Friday, March 25, 2016

Little Sisters of the Poor Set To (Mostly) Lose Next Court Round

Nuns with the Little Sisters of The Poor, including Sister Celestine, left, and Sister Jeanne Veronique, center, rally outside the Supreme Court inThe Little Sisters conduct a circus in front of the Supreme Court - waving banners and signs to push their anti-ACA birth control case.

The Little Sisters of the Poor, waving their assorted images of a faux saint and former pope, as well as signs reading 'Help a Sister Out', are nothing if not circus conscious. They sincerely believe with every fiber of their 'holier than thou' chanting and parading that they will sway the 4-4 deadlocked Supreme Court to deliver a ruling in their favor on the bogus "religious liberty" case before it.

All I can say is 'good luck'. The sobering reality is that given Scalia's absence and no intent on the part of repukes to replace him, the Court will split along ideological lines and end up in a 4-4 tie. That means the existing appeals court 'wrokarounds' will be left for them to deal with - which may be for a year or more depending on how long it takes for Mitch McConnell and his fellow Reeptards to approve a SC nominee. It may well be over a year.

In the meantime, the lower court rulings will find the Obamacare contraceptive alternative (for religious institutions) operating in most of the nation (43 states), while a swatch of seven states in the Midwest (under the jurisdiction of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis) will allow exemptions, having found that the  workaround is "insufficient" under the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act"

Let us recall that contraception is among a range of preventive services that must be provided at no extra charge under the ACA health care law. The administration pointed to research showing that the high cost of some methods of contraception discourages women from using them. A very effective means of birth control, the intrauterine device, can cost up to $1,000.

Houses of worship and other religious institutions whose primary purpose is to spread the faith are exempt from the birth control requirement. Other faith-affiliated groups that oppose some or all contraception have to tell the government or their insurers that they object.
In 2014, the justices divided 5-4, with Scalia in the majority, to allow some "closely held" businesses with religious objections to refuse to pay for contraceptives for women. That case involved the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores and other companies that said their rights were being violated under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
As one  editorial (Dallas Morning News. March 31, 2014) framed it:

 “the deep-seated personal convictions of  Hobby Lobby’s executive and Conestoga’s Mennonite owners are not in question. What is at issue is whether a private, profit-making business can dictate religious beliefs on employees.”

In other words, the SC affirmative verdict  de facto  and incomprehensibly extended the religious rights of individuals to corporations that are legal artifacts not persons – and exhibit no explicit religious missions!

Moreover, as I noted before, legal artifacts – whether corporations, municipalities, counties or states do not have rights Only flesh and blood people can have rights – as per Prof. Garry Wills famous assertion ( 'A Necessary Evil: A History Of American Distrust Of Government', Simon & Schuster, 1999, observes, p. 108). Thus,  those legal artifacts, including states – retain prerogatives which are artificial not natural - since they are things made by contract.  Thus:

Governments and legal entities  have prerogatives, people have rights

The five Justices who found for Hobby Lobby essentially  torched over 200 years of how rights are defined, and instead conflated prerogatives of a contractual, legal entity with personal rights. The result was a legal atrocity that Citizens United paled beside. The egregious decision also opened a ‘Pandora’s box’ allowing corporations – businesses to pell mell deny employees a host of other previously assumed benefits or rights. As the Obama Administration has persuasively argued:
 
The owners of Hobby Lobby aren’t entitled to exemption for their business based on their individual religious beliefs


Or, as the Philadelphia-based federal appeals court pithily put it:

Businesses do not pray, worship, observe sacraments or take other religiously motivated actions.”
 

 Apart from this, the Little Sisters' argument that their religious convictions and rights are being violated by providing contraception for SECULAR employees is totally bogus. If indeed, they’re all about preventing SECULAR employees – say atheists like me – from accessing artificial  birth control- then they are indeed imposing their faith.  Besides - what if the tables were turned? How would Catholic purists and dogmatists react if a Hindu-run corporation took over a Catholic Hospital? Would such a happenstance be called a "forced conversion" or  "violation of religious liberty"? OR - would it be considered a business transaction only? Also, if the newly merged entity produced subsidiary corporations - what religious principles would rightly apply? Catholic blowhards need to think such questions through before they get all sanctimonious on us.

