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Archive for the ‘Catholic Church’ Category

The Church Defense and Climate Change.

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The public efforts on behalf of climate change in the media are missing a grand opportunity.

If I were in that wonderful and ominous clique we call the Mainstream Media, every single time that Rick Santorum defends his preposterous public policy positions regarding contraception by using the Church Defense*, I would ask him why he rejects climate science.

Every time.

It would require a presidential candidate to publicly proclaim not only that he rejects accepted science, but that he rejects his Church’s very clear stance on that science for political purposes. The Catholic Church’s position on Climate Change cannot be more clear. So how do politically conservative Catholic candidates and elected officials continually get to use the Church Defense on contraception, while ignoring the Church on climate change?

If you are capable of defending a policy choice that would hinder access to the most commonplace of activities because your Church advocates it, how can you reject commonly accepted science that is also accepted by your Church?

This point is missed time after time, and it’s a shame. This really has nothing to do with Rick Santorum or even just the Catholic Church; many mainline and evangelical churches also acknowledge the reality of climate change while their political representatives ignore or campaign against it. Instead, it has to do with the fact that rejecting climate change science has no real defense, and our media has allowed an entire political party to walk away from reality for no reason beyond politics.

Mainstream media, you miss every chance you have to make that point. Alas.

**Rick Santorum has been relying more and more on what I call the Church Defense for his position on contraception. The Church Defense, from Rick Santorum, on his policy plans for contraception: “I’m reflecting the views of the church that I believe in,” he said. “We used to be tolerant of those beliefs. I guess now when you have beliefs that are consistent with the church, somehow, now you’re out of the mainstream.”

Written by Christopher ZF

March 5, 2012 at 11:42

Protect separation of church and state from Rick Santorum.

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The idea of the separation of Church and State is integral to the United States. Upholding the idea remains as important today as it was when our founders built a nation that expressly forbid the mingling of the Church with the operations of the government.

Rick Santorum, though, disagrees. He says:

“I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state are absolute,” he told ‘This Week’ host George Stephanopoulos. “The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country…to say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes me want to throw up.”

Two quick things for Mr. Santorum.

One: I disagree vehemently, and am terrified that a Presidential candidate would claim that the church should have influence and invovlement in the operations of the state. That is unconstitutional, and opposes the very foundation of the US as a nation by people who understood the dangers of allowing the inter-mingling of the two. It’s one of the reasons we decided England just wasn’t for us. Bone up on your Thomas Jefferson.

Two: Your second point is invalid, as the separation of church and state does NOT say that people of faith have no role in the public square. People of faith have every right to civic and public involvement, and any notion that people of faith are somehow kept out of the public square is just straight lunacy. See many atheists running our government, do you Mr. Santorum? Your brand of Christianity already has too much of a role in our government for comfort, and to hear you claim otherwise shows how capable you are of ignoring reality.

You have it backwards, and you need to learn: the idea that the church can have influence and involvement over the operation of the government is antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country. People of faith, of all faiths, are welcome into the process. But the church is not.

Written by Christopher ZF

February 26, 2012 at 12:05

Contraception NOT a health issue?

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I’m a white male who has been complaining about the male-dominated discussion about birth control over the past weeks. But I’m still going to write about birth control and pregnancy. You can skip this if you want.

*

I don’t know who Conrad Black is. According to his Wikipedia entry, he is Canadian, is the Baron Black of Crossharbour, and was once the third largest newspaper magnate in the world, which coupled with his 80s movie villain picture doesn’t give me a favorable impression of the man. Anyway, he wrote an article titled Obama: Leviathan 2012 for the National Review, which included the following sentence, and I am aghast at such a statement:

“Birth control is not a health issue at all; pregnancy is not a disease or an illness and termination of it is not a cure to a medical problem.”

He is, of course, discussing President Obama’s tussle with the Catholic Church over paying for birth control and the “Pearl Harbor nature” of such a move. And that he takes the side he does is not controversial or alarming. We just disagree.

But in doing so, The Baron seeks to disassociate pregnancy and birth control and women’s issues, as they say, from real health problems, and portrays women fighting for these issues as nothing more than noisy, pestering “abortion tigresses” infringing on the rights of the the Bishops of the Catholic Church and undecided voters. This almost knocked me out of my chair. The idea that contraception and pregnancy, that reproductive issues in general, are not health issues is a  horrible, vile idea. And anyone who has seen the potential impacts of a pregnancy on a woman and still believes that pregnancy and birth control are not health issues should be ashamed of themselves.

It doesn’t matter what one thinks about free access to birth control, employer paid reproductive /abortion services, religious freedom vs. government mandates for birth control coverage, or anything on the that issue. Such things are not related to the question of HEALTH.  But to frame the argument that pregnancy and birth control, even abortion, are not health related is a fiction, and an incredibly dangerous one at that.

