Redefining Religious Activity
Last month the administration ruled that U.S. health insurance plans must generally cover contraceptive services. The ruling exempted religious employers—but not those that employ or serve many people who are not of the employers' own faith. Thus, Catholic hospitals, colleges, and charities were not exempt. Last week, responding to opposition, the administration announced an accommodation under which these organizations' insurers, not the organizations themselves, would cover contraception.
There have been reactions on both sides. Some challenge Catholic charities' right to the exemption. Others ask whether, accommodation or no, the charities will have to fund services to which they object.
In testimony yesterday before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik of New York's Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, and Director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University, emphasized a different problem. The accommodation, he noted, treats some religious organizations as entitled to First Amendment protection and others—those that serve other faiths—as not meriting protection. This distinction is alien not only to Christianity, but quintessentially to Judaism, whose essence lies not only in "wrapping oneself in the blatant trappings of religious observance such as phylacteries" but in morally engaging with the world, Jewish or not. It would follow that Jews should be among those most disturbed by the compromise. The present storm over Catholics and contraception, it seems, exposes more fundamental fault lines in the current political accommodation to religion in America. —The Editors
In August of 1790, Moses Seixas, a leading member of the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, composed a letter to then-President George Washington, who was visiting Newport. In his letter, Seixas gave voice to his people's love of America and its liberties. "Deprived as we heretofore have been of the invaluable rights of free citizens," wrote Seixas, "we now (with a deep sense of gratitude to the Almighty disposer of all events) behold . . . a Government which to bigotry gives no sanction, to persecution no assistance." Washington responded with sentiments that Jews hold dear to this day. "The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves," wrote Washington, "for giving to Mankind . . . a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship."
On Friday, in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, I joined Catholic and Protestant leaders in protesting a violation of religious freedom stemming from the Department of Health and Human Services' new directive obligating religious organizations employing or serving members of other faiths to facilitate acts that those religious organizations consider violations of their religious tradition. Later the same day, the administration announced what it called an "accommodation": not religious organizations but rather insurance companies would be the ones paying for the prescriptions and procedures that a faith community may find violative of its religious tenets. This putative accommodation is, however, no accommodation at all. The religious organizations would still be obligated to provide employees with an insurance policy that facilitates acts violating the organization's religious tenets. Although the religious leaders of the American Catholic community communicated this on Friday evening, the administration has refused to change its position, thereby insisting that a faith community must either violate a tenet of its faith, or be penalized.
What I wish to focus on this morning is the exemption to the new insurance policy requirements that the administration did carve out from the outset: to wit, exempting from the new insurance policy obligations religious organizations that do not employ or serve members of other faiths. From this exemption carved out by the administration, at least two important corollaries follow. First: by carving out an exemption, however narrow, the administration implicitly acknowledges that forcing employers to purchase these insurance policies may involve a violation of religious freedom. Second, the administration implicitly assumes that those who employ or help others of a different religion are no longer acting in a religious capacity, and as such are not entitled to the protection of the First Amendment.
This betrays a complete misunderstanding of the nature of religion. For Orthodox Jews, religion and tradition govern not only praying in a synagogue, or studying Torah in a beit midrash, or wrapping oneself in the blatant trappings of religious observance such as phylacteries. Religion and tradition also inform our conduct in the less obvious manifestations of religious belief, from feeding the hungry, to assessing medical ethics, to a million and one things in between. Maimonides, one of Judaism's greatest talmudic scholars and philosophers, and also a physician of considerable repute, stresses in his Code of Jewish Law that the commandment to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart" is achieved not through cerebral contemplation only but also requires study of the sciences, and engagement in the natural world, as this inspires true appreciation of the wisdom of the Almighty. In refusing to extend religious liberty beyond the parameters of what the administration chooses to deem religious conduct, the administration denies people of faith the ability to define their religious activity. Therefore, not only does the new regulation threaten religious liberty in the narrow sense, in requiring Catholic communities to violate their religious tenets, but also the administration impedes religious liberty by unilaterally redefining what it means to be religious.
