Hey, Pope Santorum, Who Supposes? [Richard Latimer]

                                                         Hey, Pope Santorum, Who Supposes?

 

“It’s  not OK because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.  They’re supposed to be within marriage, they are supposed to be for purposes that are, yes, conjugal,  but also procreative.”  -GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum to ABC News re. contraception.

 

"In this case, what we're talking about, basically, is priests who were having sexual relations with post-pubescent men. We're not talking about priests with 3-year-olds, or 5-year-olds. We're talking about a basic homosexual relationship. Which, again, according to the world view sense is a perfectly fine relationship as long as it's consensual between people. If you view the world that way, and you say that's fine, you would assume that you would see more of it." - Rick Santorum, 2003, AP interview re. predatory Catholic priests.

 

            Rick Santorum wants to be POTUS.  He doesn't want to be  President, mind you, but Pope of The United States, Paul VI reincarnate.  

            He's been weighing in lately on the issue of providing coverage in ERISA group health plans for contraception.  ERISA, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, 29 U.S.C. 1002, et seq.,  is a federal law that provides for and regulates private-sector employee retirement plans. It includes employee group health insurance as well as pensions. 

           Speaking on behalf of the Catholic Bishops who assert a First Amendment right of "conscience" to exclude coverage for contraceptives in ERISA employee health plans for Church affiliated hospitals, Santorum claims that his opposition to birth control per se for everyone  is required because  it leads to things in the sexual realm that are contrary to "how things are supposed to be." 

          These Bishops, meanwhile,  are the same ones who continue to cover up for priests who sexually molest children and contest lawsuits seeking to compensate the victims of priestly child-rape.  Is that how it's "supposed to be"?         

           It's  all very strange, the mysterious workings of the Catholic Church, and  it just begs for Santorum to  answer to the question:  Who supposes these things?  And why is Santorum so vocal in defense of the Bishops' "conscience" objection to birth control but so eager to blame the victims of predatory priests, calling teenage boys "post-pubescent" men  engaged in a "basic homosexual relationship."  Now that's really Christian of him, isn't it? 

           Why do Santorum and the Bishops make such an ostentatious display of "conscience" when it comes to women having control of their own sexuality, while  studiously avoiding the issue of predatory priests who victimize young boys?  The Catholic Church's widespread and ongoing sex scandal is entirely a religious matter, i.e. the basic operation of the Church and the actions of its priests directly affecting the faithful.   The issue of birth control for female hospital workers, in marked contrast, is a wholly secular matter, affecting the rights of all women of all denominations under the wholly secular ERISA health insurance regulations.

          ERISA is a federal law clearly designed to promote the general welfare of all Americans, collectively, squarely within the meaning of the Preamble to the Constitution.  There is no language in the Constitution that says anything about contraception or birth control either way, but Article II, Sect. 8, clearly does give the federal government plenary power to regulate interstate commerce, including the national insurance companies that underwrite most ERISA health plans.

           So when Santorum pops off about how things are "supposed to be" between a man and a woman in the privacy of their bedroom, he's certainly not getting it from the Constitution. The Constitution, however, is where any elected official in the United States "is supposed to" look for guidance on matters of public policy, as is clearly stated in the Oath of Office that all federal officeholders must take to uphold the Constitution.

         That, in fact, is just what President Obama has done with the ERISA regulations mandating contraceptive coverage, not simply for women working in Catholic hospitals or hospitals generally, but for all working women in America. This is a wholly secular concern, applying to the wholly secular realm of private-sector employment. 

         Taking due account of the present strain on public support services for families across the board and the great hardship for working women with children, the President has reasonably and compassionately determined that the general welfare of  all Americans, and working women in particular, can best be served by providing ready access to birth control in ERISA health plans within his regulatory authority through the Dept. of Labor and the Dept. of Health & Human Services.

          It follows, therefore, that political  opposition to this regulatory requirement should be focused on the underlying premise that it is within the federal government's Constitutional mandate to promote the general welfare of We the People via regulation. The assumptions relating to the general welfare on which providing coverage for birth control in ERISA plans are based are several and, within the Constitutional framework, that is where the political debate should be playing out. 

