|April 16, 2012 | Volume 87, Number 12|
Court rulings attack conscience exemptions
The proposed rules of the Department of Human and Health Services requiring institutions to provide contraceptive services and products as part of their health insurance benefits to employees is the situation.
Churches were excluded, but religiously-affiliated institutions such as schools, universities and hospitals were not. The reaction against such a rule was immediate, vociferous and intense, especially among Roman Catholics, their bishops and many supporters in other faith communities.
The offended parties vigorously claim that institutions such as Catholic hospitals and schools should be exempt because artificial contraception is not permitted.
At this point, let me disclose that I am a practicing Roman Catholic by birth and choice. The problem with granting “exemptions of conscience” from the duty to follow duly enacted laws and regulations in the secular (civil and criminal) law is, “where do you draw the line?”
Assume a Baptist hospital pays its support staff less than minimum wage and promotes male professionals (doctors and nurses) with lesser experience and qualifications over female professionals.
The employees complain and the hospital replies, “the support personnel are ministers, not employees; therefore we are not required to pay the minimum wage. And our faith teaches that women are not to be placed in authority over men.”
Shall they be granted a religious exemption of conscience?
Assume a “peace church” (Quaker, Amish, Mennonite or Brethren) operates a university and refuses to pay the full employer share of employment taxes on grounds that 20 percent of the federal budget is used for the military force and wars their faith abhors. Shall they be exempt?
Absurd and unlikely, you say? Not so. The case of Dole v. Shenandoah Baptist Church from 1990 is instructive.
Since 1973, Shenandoah has operated Roanoke Valley Christian Schools. Initially the school paid support personnel less than the minimum wage. In 1976 the school implemented a head-of-household salary supplement to male teachers only.
The pastor explained, “When we turned to the Scriptures to determine head of household. . . we found that the Bible clearly teaches that the husband is the head of the house, head of the wife, head of the family.”
In 1978 the government brought suit alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Shenandoah’s defense was that the support personnel were ministers, not employees, and thus were not entitled to minimum wage, and that as to the teachers, the church-school was exempt from the law as a matter of freedom of religion.
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed relief for the women on both claims, holding that application of the law to the church-school does not violate the establishment clause of the first amendment or the equal protection of the law under the fifth amendment and affirmed judgment of over $194,000 against the church. The Supreme Court declined to grant the church’s appeal.
Where do you draw the line? Shall Catholics be granted their exemption from contraceptives, but not Baptists for head-of-household pay supplements?
Isn’t the best solution to honor the constitutional separation of church and state and obey the secular laws of our society?
In other words, to follow the teaching of Jesus, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s.”
Universal healthcare has various issues
In the April 2, 2012 edition of The Catholic Virginian, Mr. Pishioneri’s letter claimed that the United States relatively low ranking for infant survival is linked to universal healthcare.
But we need to take a closer look how the rankings are compiled. In the United States, all infants born are considered “live births.” However, in countries with universal health care, infants with low birth weights are considered “unsalvageable” and are not considered “live births.”
In Canada, Germany and other countries, a premature baby under 500 grams would fall into this category. In many countries any baby that dies within the first 24 hours is considered stillborn, which further skews the ranking.
The facts support the casual view of human life in counties with universal healthcare. Since 2000, 42 out of 52 surviving babies born under 400 grams were in the United States.
Universal healthcare, although well intentioned, leads to life and death decisions that favor death, especially in the most vulnerable. The elderly suffer the worse, as life saving or life extending medical treatment is reduced to merely easing pain.
The cruel calculation of who receives treatment is determined by who can contribute the most to society, not who has the greatest need.
Fr. Catoir’s commentary did not appear in the web edition of The Catholic Virginian.
Infant mortality facts questioned
A recent letter cited the USA’s infant mortality standing at 34th as a basis for supporting the requirement for buying health insurance.
Gross statistics, such as the 34th ranking, can seem impressive without more information. There are many factors which call into question the propriety of this ranking.
Some countries do not include children born premature or under a certain weight until they pass their normal expected birth date. Other countries do not count children who die within the first 24 hours. Still others have treated children who die late in the 12th month as having died in the 13th month and, thus, not part of the infant mortality calculation.
How much consistent measurements would change the ranking is not known. The relative difference in the number of children who die in the first year among the next several countries up the scale is significant when indicated by a percentage, but not by numbers, which are two or three children per 1,000.
