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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.

Relevant Links
The Cult of Synthesis  Jack Wertheimer, Jewish Ideas Daily. For over a century, American Jews have asserted that America and the Jews are a perfect fit. Is it true?

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 othersthose that serve other faithsas 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 inhabitantswhile 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.

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Independent Patriot on February 17, 2012 at 8:12 am (Reply)
While I am anything but a fan of the Obama administration, I actually had no problem with their requiring Catholic organizations that receive federal funding to provide contraception in their health plans. All are entitled to equal protection under law, and that includes women who want contraception (Griswold and Eisenstadt). If this doesn't work for a Catholic institution, it can refrain from taking federal taxpayer money and remain a private institution, like the Boy Scouts. These particular hospitals received $2.9 billion dollars in taxpayer money. Infringement of the free exercise of religion? There has always been a balancing of rights when dealing with religion and secular law. However, secular law is paramount. Over 200 years of Constitutional law say so, whether you are a Native American sent to jail for wanting to smoke peyote or a religious Jew who is forced to provide his wife a "get" after he refused it even though there was a civil divorce. Secular law wins. The question then becomes just where is the line drawn? Why would the religious tenets of one religion supersede the secular law when the laws of other religions don't? Who picks and chooses which laws to follow? Which religious laws are important? Which version of each religion should be followed? The job of a secular government is to promote secular values. Secular law, not religious law, is paramount in the United States.
Todd Collier on February 17, 2012 at 8:45 am (Reply)
We are struggling over the very nature of religion. Is it a philosophy--an accumulation of concepts and precepts that guide our thoughts and partially identify us? Or is religion intended to create a specific lifestyle? It is difficult to read, hear, pray, or preach "Shema" and come away with the idea that what is desired of us is mere assent. The Lord of the Shema calls us to be wholly devoted to Him in love. This appears to be a not philosophy but a never-ending devotion that encompasses all of life. Sadly, you must have some investment in faith to see that. Most of our government staffers do not.
fredric seinfeld on February 17, 2012 at 8:46 am (Reply)
Lost in all of this is the more fundamental violation of the Constitution. The federal leviathin has no constitutional authority to compel any person or group to provide a service to anyone.
Rabbi Daniel Brenner on February 17, 2012 at 10:13 am (Reply)
We should ground this discussion in a bit of historical reality. For centuries, Jewish law (yes, religious law) has favored women's use of contraception. Tosefta Niddah 2:6: “[T]hree women use a mokh (contraceptive absorbent): a minor, a pregnant woman, and a nursing woman--the minor lest she become pregnant and die . . . , the pregnant woman lest she make her fetus into a compressed fetus [by conceiving a second time causing the later-conceived, fetus to crush the earlier-conceived one], a nursing woman lest she kill her child [inadvertently, by early weaning because of the new pregnancy and not being circumspect in providing alternative healthy food] . . . ."
Michael Jones on February 17, 2012 at 10:17 am (Reply)
To my older brother in faith, thank you.
jason taylor on February 17, 2012 at 10:25 am (Reply)
If taking money from the government requires that one give up one's religious freedom, no one who has ever received benefits from a stimulus package has any religious freedom.
Yehuda on February 17, 2012 at 11:58 am (Reply)
Those women in the tosefta have something in common: Their pregancy would cause sakanat nefashot. In fact, Jewish law is not in favor of contraception, nor even of abstinence in a marital framework. The Mechaber forbids delaying mikvah because of bitul peru urevu! Once we've fulfilled the mitzvah of peru urevu (which, by the way must be fulfilled as early as possible) we still have the hiddur of al t'nach, from which most contemporary poskim forbid desisting without good cause. To say that Jewish law favors contraception is an absurd mischaracterization of halacha. While we do carve out exceptions for those whose pregnancy would be psychologically harmful or drive them into poverty, it is the general policy of Jewish law that, absent a sakanah, contraception is assur. The attempt to ground discussion in "historical reality" actually has no material bearing on the discussion at hand. The government seeks to define the realm in which religious conscience can exist. According to the administration, you can express religion freely only at shul; and if you are a religious person operating in a capacity the administration deems non-religious, you are subject to penalties for acting on conscience. A religious Jew faces no halakhic issue in paying for an employee, Jewish or not, to obtain contraception. However, good conscience as a religious human compels one to speak out against an infringement on Catholicism, because such an infringement impacts the future of all religious people in the country. If the government can compel Catholics to provide contraception, it's only a matter of time before they try to compel Jews to do something contrary to our conscience. That is what this discussion is about.
Jonathan Baker on February 17, 2012 at 12:27 pm (Reply)
R Soloveichik misses the trees for the forest. In trying to protect the religious rights of the Catholic Church as an institution, he tramples on the rights of non-Catholics who happen to work for Catholic institutions. As Jon Stewart pointed out, what about the Jewish lady doctor who works at a Catholic hospital? She may have little choice about which hospital employs her. Suppose her rabbi and doctor permit her to have fertility treatments, something else the Catholic Church abhors while Jews promote. Is her religious right and encouragement (women are not obligated to procreate, pregnancy being potentially life-threatening under Jewish law) to be trampled by her employer's religious belief? If the Jewish lady doctor needs an abortion because (has veshalom) her life is threatened by a pregnancy, is she supposed to pay for it herself while other women don't have to do so, just because she works for Catholics, who frown on all abortions and have no exception for life of the mother? R Soloveichik is taking a suprising stand in arguing for the rights of the Catholic Church over the rights of Jews. Does the Church argue for the rights of Jews? In this case, apparently not.