            First, there is the direct welfare of millions of working women all across America, and their spouses, who seek to share their conjugal beds without any direction from Big Brother, whether that be in the form of  "big government" or the Catholic Church.  That is within their fundamental Constitutional right of privacy under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, and they should not have to choose between foregoing that right or having a child they cannot afford.

           The general welfare of all Americans is further advanced by enabling working women to avoid unwanted pregnancies so they can remain on the job instead of having to seek public assistance through unemployment or welfare programs.  Coverage for birth control in employer sponsored health plans under ERISA thus  helps keep the demand down for our overburdened public programs to support families, which clearly promotes the general welfare of us all.  Such programs are, in fact, being attacked across the board by Santorum's Congressional allies in the GOP as well as his opponents in the Republican primaries.

           Women doing wholly secular work in Church-affiliated hospitals also have a right to equal protection of the law under the Fourteenth Amendment, including equal rights under ERISA with women doing the same work in non-affiliated hospitals.  They also have the First Amendment right to be free from the Cathlic  Bishops' religious mandates being imposed on them by law.

           The First Amendment Establishment Clause reads:  "Congress shall make no law respecting establishment of religion," but that is exactly what the recently failed Blount Amendment would have done.  The Blount Amendment's purported "conscience" objection to providing birth control coverage, co-sponsored by Massachusetts Junior Senator Scott Brown, was explicitly designed to enact the Bishop's opposition to birth control into law, and that opposition, supposedly, is based on their "religious" beliefs.  That is plainly in violation of the Establishment Clause both in effect and in legislative intent.

           The general welfare of all working women is also advanced by ready access to birth control, as it virtually eliminates the difficult choice theywould face, as women, between having an abortion or having a child they cannot afford to support.  That, apparently, is something neither Mr. Santorum nor the Catholic Church can really fathom.  As the cutting edge feminists say, if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.

           Giving the Bishops the benefit of doubt as to whether their opposition to birth control is a matter of theology, as opposed to simply a politicalpower grab to enhance their declining authority, it has no place in the formulation of public policy in a wholly secular context such asemployee group insurance.  That opposition is taken directly from the 1968 Humanae Vitae encyclical by Pope Paul VI, and ultimately from the story of Onan in the Book of Genesis, not the Constitution.

            Now, however, Rick Santorum is running as a Republican for POTUS, and he opposes birth control generally, not simply as a matter of coverage in ERISA plans, and he does so based on his stated belief that birth control is contrary to what "is supposed to be."  But who supposes this?  It certainly isn't "supposed" anywhere in the Constitution, and faith-based opposition to birth control or any other policy issue is expressly opposed by the First Amendment's Establishment Clause.

           No, Santorum's opposition to birth control is not based on the Constitution.  He doesn't even address the specific issues of public policy on which President Obama bases  the ERISA regulation requiring coverage for contraceptives, and that's understandable where there really are no cogent and politically responsible arguments against birth control based on public policy and the general welfare of all Americans. 

           Whether we're talking about privacy in the bedroom, the woman's economic need to keep families small, the need to avoid the moral conundrum of choosing abortion or the public's need to  limit demand for limited public benefits and services, there really is no argument against providing for birth control in ERISA health plans as it affects the general welfare. On these real, serious issues of public policy, Santorum and the other GOP stooges have nothing to say.  They got nuthin', and they know it.

           So Santorum, Blount, Scott and the GOP peanut gallery  are reduced to claiming that the Catholic Bishops have some kind of First Amendment right of religious freedom to impose their faith-based opposition to birth control on everyone else. And who do you suppose they get that from?  Pope Paul VI, of course, asserting his authority from the grave. 

           Like I said at the beginning, Santorum is really running for Pope of the United States, not President, and the irony  is delectable for us "liberals" who remember the religious right's opposition to JFK back in 1960.  All the Bible-thumping right wing fundamentalists back then, all protestants, were sounding alarms about electing a Catholic president who would surely be answerable to the Pope.  This was so un-American!  Today, though,  the direct descendants of those fundamentalists, all across the Bible belt, are Santorum's base in the GOP.

          Santorum clearly doesn't just want to serve the Vatican -he wants to be the Pope of the United States himself, imposing ecclesiastical rule on everyone.  He's aiming too low, though.  He should really be striving for sainthood, because he's already achieved a miracle. He's making a stiff  like Willard "Mitt"" Romney look almost qualified to be President.

             

 

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