I tweeted earlier this week that it’s hard not to get angry when people who are anti-choice and anti-women’s health care see my potential death as the cost of doing religion.

We usually talk about the cost of doing business. It’s bad enough when politicians make arguments that treating some people as disposable (the poor, the unemployed, the disabled, etc) is acceptable as “the cost of doing business” to keep the American economy strong and free, yadda yadda yadda.

But it’s absolutely appalling to see religious leaders arguing that they don’t have to take into account the effects of their actions.

Take, for example, the latest statement from the US Catholic bishops. They claim to be the aggrieved party, crying out that if they have to be involved in women’s health care, among other things, then their religious liberty is being taken away.

I wrote about this for Hail Columbia, and I tried to write in such a way as to open room for discussion. But here, let me state my personal position more clearly.

They’re arguing that their right to swing their censer doesn’t end where my religion begins – that it extends all the way inside my body, in fact, and can put my health and life at risk, because their institutions which serve non-religious functions can’t be held to the same standards as everyone else, even when they’re receiving public funds for what they do.

If individuals get hurt in the process, well, that’s just the cost of doing religion. You can’t make Communion wine without crushing some grapes.

And I’m one of the ones who might get caught in the press.

Edited to add: The inimitable Sarah Posner does a great job of debunking the bishops’ arguments by showing how they ignore relevant legal rulings. H/t to Makarios for pointing it out!

I also missed the point that the bishops are not trying to claim “conscientious objector” status – they simply state that the laws are unjust. That’s good; for a minute there I thought we were going to argue over whether since institutions/corporations are people, they have consciences.

4 thoughts on “The cost of doing religion

  1. The bishops’ “religious freedom” argument is hooey, hokum, hogwash, and bunk. Sara Posner kicks it to pieces here.

    “But it’s absolutely appalling to see religious leaders arguing that they don’t have to take into account the effects of their actions.”

    Actually, Catholics are forbidden to take the outcomes of their actions into account. Catholic moral theology is deontological. You follow the rules regardless of the consequences of doing so. Taking outcomes into account when making moral choices is dismissed as “moral relativism.”*

    And, of course, we’re talking about women’s health issues here. Of the people within the Catholic hierarchy who make the rules by which women may live or die, how many are women? A rather small number, wouldn’t you think?

    I see from the polling numbers that there has been a decided shift of women’s voting preferences away from the Republicans and towards the Democrats. Apparently the religious and political conservatives’ persistent attack on women’s rights is starting to have consequences. If the bishops double down, they may get a result that they won’t like.

    *It isn’t. Moral relativism is something else entirely, but it is one of those sneering, quarrel-picking terms that is assumed to demonstrate, eo ipso, what is wrong with the concept described.

    1. Of course it’s nonsense. My point is that it’s disgusting and dangerous nonsense. But thanks for the link; I love Sarah Posner’s writing, don’t know how I missed that one.

      I understand the deontological point of view; I’m not entirely consequentialist myself. But even my husband isn’t allowed to say “I was just following orders…”

      I hope and pray and work and fight that there is a shift in women’s preferences due to this. Calling it out for what it is is part of that. 🙂

  2. In terms of the Catholic church being completely deontological, I’m pretty sure a lot of Catholics I know would disagree. The current set of bishops might claim that to be true, but they’d have a lot of other Catholic scholars throughout history disagreeing with them as well. Unfortunately, those voices are getting stifled these days, between this mess of horribleness and the attempted “reining in” of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. To quote a nun I know who has been a huge inspiration to me, “I’m not always a good Catholic, but I always try to be a good Christian.” If the bishops would listen to people like her and even voices outside of the Catholic church like yours, we would all be much, much better off.

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