Rabbi Felix on February 17, 2012 at 2:10 pm (Reply)
This is a case not of religious intolerance but of attempted coercion by an employer on religious grounds. Would Soloveichik approve of a Muslim employer who would permit his employees use only a health plan in which women are seen by female doctors and men by male ones? Would he approve of Bob Jones University, which believes in segregation of the races, insisting that its health plans only cover people seeing doctors of their own race? Could an evangelical Christian employer forbid coverage of pregnancy and child expenses unless the couple provided a marriage license proving they were married at least 9 months before the birth? The issue is religious coercion of employees.
Milton Esbitt on February 17, 2012 at 2:17 pm (Reply)
If we remove the federal tax subsidy for employer health insurance, this may not be an issue. Let all employees, including those of the government, buy health insurance through insurance exchanges.
Yehuda on February 17, 2012 at 5:48 pm (Reply)
Characterizing this as religious coercion against the employee is ludicrous. The employee entered into the contract feeely; the employer should be able to refuse. If there is an insurance company willing to offer a product that comports with reasonable minimum regulatory standards, it should be an option. An employee who wants a job with a different health plan should go to a different employer. If a woman doesn't want to have children works for an employer who finds contraception wrong, she can pay for contraception herself or find a new employer. Why is freedom of contract an inviolable policy when it comes to salary--which is not constitutionally guaranteed--but somehow not a valid concern when it comes to expressing religious freedom?
yehuda on February 17, 2012 at 6:07 pm (Reply)
The woman who works for the Catholic hospital is not being coerced; her employer is refusing to assist. Here is a mashal: I work for a law firm that gives its employees the benefit of very affordable in-house cafeteria food, which is treif. My boss, an atheist, regularly asks me to lunch with him in the cafeteria. I decline but say that if the firm had a kosher cafeteria, I would come. He has been unreceptive to the idea of quadrupling the cost of the benefit on account of my religion, which he finds regressive. For me to suggest that the firm's refusal to kasher the kitchen is religious coercion would be Orwellian. I am free to eat where I want. If I want kosher food, I pay extra for it. If the woman employee wants conctraception, her cost would be considerably less. The situation is not one of coercion. She is simply being made responsible for her own religious beliefs and told not to expect someone else to pay for them if they object. One suspects that the reason so many support this infringement on religious freedom is that they think that the Catholic church's stance on contraception is stupid. But that is not the way freedom of religion is parsed in this country. Absent a clear secular law offense (e.g., a religion practicing human sacrifice or advocating theft), religious people and institutions have complete freedom of conscience, so long as they invoke their religious rights in good faith (I can't claim tomorrow that I've invented a religion that forbids paying taxes).
louis dumbrowsky on February 17, 2012 at 10:22 pm (Reply)
You are all ignoring the destruction of the United States Constitution and your own liberty and that of your fellow Americans by the federal tyrant. It has no constitutional authority to compel anyone, church or insurance company, to provide anything to anyone. You are traveling the road to serfdom and arguing about whether to go by bus or trolley .
Israel Pickholtz on February 18, 2012 at 12:51 pm (Reply)
The comparison to a hypothetical order to serve pork in a kosher deli may seem absurd, but we have already seen school administrators replace a child's bag lunch with something government-mandated.
SW on February 18, 2012 at 3:10 pm (Reply)
Thinking this through with liberty as a watchword, the "giving" of contraceptives by government's mandating that people "give" is basic, though subtle, force. It is rule over a people, rather than rule by a people. The rabbinic tradition has not been to support rule over others by dictating, though Jews living in many lands found it necessary to knuckle under. Does this make it right? Of course not. The aim of the Health and Human Services rule is to further socialized medicine, but it is foolhardy. We are seeing European "national" healthcare going bankrupt, ignoring patientsm and being rife with corruption alongside ineptitude. The United States Constitution is being nullified by establishing the religion of secularism and requiring other religions to kneel before it. erlin has seen this before, and it does not end well.
Jerry Blaz on February 18, 2012 at 10:03 pm (Reply)
I do not see the comparison between health benefits women receive through their employers' group insurance and the other examples of religiosity mentioned in the article, which would not have been affected by the rulings because they are not health-connected. In Jewish law, when it comes to matters of health, we often refer to the rule of piquah nefesh, protection of the soul, a ruling that permits us to overcome nearly every circumstance if the health of the individual may be affected. I wish the Catholics were as concerned with women's health care as they are with their rules against contraception.
cyberdov on February 19, 2012 at 2:28 pm (Reply)
Why does the church pay salaries? Shouldn't they be concerned that the employees will use the money for immoral purposes? How is this difefrent from funding a helth insurance plan that leaves employees free to decide whether they want an abortion or contraception?
louis dumbrowsky on February 19, 2012 at 5:36 pm (Reply)
Finally someone is actually paying attention to reality. Liberty is the watchword that is paramount. Without liberty, all else has no value, including any religion. Wake up, Americans: The government has nothing to give. It produces nothing. It controls only what it confiscates from others. There is no constitutional authority for this totalitarian government's taking from one pwerson and giving to another. The name for that is slavery. How can a Jew celebrate both the exodus and the slavery of socialism?