I found Conrad Black’s article in the National Review quite disgusting. Not the politics of it but the way he speaks about women and pregnancy. Maybe it’s because I’m young, and there’s just a generational difference on such matters. Maybe it’s because I work in non-profits, and he’s a Baron and wealthy newspaper magnate. Maybe it’s because I fail to understand the tenets of the Roman Catholic Church. I don’t know. But when I read this, I see language that should make people very nervous:

By misrepresenting contraception as a health issue and hiding abortion behind it, and unleashing the feminist ravers as the shock troops against the religious denominations to shred the First Amendment, it will propose a giant step in the complete emasculation of any independent religious moral authority, or any institutional dissent from the absolute moral fiat of the federal state.

Ho. Ly. Shit. As Mrs. TRC pointed out, for Mr. Black these challenges from the wild and crazy women to the religious status quo are equivalent to becoming an effeminate, un-whole, castrated male.

Access to birth control is a health issue. And  pregnancy is not a disease, but is a dangerous health issue. All it takes is one rip in the condom, one failed birth control pill, and a woman’s life is in danger. The idea that pregnancy is just a happy-go-lucky process to bring smiling babies into the world is wrong. It’s a serious health issue. Preventing unwanted pregnancies is a serious health issue. And pretending otherwise does no one any good.

Written by Christopher ZF

February 24, 2012 at 16:40

History Lesson for Rick Santorum

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TRC approved. From Salon.

As Madison argued in a 1788 letter to Jefferson, religious fanaticism was as serious a danger to religious liberty as excessive state authority.  In his words, “rights of conscience” were undermined by “overbearing majorities” who were intent on advancing the interests of a particular “religious establishment.”  In plain and simple terms, the founders meant to protect individuals against excessive encroachments by church as well as state.

We might all wish to heed Madison’s further warning:  “It is a melancholy reflection that liberty should be equally exposed to danger whether the Government has too much or too little power.”  Religious liberty required the protection of state authority, in creating a barrier around the individual and guarding against intrusions from religious institutions.

The fact remains that President Obama is no more a French Revolutionary Jacobin than Jefferson or Madison.  It appears, in fact, that the president has a very clear understanding of religious liberty, appreciating the boundaries between church and state just as Madison intended.  His promptly conceived compromise solution, respecting religion without restricting rights, fits the balanced, reasonable approach our founders prescribed when they fought, state by state, to eliminate state funding and sanctioning (i.e., disestablishment) of privileged sects.

Written by Christopher ZF

February 14, 2012 at 16:37

and one more contraception comment for good measure.

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Getting into the politics, which I know many folks abhor… I’ve said many times in the past week that a public, drawn out fight over birth control will only hurt the Republicans, and that the real issue is the Catholic Church’s attempt to prevent access to birth control. Which isn’t a unique position to TRC. But still.

Quoting this at length, because it is worth it, even it if is overly optimistic.

Obama Punks the GOP on Contraception. Amanda Marcotte, Slate.

 The fun part of this is that Obama just pulled a fast one on Republicans. He drew this out for two weeks, letting Republicans work themselves into a frenzy of anti-contraception rhetoric, all thinly disguised as concern for religious liberty, and then created a compromise that addressed their purported concerns but without actually reducing women’s access to contraception, which is what this has always been about.
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Christopher ZF

February 10, 2012 at 14:13

a few comments on the contraception and “religious freedom” argument underway

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I am following the argument between the Catholic Church and the Obama Administration over how Catholic hopsitals and other non-church Catholic institutions are to pay for contraception. It is a fascinating debate about religious freedom from government, health-care, contraception (which I must say I cannot believe we still fight over), but also the role of religion in government.

I am presuming, since the argument has been made by the Church that this is a religious freedom fight, that today’s compromise requiring insurance companies and not employers to cover the costs will resolve the issue. The Church has claimed this is not political, it is not about the services, it is about the Church’s freedom of conscience, and so this should just about wrap that problem up.

Anyway. There has been much written on this subject. And I wanted to share a few things that I have valued as I learned about the subject.

New York Times blogger Andrew RosenthalIn case you haven’t been paying attention – and I guess I wouldn’t blame you – the issue is this: The rule exempts religious institutions, like churches, but not religiously affiliated institutions, like Catholic hospitals, that serve the general public. Some social conservatives are calling this an unconscionableassault on religious freedom, since Catholic doctrine prohibits women from using artificial contraception. 
It’s pure election-year shenanigans, led by Republicans who want to make Mr. Obama seem godless. There are already 28 states with similar rules in place, and the Catholic Church continues to operate in all of them (last I checked, anyway).

Sarah Kliff (whose work on the Komen debacle and this issue has shown what modern internet journalism can be) at the Washington PostOutside the political punditry, most Catholics agree with the administration on the issue,” says one Obama campaign official, explaining the view that this could be a political win.
And a lot of this likely isn’t about Catholic voters at all.
Rather, it may well be about the demographics that are most supportive of this particular health reform provision: young voters and women. In the PRRI poll, both groups register support above 60 percent for the provision.

