Religions going medieval on women

It looks like the Catholic church has decided to go all in on the issue of birth control.
Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George says that the church is willing to close its hospitals if their insurance companies are required to provide contraceptive services to all employees.

The cardinal told members of the Union League Club downtown that the Church may otherwise sell its hospitals, pay penalties, or in a last resort, close them altogether, rather than offer birth control. George says offering birth control would be cooperating with evil.[My italics]

Pretty strong language, Frank, considering that we are talking about a practice that an estimated 98% of women have used at one time or another. Too bad the church doesn’t view pedophilic priests with the same degree of horror.

Interestingly he also adds, “What is the place of church in society that is secularizing itself very, very rapidly?” which shows that he is well aware that the church is fighting a rearguard action to retain its tenuous hold on believers and retain any relevance.

He is right that the world, especially the developed world, is secularizing extremely rapidly. As a result, we are seeing a schism in the religious world. The liberal forms of the Abrahamic religions are losing members. It looks like the conservative wings have decided that their best chance of survival is to revert to rigid orthodoxy, and so we see the rise of Catholic dogmatism, Orthodox Judaism, and fundamentalist Islam, essentially a reversion to medieval male-dominated beliefs and practices.

But going against modernity is not a viable policy in the long run. There is no going back on the goal of women’s equality and emancipation. Modernity always wins. The great trends of history have been inexorably towards greater equality for the formerly marginalized. Those rigid religious groups that tried to hold back this tide will become more desperate and extreme even as they sink into oblivion.


  1. Pteryxx says

    Is it too much to wish that their hospitals be seized for criminal tax violations, and turned over to the local communities?

  2. Steve says

    Let them close them. Someone else might take over the building. Secular hospitals are better than religious ones. This isn’t the middle ages – there is no need for churches to run hospitals anymore

  3. cathyw says

    One complicating factor: it appears that many, if not most, Catholic hospitals are owned by the orders of nuns who operate them and serve as nurses, or by independent health care systems. When the bishop in Arizona excommunicated a hospital director who authorized a therapeutic abortion, the worst step he could take against the hospital when the board refused to promise it would never, ever happen again was to declare it to not be a Catholic hospital anymore, the most serious ramification of which appears to be that priests may not celebrate mass in the hospital chapel; as far as I know the hospital is still a going concern.

    All that to say: the bishop may be talking out his rear, especially if the nuns are not inclined to cooperate. See also: last week’s discussion about non-cooperative nuns who worry more about serving the poor and healing the sick than denouncing the people the bishops want them to denounce…

  4. pipenta says

    I think this is more than desperation. This is ambition. These old religions smell blood in the water. For many years now, thanks to modern secularism, science, education, access to information and civil rights, the big religions, at least in the west, have had to moderate or vanish. But now there is a huge shift in power. Corporations are ascending over governments, over people, and the general public is not doing much to protect themselves. The citizens are distracted by media that bombard them constantly, by just getting by, by trying to maintain their (increasingly untenable) lifestyles. And an awful lot of people are proving themselves to be colossal suckers.

    So the slumbering dragon of Catholicism sprawled on ill-gotten riches and the bones of the exploited, wakes. The Vatican, of late making do by conning the poor and uneducated in the third world, was dreaming fitfully of the glory days. The beast wants power, longs for a time when it is once again ruling the world. The RCC reckons it is the time make a move, a bold move. They do not want compromise, they want it all. And shame about child molestation is a non-issue. This is the institution that did the inquisition. This little kiddy fiddling scandal is nothing in the minds of monsters, NOTHING.

    As cheap oil becomes a thing of the past in the US, suburbia will collapse and no provisions have been made for this. Things might get literally medieval in many ways. If they position themselves for it, the RCC might be sitting pretty. Woo hooo, a peasant class to exploit, dirty and hungry and uneducated, with witch burnings, exorcisms, inquisitions for all. Let the god, errr, good times roll!

    They hope to roll right over us all. I believe they underestimate the fight they are going to get.