rey on February 19, 2012 at 11:33 pm (Reply)
If you want contraception, buy it yourself. It is not truly a medical thing. It doesn't cure or even treat a disease. In a year or so, those health care plan won't be paid for by employers any more but by my tax dollars--Obamacare, remember--and I don't want to pay for Viagra and morning- after pills.
Le Newyorkais on February 21, 2012 at 7:28 am (Reply)
Reproductive health care for women is as important as prostate health care is for men. Like too many religions, the Catholics are trying to assert their bishops' beliefs over the entire population of the United States. I cannot believe that Rabbi Soloveichik and the others testifying did not realize that they were tools of the Republican Party. The vast majority of the American people believes contraception is not immoral. Republicans put this whole contraception non-issue on the table in desperation, to avoid their coming defeat in Novemeber.
DF on February 21, 2012 at 9:20 am (Reply)
This administration's attempt to force Catholics to pay for contraception--the equivalent of attempting to force Jews to violate the Sabbath--is only its latest and most visible attack on religion. In the Hossana Tabor case (which the administration zealously prosecuted all the way to the Supreme Court), the EEOC tried to dictate to a church whom it could hire or fire as a minister. Sure, they tried to dress it up as a "diability" issue rather than a religious issue, but the Supreme Court correctly--and unanimously-- saw it for what it was. When even hyperliberals like Ginsburg or Sotomayor are saying you've crossed the line, you know something is deeply wrong with the current regime.
SW on February 21, 2012 at 10:19 am (Reply)
"Reproductive health care for women is as important as prostate health care is for men." Let's list all the "important things," then figure out how to pay for it all. The list will be long and expensive, and the exercise in "important things"the state is to mandate will show why states, over the centuries, have failed. The government's contraception mandate is just another step in the old game, and we all forget that contraception can be had for little to no cost at all.
Steve Brizel on February 21, 2012 at 10:27 am (Reply)
R Soloveitchik's article would make logical sense if hospitals under Jewish auspices were run completely under Halacha with respect to the determination of cessation of life and all medical ethics-related issues as well as providing only Kosher food. The comparison with the Roman Catholic view on contraception strikes me as inappropriate, because the view in the Talmud, Rishonim and Acharonim, certainly does not view all terminations of pregnancy, especially when medically indicated, as contravened by Halacha. Thus, the comparison between the Roman Catholic Church view on contraception and kashrus seems flawed.
louis dumbrowsky on February 21, 2012 at 10:51 am (Reply)
DF couldn't be more correct. The ignorant American public elected a radical Marxist to the presidency with the help of the press, which hid his real agenda. It's time for Jews to wake up and stop supporting those who seek to turn our country into the second coming of the U.S.S.R.
louis dumbrowsky on February 21, 2012 at 10:57 am (Reply)
Despite the statist propaganda, health care is not a right. No one has a right to tangible goods or services extracted, under threat from a totalitarian government, to be given to another person the state has decided to reward. To believe otherwise is to align oneself with thieves and slavemasters. Although I am no fan of Republicans, better to be their tool than that of the Communist Pparty or the Muslim Brotherhood.
Weeping Jew on February 22, 2012 at 9:59 am (Reply)
As a former of student of Rabbi Soloveichik's: God is crying above, Rabbi, as you've allied yourself with the institution (Catholicism) that has wrought more destruction on the world than Amalek--and, worse, while invoking His name. Their position on contraception is morally repugnant. How dare anyone think their "religious freedom" comes before such basic existential decisions of another human being? Leaving aside the disastrous sociological realities entailed in precluding a "woman's choice," an unwanted birth is a tragedy to the two most important people involved. Shame on you, Rabbi, and the congregation that supports this unfortunate departure from derech eretz.
SW on February 23, 2012 at 1:09 pm (Reply)
Why should someone else be required by law to buy individual contraception for you when 1) prices are very low, 2) devices are easily available, and 3) the use of such contraception not only helps avoid "unwanted" pregnancies but encourages the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, as the latest Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization data show?
Savia D'cunha on February 24, 2012 at 7:42 pm (Reply)
Contraception is available at other places; and if so many women already use it, the government doesn't need to mandate it. Some of the posters here have called the Catholic opposition to contraception repugnant. How many of you have actually studied it or found out the reasons for it? There are principled reasons for opposing contraception. The church does not require someone to have as many children as possible. Natural family planning promotes responsible parenting. It also splits the burden of family planning, while artificial methods place the burden only on the woman. You should read Dr. Janet Smith's "Contraception:Why Not?" I would never claim to know something about Judaism without doing my homework first. And the church does not forbid fertility drugs, as someone claims here. Contraception for medical reasons other than preventing pregnancy is not forbidden. The mandate does not leave the employer with many options.
There are women who have worked for Catholic institutions and have spoken up against the mandate.
Savia D'cunha on February 24, 2012 at 9:07 pm (Reply)
The World Health Organization classifies all forms of hormonal contraception as Group 1 carcinogens. This group of cancer-causing agents also includes cigarettes and asbestos. It's never too late to question conventional wisdom. Naprotechnology is also an emerging field.
Savia D'cunha on February 25, 2012 at 7:42 pm (Reply)
The World Health Organization also agrees that natural family planning is 99% successful--and the Chinese government accepts it as part of compulsory family planning.

