Tuesday, February 21, 2012


I play golf with Peter. Good man. A good Canadian who loves the United States and takes great interest in our politics.

I got a note from him regarding one of my recent blogs. It sparked an exchange of the kind that I relish. Friendly, civil debate. Whether anyone convinces anyone is hard to say, but differences can be narrowed and highlighted.

Here's how it went:

Hi Tom,
I have been enjoying your recent blogs with regard to the Catholic Church and contraception. As someone looking from the outside in, however, I don't think the Federal Gov't's recent directions are a violation of the first amendment's guarantee of religious freedom but simply a statement of their responsibility as a national employer under the Affordable Health Care Act.

A lot of employees are non Catholic and a majority of Catholics practice some form of birth control and would welcome coverage under their employer's plan as mandated by their elected gov't. It's up to the employee to access that benefit or not.

Most people I know, seem to object to the AHCA not because of what it tries to do but because a central government is forcing people to buy insurance which runs contrary to to the idea of freedom of choice. But it's the law, and until it's changed, the Church should obey the law.

Also,I don't think the introduction of contraceptives has led to rampant promiscuity in society. I think it helps couples maintain close personal relationships and when they are ready, leads to responsible parenthood.
all the best,


First, I want to thank you for your thoughtful email. This is precisely the kind of courteous, civil dialog I hope to initiate with my blogs.

The number of Catholics using birth control is often urged as a rationale for approving the HHS mandate. But compliance with a religious doctrine does not determine its legitimacy. Nor does the fact that non complying members of a church may welcome getting something for nothing.

Would your view be the same if the government were requiring a Jewish Hospital to provide its employees with free pork chops? It seems to me that the fact that most of the employees might welcome free pork chops would not make it more comfortable to the hospital board.

Your statement that "it's the law, and until changed, it must be obeyed" while superficially persuasive, is not actually true. In the United States, the federal constitution, by its own terms, is the supreme law of the land.

No act of Congress and no regulation by an executive agency is really "law" if it contravenes the constitution.

In our lifetime, there were statutes on the books in several states requiring Negroes to drink at separate water fountains, sit in the back of the bus and obey various other mandates of segregation. Rosa Parks, and the generation she inspired, engaged in civil disobedience as a means of protesting these regulations.

In due course, the Supreme Court of the United States set the record straight.

If a statute violates the constitution, it is not law. When the Supreme Court declares a statute unconstitutional, it does not repeal the legislation. It simply says that the words in the statute book are not, and never were, the law.

While it is true that the vast majority of Americans, both out of respect for the elected government and out of recognition of the government's military and economic power to enforce its mandates, are reluctant to engage in civil disobedience, it is nonetheless true that resistance to an unconstitutional mandate is precisely what an oath to support and defend the constitution requires.

Your last sentence reveals that you and I have a difference of opinion about a question of fact. These are the most difficult differences for men of good will to resolve. Our understanding of facts flows from many things: personal experience, study, reading and observation. Moreover, our belief about facts is colored by our disposition.

I'm sure that you would concede that the growth pattern of illegitimate births, divorce, social diseases and all the other indicia of promiscuity would, if shown on a chart, substantially parallel the increased availability of birth control.

Still, I would have to concede that the mere concurrence of factors does not prove a cause and effect relationship.

Like global warming, it boils down to a disputed factual conclusion. In the last analysis, we are all pawns on the chess board of life. History alone will reveal the truth. Even then, historians will disagree and debate ad infinitum.

Good morning Tom,
I certainly don't know a lot about US Constitutional law. I can only use common sense and I would think that a law as promulgated by elected representatives, is the law until the Supreme Court says it isn't. I presume the Affordable Health Care Act is winding its way through the system and will eventually end up with the Supreme Court for a ruling. Until then it would remain intact.

Peaceful civil disobedience against an unjust law is a legitimate way of expressing discontent and bishops are voicing their disapproval of President Obama's edict from the pulpit. But in this case, a large majority of Americans including 61% of Catholics (as polled by the NY Times last week) approve of the HHS mandate.

With regard to levels of promiscuity, it has been impacted by a number of factors including music, movies, the internet and such but I do believe "the pill" has allowed women around the world greater control of their bodies and couples a better choice in establishing a family.


Given the political leaning of the New York Times, I have some skepticism about their polling data, especially in light of having witnessed 2,000 Catholics spontaneously and enthusiastically burst into applause when the bishop’s letter was read at Mass.

Generally, I share your respect for laws passed by elected representatives of the people. Unhappily, the mandate about birth control was not enacted by representatives of the people. The law requires most health plans to cover recommended preventive services without copays or deductibles. But the law left it to the administration to decide which women's health services to include.

It does not stretch credulity to infer that the administration decided to include birth control services for the very reason that so many women use them. That kind of decision has obvious attraction in an election year.

Whether the Congress would have passed the birth control benefit is anyone’s guess, but I doubt it would have been adopted without a fight.

According to Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Chair of the Democratic National Committee, the average cost of birth control is $700 per year. After all, $700 is $700, and if someone wants to give you $700, you will probably be in favor of it.

I concede that artificial birth control has made it easier for married couples to plan their families. But $700 should not be too great a price to pay for the convenience of enjoying intimacy at any time of the month.

The incumbent President of the United States presents a new twist to John F. Kennedy’s famous statement. No need to ask what your country can do for you. The country will do for you without being asked.

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