The Catholic bishops shocked the nation this week when they came out loud and strong against birth control. Since studies show even 98% of Catholic women use birth control at some point in their lives, it makes you wonder why they did it.
The answer lies in politics, not religion.
With Romney looking increasingly like the GOP nominee, Republicans need a way to fire up the parts their base who are less than thrilled about him. The slice of base voters that most despise Romney are evangelicals. And while these cretins may never be happy with a Mormon president, they seem to have an infinite capacity to show more hate for President Obama.
Republicans saw what they thought would be the perfect opportunity to rile evangelicals: Obama’s recent declaration that birth control was basic health care (and should be included in the list of assured benefits included in all health plans). They also realized that to directly oppose something as mainstream and widely supported as birth control would be disastrous for the GOP brand (which is already pretty worthless.)
The GOP wanted the women haters to know it stands with them, they just didn’t want to take the flack for taking position against the views of the vast majority of the rest of the entire country. They had a small segment of voters to win and but a whole lot to potentially lose.
So, the Republicans got the Catholic bishops to take the position for them. These guys are so far to the right it was easy to convince the bishops to do the dirty work. Perhaps the Catholic leadership weren’t able to make the same calculations as the GOP about how damaging their position would be. Either that or they were just so filled with hated for women that they didn’t think it through properly.
Anyway, the GOP got the Catholics to run around screaming about how birth control was evil. To be sure, many Republicans did the same. But because the Catholic bishops were out in front leading the charge, the GOP could pretend to be fighting for “religious freedom” rather than against birth control. They could claim they were just standing up for the Catholics Bishops.
Though Republicans would like you to believe that the Catholic bishops were just defending their religion’s tenets, there are a couple of clues that show that the bishops got duped here.
First, as the article linked to above points out, any employer who offers health insurance is simply paying wages and benefits to the workers who are the real policyholders. It’s really your money (earned salary and benefits) that’s paying for your health insurance, not your company’s. It’s your money, so the only objection that matters is yours. To suggest otherwise is to take the position that the Catholic bishops should police hospital employees at home to make sure they are following the Catholic religion with the rest of their wages.
Besides, gluttony and drunkenness are also sins. Yet Catholics aren’t arguing that obese people with heart disease should not treated at Catholic hospitals or that the employees of these institutions be denied these benefits. Same thing for the alcoholics who need rehab or liver surgery.
The more you think about it, the more you realize how damaging this fight will be for the Catholic bishops. The GOP has the bishops stomping all over any last shred of hope they had of attracting new members. In the Republicans defense, perhaps they thought they couldn’t do any further damage to a group whose leaders last took the national stage defending themselves against child sex abuse lawsuits.