SW on February 26, 2012 at 3:48 am (Reply)
Thank you, Savia D'cunha, for your clarifications. Such information as yours must be much more than an annoyance to the avid "choice" folks. Among the versions of eugenics is one properly called "voluntary" eugenics, and this is what the passionate secularists have been endorsing for decades now. The addition of universally funded contraception as a government mandate is just another step in a long march dedicated in part to "redefining religious activity" into a subset under the total authority of the state.
SW on February 26, 2012 at 6:49 am (Reply)
About the assertion that Catholicism "has wrought more destruction on the world than Amalek--and, worse, while invoking His name:" This is utterly fallacious. Socialism in its variant forms has far outdone any "destruction" by Catholicism. The hatred shown in such an assertion is not exemplary for someone who would rail against a rabbi for his political opinions but is quite in line with the assertions by the political left, worldwide and over a century, that some political philosophy other than theirs has brought the world millions upon millions of dead.
dood on February 26, 2012 at 1:24 pm (Reply)
Saying that socialism has outdone Catholicism in its destruction is not an argument. Catholicism can be judged on its own, without reference to socialism--e.g., the Crusades, the Inquisition, taking a sick day during the Holocaust, condoning pedophilia . . . it's a long list. When the Jewish right allies itself with the Christian right, it should know who its allies are.
SW on February 27, 2012 at 1:36 am (Reply)
Socialism may also be judged on its own. Socialism brought about National Socialism's Holocaust and millions of war dead. Soviet socialism brought starvation in the Ukraine and millions dead, not to mention the gulags. Sino-Soviet socialism brought millions of Chinese dead during that "great leap forward." The Khmer Rouge managed to kill off a third of its own population. The list goes on. The attack on Jewish institutions or the Catholic Church is part of the same secular socialist gambit. As to a Jewish "right," all freedom-loving individuals are welcome as allies in any struggle against enslavement by political militancy. Redefining religious activity is an ongoing game by those who would define it away in favor of the state. From Hegel to Marx to Gramsci, this has been their goal.
Savia D'cunha on February 27, 2012 at 11:49 am (Reply)
There is no such thing as the Catholic "right" or "left." Catholicism is a religion, not partisan politics. It's like arguing that because some Jews condone communism, Judaism condones it. Nobody has been more outraged by the pedophilia scandal than faithful Catholics. Nazism did not start out as a boots-in-the-streets movement. It started by pushing the Catholic church to the margins by confining its activities only to the church itself. The historical records are available at Pave the Way Foundation.
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.
dood on February 27, 2012 at 1:59 pm (Reply)
According to what legitimate publication or individual not named Sean Hannity did socialism bring about Nazism? Seriously? There really should be no need to respond to a view that conflates Catholicism with "freedom loving" (or contrasts Catholicism, historically speaking, with political militancy), but: The use of "religious redefinition" seems to refer to the rallying cry of "religious freedoms being trampled on." Numerous ways could be pointed out in which this position is not even remotely constitutionally valid. Find a single law professor from any of the top 15 law schools to support such (constitutionally illegitimate) fear-mongering. C'mon, chaver, we're Jews; we embrace the academy. For crying out loud, we're the "Northeast elite" these wackos are railing against (look up "dog whistle" rhetoric).

