DANCE! DANCE!

Posted in Rants on February 13th, 2012 by Ed

Earlier this month, the Council of Catholic Bishops (CCB) and other Catholic organizations flipped out at the potential for new health care laws to require them to offer contraception to employees and their insured dependents. This is not a bad point. A law requiring that was bound to cause controversy. Fortunately there was a simple workaround. The administration altered the rule to allow religious organizations to refrain from paying for or providing employees with any information about birth control, but insurers are required to offer it at no additional cost to any insured person who requests it directly or through a doctor. Since every insurer on the planet covers some kind of contraception, this would seem to be a fair compromise.

Shockingly, neither Bill Donohue or the U.S. CCB were satisfied. They retain "grave reservations" and remain convinced that Catholic organizations will end up having to pay for contraception indirectly. Their concern is somewhat odd, though. I mean, what contraception would they be paying for? Catholic doctrine proscribes it, so we can deduce that the (overwhelmingly Catholic) workforce covered by Catholic churches and non-profits wouldn't use it anyway.

Take a minute to finish laughing. Let me know when you're ready to continue.

With so much attention focused on the Vatican, the Bishops, and other people in visible positions of leadership in the Church, the media end up overlooking the reality that few Catholics beyond a devout minority adhere very closely to its doctrine. As I assume is the case with all religions, most people who identify as Catholics, even if practicing actively or semi-actively, treat the rules of their faith as a buffet. They choose the parts they want to follow, disregard the rest, and overlook the resulting inconsistencies between their creed and their actions.

To wit, a recent survey concluded that 98% of Catholic women use or have used modern (i.e., not Natural Family Planning) methods of birth control. Even if we assume that this is an overstatement, it underscores a real gap between church doctrine and the beliefs of the faithful.

This raises the question of why exactly Obama is supposed to care what the CCB or other "Catholic leaders" have to say. Those people, by definition, are the strictest, most hard-line adherents to Catholic doctrine – which is to say that they are not representative of the U.S. Catholic population. Let's be frank: anyone devout enough to care about this decision isn't voting for Obama anyway. For the casual Christmas-and-Easter Catholic it's a non-factor. And of course there's nothing on Earth that Obama could do to please Catholic bishops, the Catholic League, and other religious right groups.

So why exactly is he supposed to care what they think or respond to their criticisms? These people are so used to being treated as important that they expect an elected official whom they will refuse to support anyway to dance for little more than their amusement. If he completely caved and gave them exactly what they wanted, they would declare victory and give him some kind of backhanded compliment before going right back to telling people not to vote for him. But the media need a narrative and something to fill airtime, so contrived drama about "losing the Catholic vote" and the bilious discharge from Bill Donohue's facehole will continue independent of facts, data, or logic.