You know we’re entering the slow period of the Presidential race when the media are trying to trump up the grumblings of Catholic Bishops over the new health care bill. The controversy in a nutshell is that new rules will require the Church, beginning in August 2013 (seriously, this isn’t even an issue for a whole year and a half) to provide health insurance for its employees and the policy must provide coverage for contraception. The law does not require the Church to give people contraception — merely to buy an insurance policy that would allow an employee who wanted contraception to get it.
But a few Catholic Bishops have decided to protest this rule as an affront to their religious principles and the media, searching for something to cover, have decided to give this tempest in a teapot a nudge. Even normally rational commentators are carrying on as though this policy will damage President Obama’s relationship with Catholic voters. Mark Shields recently called the fallout from the policy “cataclysmic” and “that this appears to be distancing, if not dissing Catholics.”
The problem is that this is completely ridiculous. Despite what Church leaders are saying, 98% of Catholic women use contraception. This is just one of those issues where Catholic voters break with their leaders and no amount of gnashing of teeth by a few Bishops is going to change that. These talking heads are envisioning some new form of “Trickle-Down Voting,” suggesting that high-profile clergy will eventually change the minds of voters in their dioceses. Catholics are voting for pro-choice candidates over the objections of the Vatican already, so a minor bureaucratic dispute focusing on contraception is not going to change anyone’s minds.
I’m looking forward to Super Tuesday when we can stop hearing about these sideshows.