HHS Mandate Revisited

You may have heard that the Supreme Court last week agreed to hear Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. v. Sebelius and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, two cases resulting directly from the Health and Human Services controversial “contraceptive mandate.” In light of this news and the likelihood that issues concerning religious freedom will continue to be prominent issues affecting Catholics and other religious communities for the foreseeable future, we are posting a little seen transcript of Dr. Nathe’s public address, “The Methodological Argument against the HHS Mandate or Why Catholics Should Not Be Afraid to Clarify the Evil of Contraception in Public,” delivered in October of 2012 in Hyattsville, MD. Comment lines are open below.

Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted. Only when their faith permeates every aspect of their lives do Christians become truly open to the transforming power of the Gospel. ~ Pope Benedict XVI

It is often supposed that the best arguments to use in a pluralistic society are those with which the highest number of people would agree. Thus, when arguing against obesity, health is often appealed to, and when arguing against abortion, the right to life takes center stage.  After all, few would suggest, at least in public discourse, that people are not better off healthy or that certain humans have no right to live. In a similar respect, the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate has almost exclusively been derided as a limitation on religious liberty. The recent “Fortnight for Freedom,” which I will grant was quite the spiritual boost for the Church in America, is a case in point. After attending with enthusiasm its three principal events in Baltimore-Washington, DC, roughly six hours of celebration and education, I do not recall hearing the word “contraception” mentioned once. Women’s rights and racism were covered, for sure, but not contraception.

Yes, I agree the religious liberty argument is valid and helpful in the present forum, but, like the arguments against obesity and abortion, is it enough? If Mitt Romney wins the presidential election and abolishes Obamacare and the contraceptive mandate with it, as he has vowed, will anyone have a change of heart on the substance of the HHS imposition?  (Remember this line?  “Contraception is fine.  Leave it alone.” (M.R.)) In the meantime, are contraception, the taking of abortifacients, and sterilization—practices afforded and insured by the mandate but already widely available—being pursued less frequently now that Catholics, particularly the American bishops, have so vociferously decried the HHS legislation? Has anybody learned anything about why the Church teaches that these practices deal spiritual death bombs? Does it matter?

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