There is a significant problem with infant mortality in this country which has nothing to do with the need for a national law on health insurance, namely early births and medical problems associated with life style, such as promiscuous singles who indulge in smoking, excessive drinking and drugs or have serious health problems passed on to their children.
Add to these social factors the efforts of doctors to keep children alive who would otherwise be allowed to die in other countries. Our doctors and health care professionals should be praised for their efforts.
We could probably have a more beneficial impact on infant mortality by working on social ills than by making everyone buy health insurance.
Mindset on health care ‘once very different’
I am grateful for the commentary of Sister Mary Ann Walsh on the government’s mandate of healthcare (April 2 issue).
As we consider the resulting intrusion of the government into our religious and personal freedom, it may assist us to see, in the many examples of our forebears, that the mindset in the healthcare field, and even in our interpersonal relations in general was once very different.
In 1954, J.H. Harrison, M.D. and Joseph A. Murray, M.D. accomplished the first successful kidney transplant in Boston.
Murray’s Nobel Prize lecture in 1990 concerning the work included the following: “At the conclusion of our team’s last pre-operative discussion with the patients, the donor asked whether the hospital would be responsible for his health care for the rest of his life if he decided to donate his kidney.
“Dr. Harrison, the surgeon for the donor, said, ‘Of course not.’
“But he immediately followed with the question, ‘Ronald, do you think anyone in this room would ever refuse to take care of you if you needed help?’ Ronald paused, and then understood that his future depended upon our sense of professional responsibility rather than on legal assurances.”
The donor on this basis agreed to the surgery and in the process saved his twin brother’s life. A different mindset may have delayed our first successful organ transplant and would certainly have shortened the life of a beloved brother.
We might pray for a degree of “metanoia” for our leaders and professionals in the healthcare field, and also ourselves, that we might return to a more Christ-like willingness to share our talent and treasure for those in need. We have but one mandate, from Christ, and that is to love one another. (John 13:34)
Social justice can be ride on ‘the gravy train’
I make it a point to read the commentary of Mary Hood Hart as soon as I receive the CV in the mail. I read the compassionate story about the homeless man named Joe who frequented her parish food pantry on a regular basis (April 2 issue).
However, there was no mention of how this poor man came to be in this situation or why no one would hire him.
Mary goes on to say “Unjust systems caused this level of poverty, lack of education and homelessness.” What system is she referring to? The government welfare system, the government education system or our government’s judicial system?
The meaning of “just” is acting or being in conformity with what is morally upright, good or righteous. Unjust is simply unfair. Who decides what is unjust or unfair? Not social justice.
Welfare and charity both discourage, destroy and negate achievement while at the same time take away a person’s initiative, self-respect, dignity, esteem and motivation.
It is an addiction brought about by and through the promotion of socialism and liberalism under the guise of social justice by our government. It is undermining the very core of the American way of life, our freedom, independent spirit and self-sufficiency.
The helping hand has been replaced by the hand-out! The feeling of shame once affiliated with the receipt of charity and welfare has been replaced with a feeling of shameless government entitlements.
Many people in this situation have begun to regard it as a right and not a charitable privilege at the expense of the U.S. Taxpayer.
While it is true there are many Americans currently out of work, there also are many who are taking advantage of the government stipend and they continue to receive without putting forth any effort to alleviate their financial positions until their welfare benefits run out. They continue their ride on the government gravy train to the very end of their life.
If this is social justice, I want no part of it.
Fr. Catoir’s commentary did not appear in the web edition of The Catholic Virginian.
Couple finds welcome in Lenten parish visits
I am writing to share a wonderful experience my husband and I had this Lenten season. We are members of St. Edward the Confessor Church (in Richmond) and have been for over 25 years.
In Lent 2011 we decided to attend different churches within our diocese for their Stations of the Cross, and we enjoyed it so much we continued the tradition this Lent. I searched online and made a few phone calls and set up our schedule for every Friday during Lent.
The churches we chose this year were different than the ones we went to last year only because we wanted to experience more of what we felt last year. Each time we entered one of the churches there was warmth.
We did not know anyone personally but when we walked the Stations of the Cross among those gathered in their home parish, we did not feel like an outsider, instead we felt welcomed, a home away from home.
We were all there to remember our Lord Jesus and how much He loved each and every one of us.
We just wanted to share this information with you in hopes that it could enlighten others to the richness we found in going to the various parishes.
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