Let me start with a confession…my children were educated in Catholic schools (we moved every couple of years, and Catholic schools had a consistent canon) and now, post-Air Force, my husband is a teacher in a Cristo Rey Catholic high school. One of the things that the church does well is education. A vast majority of the literate people in the world were taught to read by the Catholic church. I rail at the church, and especially the Bishops, on a regular basis, but I keep in mind that, like most everything else, the church is not intrinsicly evil, but like any large organization has a percentage of people who can accurately be described as evil.
When I was growing up, a half-breed, multi-cultural Brat searching for her own identity, some of my heroes were Catholic clergy of the Liberation Theology bent, like Oscar Romero and his colleagues in Central America. Remember the nun who flashed the peace sign at the beginning of Woodstock? I had a poster of her on my bedroom wall. I know that the vast majority of Priests have never molested a child, and while I’m on the subject, some of my favorite memories of my children’s childhoods revolve around one of the parishes where they attended school, especially watching Notre Dame football at the rectory and drinking Harp with Father O’Connor, while we both said hateful things about fellow parishoner Mark Gietzen.
That bond was formed the day my daughter wore her uniform to school on free-dress day. I caught a glimpse of her in the back seat as she was buckling up and asked her why she was wearing her uniform on free-dress day. She was all of nine years old, and she replied matter-of-factly that “Anna’s Daddy won’t let her wear regular clothes to school and the other kids tease her. I thought maybe if I wore mine today, they would be nicer to her.” (For the record, that moment, right there, made every minute of 29-years-and-counting of parenting worth everything it has or ever will cost — emotionally, physically, financially and in lost sleep.) It was cold and grey that morning, and Father O’Connor was standing outside in the drizzle smiling and greeting the children as they entered through the gym and I had to park and run inside because one of the kids left something in the car. He mentioned Chev’s uniform and I told him what she had said that morning. He hugged me and said in his Irish brogue “Ah, Mrs. Booth, would that all our parents be raising children like yours.” By now the bell had rung and even the stragglers were in their classrooms. He offered me a cup of coffee, I accepted and we went across the street to the rectory for a strong cuppa, a shot of Jameson in the second one, and an hour or so of totally trashing that peckerhead Gietzen.
I admit to watching, dumbfounded, as contraception became, in the immortal words of the Vice President, “a big fucking deal” over the last week or so. (My exact thought was…Birth control? Seriously???)
I mean, the provision was there all along. The Bishops had a chance to raise holy hell about it during the fight over healthcare. You know, like they did the non-existent free-abortions-for-all clause that they not only conjured up, but defeated, two years ago, but they didn’t mention it then. Either they were “putting it in their purse and saving it for later,” or, more likely, they were just desperate for a whipping boy now.
And of course, as I watched this fight unfold, I heard the usual voices to my left mewling and whining about “imminent cave-ins” and being “sold out by Obama…again” but honestly, I just ignored them. (Yes, yes, at my peril, I know, but god-damn, they’re more annoying than chiggers.)
Ditto the Bishops and their Roman Chorus. I really don’t give one hair on a rat’s furry ass what 271 old, mostly white men who aren’t supposed to be having sex anyway have to say about birth control, and neither do any of my Catholic friends. We all know that the old joke is funny cuz it’s true: “If men got knocked up, abortions would be a sacrament performed on the altars of the Holy Mother Church.” My husband and I did talk briefly about it, but I had a busy week, and just left it up to Obama, telling him “Hey, personally, I don’t feel like he’s failed me yet, so I’m curious to see what he’s up to here.”
What he’s was up to, it looks to me like, was positioning his pieces to call “checkmate” in one of those games of eleventh dimensional chess that I am starting to believe might actually exist.
He must have been laughing his ass off when the Bishops and their GOP allies picked this fight…but they sort-of had to. The Bishops needed to pre-emptively deflect attention from the fact that the official church doctrine falls more in line with the leftist populism of the Occupy movement than the right wing politicians they reflexively support, based on just one issue that trumps all others, even combined.
The GOP that curries the favor of the religious right, meantime, was eager to deflect attention from the fact that the economy is getting better in spite of their fiercest attempts at obstruction, proving nothing so much as that they are as inept at sabotage as they are at governing.
So they went there. As foolish and as reflexive as it was, they went there. Some pro-choice republicans were aghast, and pleaded with the leadership not to, but they charged ahead, like a two-ton bull, right through the doors of the china shop. And Barack Obama smiled and stood aside, holding them open.
Coming on the heels of the Planned Parenthood/Komen fiasco, the dual backlash directed at those who have, for two solid years, been declaring war on women, was palpable, and I think Obama handled it just about right. When I saw the Politico headline this morning proclaiming him “boxed in” I scoffed. “Bullshit,” I thought. “They’re out on a limb and he’s behind them with a saw.”
The pill was the largest social science experiment ever undertaken, and like any research project, there are those who want to scrap it — and as per usual, those who want to scrap it don’t want to scrap it because it’s harmful. Not if they’re honest. They want to scrap it because it challenges or debunks their own personal belief system, and so, like MayElla Ewell, they have to put it away from them, at any cost.
I have always found the stance of being anti-abortion and anti-contraceptive-use head-shaking in the amount of sheer and utter stupidity that goes into that position, but then, nothing defies logic quite so viciously as dogma, does it?
Those liberally-biased facts — and the polls — are on the side of the President and those who favor coverage. The Guttmacher Institute has been meticulous in research about family planning and birth control, and all of their research points not only to overwhelming public support for birth control coverage, but to additional, overlooked benefits of oral contraception. And trust me when I tell you, it was not lost on Catholic women, most of whom use artificial birth control, that they were being spoken for and not consulted, and for many of them (they aren’t all mindless drones, believe it or not) it will affect how they vote.
I’ve had conversations with a couple of my Catholic friends and family about it today, and one of them said something I agree with. “Screw the Bishops. They only speak for the Bishops. If you want to know what actual Catholics think, find out what Sister Carol thinks. I can’t speak for anyone else, but she’s the only one who spe
aks for me.”
So I looked up what Sister Carol, the dynamo-in-a-wimple that heads up the Catholic Hospitals Association, had to say about today’s compromise.
Sister Carol Keehan, head of the Catholic Health Organization, said the compromise “has responded to the issues we identified that needed to be fixed.”
Keehan said the resolution “protects the religious liberty and conscience rights of Catholic institutions.”
And Planned Parenthood Federation of America said the approach “does not compromise a woman’s ability to access these critical birth control benefits.”
Cue the cries from the Tridentine hair-shirt wearers that Sister Carol has “sold out her faith” and even that she “needs to learn her place” — they will be singing the same off-key tune they sang when she supported healthcare reform two years ago, going against the Bishops that time, too. Now, like then, she was right and they were wrong. And rank-and-file Catholics know it.
Obama wasn’t boxed in. Not at all. But now the Bishops are. So far, they have been silent after thunderously declaring that nothing short of total repeal of the mandate would suit them. And as they lost the healthcare reform battle, they are going to lose this one, too. Because they are wrong and their time is past. And by their silence, I think they are telling us all that they realize they’ve been had.