Catholicism, Contraception, Rick Santorum and Economic Justice   

(published Circleville Herald, February 28, 2012.)

My Quaker faith leads me to agree deeply with the centuries-old Catholic theology on social and economic justice. Justice means we move beyond just charitably caring for the casualties of a brutal “social Darwinism” economic system. Rather we prophesy against and correct whatever social or economic institutions that are damaging our fellow humans, created as were we all in the image of God. Saint Augustine noted that “Charity is a poor substitute for justice denied.” In the United States today, notes Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good (CACG), “… the Catholic Church wears a neo-conservative smirk… … [the media] never seem to discuss Pope Benedict’s prophetic and powerful statements about the economy.” (CACG “Benedict XVl vs. Bain Capital” e-mail communication of 22 February).
Pope Benedict, in an address 15 February laments that “The world of finance, while necessary, no longer represents an instrument that favours our well-being or the life of mankind, instead it has become an oppressive power, that almost demands our adoration, mammon, the false divinity that truly dominates the world.” Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good commenting on Pope Benedicts address declares:
Sadly the substantive role of the Roman Catholic Church in social justice has fallen from public view in America… … Pope Benedict XVl does not merely challenge the modern financial sector in terms of morals and justice. He accuses it of being Mammon, demanding idolatry, a threat not only to our Christian commitment to justice but also to our most profound beliefs about humankind’s relationship to God: “ I am the Lord your God, Thou shalt not have strange gods before me.” Today’s financial system, in its reckless efforts to downsize corporations and increase profits, fires workers as if they were commodities, … … it destroys whole communities by closing plants and moving them overseas. All in pursuit of profit, not justice, and clothed in the protective garb of some faux-priesthood of economists, today’s financial titans are, indeed, false gods preaching a false gospel of profiteering at all costs and encouraging a false worship of themselves as masters of the fiscal universe.”
Faith in America has been kidnapped, bound and forced to read from script handed it by free-market Republican Party partisans. Jesus is not a Republican. Jesus warned us “You cannot be the slave of both God and money” (Matthew 6:24, New Jerusalem trans.) Jesus further decried  the social conservative/ ruthless capitalism  unholy alliance speaking through the Santorums, the Franklin Grahams, the Michelle Bachmanns,the  Rick Perrys,  who claim faith while pushing unregulated  free-market/ small government economics : “Alas for you scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who devour the property of widows, though you make a show of lengthy prayers. ”( Matthew 23:14 )
As a Quaker, I share with Catholic brothers and sisters the pain of living in a culture hostile to deeply held beliefs.  I am thankful I live in America where I am not forced to violate my Quaker conscience against violence by serving in the armed forces, yet my taxes support war and incalculable Pentagon spending. Short of going to jail, a moral witness many Quakers have taken, I must pay taxes for wars, especially our invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan that are especially abhorrent. Hollywood is not able to film any obscenity or abomination greater than George Bush strutting around on an aircraft carrier claiming “Mission Accomplished” while thousands are dead and maimed from his  war based on lies. While I am not Catholic, if their feelings about being forced to financially support contraception are as profound as mine about the Iraq/Afghanistan wars, or as profound as I experience daily facing the unspeakable suffering of those abandoned to die by profit-seeking health insurers, then we share the experience of trying to live a moral witness in a hostile culture.
Should women’s access to contraception ( incidentally proven to lower the abortion rate) be limited if they have a Catholic employer?  Sen. Roy Blunt 's( R- Missouri) amemdment, quickly  tacked onto a transportation bill, would  limit patient choice much further. The Blunt amendment allows any employer to not provide for  any health services that  the employer may find objectionable. Should a Jehovah's Witness employer not cover blood transfusion? A Christian Scientist employer not cover any medical care?  Some employers could choose to not cover HIV/AIDS. The values of patient autonomy and right to choose is often in  potential conflict with an employer's free exercise of religious liberty. Should a large employer in Pickaway County come under Catholic ownership, how fair is it that hundreds, perhaps thousands of our local women have choiices proscribed for them by male Bishops?
There seems no way to allow Catholic employers  the religious liberty to not violate their faith re: contraception while at the same time preventing employment-based discrimination against women. The majority in our US democracy uses contraception. At the same time, the majority isn’t allowed to completely roll over the minority. While deeply respecting the Catholic theology of economic/social justice, out of respect for women’s right to choose  we should not discriminate against women’s health based upon their employer’s beliefs. Certainly we should examine our econimic and healthcare system in light of Pope Benedict's concerns for justice for all, especially those marginalized and cast aside.
- - - - Brad Cotton