New York Times Opinion Page, Linda Greenhouse: These institutions, as well as Catholic universities – not seminaries, but colleges and universities whose doors are open to all – are full participants in the public square, receiving a steady stream of federal dollars. They assert – indeed, have earned – the right to the same benefits that flow to their secular peers. What they now claim is a right to special treatment: to conscience that trumps law.
But in fact, that is not a principle that our legal system embraces… 
In a 1990 decision, Employment Division v. Smith, the Supreme Court disagreed. Even a sincere religious motivation, in the absence of some special circumstance like proof of government animus, does not merit exemption from a “valid and neutral law of general applicability,” the court held. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the opinion, which was joined by, among others, the notoriously left wing Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. 

Star Tribune Opinion Page. John Lesch, DFL-St. Paul, member of the Minnesota House.The church, with one hand, waves the bus of government through the intersection of Church and State, and into your choice of spouses; with the other hand it seeks to halt otherwise free access to contraceptive health care for its employees.
In lamenting the requirements for equal birth-control coverage for women, a spokesperson for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops bewailed, “Government has entered the sanctuary.”
Is it ironic that this holy hand-wringing comes just as those same bishops seek to stand in your polling booth on the issue of marriage?

Daily Beast blogger David Frum:  If the audience is paying attention, for example, it will notice that Republicans are not proposing to allow employers and plans to refuse to cover blood transfusions if they conscientiously object to them (although there are religious groups that do). Or vaccinations (although there are individuals who conscientiously object to those as well). Or medicines derived from animal experimentation. (Ditto.)
No, Marco Rubio’s Religious Freedom Restoration bill provides for one conscientious exemption only: contraception and sterilization.
Which means it will be very hard if not impossible to persuade the target audience that this debate is not in fact about contraception. Everybody quite sure that’s a wise debate to have?

And finally, for TRC the worst part here is not the argument that the government is overreaching into areas where the government has no legal or moral right to be. The story is the opposite: the Catholic Church is once again attempting to insert itself from the pulpit into policy making. The Church can disregard modern science and the irrefutable preference for contraception all it wants. But it cannot keep our government from providing Catholics and non-Catholics with services it opposes.  The Church is opposing access to women’s birth control services, and that is a fight it is going to lose.

Mary Sanchez in the Chicago Tribune. The truth is, the desire to control, to assert one person’s view of morality over another’s choices, is coming from the other direction — from religious conservatives who see this as a skirmish in a new culture war. It’s being played that way because it’s politically expedient to do so in 2012, an election year.
The backlash is an effort to limit a women’s right to have access to health care, including the right to make decisions about reproduction. If that reminds you of the abortion issue, you’re not alone. That was the old cause. This is the new one. Access to contraception is the next target for religious conservatives bent on their version of morality trumping individual rights.
This isn’t primarily about the separation of church and state. Health care is the issue. It is a woman’s right to have access to contraception if she so chooses. And that means including it in prescription drug coverage.
And those “feminist allies” Buchanan talks about. Who are they?
When it comes to users of birth control, it’s nearly every woman in America. 

Written by Christopher ZF

February 10, 2012 at 13:16

Santorum’s Stewardship: For Our Benefit, Not for the Earth’s

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Yesterday, Rick Santorum reaffirmed that he does not believe in the science of global warming. Well, he actually said the following:

I for one never bought the hoax. I for one understand just from science that there are one hundred factors that influence the climate. To suggest that one minor factor of which man’s contribution is a minor factor in the minor factor is the determining ingredient in the sauce that affects the entire global warming and cooling is just absurd on its face.

Clearly, he understands the science of global warming.

That Santorum does not acknowledge the accepted science of climate change should not surprise anyone. It certainly does not surprise TRC. Even though it takes a serious ability to tune out the massive weight of evidence in support of climate change, it’s a pretty common feat in today’s GOP. It should be noted, however, that Rick Santorum’s position on climate change is 100% at odds with the Catholic Church’s position on climate change. I don’t mention this because Santorum must always conform to the teachings of his church, but it does seem relevant as the candidate makes much over his Catholicism.

But, again, Santorum’s rejection of climate science is not news. Something else that he said at the same event, though, is a bit more shocking:

We were put on this Earth as creatures of God to have dominion over the Earth, to use it wisely and steward it wisely, but for our benefit not for the Earth’s benefit…We are the intelligent beings that know how to manage things and through the course of science and discovery if we can be better stewards of this environment, then we should not let the vagaries of nature destroy what we have helped create.

This kind of language gives TRC the willies. This is, essentially, a license for human behavior to take whatever shape it wants, regardless of the consequences. Santorum mentions the oft quoted dominion over the earth biblical command, which can be interpreted several ways, one of which is that we need to be good stewards to all creation. If he had mentioned the good stewardship and moved on, well, such comments wouldn’t have merited TRC’s attention. But that’s not what Santorum is presenting here. This language represents dominance and human arrogance on a level that is down right scary.

Santorum claims on the one hand that he understands science enough to know that climate change is a hoax, and on the other that the purpose of science is to benefit humans against the vagaries of nature. That is a prescription for a very bad future.