While there’s little doubt the president blundered on this, and the USCCB was emboldened by a flock temporarily flying in the same direction, I think the moment has likely come and gone for the HHS mandate and the protest against it.
We’ve descended into outright comedy with dotCommonweal blogger Lisa if offering a prize for the last moderate bishop in the United States. I think fellow blogger Grant Gallicho has the measure of the offended side.
If the bishops want to argue, as some critics already are, that they’re funding contraception by virtue of paying an insurance company at all, then they have committed themselves to a position at odds with their own practice. The premise of such a criticism is that money is fungible. Any dollar I give to an insurer — even for a policy that does not include contraception — could be used to offset the cost of providing such services as a separate policy. (That is the same argument the USCCB used to oppose the Affordable Care Act’s mechanism for handling abortion funding.) But of course bishops are currently doing just that — paying, say, Aetna for plans excluding contraception and abortion, while Aetna covers those services for other enrollees. Yet we have not heard a peep objecting to the arrangement.
Unless something really funny or really serious pops up in the next nine months on this issue, this is probably the last opinion you’ll read from me on it on this web site. Here’s why:
Grant is right: the insurance money all goes into the same pot. The only plan that would work morally is the one I suggested: that the Catholic Church set up a national plan that combines health care and insurance. We offer it to all our employees, even the part-timers. We offer it to parishioners. And we offer it to non-Catholics who want to jump on board with us.
The bishops do lots of business with people who support items they or we might consider immoral or anti-religious. Lawyers. Mechanics. Restaurants. Airline companies. Vintners. Tobacco companies. Bankers. And those are just the ones we know about.
If the president blundered on this at the start, his concessions–real or imagined–will probably be satisfactory to create the illusion, if not the fact, of his willingness to bargain. If the bishops continue to complain, without any plan of their own, they and their allies will be painted as politically motivated, and they’ll marginalize themselves from the next round of recruiting allies.
There are more important things to write about, pray about, and actually do.