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.
dood on February 27, 2012 at 2:30 pm (Reply)
Something I forgot to add on the last post: The essence of being a Jew, or one of its essences, has always been tikkun olam. The historical burden of being a Jew, since Avraham, has always been doing the right thing despite our many obstacles and the challenges posed by a world that can be cruel at times. (The burden is welcome. Perhaps it is because of this moral clarity that we don't indulge nearly so much as other religions hypocrisy and self-righteousness.) There is a pre-eminence in "between a human being and his fellows;" but it may be that by standing alongside the the Catholic Church and not those in need, we do not honor our pre-eminent duty to our fellow man.
SW on February 27, 2012 at 3:40 pm (Reply)
Thanks to Savia D'cunha for clarifications and clarity. Several years ago we visited the Catholic Cathedral in Münster, where sermons were given against National Socialism's move to rid the nation and world of "unwanted" people, Catholics and Jews among them. To focus on the sins of the few among Catholics or Jews in order to rage against the larger group has been the strategy of socialism over centuries, all to establish the state over religion. "Redefining religious activity" has been the goal of socialism, not of free, tolerant men and women. This is not about right and left politics but about freedom. But understand that Catholics are still not the "last acceptable prejudice." There is prejudice enough remaining against Jews as well, as one may have easily seen in signs of the Wall Street Occupy movement naming "Zionists" as evil. Jews and Christian men of good will need one another in a world where both are in the cross hairs.
SW on February 27, 2012 at 5:28 pm (Reply)
"According to what legitimate publication or individual not named Sean Hannity did socialism bring about Nazism? Seriously?" This is an astounding display of ignorance. In German, "Nazi" was an abbreviation of National Socialism. In all our bookshops here in Germany, the bookshelves for this part of history are, properly, labeled "Nationalsozialismus." The great error of modern undereducated socialists is to not know their own history, scholarly works, and political foundations--and to think that socialism is harmless and always means well. Absolutely appalling. Schande über dich! Yes, seriously. (P.S. No one in Germany watches Hannity or CNN. ARD1 is my news service of choice.)
Savia D'cunha on February 27, 2012 at 6:05 pm (Reply)
"How can you look at a politician like Rick Santorum and say that his views are not informed by his Catholicism?" See for Santorum's positions on torture and war, which are opposed to those of the Catholic church.

