Friday, February 17, 2012

The Bishops' Broken Moral Compass

Catholic Bishops are whining that their conscience would be violated if the universities, hospitals and charities they run (with massive taxpayer support) had to include contraceptive services in the health insurance they offer their workers.

Certainly, the Bishops—who  are all male--shouldn’t be forced to take the pill.  But what about their Protestant, Jewish and other faithful employees who want to have a normal sex life without running the risk of unwanted pregnancy?

The Bishop’s complaints remind me of the former Catholic priest, author and scholar James Carroll, who recalls a moment when he began to understand the skewed ethics of the Church he had vowed to serve.  Carroll’s father was a high ranking general in the Air Force, responsible during the 1960’s for plotting bombing targets in Southeast Asia.

“I knew that if, in that season,” writes Carroll, “B-52s had been dropping condoms on the hills and valleys of Vietnam, Cardinal Cook and Washington’s Cardinal O’Boyle and all the other 'ordinaries'  would by now by condemned the war as intrinsically immoral, forbidding Catholic participation.  But instead, they called it justified because the B-52s were only dropping napalm.”

There are a hundred urgent moral issues, the modern equivalent of dropping napalm, that the Bishops might have chosen to address with their full-throated attention, from homelessness to racism to nuclear proliferation, but instead they reserved their righteous indignation for birth control.

And there have been dozens of opportunities when the Church might have risen to a spirited defense of religious liberty—when Jews were being shipped to gas chambers at Auschwitz simply because they were Jews, for example—when a voice might have made a lifesaving difference.  But the Church remained silent then.  The Bishop’s anxiety to defend  religious freedom appeared only when it appeared that someone, somewhere, might be using a rubber …

… or that someone might interfere with the priestly abuse of little boys.  The Catholic Bishop in Vermont recently said that lawsuits holding the Church accountable for sheltering pedophiles are also a violation of religious liberty.  As if Catholic’s religious freedom demanded the unrestrained exercise of buggery.

What an appalling low moment for great institution.  I am not a Catholic, but have some respect for Catholic social teachings, which in light of recent event seem entirely secondary to the hierarchy's bizarre devotion to sexually dominating women and children. 

I sincerely hope the Bishop’s are able to rediscover the conscience which they say is being infringed.  Right now, their moral compass appears to be an unreliable instrument.