Washington concluded his missive to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport by saying: "May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid." Benefiting from two centuries of First Amendment protections in the United States, the Jewish "children of the stock of Abraham" must speak up when the liberties of conscience afforded their fellow Americans are threatened and when the definition of religion itself is being redefined by bureaucratic fiat. Thank you for the opportunity to do so this morning.
There are women who have worked for Catholic institutions and have spoken up against the mandate. http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/women-to-obama-we-oppose-hhs-mandate/
The Catholic church also feeds and clothes more people than anybody else on the planet. It's the worlds largest charitable organization. The first hospitals in America were started by the Catholic church, before the government got involved. As for equating Catholicism with the right, American Catholics have usually been Democrats. Even a so-called conservative like me does not like the GOP--but has no choice at this point. Philip Jenkins, a non-Catholic Harvard religion professor, wrote a book called, "The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice." The book talks about how the same arguments that were once used by the Bible-thumping crowd have now shifted to the liberal establishment, repackaged as secular philosophy. That is not to say that there aren't any in the GOP who don't still share the same views. As Bishop Fulton Sheen said, "There are not a hundred people in America, who hate the Catholic church, there are millions who hate what they mistakenly believe the church to be and that is something else." I thank Rabbi Soloveichik for his support as "an elder brother in the faith," as proclaimed by Pope John Paul 2. I had to speak out about this.
Regarding the statement that there is no such thing as the Catholic right or left, becuase Catholicism is a religion, not partisan politics, anyone who says this must be a member of the Catholic clergy (or a blind follower). The Vatican has been informing (a gross understatement) politics and public-policy since its inception (even the Vatican itself probably wouldn't refute this). How can you look at a politician like Rick Santorum and say that his views are not informed by his Catholicism? The analogy to Jews and communism is erroneous. For one thing, Communism is an ideology with a fairly short historical window, while partisanship is a transcendent element of politics (in a manner of speaking, it is politics). Second, Catholic doctrine asserts the pre-eminence of its divine truth in public policy; in contrast, there is no element of communism in Jewish doctrine. And, though the analogy was disingenuous in failing to distinguish essential religious doctrine from its praxis on the individual level, one must ask, do you actually know any Communist Jews? Regarding the statement that nobody has been more outraged by the pedophilia scandal than faithful Catholics, this could only have been said by Catholic clergy--and not with a straight face. The thousands of cases of pedophilia committed by Catholic clergy (that we know of) are indicative of a systemic problem. (Notice the absence of this in Judaism?) Moreover, how do you ignore the numerous documentations of such incidents having been and still being swept under the rug? Just a few rotten apples? Regarding the argument that Nazism started by confining Catholic church activities to the church itself and, thus, marginalizing the church, that was their excuse when it came time to do a little "charity," but Nazism originated in the pre-eminence of an "irrefutable" ideology over the sick and disabled (the euthanasia of the handicapped). It's appalling that a Jew would employ that (erroneous) example over that of a night where there was . . . a lot of broken glass. Regarding the claim that the Catholic church is the world's largest charitable organization, LOL. They are also the richest. According to this logic, because Wall Street executives give more to charities than teachers, rabbis, or social workers (which they do, simply because they're richer, not to mention all the tax breaks entailed), they're more righteous. Is that what you mean? Leaving aside the value of Church art (a single painting could feed a number of African countries), the Vatican's worth is estimated at, minimum, $10 to 15 billion. On many levels--morally, ethically, spiritually-- that doesn't sit well. Philip Jenkins, the "non-Catholic Harvard religion professor," teaches at Penn State (you must have meant the "Harvard of West Pennsylvania"). One shouldn't be invoking Penn State in any debate involving systemic pedophilia.
"Catholic doctrine asserts the pre-eminence of its divine truth in public policy." Please cite any place in which this doctrine appears in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Even Pope Benedict Xv1 claims that divine revelation cannot influence secular politics.
