The Catholic Bishops: Church and State in America

Simple Simon Says The American Catholic Bishops Are Messing Up A Good Thing

What You Say when Catholic bishops tell you that abortion is a great sin, that using contraceptives is sinful too, and that Catholics should rally against the Obama administration’s health care plan.

Here’s what Simple Simon says.

First, you should say that the bishops are confused. Just because someone is a holy man doesn’t mean that he is all-wise. If you doubt it, read the history of how holy men reacted to Galileo and Copernicus.

The American bishops are not evil men.  They are just nice old men who are trapped in another century.  It was not that long ago that their predecessors were posting in churches the titles of movies that Catholics were forbidden to see.

Two, you should point out that the messages of the American bishops have contradictory effects. Using contraceptives–and virtually all Americans including American Catholics do–reduces the number of unwanted pregnancies. Reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies reduces the number of abortions. Duh!

Three, you should point out that the government does not require churches, monasteries, and convents to provide contraceptives in their health care coverage. But it does require church-run organizations, such as hospitals, to provide it.

For good reason.

In many Catholic hospitals, only a fraction of the total workforce are Catholics. Catholic hospitals receive federal funds that come from taxing Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

Simple Simon says if a church-run enterprise does not want to follow the rules that secular enterprises must follow, then the church should get out of that particular business.

The Catholic Church can be a church-church, not a church-business, and do just fine. If the church wants to run a business, it must be willing to allow non-Catholic employees, and yes, Catholic employees to get contraceptives.

Four, Simple Simon says this so-called war on religion is a phony war. Nobody is telling a Catholic how to worship or how to believe, or what a church-church can do.

Simple Simon was startled to read that the Archdiocese of Atlanta organized what was billed the Atlanta Rally for Religious Freedom on March 25, one of about a hundred similar rallies throughout America organized by the bishops.

Catholics are as free as they can possibly be to believe or do whatever they want. And churches that are churches indeed are completely free. But if a church owns and runs a restaurant, it must follow the laws that regulate restaurants.

Five, Simple Simon thinks the Catholic bishops are risking a huge backlash.

Americans believe in separation of church and state, and Americans believe that it works both ways. Americans don’t want the government to tell the church what to preach, And Americans don’t want the church to tell the government what to do.

When Alexis de Tocqueville visited America in the 1830s, he was amazed how little anti-clericalism he found here. Tocqueville was a Frenchman, and a devout Catholic, and was keenly aware of the terrible hatred of clergy that was growing in Europe.

He was struck by how carefully American Catholic clergy avoided mixing politics, political parties, and religion. Because the Catholic Church had no official part in the government, it was not the target of political attack. Happily the Catholic Church was growing rapidly. It did not need to try to bully believers or the government in order to thrive.

Simple Simon says to the American bishops, please don’t mess up a good thing. Americans don’t like to see the Catholic Church, or any church, acting like a political party.

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