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What is the Matter with the Bishops?

February 8, 2013

CFC president Jon O’Brien issued the following response to complaints from the USCCB about the Obama administration’s accommodation over contraceptive coverage.

“What is the matter with the bishops? Last week the Obama administration conceded the health and welfare of women to placate the bishops, and yet they’re still railing that they’re somehow offended. The new, expanded designation of employers who can claim a full exemption to contraceptive coverage—that means no ‘accommodation’—will, for example, affect employees (and their dependents) at more than 6,000 Catholic schools. One million employees and their dependents at thousands of Catholic-related institutions will have to hope that the alternative ways to access contraception work as well as those in the administration claim they will. But the bishops got what they wanted: they and their friends don’t have to provide coverage for birth control, religious liberty of their employees be damned.

“The bishops’ hyperbolic reaction to the provision of basic healthcare reveals how far they have strayed from the social justice tradition that most Catholics embrace. Having failed to convince Catholics to avoid using modern methods of family planning, the hierarchy is reduced to demanding that the federal government enforce their prohibition, or at least make contraception more expensive for the bishops’ employees than it is for the rest of the population. This is an unconscionable attack on the healthcare available to employees at Catholic-related institutions who forsake higher salaries and better benefits because of their own commitment to social justice.

“The bottom line, which the bishops don’t want to acknowledge, is that Catholics use contraception at the same rate as do all Americans. Some 98 percent of sexually experienced Catholic women have used a method that the bishops prohibit. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that the bishops are still complaining about contraception—but the administration should stop listening. Catholics already have.”