"Regarding the statement that nobody has been more outraged by the pedophilia scandal than faithful Catholics, this could only have been said by Catholic clergy--and not with a straight face." Nobody is denying that this is an issue. Rabbi Arthur Gross Schaefer, professor of law and ethics at Loyola Marymount University, states his belief that sexual abuse among rabbis approximates that found among the Protestant clergy. According to one study, 73 percent of women rabbis report instances of sexual harassment. “Sadly,” Rabbi Schaefer concludes, “our community’s reactions up to this point have been often based on keeping things quiet in an attempt to do ‘damage control.’ Fear of lawsuits and bad publicity have dictated an atmosphere of hushed voices and outrage against those who dare to break ranks by speaking out”[xxiii]. "Rabbi Joel Meyers, executive vice president of the Conservative Rabbinical Assembly, reports that 30 percent of rabbis who changed positions in 2000 did so involuntarily, and that sexual abuse was a factor in many instances" [xxiv]. The Awareness Center devotes an entire website to "Clergy Abuse: Rabbis, Cantors & Other Trusted Officials." It is a detailed and frank look at the problem of sexual abuse by rabbis. http://jewishsurvivors.blogspot.com/
"Regarding the claim that the Catholic church is the world's largest charitable organization, LOL. They are also the richest. " Not so. The Vatican has an annual operating budget of $260 million, which would not place it on any Top 500 list of major social institutions. Harvard University has an annual operating budget of a little over $1.3 billion; it could run the equivalent of five Vaticans every year and still have pocket change left over. The Holy See’s budget would qualify it as a mid-sized American Catholic college. It’s bigger than Loyola-Marymount in Los Angeles (annual budget of $150 million) or Saint Louis University ($174 million) but substantially less than the University of Notre Dame ($500 million). The total patrimony (roughly, the endowment) of the Holy See,including property holdings, investments, and reserve funds, is roughly $770 million. This is substantial, but Notre Dame has an endowment of $3.5 billion.
But what of the some 18,000 artistic treasures in the Holy See, like the Pietà, that don’t show up on these ledgers? From the Holy See’s point of view, these artworks are part of the artistic heritage of the world. From the Vatican's point of view and in reality, these works cannot be sold or borrowed against. Therefore, Michelangeo’s famous Pieta statue, the Sistine Chapel, and Raphael’s famous frescoes in the Apostolic Palace are listed, realistically, at a value of 1 Euro each. In fact, those treasures are a net drain on the Holy See’s budget, because millions of Euros have to be allocated every year for maintenance and restoration. http://www.tnerb.org/archives/000208.html
"One shouldn't be invoking Penn State in any debate involving systemic pedophilia." If guilt by association held true, everyone who goes to a public school should be deemed guilty. According to Charol Shakeshaft, the researcher of a little-remembered 2004 study prepared for the U.S. Department of Education, "the physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests." According to the study, “nearly 9.6 percent of students are targets of educator sexual misconduct sometime during their school career.”
“Educator sexual misconduct is woefully under-studied,” writes the researcher. “We have scant data on incidence and even less on descriptions of predators and targets. There are many questions that call for answers.”
http://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/research/pubs/misconductreview/report.pdf. These facts do not excuse anything. They are facts.
Outside religious teachings, there is no uniformity, no entity marching in lock-step on every issue under the sun. "Do you actually know any Communist Jews?" Do you know all 400,000 Catholic priests?
"How did socialism bring about Nazism? Seriously?" Read Jonah Goldberg's book on this topic. http://books.google.ca/books/about/Liberal_Fascism.html?id=71QP2lkN3LcC&redir_esc=y
The fact that National Socialists were socialists seems ever an irritant to today's socialists. The Baath Party is socialist, as was the Soviet Socialist Party; both managed to abuse Jews. Trying to wipe Nazis off the socialist slate leaves a great many other Jew-haters on the same socialist slate. As history clarifies with the years, it is socialists who must deal with Marx's Jewish Question--and with the emptying of Jewish homes from Muslim lands in the last decades. This Jew is not "in bed" with Catholics; but he does live in Germany, where we understand the history of National Socialism and its politics.
So much for pro-choice?
Ethicists justify infanticide in major medical journal in Holland.
Why should newborns live?
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