Divide and Conquer: Ross Douthat Notes Obama's HHS "Compromise" Merely a Means for ObamaCaths to Save Face
Ross Douthat writes at The New York Times:
So far as I can tell, the White House’s proposed “compromise” in the contraception-sterilization-plan B-ella controversy asks the parties involved to compromise their reasoning faculties and play a game of “let’s pretend” instead. The revised regulation allows religious institutions to pretend that they aren’t actually purchasing an insurance plan that covers services they find morally objectionable, because their insurance companies will be required to pretend that they’re supplying these services free of charge. But fond illusions about “free” services aside, it’s hard to see how a system in which Catholic hospitals and colleges are required to purchase health insurance for their employees from insurers that are required to cover birth control, sterilizations and the morning- and days-after pills is meaningfully different from the original Health and Human Services mandate. As Yuval Levin writes, ”the choice for religious employers is still between paying an insurer to provide their workers with access to a product that violates their convictions or paying a fine to the government.” The rule has been changed, but the reality remains the same.There is no doubt that this "accomodation" was targeted at winning over what Fr. Z has termed "the Magisterium of Nuns" (Obama's spokesperson said as much two days ago while making the rounds on the Sunday talk show circuit), thus once again sowing dissension and confusion among Catholics over who it is that speaks for the Catholic Church. Divide and conquer, so that it is now Obama under cover of this "alternative magisterium", rather than the Catholic Bishops, who is effectively the de facto policymaker for the Catholic Church in the United States.
While the original mandate was just an imposition by the state, the new policy is an accommodation by secular authorities for the convenience of some of the faithful — those believers, in particular, who were offended by the baldness of the White House’s indifference to religious scruples but who broke with the administration more in sorrow than in anger. It’s essentially a salve for the consciences of pro-Obamacare Catholics, as my colleague Laurie Goodstein points out in a perceptive analysis:For the White House, the decision announced Friday to soften a rule requiring religious-affiliated organizations to pay for insurance plans that offer free birth control was never really driven by a desire to mollify Roman Catholic bishops, who were strongly opposed to the plan.[...]
Rather, the fight was for Sister Carol Keehan — head of an influential Catholic hospital group, who had supported President Obama’s health care law — and Catholic allies of the White House seen as the religious left. Sister Keehan had told the White House that the new rule, part of the health care law, went too far...
The new rule, though, is much more savvy: Because it speaks the language of compromise and conscience, it provides grounds for anyone who desperately wants to believe in it to believe in it, even as it leaves the underlying policy more or less unchanged. (It’s telling, in this regard, that the Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne managed to write an entire column today defending the compromise without once engaging with its substance.)
And by winning back the Catholics who wanted to be won back, the White House may have successfully defused the immediate crisis that its own ineptness created...
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Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
Health Care Reform and the Magisterium [UPDATED]
Cardinal George: Sr. Keehan Chose Obama Over Catholic Bishops
American Papist: Obama an Enemy to Catholic Unity
The Catholic Health Association and the Future of Catholic Unity
Sister Carol Keehan Misrepresents Her Support of the Health Care Bill
Bishop Tells Pro-Life Democrat: Nuns Can’t Absolve ObamaCare Vote
Establishing the "Alternative Magisterium"
Archbishop Chaput: Those Confusing the Catholic Stance on Health Care Will Bear the Blame for Anti-Life Effects of Heath Care Bill
Catholic Obama Supporters More Interested in Providing Cover Than Holding Obama's Feet to the Fire
Catholic Nuns Urge Passage of Obama's Health Bill
Obama's Catholic Strategy: Divide and Conquer