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Conscience & Mandates

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Yesterday, the Institute of Medicine released its suggestions for what procedures should be mandated for inclusion in private insurance plans under the health care reform law. Some of the proposals seem non-controversial enough: They recommend, for example, that a more sophisticated, and expensive, test for the virus HPV, which is linked to cervical cancer, be part of the mandated services. That is all to the good. But, the recommendations also tread on some highly contentious areas regarding contraception and, worse, abortifacients. Those suggestions go to the Department of Health and Human Services which will formulate the final rules governing mandated coverage. To be clear, the recommendations released yesterday are just that, recommendations.

I am no scientist nor a moral theologian, so I will focus on what is, to me, one of the most pressing aspects of these regulations, the need to protect conscience.

A Note on the Women's World Cup Soccer Match

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I have been meaning to write a post about last Sunday's World Cup soccer match in which the U.S. lost a heartbreaker to Japan. The U.S. women lost the match but unlike the men's teams of almost all countries, they did not lose their dignity. The play was not dirty. There were no fakes flops by either team. The women played hard, to be sure, but hard is not dirty and the game was both thrilling to watch and a testimony to the fact that good sportsmanship still exists. Better to say, good sportswomanship.

Guidelines on Women's Health Issued

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The National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine has recommended that certain forms of birth control should be among the mandated services offered in basic health insurance plans under the new health care reform law.

The recommendations were made to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and have not yet been approved by the government.

Cardinal DiNardo, chair of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, has issued a statement denouncing some of the provisions as they relate to contraception, sterilization and abortifacients. "I strongly oppose the Institute of Medicine's recommendation today that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate coverage of three particular practices in almost all private health plans: surgical sterilization; all FDA-approved birth control (including the IUD, 'morning-after' pills, and the abortion-inducing drug Ella); and 'education and counseling' promoting these among all 'women of reproductive capacity,'" DiNardo said.

Note to Readers

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The internet at my home is not working this morning, so I am writing from the nearby Starbucks. In the event, the same people who provide Internet are coming this morning to install a new cable television box, so hopefully they can fix the internet problem. If not, as soon as they are gone, I will head to the office and post more items later today. I apologize.

Can We Support the Gang of Six's Proposal?

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The so-called, and unhappily named, “Gang of Six” has devised a bipartisan plan to reduce the deficit over the long-term and raise the debt ceiling in the short-term. Details, if this morning’s Washington Post is any guide, are sketchy but they key question is not if this is the best deal possible, or the best way to address the nation’s finances, but if this proposal can, and should, pass both houses of Congress.

The most significant part of the plan has to do with taxes. It would simplify the tax code radically, eliminating many special interest tax breaks and corporate loopholes. Some of the revenue saved by closing the loopholes, about $1 trillion over ten years, would go towards long-term debt reduction but most of it would go into lowering both corporate and individual tax rates. This kind of simplification has many benefits. It levels the economic playing field so that small business are not paying the full tax rate while those corporations with lobbyists capable of getting favorable tax treatment pay miniscule taxes or avoid them altogether. So far, so good.

Camosy on Chaput Appointment

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Fordham theology professor Charles Camosy has a post up at "Catholic Moral Theology" about the appointment of Archbishop Chaput to Philadelphia. He tries to parse some of Chaput's comments in John Allen's interview with Chaput, pointing out that if Chaput really thinks that if we do not do all we can for the poor we are going to Hell, how can gay marriage then be the "issue of our time"?

Galston on Housing Crisis

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The always smart and almost always correct Bill Galston has an article up at the New Republic about steps the President can take to deal with the housing crisis.

Of course, DC is focused almost exclusively on the budget, which makes sense given the looming deadline to raise the debt ceiling. But what they should be focusing on is jobs, but it is hard to stimulate job growth while consumers remain wary about over-spending. And consumers will remain wary about spending until they feel that their investments in their homes are not going to deteriorate. So, whenever Congress and the White House finally get their act together on the debt, they should look at important proposals like these.

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July 18-31, 2014

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