People get excited about sex and death. The first one people typically want and the second one people typically try to avoid. Health care covers both, and so does ethics.
So the recent US federal government Health and Human Services mandate that Catholic schools and hospitals (but not churches) must cover contraceptives – which are considered illicit by the Church – was bound to blow up. Sex and death, mixed with government and religion? Controversy? Whoa! No surprise here!
A first clarification. The use of hormones for medical purposes (other than contraception) is perfectly allowed from a Catholic perspective. Catholic hospitals and health insurance allow and Catholics can take all the hormones their doctors prescribe as long as it is for a medical reason that is primarily not contraceptive, like easing menstrual pain, etc. No problem there.
But as soon as the intent is contraceptive the Church doesn’t like it anymore. Debate that as you may.
Now I’m going to say something big. Contraception as the specific issue is irrelevant to what is going on here with the Catholic protestations against the HHS mandate. It could have been any of a number of issues that sparked this confrontation – forcing ROTC onto college campuses, forcing coverage of abortions (which the Stupak amendment tried to avoid), forcing schools to teach certain things, etc.
What is relevant here and what is at stake is that the government is determining what counts as a religious institution in order to limit the free-exercise clause of the First Amendment. What is at stake here is that government is deciding what a religious institution is, not the religious institution itself. Because, you know, the government knows better than the religion itself.
This is a complete violation of the separation of church and state. That divide has been created for a reason, and not only to protect the government from churches, but also to protect churches from the government. The HHS mandate breaches the wall.
Also, for a little perspective, remember that the Catholic Church – bishops included – kinda made health care reform possible in the first place, and now is getting a poke in the eye as thanks. Here’s a good article on it.
It will be interesting to see what happens.