 If instead the nuns and their eager beaver defenders confined their natural law moralism to Catholic employees only, there’d be no objection. “Imposing one’s faith” means taking away rights of secular citizens– based on invoking one’s own imagined religious principles.  In other words, extrapolating their “principles” beyond their proper moral domain to take away the rights of citizens who aren’t part of that domain other than in an employee capacity.
 
While we’re at it, let’s take a closer look at these principles which they profess to hold so dear. Biologist Elizabeth A. Daugherty  has asked ('The Lessons of Zoology'. in Contraception and Holiness, p. 110):

"Why do we call secondary the ends of the sexual act which have been accorded in fullness to us, and why do we call primary the end which we share with the lower animals?"

Prof. Daugherty is referring to the fact that the core of Pius XI's  original encyclical Casti Connubii was that the "sin" of artificial contraception inhered in making primary a sexual aspect that in reality is only "secondary". According to that pontiff:

"Since therefore the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural power and purpose sin against nature."

Which is irredeemable codswallop. As Daugherty notes in her chapter (op. cit.)  what the pontiff and his ilk really sought to do is reduce humans to the state of lower animals, at the behest of their "natural" reproductive cycles. In this sense, unlike the lower animals, humans have the intellectual capacity and sense of novelty to introduce a vast variety of pleasure-play into their sex relations. They aren't yoked to  primitive instincts to simply mount and hump at specific times. As Daugherty notes (pp. 96- 97):

"After ovulation, all mammalian females are under the influence of progesterone from the corpus luteum. This is a period of rapidly declining estrogenic activity which ends the sexual receptivity of the lower mammalian female, whether or not fertilization occurs. 

But (in humans) marital relations continue during this progesterone -dominated period before the abrupt onset of menstruation. It is the period of lowest estrogenic activity and the progesterone-dominated period after ovulation which are known as the 'safe period' for marital relations."

 
This then, is what the Catholics'  “rhythm method” (of  Ogino-Kaus)  seeks to do: establish the "safe period" for a particular woman and then ordain that this is the time to safely have sexual relations if one wishes to not have any kids. The trouble is, it requires meticulous temperature taking at various times during a cycle to establish where that safe period begins and ends, and often this will be for no more than 10 days or so in a given month. Presumably, the couple is quite happy to do without sex the other two thirds of the time! 

Thus, the moralizers of the Vatican are actually demanding that married couples act UNNATURALLY, since as Daugherty observes (ibid.):

"Humans are free from physiologically determined sexual desires so we possess a more or less permanent sexuality from adolescence to old age"


Julian Pleasants has observed (op. cit., p. 88) the Vatican  has always been hostage to:
 
"Aristotelian modes of thought which tend to fix behaviors within very limited and fixed definitions and categories."
 
Thus, the Church once believed it "natural" that some men be enslaved because they were “unable to manage their own affairs”  (ibid.)So why be surprised  now when the same Church - including the Little Sisters-  seek to ordain all her members abide by a sexuality more fitting of lower primates?  
 
It seems to me the Little Sisters desperately need education from a fellow nun - who actually inhabits the 21st century as opposed to the late Middle Ages. I refer to Sister Margaret Farley (of Yale Divinity School) who's already schooled the Vatican's ossified, anti-sexual relics in a practical sexual ethics that nearly all normal, non-psychotic people would be able to live by. This she did in her (2006) book, Just Love.  

Evidently, this daring and insightful book only got onto the Vatican's radar screen later, after it had taken issue with American nuns standing for reason (and especially the Obama Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act - including the revised contraception aspects).

It's needed now more than ever as we learned (in yesterday's WSJ) that if the Church doesn't alter its birth control stance the gulf between what it teaches and what its people actually do will widen - already nearing the point of a breach.

I strongly advise the Little Sisters to read it, one at a time, or maybe have someone read it out line by line.

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