"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.

"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.

"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.” 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?
Savia D'cunha on February 27, 2012 at 7:01 pm (Reply)
"Find a single law professor from any of the top 15 law schools to support such (constitutionally illegitimate) fear-mongering." 160 Law Professors claim this.

"How did socialism bring about Nazism? Seriously?" Read Jonah Goldberg's book on this topic.
dood on February 27, 2012 at 10:21 pm (Reply)
Okay man you win; There is indeed a socialist cult in America trying to corrupt the values of Joe Six Pack and Chaim Yankle, redefine their religions, and redistribute their great wealth. It's been going on for centuries now. The trick is, we "shape-shift," essentially, into the contemporary "progressive" party to assert our evil anti-Semitic agenda. You think Obamacare and the nationwide redefinition of religion weren't us? You think Paul Krugman's not one of us? You laugh now; but look at the polls, my friend. The socialists will control this country and bring the worst of all socialisms: Communist-socialism, national-socialism, and Obama himself will be growing a variant of some dangerous-looking facial hair. Just as you predicted, eh? Let me know if any details have been left out.
Savia D'cunha on February 28, 2012 at 1:34 am (Reply)
Dood, very funny. A lot of people who voted for Obama are now regretting it. There was no assertion of a conspiracy; it's simply that these tactics of big government overreach are not new.
Savia D'cunha on February 28, 2012 at 1:59 am (Reply)
Many times people just stick to their own circles and rarely get to hear other points of view--in this case, Jews and Catholics--except through existing media, which often misrepresent facts or lie about them.

Savia D'cunha on February 28, 2012 at 2:05 am (Reply)
The issue with doing good today is that nobody agrees on the definition of good or bad. It's called relativism. As for hypocrisy, a good priest (they're not all pedophiles) was once told by a person that he no longer went to church because there were too many hypocrites. The priest replied, "There's always room for one more."
SW on February 28, 2012 at 2:40 am (Reply)
There are many details left out. There is indeed a socialist stream in American politics; it has been there for a century. The same is true in Europe. But a reasoned and factual discussion about socialism and National Socialism seems more than some are ready to accept. Many of today's emotionally charged progressives are more impassioned when telling others what to do than when defending their statements. In German, "Nazi" was an abbreviation of National Socialism. What part of that statement so irritates? It is true, plain and simple.
CL on February 28, 2012 at 3:17 pm (Reply)
The fact that the Nazis called themselves socialists doesn't make them socialists, any more than calling Israel a "fascist nation" makes it fascist. It's so sad when Jews get into bed with Catholics, given the Catholic church's oppression, murder, and persecution of Jews throughout history.
SW on February 28, 2012 at 5:07 pm (Reply)
In plain historical numbers, "oppression, murder, and persecution of Jews throughout history" courtesy of the Catholic Church does not approach the numbers of Jews murdered by state socialism in the 20th century alone. Moreover, the argument that the "Church" is liable is just an inversion of their acknowledged error of "be their blood on our children." Judaism has changed; the Catholic Church has changed. They are no longer enemies but, in the past century, have had two common enemies: political socialism and political Islam.

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.
louis dumbrowsky on February 28, 2012 at 6:05 pm (Reply)
Nazis may or may not have been socialists; but Nazis, socialists, communists, progressives, and other big government thugs are different flavors of the same poison. They are all statists who believe that an elitist government knows what's best for the masses and selects various subgroups to reward at the exspense of others. This is always done in the name of morality or the "right thing." It's sad when Jews get into bed with leftists, given the left's oppression, murder, and persecution of Jews throughout history.
Savia D'cunha on March 1, 2012 at 8:31 pm (Reply)
Please see this: "British Court rules British court rules Catholic midwives can be forced to participate in abortions."

So much for pro-choice?

Ethicists justify infanticide in major medical journal in Holland.

Why should newborns live?

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