  5. Alan says

    So… Catholic hospitals having to pay to cover birth control for employees = bad. Catholic hospitals shutting down, thus not providing care for victims of heart attack, stroke, cancer, car accidents, etc. = good. Okay, got it. What monsters.

  6. iknklast says

    I think it would be a great idea. Catholic hospitals are one of the worst ideas I know. All the hospitals are operating using techniques of secular science, hiring real doctors to do the work (many not Catholic), and reaping the rewards of science in the name of religion.

    Where I live, there are 3 small cities about an hour’s drive apart; the rest of the area is rural. Each city has a hospital; two of them are Catholic. Which leaves many rural people with the option of driving for 3-5 hours for treatment, or submitting themselves to hospitals that will dictate what sort of fertility treatment they are allowed to have, and will refuse to honor their end-of-life wishes. I’m fortunate – I live in the town with the secular hospital. I’d like to see the other two taken over by people who will willingly grant emergency care to a pregnant woman in grave danger or an accident victim who doesn’t want to be hooked to machines to keep him breathing when his brain is effectively dead.

  7. Chiroptera says

    You know, in a healthy democracy people would be saying, “Holy crap! Why does our society have so much of an important resource in the hands of an organization that is willing to use its power to extort us?”

  8. Art says

    self-aware conservatives, assuming that is not inherently a contradiction in terms, know that compromise is, for their side, death. Lose the extremism and hard stance and they are just grumpy liberals. Liberals do compromise because they can.

    Even though everything seems to be sliding to the right people have to remember that this is the result of a very expensive and arduous effort over seventy years. And even after all that effort to finance think tanks and ‘grassroots’ politics they have cranked up the crazy without actually changing much. People still think that Social Security is a good thing, food stamps are necessary, women should be able to work and vote, workers should be treated fairly, and people should be able to control their own bodies.

    For all the noise and drama the right hasn’t really changed the terms of debate or reversed anything the liberal agenda has accomplished. The Catholic Church has been losing money, influence, and believers for a very long time. If they accept birth control and allow priests the marry they are going to look like Lutherans in funny clothes.

  9. Dennis says

    I think many religious orders are becomming more orthodox because the liberal members are leaving them. That places them in a position of having to move in a fundamentalist direction to keep the hardcore membership happy. That forces more liberal members to leave. Soon the only Catholics left will be male hardcore fundies. This is why the world is becomming more secular. We are winning because they are loosing.

  10. Francisco Bacopa says

    Since I live in a city where there’s a hospital every few miles in the suburbs, and there’s a complex of hospitals bigger than Baltimore in the Texas Medical Center I sometimes forget that Catholic health care makes a difference in some communities.

    Even so, let the Catholic hospitals close. The communities can assess a small property tax to prop up the hospitals and run them the way LBJ, Ben Taub, and MD Anderson are run in Houston.

  11. smrnda says

    I live in Illinois, and I remember the fracas when ‘catholic’ charities threatened to close since the state would not allow it to discriminate against same-sex couples. Rather than actually closing, the same organization exists as a secular organization, with pretty much all the same people working there. Pretty much nobody who actually worked there cared about catholic dogma and given that the church only supplied about 1% of the funds, it was catholic in name only.

    People I know who are anti-gay always bring up the idea that many people who stayed with the organization might just be ‘silently deeply conflicted’ and just needed to retain employment, but that’s just refusing to face the facts that most people don’t care about what churches say regarding sexual ethics at all. Given that most people don’t share their opinions on birth control, if they choose to close the hospitals will just exist under new management – the catholic church already commands such weak numbers that its hospitals can’t survive without the support of non-catholics anyway, so their threat is really empty in the end.

  12. B-Lar says

    I am certain that modernity always wins, but I am concerned that as part of this process the irrational conservative will become increasingly violent in his/her approach.

    This will make it easier to decry them and their strategies, but there will be a cost. I hope that this cost is not to high for us to pay and move on from…

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