply to secular employers and it should not. This is not some secret ploy to secularize America. It is not an unprecedented attack upon religion. In short, the adversity, distraction, rhetoric and polarization created by this issue has dramatically outweighed its importance in the overall effort to implement health care reform and improve the quality and access to affordable health care in this country.
That is not the Catholic church I came to know and love as I grew up. But I was taught by IHM nuns and Jesuit priests. I'm not sure if that makes a difference.
In the New York Times, Frank Bruni notes the glaring disparity between how church officials treated Sister Margaret McBride of Phoenix when she concurred with the decision of a hospital ethics committee to terminate a pregnancy of 11 weeks when overwhelming medical evidence suggested the mother would die if the pregnancy continued, and how said officials treat priests who have raped children and bishops who cover up that rape:
So a fetus matters more than the ravaged psyche of a raped adolescent? And Sister McBride deserved harsher rebuke than a rapist? It’s hard not to conclude that a church run by men shows them more mercy than it does women (or, for that matter, children).
And it’s hard to keep track: just when is the church of this world, and when not? It inserts itself into political debates, trying to shape legislation to its ethics. But it also demands exemption: from taxes, from accountability, from health care directives.
If the Bishops think this issue is more important, than, say, releasing all the documents from the Los Angeles Archdiocese on the rape and abuse of children, they are even more out of touch with their parishioners and Christianity than we previously feared.
And remember: the current hierarchy was all picked by John Paul II and Benedict XVI to be supine sheep protecting their own hierarchy. That has been the core criterion of advancement in the church for a couple of generations. So many ortho-bots. So many rapes.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that, no matter how dominant the voices of the Chaputs of the Catholic church appear at this point in its history, there will come a time--and I think it may not be far down the road--when historians, people of good will, and subsequent generations of Catholics will wonder how on earth the Chaputs et al. imagined they represented an adequately Catholic moral voice in the first decades of the 21st century. When that adequately Catholic moral voice is so much more soundly maintained by lay Catholics like Murray, Bruni, and Sullivan . . . .