Tuesday, 12 June 2012

An intellectually honest and secular Catholic? Who'd ha' thunk it?

Professor Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo is a Washington Post blogger, American scholar of religion and retired Brooklyn College professor emeritus.

A staunchly traditionalist Roman Catholic, he cuts a curious politicised figure on a range of issues, not least his position on the canonisation of Queen Isabella - who signed the decree that created the Spanish Inquisition - and Pope Pius XII - who signed the Reichskonkordat between the Vatican and Nazi Germany.

It's not all autos-da-fé and pogroms, though. In fact you may be quite heartened to read what he thinks about the role of the church in providing health care, universities and other agencies that serve the public welfare.
“I believe it is a distraction and an imperfection in the Catholic Church for us to be running institutions like hospitals where the Church is receiving money, and has public obligations,” 
“I think that the Church running corporations, taking tax money, engaging in anti-union practices ... I think all of that complicates the role of the Church as a beacon of truth. I would like the Church to return to its primitive state when the Church was not a part of any establishment.”
This is an astounding stance for an American Catholic of any stripe. It sounds... well... almost secular.

In a recent interview with the Catholic News Agency, he went on to say he would like to see Catholic universities, 'be restricted in terms of what is Catholic to the department of theology. I don’t think you can bring Catholic thinking or Catholic thought into football teams or into the dorms of a frat house.'

His comments come after 43 Catholic dioceses and institutions, including the University of Notre Dame, filed suit against the Obama administration challenging a mandate requiring that most employers provide coverage for sterilization and contraception, including some potentially abortion-causing drugs.
The Church, in his view, would only be paying for insurance that covers contraceptives. The moral burden would be on the employee to choose whether to use it or not.
The U.S. bishops have rejected this distinction. In a March 7 memo, the U.S. bishops’ attorney, Anthony Picarello, argued that the Administration’s regulations still force an employer to fund and facilitate objectionable coverage of morally objectionable medications and procedures.
On his Catholic America blog, Stevens-Arroyo disagrees.
The bishops protest the HHS policy that requires health insurance plans to cover “contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs.” There is scant recognition that President Obama has exempted religious and religious-affiliated agencies from paying for such coverage. Moreover, no “abortion-inducing drugs” are included in HHS regulations. It is a factual misstatement to allege that the medication Ella causes abortion. Admittedly it has the same ingredient as RU-486, the so-called “morning-after pill,” but experts have pointed out that the amount of this element in a prescribed dosage is not enough to produce an abortive effect.
By continuing to falsely claim that this medication causes abortion, I think the bishops undermine the rest of their argument. In fact, the only sense in which they could claim abortion being financed by HHS is to alter the meaning that “pregnancy” had had for 7,000 years. Some theologians now claim that the soul is infused into an ovum at the moment it is fertilized, rather than when it implants in the womb and becomes a fetus. Medical science is mum on the issue of the soul, but notes that anywhere from 30 percent to 50 percent of a woman’s fertilized eggs never implant, and are flushed out though menstrual issue. If the bishops truly believe there are “babies” in menstrual blood, wouldn’t they mandate a baptismal ritual every month for these aborted children? I have yet to meet a married man or woman who thinks that is a good idea.
The bishops go on to note that Catholic agencies refuse to advise sex slavery victims of their legal right to an abortion to end unwanted pregnancies resulting from rape. The government is bound by law to inform persons that although it will not pay for an abortion, they have a legal right to the same. The prelates, however, declare that Catholic religious freedom was violated when the government refused to continue funding Catholic agencies that failed their contractual obligations. Catholics’ constitutional right to practice religion, write the bishops, binds the government to fund religious agencies, even if they do not provide the services required by contract. It’s a losing argument. If a fireman is required to carry a 250 pound person down a three-story ladder, a person too weak to save the victim ought not to claim discrimination: If you can’t save the person, don’t expect to paid for doing a fireman’s job.
It really is refreshing to find an intellectually honest - if not sometimes erroneous - prominent Catholic that has the spine to stand up to the political bullying and posturing displayed by the USCCB in recent months.

Your thoughts?

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